Marty's Shed Build

Marty's Shed Build

Anyone who has DIY'd on their cars for long enough usually wishes for the same thing. Yep, it's a hoist. Why?

So, rolling under your shiny new nugget that you've picked up for cheap on the internet (sight unseen) to fix some random leak or noise is fun...  but when that nugget is part of a 24-pack you start considering better ways to save your back, clothes and sanity.

So what's so good about a hoist then? Well, a few things. You only need to go into any workshop and you'll see one. Usually with some cool car perched on top of it and someone with relatively clean clothing working away underneath it surrounded by cool workshop equipment that makes their job clean and quick.

Bonnets house a lot of what makes a car go, but that's only part of the story, the rest is hidden underneath the car, packaged up neatly for maximum ground clearance. Getting to it with your hands, let alone with tools, can be difficult when it's only 400mm off the ground on your (hopefully very flat) driveway.

So, the simple answer is to get a hoist! But there are some problems.

Firstly, hoists are BIG. They don't fit in your average double garage underneath a house (like the driveway we started on). They usually need over 4 metres of roof height to operate, which is taller than many suburban garages.

The second problem is hoists are heavy, and have heavy cars put on top of them. They have to be installed onto some fairly serious base material (hello concrete) to be stable and not fall over when in use.

Interestingly, this is why we don't have one at MCM HQ as that building doesn't have the appropriate slab for a two post hoist. This is why we use the Quick Jack system to get cars up and down quickly.

The third problem is rain. You sometimes see hoists outside at workshops but, more often than, not they are inside out of the weather. Rain had shut down its fair share of MCM video shoots in the early days.

The fourth problem around hoists is the cost. Unless you already have somewhere to put one, and are able to install the thing yourself, the entire project can end up costing plenty more than the nuggets you're attempting to fix.

That said, with all of the above considered, a hoist is also an investment in your health and safety, pros use them for a reason: they safely (most of the time) get cars up high where you can get yourself under them without excessive bending or straining, you can fit the tools that are right for the job in there and save a lot of problems in the process.

So.. with all that in mind, when I decided to adopt Hoist Life it was time to hit the drawing board.

Exhibit A: an old, run down, and fairly useless, fibro asbestos shed that leaked water from above and from below. What IS useful however is the patch of dirt underneath it.

After the asbestos was professionally removed by a team of workers in Hazmat suits, this shed was promptly knocked over with a 5t excavator (1st one)

That's the easy part. The hard part is working out what to replace it with; what the dimensions need to be; convincing someone to build it; and (of course) the huge maze of council regulations that exist in just about any city, with Sydney being no exception.

So to the drawing board... the last time i used Sketchup it was to make some car parts for 3D printing but it turns out design is a bit of a thing for it as well, and this is what I came up with.

And just like that, we have one big metal hoist container! One rule of thumb when designing a shed for working on cars is: bigger is better, it's always always better, because you will always find more things to stick in there. This design is limited by the maximum allowable square metres, council approvals, stormwater, power, and highly reactive soil that the slab needs to be placed on.


The question i've been asked most so far is: what size is it? 

The answer is: 9m across the front, 6.4m deep, 4.2m high at the peak and the wall height is 3m. That brings it to just under 60sq/m in total and means you can have an average car at full extension on the hoist and not hit the roof (some cars may require bonnet and boot down, and a huge 4wd isn't going to fit)

The next steps involved pushing a whole heap of dirt around with an excavator (2nd one) getting the area surveyed professionally, getting a bunch of quotes from various shed manufactures and suppliers.

The prices varied widely, starting at around $12,000 for a kit that you do 100% DIY, to $20-30,000 for an 'average' build, right up to the extremes of $90,000 where i guess the foundations are poured with solid gold as I can think of a few cars i'd be heading to the bank to get a loan for before i'd be spending that on Colorbond shed.

Another excavator (the 3rd one) was then required to re-trim the soil levels to appease the authorities. The yard sat dormant for a few months while various bits of paperwork flew back and forth between councils, builders, surveyors, engineers, electricians, plumbers, shed suppliers, hydraulic consultants, plan approval agencies, and just about every other business that can find a way of making it compulsory to use their services and charge you handsomely for the privilege.

There's a lot to be said for doing this out in a rural area where there's less red tape. I learned later that one of the main reasons you have to jump through so many hoops is that a shed of this size could easily be converted by unsavoury landlords into illegal accomodation.

That's what ends up getting councils in newspapers when this "accomodation" is housing multiple families in a small space, for example. A big part of the process was proving that yes, I did intend to use it as an actual shed... but more on that later.

Work Begins

An excavator (the 4th one) showed up to dig some piers. This is a requirement for a 'slab on grade' construction, and is a feature of most houses you see build these days.

Holes around half a metre deep are bored into the clay soil with a giant drill bit known as an auger. Excavators are awesome for this job, and it needs to be precise, because if your piers are in the wrong spot (like too close to the fence) you'll fail your formwork inspection by council, and have to do them again.


The First Big Snag (not the good saturday morning at Bunnings type)

Rain. Ever determined to slow down car modification, the site was hit with a huge amount of rain. The piers filled up with water and stayed that way for a few weeks. Turns out concrete displaces water when you pour it in, but trying to walk around in the slop and put in form work was not going to happen, so we had to wait.

And wait I did, and a few weeks later -



150mm thick the whole way around, with a density of 32mpa so it should be quite strong and (hopefully) resist the inevitable cracking that can occur. You'll notice some of the bracing was pre-cast into the concrete, as was an electrical conduit. This saves a whole heap of drilling later on.



Once the frame of the Hoist Covering is up, the speed of the build increases significantly. You can start to see the shape of it take place.

The next step is the cladding. There are a few options here, from basic vertical sheets (cheapest and simplest) to horizontal weather board style cladding which I opted for as it only cost a grand or two extra. However, it blended in more with surrounding houses and looked less like a farm shed.

Some earthworks were required (5483th excavator) to rough in the required stormwater system and, in the meantime, the cladding went on. You can't cut this stuff with an angle grinder as it ruins the 'no rust' properties of the Colorbond steel; it has to be cut with snips or a cold saw. You often see sheds and Colorbond roofing start to rust from the ends if this isn't done the right way.

A friend then came and helped wire up some lights and power points. You can never have too many and his experience with his own shed helped a lot.

I now have plenty of light, switches in smart spots, and correct circuits to handle hoist and welders, along wth the usual shed tools. I opted for single phase as I won't need to run any super heavy machinery in this shed


This was the day i'd been waiting for, for a long time. A truck arrived with the hoist and related workshop equipment. I went with a Bendpak XPR10AS. The assymetric design means you can open car doors easier and the narrow configuration fit's it into my small space.

Half a day later the hoist was in place and ready to be wired up. This was a very exciting part of the built, and meant I could now focus on the work areas of the shed... as well as insulation, floor treatment and, well, filling it with crap!

Floor Treatment

The final job was to take care of the floor. While the shed was empty and the concrete clean, i decided it would be the best time to coat!

I first washed it down with a mild acid solution, and then applied 3 coats of epoxy paint with flakes. I then put another coat on top to lock the flakes in, which also provides some grip without being too distracting.

... and it's done. 

It took years from designing the shed to having it finished ready to work on cars. It's been awesome to have the option of having a hoist to work on cars, particularly for the more involved and heavier work that we sometimes do. 

For an update of where the shed is up to now, check out the video below:


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