Bike cellar/workshop/man cave

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  • Inspired by Bare Necessities' famous 'shed thread' and banana skid's seemingly unfinished - but potentially very impressive - bike shed I've decided to share my own project, which involves turning our manky cellar into a pleasant place for bike storage/a workshop/man things.

    When I bought our flat in Hackney with my other half back in the summer of 2012 one of the things I was most excited about was that it came with a cellar. This was one of the reasons we dashed to an early viewing, the prospect of secure bike parking and a workshop was too much to resist. The flat turned out to be perfect and after the usual stressful few days our offer had been accepted.

    We did a lot of work on upstairs, knocked down a wall, completely redecorated, that sort of thing, but it took a while to get onto the cellar as it wasn't really as high priority as our living space.

    The previous tenants had been here a long time and had built a strange wooden box 'for storage' which occupied most of the cellar. It had a raised floor and side walls going up to the roof and was actually very solid and well built. Strangely they'd put a lot of effort into it. They were definitely using it for storage when we looked round, it was rammed, so we didn't really know what we were buying cellar wise, it was so full of stuff.

    It left a gap of about half a foot between the brick walls and the wooden side walls though, and seemed a bit pointless really - neither horse nor mule. So it had to go.

    I don't have a picture of it as it originally was, but I do have a picture of it shortly after I started taking it apart. It involved unscrewing a LOT of wood screws with my drill and clawing the pieces of wood apart with a crow bar. It was quite hard work because they'd built it so solidly.

    By this point I'd fixed the light socket, when we first moved in that was broken and the only light was a small plug in strip lamp on a long cord.

    It was pretty manky, dingy and uninviting at that point really.

    Especially as the wood came down to reveal the horrors beneath: the walls behind weren't a pretty sight.

    That's the original coal shute you can see below, full of about 150 years worth of dirt and debris. Yuck.

    Not only were the walls pretty disgusting, but the mortar was crumbling away and poking a finger in made it come away as dust. The walls had obviously been treated with something at some point (still not sure what) and the bits that had been treated weren't as bad, but still had 'bloom' or efflorescence, where the mineral salts in water which had slowly pushed through the wall had been deposited. This isn't bad, it was just the wall doing its job over 150 years, but it was very dry and crumbly.

    So I concluded the cellar needed repointing and the walls sorting out.

    That's the original lead water pipe above by the way, feeding the water supply to both flats, so that was going to need replacing too as we figured we didn't fancy lead poisoning.

  • I got some very helpful advice in the DIY thread about how to handle all this, especially from absurdbird, who told me not to DIY and to get the builders in, because it would take ages and it's not a very nice job.

    So in April I'd got rid of all the wood (apart from the floor, ran out of time on that) and the builders were ready to get on with it.

    Unfortunately this meant the living room looked like this:

    Which did not get me brownie points with the other half, I can tell you. This is just a phone pic, a wide angle lens would have revealed truly how much crap there was everywhere. Once you get a cellar you wonder where you put all the stuff before you had a cellar...

  • The builders had to do a lot of cleaning out first which really can't have been pleasant, especially as they reckoned they found the remains of a rats nest at the front under the step (no rats though, long gone fortunately).

  • Once they'd cleaned it all out and sorted the brickwork, the next step was to put on a layer of something called 'Blackjack', which is a damp proof membrane you apply with a brush. It's black and sticky and smells horrible. At this point all the walls were black - I don't have any photos of this but it looked like a goth's bedroom, as you'd imagine.

    Then the painting started. It takes a good few layers as you are painting white over black, but it started looking better quite quickly.

    I'd bought five bulkhead lights which I was going to fit myself, but the builders offered to do it which saved me a job.

    I came home to see this, which made me pretty happy. It's amazing what some white paint and some lights can do...

  • Good work! Looking forward to more pics and some ridiculously over engineered workshop/storage solutions...

  • Hah, it certainly features those! And disproportionate amounts of effort spent on certain things due to my perfectionist/OCD tendencies.

    And it will feature a tool board. Of course ;)

  • good work

  • Nice..

    Perhaps a little bit Fritzl.

  • And it will feature a tool board. Of course ;)

    Tool boards with outlines for tools are proper OCD porn. Cool project.

  • Awesome Fox! Good work!

  • great thread. look forward to seeing it progress

    let me know if you want a metal bench or bike storage made!

  • Been looking forward to this thread for ages -- keep the photos coming.

  • I suggest getting some pegboard, really useful and looks great as well.

  • Hurrah, another workshop project!

    disproportionate amounts of effort spent on certain things due to my perfectionist/OCD tendencies.

    I feel your pain :-(

    Good luck with it. I highly recommend something to cover the concrete floor - paint, lino or tiles could help make the place feel a little less dungeonesque :-)

  • Not Concrete! At a guess, the house looks about 1870ish. That means that it should just be earth/crushed stone mix in the cellar, though I can't see from the pictures. Concrete poured into the cellar beneath a house on London clay isn't always the best idea, despite it being a popular move during the 60s and 70s, as it creates problems with condensation and damp. If there is a slight slope to the site, there may also have been a small drain to remove water, which you should look for before you do more drastic work. Wooden floor recommended slightly suspended above the earth floor, (if it isn't concrete already).

    Great project - can't wait to see more pictures.

  • plus, if you leave the floor as earth you can tunnel out if need be

  • Ah, I just assumed the floor was already concrete.

    Still, a floor of some sort. Can't be dropping those shiny bike components in the dirt.

  • Hurrah indeed!

    Thanks for all the positive comments everyone, but at this point it's still all the builder's work really. Give me some time though!

    I think as Optimate said the original floor wasn't concrete, more some kind of victorian mixture of stones and mud or something, but it definitely made it Friztlesque. The plastic below was there to function as a damp proof membrane to avoid the sort of problems Optimate mentioned. Hopefully. No drains anyway.

    It also (possibly because this used to be a coal cellar) was raised in the middle and sloped down to either end (lengthwise).

    So this was the next step - some concrete to level it out:

    Followed by some latex self-levelling compound - more on that later.

    The other important thing the builders did was put some mesh behind our original 'daisy grate' air grill at the front of the cellar, as being cast iron part of it had broken off at some point over the years, and a lot of the crap in the coal shute was actually from litter and leaves coming through the gap over the years.

    They also put a little triangular 'step' made from cement in front of it so water running along the pavement doesn't go down, which is what it used to do. This might not have helped my Colnago, which had been in the cellar over the previous winter - it picked up a few rust spots on the Precisa forks:

    Although that may also have had something to do with the fact I went for a ride on it with fussballclub the previous winter when it was wet and icy, then put it straight in the cellar and left it there.

    I need to give those forks some more attention :/

    The final thing the builders did was fit the scaffolding planks I'd bought as shelves - these are eight feet long each and there are four, so that's 32ft of shelving, but much needed to store all of my crap!

    They're supported by batons at the ends. The good thing about scaffolding planks is that they'll take the weight of a man so they didn't need supporting in the middle, even with heavy stuff on the shelves.

  • Tool boards with outlines for tools are proper OCD porn. Cool project.

    I suggest getting some pegboard, really useful and looks great as well.

    I'm not sure what material I want my tool board to be yet, but I have an idea. We'll come back to that!

    great thread. look forward to seeing it progress

    let me know if you want a metal bench or bike storage made!

    And also the bike storage... thanks Max! And thanks again for the sledgehammer loan.

  • Here I am using Max's sledgehammer upstairs:

  • Jesus, I kept forgetting that you're one skinny fucker.

  • It doesn't really help when swinging sledgehammers.

    Laner said I looked camp :(

  • Laner can't grow a beard.

  • Given that space are scrace, have you thought about having a wall mounted work stand? save up a lots of footprint.

  • Funnily enough, yes I have. Was looking at this one, not sure what the differences are, need to have a read up.

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Bike cellar/workshop/man cave

Posted by Avatar for Fox @Fox