Monday, February 04, 2008

Layout Room

I mentioned before in various places that I'm planning to build a room for my planned train layout.

The origial idea was to simply take a corner of the garage, install a raised floor on 2x4 wood beams with insulation, and 2 finished walls around that using regular wood frame construction. The existing walls of the garage corner would complete the room. Add a door into the garage in one of the new walls and voila there is my layout room. No windows, and at 7.5 x 8 ft in size not exactly big, but quite sufficient for a nice HO layout. I would need to extend an existing 15amp power circuit into the room, as well as run a new 20amp circuit through existing piping to make sure there is enough oompfh in the room for lighting and running trains. Although I'd probably get by just fine with the one 15amp circuit since the layout is not that big, it's easier to get the power stuff out of the way in the beginning, so I don't have to deal with it later.

I contacted the building permit department of the City of San Jose what I would need to do in order to make this a legal reality. They would classify this as an "unheated storage closet" and pointed out which kind of lighting I would need (since this is still considered garage space). However, after some more emails back and forth it turns out they won't approve such a setup at all, because each single family home in San Jose needs to have two covered parking spaces 18x9ft. The room will take over part of one of the parking spots in the garage, so the city building inspector won't even look at this for approval. Whoops. ...

Our home owners association won't allow any outbuildings in the backyard or sideyard area, nor would they allow me to build a new garage where the side yard is now (not even speaking of the cost of such an endeavour). So, a permanent solution is out of the window.

Moving on to the next idea. Start the same way, build a wood platform for the layout, but instead of building a real room, towards the front of the garage attach a stud wall to the platform. Attach about half of the length of the other open side. Those two walls will support each other and I should be able to build this in a way that I can disassemble it when and if we move. All power connections will be wired into the platform (with outlets and everything), but plugged into regular wall outlets. That way I don't need to worry about building codes as much since the whole setup would be considered temporary from an electrical perspective as well.

As a side-effect I can push out the wall facing the garage front a few more inches than if I had mounted it permanently since I no longer have to pay as much attention to existing studs in walls and ceiling to line up my new wall with. I will still install the additional electrical circuits.

Since I now can no longer rely on surrounding walls for support, I need to spend some more time on coming up with a structure to properly brace the walls attached to the platform, since I don't want them to topple over during an earthquake and crush the layout, or -- worse -- me.
On the positive side, I can use that support structure to anchor the layout to as well.

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