When we decided to relocate to Arizona, Liz made a scouting trip. Her job allowed her plenty of time off, mine didn’t. I told her that I didn’t care about the location or the house, we are enough in tune with each others needs that I knew she would pick a decent neighborhood (not crack alley, and certainly not an HOA – just a good working class area). I only had two demands – space large enough to serve as a studio for both of us, and a bar within crawling distance of home.
She bid on two houses on the same street – one was larger, but with a smaller, more open yard – chain link fence which I was not too keen about. The other is the one we ended up getting. The house is comfortable, two bedrooms (one is actually smaller than some closets in modern houses). Our dining area is on the patio – and we are able to use it 10 months out of the year comfortably. In the heat of the summer, the mist system I installed makes it bearable in the evenings. The entire house is 900 square feet, very cozy. But, not amenable to having a studio inside.
The selling point was the outbuilding. It was an unfinished 16-foot by 24-foot shed. No windows, plywood floor with holes going through to the dirt beneath, and a door constructed of 2×4’s and plywood that was impossible to open or close with ease. The interior walls were studs, unequally spaced, with very few square angles. At least the T111 exterior had a fresh coat of paint. The yard is enclosed by a concrete block wall, which I preferred for privacy, as well as a secure area for the dogs. Thor and Jade had proved that chain link fences are no barrier for them is they decide to wander.
The shed did have electricity, basically a wire running from the house via underground conduit, feeding the sole outlet and a fluorescent light. And with the first rains, we discovered it was less than watertight. But I saw potential… I have to admit I was skeptical, but I did see possibilities. My carpentry talents border on the mediocre, but I am skilled in the basics. Fortunately Liz had a credit line with Home Depot and Lowe’s!
The first order of business was windows – and my used Sawzall proved well worth the $10 investment. We hit Apache sales, a junkyard for houses. Covering several acres, there was a plethora of choices, and we picked up two large windows for a song. Now I had ventilation and light inside! Next was ti cut a hole to house the air conditioner – a 13,000 BTU window unit that I packed in from NJ.
Next order of business was to add electrical accoutrements… outlets would be nice! Thinking ahead, I ran four lines. One was to a single outlet that would feed the air conditioner. Another fed the lights, and two more to feed the many outlets that I installed around the inside perimeter so that I would not have to rely on extension cords.
Now came the fun part – sheetrock! I hate installing wall board. It is especially fun when the studs were obviously installed without use of level of tape measure! My taping and mud jobs will not hold up to the scrutiny of a professional, but are more than acceptable for a working studio. And I installed insulation foreseeing the hot summer days.
Midway through the process of finishing the walls we had an inordinate amount of rain. Yes, it rains in the desert – the winter usually provides drenching rains, and Monsoon season beats us with fierceness. After one fierce winter rain, however, I noticed dampness inside. I assumed it was due to the open eaves, and added flashing. The next rain was a long, hard downpour and the interior was still retaining puddles. A close inspection of the roof revealed that there was none in a certain section. Apparently some nimrod installed particle board in a previous roof repair. Particle board does not mix well with water!
I ripped off the shingles on the southwest corner of the roof and replaced the particle board with proper exterior grade plywood, and pieced in shingles. I truly owe my friend and mentor, the late Bob Wells for teaching me roofing skills! Monsoon season came and left, leaving us high and dry in the studio!
I installed 3/4″ particle board flooring – nothing fancy because it is only going to get covered with paint anyway! Apache Sales came to the rescue for the door, also – since the walls were 2″x4′ studs, I had to get creative for the entrance. I found a mobile home door and frame, and it fit perfectly!
There were makeshift workbenches, I ripped them out completely and built my own – they are solid enough for two people to have rough sex on them without them falling apart!
The AC keeps the studio below 90 degrees in the 120 degree August days – and that is quite bearable – what would be a deal-breaker in NJ works in AZ. You learn to work slower, and relax during the days.
Anyway, there was a lot of cussing, but in the end the studio is complete and served us well.