Darkroom out of Prefeb Shed
Old 09-27-2013   #1
mbisc
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Question Darkroom out of Prefeb Shed

As the title says, I had a quick question to the audience -- has anyone ever attempted to make a real darkroom out of one these "prefab" sheds you can buy at Sears, Costco etc. ? I have some space in my yard for a darkroom, but building a real building is simply too expensive (city permits etc.) -- I would need electricity in it (duh!) for the enlarger and a window AC, but necessarily plumbing: a sink with a bucket as drain, and I can carry the water & chemicals in before each "session."

Any thought or experiences?

Thanks!
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Old 09-27-2013   #2
waynec
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One of the problems with prefab's are light leakage so that must be attended to. The others are climate control and a floor, or slab which would be preferable. A simple small window unit installed thru the wall is fine to cool the space and install a real door in place of any sliding doors. My suggestion is to buy a cylinder (not can) of spray foam off the internet and spray the inside walls to get insulation and light control. If necessary you can spray paint the walls black, again not using typical spray cans but a paint sprayer. Just make sure the air conditioner is in place and covered with plastic to prevent getting the foam on the controls and that you spray the around the casing for light leakage. Cost wise you can get a cheap metal shed for about a little over $200 although the headroom is limited. Put it up onto concrete blocks for more headroom. A cylinder of spray foam goes for about $250-$300. A entry door from a local recycling place can be used to replace the sliding doors. You'll need some lumber to frame in the sliding doorway and plywood for the outside wall covering. In comparison a prefab shed from the likes of Home Depot can run up to a couple of thousand and still require insulation and light control although headroom is improved.
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Old 09-27-2013   #3
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Carrying liquids around in buckets gets old real fast.
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Old 09-28-2013   #4
Roger Hicks
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A Novatent in the garage? Or indeed in a prefab shed?

My main concerns with a prefab would be (1) the smell and possible ill effects of the wood preservative (2) ventilation (3) too cold in winter, too hot in summer. I'd not worry about buckets as I have often used that approach, sometimes for years on end -- see http://www.rogerandfrances.com/subsc.../darkroom.html (where you'll also see pics of a Novatent).

Cheers,

R.
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Old 09-28-2013   #5
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Had not heard about the Nova Tent before -- looks like they're not cheap (and shipping to the US is only available "on request" and subject to a manual review of cost/prices), but since I have a garage, maybe an option -- thanks for the suggestion.

It would limit me to working there in the cooler 6-8 months of the year, but that's still better than zero months right now...
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Old 09-28-2013   #6
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Not a bad idea..there will be problems and each problem will have a solution..for instance plumbing.You could easily rig up a system from a garden hose using an exterior plastic tap at the outlet inside the shed, waste water could go into a drum for safe disposal when full.
Lightseal the entire inside with insulation paper?
How about you build the prototype..?
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Old 09-29-2013   #7
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It has been done - see http://www.film-and-darkroom-user.or...read.php?t=146. And there was a wonderful thread here years ago about a darkroom in a shipping container, ex-military.

EDIT: Here it is.
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Old 10-03-2013   #8
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Thanks everyone for responding -- of all suggestions, I think I find the Nova Tent option the most interesting, maybe because I had never heard of it, and would certainly be a lot cheaper than setting up a an air-conditioned shed (I am in Phoenix, Arizona, after all). It would limit me to printing in the winter (if I put the tent up in the garage), but maybe I can temporarily put it up for a weekend at a time in the back room of the house in the summer.

A couple of questions, mostly to Roger, since he has used this setup:

- how long does it take to put together the tent, and to break it up (is it a matter of an hour, or multiple hours)?

- my enlarger is an old Omega D-II, i.e. a large 4x5 enlarger -- is there really enough room for a beast like that (the baseboard is 18x28 inches alone), plus a set of three 9x12 trays, to at least print 8x10 prints?

Thanks,
Mike
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Old 10-03-2013   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisN View Post
It has been done - see http://www.film-and-darkroom-user.or...read.php?t=146. And there was a wonderful thread here years ago about a darkroom in a shipping container, ex-military.

EDIT: Here it is.
I think my neighborhood association might not like a military shipping container sitting in my front yard, but the idea is great!

On a related not, I am still kicking myself for not jumping on an offer I got a couple of years ago, when someone was selling an RV-type trailer that was all decked out into an air-conditioned large darkroom. The guy was leaving town and wanted to unload it. No idea what ever happened to the setup, but it would have been great (in hindsight).
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Old 10-03-2013   #10
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I built my darkroom in my basement out of 2x4s and packs of wainscoting. It was nowhere near light-tight when finished (expected), so using a staple gun, I covered the whole thing in tar paper. Very inexpensive. Totally light-tight. The biggest challenge was the door. But, in a dark basement, this problem is minimized. You have the house's heating/cooling, and plumbing is easily added using an old kitchen sink and copper pipe. Ran a pvc pipe drain to an existing drain. Built a counter from 2x4s and formica-covered plywood. Electrical is simple. In-house is easier than in a shed. Neat idea though. For me, being in Canada, insulation would be the biggest issue...
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Old 10-04-2013   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CCCPcamera View Post
I built my darkroom in my basement out of 2x4s and packs of wainscoting. It was nowhere near light-tight when finished (expected), so using a staple gun, I covered the whole thing in tar paper. Very inexpensive. Totally light-tight. The biggest challenge was the door. But, in a dark basement, this problem is minimized. You have the house's heating/cooling, and plumbing is easily added using an old kitchen sink and copper pipe. Ran a pvc pipe drain to an existing drain. Built a counter from 2x4s and formica-covered plywood. Electrical is simple. In-house is easier than in a shed. Neat idea though. For me, being in Canada, insulation would be the biggest issue...
If only I had a basement Houses here in Phoenix don't have basements. There is an underground compressed clay layer called "caliche" that is very expensive to dig into, and so all houses are "slab houses" (i.e. the house is built on top of a concrete slab)...
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Old 10-04-2013   #12
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Well, there's your problem. On the other hand, it doesn't sound like you have to worry about heating. That's nice. Maybe you can cover the inside of a shed in tar paper. That'll make it light tight. Tar paper is really cheap.
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Old 10-04-2013   #13
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I've got a Suncast shed in the back yard, it uses 2X4, 4X5 or whatever as a bottom frame. It is a heavy plastic and appears to be light tight except for vents and translucent areas for light. Yes, it would need AC in the summer, and light blocking curtains over the doors. Vents with an exhaust fan and light traps are simple to make.
No outgassing from treated wooden components but there is a bit from the plastic*.
*Think of the deposits on the inside of your windshield.

The idea of breaking down the entire darkroom sounds like a royal PITA especially if it's build & tear down/move equipment in/out every time it's used. Likely to spend more time doing that than using the DR. Consider put up, move in, move out break down. IIf it's only an hour to put up/down & move stuff that's 2-3 hours. In the Arizona heat.
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Old 10-04-2013   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbisc View Post
Thanks everyone for responding -- of all suggestions, I think I find the Nova Tent option the most interesting, maybe because I had never heard of it, and would certainly be a lot cheaper than setting up a an air-conditioned shed (I am in Phoenix, Arizona, after all). It would limit me to printing in the winter (if I put the tent up in the garage), but maybe I can temporarily put it up for a weekend at a time in the back room of the house in the summer.

A couple of questions, mostly to Roger, since he has used this setup:

- how long does it take to put together the tent, and to break it up (is it a matter of an hour, or multiple hours)?

- my enlarger is an old Omega D-II, i.e. a large 4x5 enlarger -- is there really enough room for a beast like that (the baseboard is 18x28 inches alone), plus a set of three 9x12 trays, to at least print 8x10 prints?

Thanks,
Mike
Dear Mike,

In California we used a trolley with the stuff on, including a 4x5 Omega, BUT with a Nova slot processor (on the trolley). Setting the tent up? Hard to say: we often left it set up. I'd say 15-45 minutes, depending on practice. That's independent of filling/draining Novatank. Overall, well under an hour for both, I'd say. Just checked with Frances (who used it most) and she agreed. Since 1992 we have however normally set it up for weeks on end, the last time with a fixed framework inside.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-04-2013   #15
Bill Kapinski
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What about a corner of your garage? Make a curtain on a track to close it off when you need it and open it up when you don't, that way cars could still be brought in. Maybe your garage is already insulated so no worries there and you could ac it if you have to. Ac doesn't have to be through a wall or window, just need a way to catch the condensation. Depending on when you print may not have to be to light tight. I used to have my enlargers in the basement and I would cover the windows and print at night. I had a tray with water for holding until I took the prints to the bathroom to wash. It also helped that I told the wife and kids not to come downstairs while I was doing it. I did this for a few years.
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Old 10-04-2013   #16
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I've been sitting on everything I need to start wet printing again. My plan last year was to set it up in the garage and print in the winter when it gets dark early. My wife was on board with setting up some sort of temporary partitions (or even full walls) to segment it up, get plumbing set up, etc.

Unfortunately I forgot my garage was unheated and gets rather cold in the winter. That was enough of a deterrent to keep me from getting the process started last year. I still haven't figured out how I want to handle this. Insulating the garage seems like a decent plan anyway but thats going to be quite a bit of work and my job hasn't given me many spare hours the last two years.
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Old 10-04-2013   #17
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Excellent discussion -- thanks everyone -- let me mull over some of these thoughts, and I'll be back after the weekend...
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