February 15, 2010

Where to start?

The start of any project is the planning. This plan starts with getting to know the space.

In back of our house is another building that is essentially a garage. The roof is pitched at 45 degrees and has a semi finished attic. The footprint of the garage is 18 x 22 feet. Because of the pitch of the roof, the attic is very tall and fortunately built with no rafters in the way. Two knee walls narrow the useful area to about 12 x 22, and with the stairwell taken out of that, the darkroom ends up being about 12 x 18, or 216 square feet. Considering that my prior darkroom was 7 x 9 (63 sqft), this is over triple the area!

The previous owner (or builder) had started finishing the space, as it was obviously built to be finished out, rather than as a standard attic. For one thing, there is a floor. If this had been intended strictly as a garage, shop or storage building, there would have no doubt been open rafters. So, the space is floored, and an actual stairwell up to it. And, there’s a window. The window is not a plus for a darkroom, but it will be dealt with. I suppose the intention of the builder could have been simply for second floor storage, but it just seems too well done for that.

There is some insulation, some drywall, (both unfinished) knee walls that are only framed and some really awful carpeting. There is a window air conditioner. The room had exercise equipment when we viewed the house while it was on the market. It was maybe a “man cave”, but no evidence of cable TV.

Of course, the gym gear is gone. I had hoped to leave the space empty until I got to work on it, but I had too much darkroom gear, including sinks and the like, so some of it ended up there for storage. It will all come out once actual construction starts.

The givens are that the carpet comes out, and the knee walls will be properly insulated, sheetrocked and painted. The lighting and the electrical will have to be re-done. The window unit will, at least, be replaced with one that both heats and cools; and depending on budget, I may get something fancier than a window unit. I know that a lot of darkrooms are not climate controlled and the users make do and just work when it’s tolerable. But, I have found that never having to worry about temperature and being able to use the darkroom comfortably at any time is as much a luxury as just having a darkroom.

Then there’s the plumbing. No plumbing in this building. Getting water to it is not a large issue, I can “tee” off an outside faucet and run a line underground. It’s the drain that is the problem to solve. In the old house, the darkroom was also in a separate building behind our house that was not plumbed (sound familiar?) Again, running a water line from an outside faucet was no problem. I ended up running the sink drain into a stock tank located under the building. Periodically, I drained the tank and used the grey water on the lawn. Not ideal, but there was no easy (or cheap) way to get to an actual drain, so this worked.

A similar arrangement will be used at this parallel situation at the new house. The only difference is that I won’t have the holding tank under the building since it is a slab. It will be to the back side (out of sight) and look like a rain barrel. It may, in fact, be a rain barrel. Fortunately, the new darkroom is on the second floor. At the old house, it was on the first floor, so having the tank under the floor was a plus.

Other than these things, the planning is still on-going. I tried making a floor plan and scale cut-outs of all the fixtures: sinks, enlarger tables, etc., and doing a “plan” this way. But, it was just too hard to visualize. So, I’m working full size and 3-D. At this point, I have the sinks set up and the biggest enlarger set up temporarily to decide the layout. This has been beneficial in a number of ways: not the least of which is I was able to confirm that my idea for running the drain outside to the rain barrel is feasible. I also discovered that because of the slope of the ceiling, placement of the enlargers needs to be considered from a vertical standpoint, too. Would have never known this from a floor plan. Still undecided on heated water. That one decision is enough for a later blog.


  1. David,

    For water I'd suggest an tank based (not instant) mains pressure unit connected up to an Intellifaucet. - I'm not a plumber though, so...

    Tom Kershaw

  2. heated water is a blessing. you can get one of those immersion heaters for coffee at the dollar store that will work pretty good. I think cool water is the trick. Maybe a fridge with a good ice maker. I used to spend about $1.25 to cool down the developers for film developing.


  3. TPF-tropicpine
    I hoping to effect a drain, in my dark room to be, by fitting a garden hose from my sink in the garage to drainpipe behind the washing machine in the utility room.

    I look forward to reading your blog.
    Now get to work! :-)


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