Weekend Ham Shack Update

Last week I blogged about the progress made on the multi-year basement ham shack, podcast studio, home office and just general man-cave project.  If you recall the sheetrock material was scheduled to be delivered and I had planned to start hanging the material just as soon as I was able to get the 4 foot by 8 foot sheets into the house (from the garage) and down into basement. 

Just like clockwork, the truck from the big box store pulled up on Friday afternoon and unloaded 46 sheets of 4×8 (1/2 inch think) sheetrock in the garage.  By the way, each 4×8 sheet weighs in at approx. 57 lbs.  These are bundled two per so total weight for two sheets is approx. 114 lbs.  Friday evening the task of moving this material into the basement was completed. 

I eased into my Saturday morning much like any other Saturday.  I’ll admit….I’m an addict and have been since my college days.  I can’t function with out my coffee and you don’t want to be around me when I don’t have my morning fix.  Anyway, I also applied a couple of Advil and a hot shower to get my joints moving again after the hard labor on Friday evening.  While giving all this time to work, I managed to work some DX.  I worked ON4CHD in Belgium on 15m JT65. 

Anyway, one other thing to note.  My house is a multi-family design. Meaning I share one interior wall with one neighbor.  It just so happens the portion of the basement I’m working in is that joining wall.  So while some would want to get an early start on a project like this, I want happy neighbors (I need happy neighbors) and never start anything before 9 AM. 

Now what possibly can an IT Guy know about home remodeling?  This is a good question and I wanted to spend a little time sharing my background.  While none of this work is rocket science, at some point in my life I’ve either been trained how to do most of the needed tasks or have previously done them. 

Most of the experience started by having a Dad who taught me how to do these sort of things as a teen.  Also, while I never intended to be a farmer, I did take 4 years of FFA in high school.  This taught me many skills which I’ve needed for this project including electrical, plumbing and general construction.  Finally, while I’ve been working in the IT field for almost 20 years, this didn’t start until late in my working life.  I spent about 4 years working for the State of Texas in a local public school system doing building maintenance.  It just so happened during this time both my Dad and I worked for the same school.  While we spent many hot Texas summers mowing and running a weed eater, we also did a lot of building maintenance  tasks.  It’s the experience of these tasks which has allowed me to do all of my own work. 

So with all that experience, we began the process of hanging the drywall.  My wife is a real trooper as well in all this.  Not only is she supportive in my amateur radio hobby, but she is instrumental in the help and guidance in the project from this point forward.  While I did all the framing, electrical and plumbing…she’s signed on to help me the rest of the way.  This help is making the drywall installation go much easier and will speed the painting process and all the other bits and pieces required before I move into this new space.

How about some photographs. 


As Norm Abram’s would say “Measure Twice, Cut Once”.  I’m measuring and marking the sheetrock material.


Carefully cutting a sheet for length.  No straight edge cut required for this piece.  Just free handing. 

Now as I’ve mentioned a few times in my blog updates.  I’ve tried to think of everything I could/would need not only today but in the future.  I’ve pulled extra coax for CATV as well as plenty of data cable.  In addition, I added many electrical outlets to this space.  All these added outlets require extra attention when hanging drywall. 

Back in my younger years, we would have to carefully measure where each electrical box was located and then mark the drywall sheets, then cut the openings before hanging the material.  You kept fingers crossed your measurements were accurate.  Today we have simple technology that speeds all this up.  I’m using a kit from Blind Mark.   Blind Mark uses strong magnets in a two piece device to easily locate your outlet boxes after you hang your drywall or plywood material.

Just place a Blind Mark target in each electrical box.  In the above picture one 4 foot piece of drywall was going to cover all three boxes.

A close-up of a single box.

Once you’ve secured the sheet of drywall to the wall, take the Blind Mark locator and slide it in the vicinity of where the outlet should be and it will find it.  Just trace with a pencil around the Blind Mark locator.

Then with your knife start cutting.  I also used a small cordless Dremel tool with a cutting bit to speed this process up.  Just be careful as the Dremel tool can easily cut into things you don’t want to be cut.  Once cut, just remove the Blind Mark locator and finishing securing the drywall to the studs.

How about a before and after shot?  Unfortunately, I can’t find the photos I took 5 years ago showing just the concrete walls (before framing) so you’ll just need to use your imagination.  These photos were in the blog posting from last week.

Before Sheetrock.  This is the corner where my main operating position will be located.  This room is roughly 16×16.

Before Sheetrock. 

After Sheetrock.  The corner unfinished portion is framing I had to do around a support post.  On the other side is a utility closet and where I’ll run antenna feed line, grounding etc. for the amateur radio station.   The wall on the right and left of the corner will be fitted with cabinets above and some below with an “L” shaped counter surface.

Another after sheetrock. 

All-in-all, the weekend was very much a successful weekend.  Together, my wife and I hung 17 sheets of drywall.  We are a little over half way getting the walls done.  Pending all goes as planned, we should be able to finish the walls next weekend.  Of course, once the walls are finished all that will be left is the ceiling.  While I can say I’m not looking forward to this part of the project, we will rent a sheetrock lift which will aid in the installation. 

Tentatively we are planning to do the ceiling on the weekend of 10 March if we can keep up the pace.  This would be three weekends in a row, but it would also be the completion of the sheetrock installation.  This would bring us to the dirty phase of taping, mudding, sanding and texturing.  But of course this phase must be done to bring us to the paint phase. 

In the mean time, I will begin wiring in the electrical outlets, network jacks, telephone jacks and CATV outlets in the areas where we’ve installed drywall.  I will work on a few every other evening or so as I have time.  While we’ve made significant progress on the first weekend, this is not a race to the finish.  However, I believe the progress we made did open our eyes to the fact that YES we can do this and we can complete the work in the next few months.

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK (Jerry)

Jerry Taylor, KD0BIK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. He is the host of the Practical Amateur Radio Podcast. Contact him at [email protected].

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