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Converting a garden shed into a darkroom
Converting a garden shed into a darkroom
Dave Miller
Published by Dave miller
28th September 2008
Default Converting a garden shed into a darkroom

Many of us donít enjoy the luxury of having a spare room in our house which can be converted into a darkroom. When I moved to my present home I was faced with the question of where to set up a new darkroom, as my house is small, but the garden I inherited was a wildness; did the answer lie there?

I decided that two wrongs could make a right, and the answer lay in a garden makeover incorporating a shed. Plans were hatched, and a shed ordered from the Queenís shed maker.

Just thought Iíd drop that in, if itís good enough for H.M. it should be acceptable to me.

Work started and I was happy to see the grass go.

We had to buy some brown stuff (technical term) to replace the grass

I thought that looked quite nice, but my wife demanded more!

Paving laid, but not by me I should add. The pot plant installed to brighten up the site whilst we await delivery of the shed.

The shed was delivered and erected during September 2004. Itís 12í x 10í incidentally.

I chose to use a high grade polyurethane insulation board rather than polystyrene or fibreglass blanket. I made a mistake in ordering foil backed insulation because, whilst more efficient, it blocks radio signals rather effectively, so my mobile doesnít work. Some would say thatís an advantage however. It also meant that I had to later rig-up an external radio aerial for the all important Classic FM accompaniment without which I find it is quite impossible to produce a decent print.

I used two thickness's of insulation, the first fitted between the frames was 60mm thick, and cut to be a push fit, the second of 25mm was installed over the frame to give a smooth finish, the joints were taped before painting.
Since most of the heat gain into a shed is through the roof, courtesy of the dark roof felt, I elected to use a double layer of 60mm insulation, the inner one retained by screws.
Note my wifeís new broom, this is the deluxe GT version, with the all weather handle. This is a very useful extra since she doesnít slip off it so often when she flys off for the shopping in the rain.

Insulation and painting complete. The main light is a 1200mm fluorescent, contrary to popular folk law I have never noticed any afterglow, and there are many tasks where bright lighting is required, in fact I will soon add a second one. I have a secondary system of low voltage spot lights, but these rarely get used.

After a 60mm layer of insulation board was installed to the floor it was finished with interlocking MDF/mylar floor. This was an end-of-line offer from my local D.I.Y. store. Although itís wearing well I think I should have brought a waterproof bathroom version.

Wicks came to the rescue with a special offer on my base units. These are standard kitchen cabinet base units. The work top is a double layer of Conti-board, I couldnít face cutting in the standard heavy work tops; been there, done that, and got the hernia to prove it.

I wanted plenty of electrical socket outlets, so I used trailing leads with multi-sockets, again from the bargain basket of the D.I.Y. store. Why do we have to have neon indicators on everything electrical, I spent several hours taking them out?

The enlarger position was painted with blackboard paint to minimise reflections. Iím not convinced that this is strictly necessary, but it was easier to do it at this stage rather than later. The item on the bench is my paper safe, very large, and heavy. One of the best investment Iíve made.

Where my D.I.Y. store failed, eBay came to the rescue. It was the source of the 1.5m long fibre glass sink. As with electrical socket outlets I have never been troubled by too many taps.

The interior consists of two rooms, the first is no more than a 700mm deep vestibule. This houses the water break tank over the door. On the right as I enter is my mounting press on a shelf over an air-conditioning unit, and at high level a chemical cupboard. On the left is a space intended for a fridge/freezer, yet to be fitted. Two piece doors provide entry to the main area, and form a secondary light trap.

There is a 100mm fan at high level that circulated air continuously between the two rooms via a foam air filter. This both filters the air and helps prevent stratification since the air is returned to the main room at low level.

Both heating and ventilation are important considerations. I reasoned that the £300 I spent on insulation would be repaid with lower electricity consumption, but more importantly with a greater comfort level. In this it has been successful. I use a small 600w oil filled radiator to maintain a temperature of 20į C, this is controlled by a fixed room thermostat rather than the heater internal thermostat. All this may seem extravagant but it does mean that I can use the facility at a moments notice, and thatís important for me.

Darkrooms require a high rate of ventilation, especially if you use open trays for development. For reasons which I wonít expand on here I do my developing in closed containers which reduces the problem slightly, however I still find that I need to draw breath occasionally. I have installed a 100mm extract fan controlled by a presence detector set to switch the fan on when I enter and off about five minutes after Iíve left.

The a/c unit is used to maintain a comfort level during hot weather and counter the hot air drawn in by the ventilation system.

I now use two Ilford safelights fitted with 15w lamps and 902 filters. I used to grope about in very dim safe lighting until I visited Les McLeanís darkroom and was amazed by the level of lighting he employed. I can now read data sheets under my safe lighting.

In conclusion I think the layout has stood the test of time, of course there are things that are compromises. More room would be nice, and a larger dry area in which to spot and mount prints would be nice, but short of building a second story I shall have to live with what I have.
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By Barry on 28th September 2008, 07:17 PM

Superb article and darkroom Dave. It looks a great place to work.

ps I hope Win does not read this!
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By Bill on 7th October 2008, 10:20 AM

Excellent place to work Dave. Is the water supply temperature controlled?

I am extremely jealous.

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By Dave miller on 7th October 2008, 11:36 AM

Originally Posted by BillMar View Post
Excellent place to work Dave. Is the water supply temperature controlled?

I am extremely jealous.

No need to be jealous Bill, get building.

No, the water supply isn't controlled. The water in the 5 gallon break tank over the door warms quite quickly to ambient temperature, and when I need warmer water I use a small kettle to heat it.
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By Fintan on 7th October 2008, 09:05 PM

Excellent reading Dave.

I've a darkshed myself but no photographs of the construction, I risked divorce digging up the garden to run water pipes in from the house. So perhaps the lack of evidence is a good thing in hindsight
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By Paul M on 8th October 2008, 03:36 PM

Dave, you don't mention drainage in your article - do you have any drainage to the sewer, or some other way of dealing with waste water and chemicals?
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By Dave miller on 8th October 2008, 04:09 PM

Originally Posted by Paul M View Post
Dave, you don't mention drainage in your article - do you have any drainage to the sewer, or some other way of dealing with waste water and chemicals?
Certainly I do. The 40mm waste from the sink continues all the way across the yard to the house drain, both it and the incoming water main are enclosed in an insulated wooden casing above ground level.
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By Mark on 6th November 2008, 10:08 PM

Great post. Its something to see the process from start to finish.
Very impressive !
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By Mike O'Pray on 6th November 2008, 11:44 PM

Great article Dave. I remember reading it a while ago It must have been on EMMG, I think.

Have you worked out the cost of what appears to be a constant heating system which is on 24 hrs a day to enable you to use the darkroom at a moments notice? I must say that as a Jock this would worry me a little

Secondly I think you don't have piped water from the mains. So how do you get the water into the 5 gallon tank and if you wash FB can you fill the tank and forget for at least one darkroom session?

Why ask all these Q's you may say as I have a converted bedroom for a darkroom. Well strangely enough I was telling the wife that my velcro-stuck darkroom blind was inclined to leak on sunny days and one thing led to another and she hinted at a darkroom shed in the garden. I have reservations - no extra heating and it's just too easy to get to the toilet but it's as well to be prepared.


Mike O'Pray
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By Sandeha Lynch on 7th November 2008, 07:28 AM

Hoggin, I suspect.

Excellent job.
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