Monday, 16 July 2012

Electrics and wiring complete!

On Friday the electrics were brought into the shed. Thankfully we had a dry morning so the electrician was able to get the SWA cable in before it rained! The power comes in at the left corner and goes into a fused switch box to isolate the room. It then goes off to three double sockets.

Obviously its just the back-boxes in place and the wires, and the actual faceplates will go on once the plasterboards are up.

I also brought the coaxial (for Virgin Tivo TV) and a Cat5e in from the house. There was an existing hole on the outside wall that the Tivo box used to get into an upstairs bedroom. Thankfully it was big enough to take both a coax and ethernet cable without having to make the hole any bigger.

The coax/ethernet cable is then tacked to the wall at a low level, and is kept roughly half a foot away from the power cable to help avoid any possible interference (however it is unlikely unless you were to literally wrap the cables around each other). The ethernet comes in at the front of the shed and runs along the left wall, where it will terminate in a wall-mounted network faceplate. The Coax cable will literally just stick through the corner of the plasterboard as you loose a lot of power on the cable if you first go into a faceplate. Since there is likely already a fairly big drop in power from the house, I'd rather not risk loosing the signal all together.

I've also now finished all walls with insulation, and am currently awaiting for some expanding foam to set before sealing up the edges with aluminium tape. The plasterboard can then finally go up on the walls.

One bonus for the power is that the electrician lives less than a minute's walking distance away, so once the plasterboard is up he'll be able to pop round quickly to do the faceplates.

Pictures to follow soon - it's currently chucking it down with rain (shock horror!) and the camera is locked in the shed.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Update on the cabling & a few plans

That was some speedy delivery from! I ordered the 30 meter WF100 Coaxial cable yesterday, and it arrived around 1PM today.

I gave it a good test and it successfully works with the Tivo box!

I've also now ordered the networking supplies. I did plan on going with Cat6 but the only speed back to the house that I'll really need is going to be for the internet connection. I cant see Virgin Media giving us a free upgrade that takes us over 1gbps any time soon!

For the network connection I'm using a cat5e cable, which will terminate into a standard network wall socket in the shed. The plan is that this will then go into the back of a Netgear WNR2000 router (its the one we used for Virgin prior to them switching us over to the Superhub). This will then offer 5ghz wireless inside the shed, in addition to being hooked up to a gigabit 8 port network hub, simply because  wireless in our area is TERRIBLE due to some clever idiot at BT decided to have their routers bounce around different channels. I regularly find that every channel has at least 2 routers on it.

For the network supplies I went with an eBay supplier for a 50 meter outdoor grade cable (I dont need the full 50m so will cut it and have a good 15 meters spare for making internal cables). I also managed to get hold of a networking kit which included the punch, crimping and cutting tools.

The rj45 module and wall plates are coming from ToolStation.

The plan of things to do between now and next Friday (when the electrics are being fitted) is as follows:

  • Give the shed a clear out (I've been a bit messy with my offcuts, screws and tools!)
  • Clear space for the cables to be run to the shed
  • Seal around the roof facia boards to help reduce water dripping at the front and sides of the shed
  • Cut back the neighbours trees as they are making the shed roof constantly wet. 
  • Finish battening out the front (door/window) wall and insulate.
  • Touch up some paint on the outside
Most of this 'to-do list' is weather permitting!

I should really also be looking at interior stuff right now. I've got a folder on my desktop with a bunch of photos that I've picked up around the web of other peoples garden office interiors. My own goal is to make it a bright workspace, but not hospital-style white washed walls. So it'll be light walls, a laminate flooring (Although I have had my eye on some rather nice solid bamboo flooring with great insulation properties), etc. 

Any suggestions or inspiration ideas for the interior are welcome! :)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Small update on progress!

Just a small update on the current situation. I had to wait until I could get a quote from the electrician before proceeding, that is now complete.

The original plan for the electrics was to go from the consumer unit to the shed with a completely new ring main. The biggest problem (or more of a pain) with this is that the consumer unit is in a downstairs toilet at the FRONT of the house, while the shed is as far away from the BACK of the house as possible. This would mean a cable would have to:

  • Go out the side wall of the downstairs toilet, into the garage
  • Run along the side and back of the garage wall, and then through the wall into the utility room
  • Along the utility room wall, then through the (brick) wall to the kitchen
  • Across the top of the kitchen cupboards
  • Out the main wall to outside (at 2nd level height)
  • Down the wall, along the fence to the shed
This would mean a very long run of cable. 

The electrician worked out that I really dont need that kind of dedicated ring main as the room will be running 2 computers, 2 screens a tv and a Tivo box plus an uplight - remember I'm not having a fixed ceiling light added, so no extra fuse will be needed for that.

After some fiddling round behind cabinets, we found that there is a plug socket on a 13 amp circuit for the dishwasher that can be tapped. So we're basically taking a spur from that socket which can then go directly out the wall to the garden then along the fence, saving a good 20 meters of extra cable!

So the complete job will be:
  • Fit fused switching spur in kitchen (I assume that's something along these lines but could be completely wrong)
  • Fit ~20-25 meters of SWA cable through to the shed
  • Three double plug sockets in the shed 
We did discuss an extra consumer unit in the shed, however from the looks of things it really isn't needed. The only benefit would be that if there was a fault in the shed, it would trip in the shed instead of the house. Given that I'm happy to walk 20 paces back to the house to flip the switch (assuming it ever goes off), it really wasn't worth having it put in. Obviously if I ever decide I want it in, it wouldn't be much of a job as the SWA cable can be cut and put into a consumer unit with minimal cable threading required.

The total cost for the electrics was way lower than I was thinking it would be. I've been scouting round forums looking to see how much people were quoted, just to get a rough idea. It was messy! Some people would be quoted £100 while some were quoted £1000+! I played safe and budgeted £600 as a precautionary measure. Much to my surprise the quote came in at a little over £200 - very reasonable! This is obviously all Part-P verified work too, so is completely legitimate. This means I can spend a little more on the interior and other finishing touches.

So, there's the electrics! It's being hooked up on Friday 13th...I just hope thats not an omen!

Solar Power

I should add at this point that being a bit of a computer geek kid of guy, I've bought a few of these new Raspberry Pi computers. Its basically a micro-computer that is about the size of a credit card, and runs on a measly 5v USB power supply. The three I've bought are on backorder and should be here within 10 weeks. My plan for them is to hook them up to a solar panel. I'm on the look out for a very simple panel on a stick. Maplin used to sell one but seem to have stopped now. The idea is that these three mini computers will run my local web server which I use for development. This means that I can avoid having a second beefy computer plugged in, and instead run these little devices off free power. Further down the line I may extend my options and opt for a bigger panel however I'm planning on starting small for now.


I'm also looking into running one of these Raspberry Pi's as a security system. I should be able to hook up a night-vision webcam which could be mounted in the corner of the room. Then using the raspberry pi, set it to record to a network drive inside the house (would be a bit silly having the drive in the shed). This on top of a standard motion sensor and door sensors should be ample security. 

There will actually be very little value in anything sold as I'm going to be selling my desktop computer and getting one of the new MacBook Pro's as these support 2 screens. Meaning I can use it as a desktop computer in the office during the day, then take it out with me at night. Meaning the most anyone could get away with would be a couple of cheapo screens and a badly screen-burnt TV. These however would be anchored to something non-movable using a Kensington lock.

Additional Wiring

I was planning on using a 'Slingbox Pro HD' to basically allow me to pick up TV from my Virgin TIVO box. This transmits the picture over your local network and allows you to change the channel. Unfortunately some clever person at Slingbox decided not to support HDMI, and another clever person at Virgin/Tivo decided not to support component cable connections from the box.

Because of this I've ordered a 30 meter WF100 Coaxial cable from and will be running this to the shed and placing the Tivo box in there. This is assuming there isn't a huge amount of signal loss.

Assuming the cable works (I'll be testing it down there first before fixing it into place) Im also going to run ethernet to the office. I was going to skip this and stick with the trusty home-plugs however if I've got to run a cable down there anyway, I may as well run 2 and get a solid network connection. 

The end is really in sight now. Once the electrics are in place I can get the room completely plaster-boarded and skim over the joints (that should be fun...remember that I've got practically zero DIY experience prior to this!). Once its skimmed over I can get on with the interior work. I've also got to find some sort of vent to fit into the wall which is proving to be a nightmare to find anything that will work with the thickness of wall. 

Right thats all for now. I'll probably be posting an update on or around Friday 13th when the electrics are being done!

(Sidenote: Hmm...ok I lied, that wasn't a small update at all!)