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Wanted: Short Term Rental Garage for Van Conversion in the Northeast USA

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Sep 14, 2020
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I'm posting this thread for myself and others looking for short term garages for rent for van conversion projects in the Northeast USA area.

I am still looking for a place to finish my project anywhere in 11 NE states of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine.

Wanted: Commercial, Industrial, or Residential Garage, Warehouse Bay, Work Space, Work Shop, Woodworking Shop, etc For Short Term Rent

- Utilities needed: Electric for light, small space heater, a few small power tools

- Dimensions needed for entrance:
9 feet Height clearance
8 1/2 feet Width for garage door entrance
20 feet Length for the van
and need approximately 500-1,000 square feet total additional interior space to work in

- If the van can't fit inside he building that's ok I can work inside and bring the finished objects into the van docked next to the garage or workshop entrance
- Purpose: 2-3 months of upfitting, wood cabinetry work and interior work on a van
- Willing to sign a liability waiver since some people don't want to rent short term (that needs to change as there is an urgent unmet demand)
- Email me via Craigslist , post below or pm me via this forum
I know you likely won’t take my advice but you got your garage and work space don’t waste your money. Inside your van 6x6x10. All you need is a jig saw, a skill saw, a drill and a driver. They should all be battery powered, I would suggest buying them all from the same recognized manufacturer, Makita, dewalt, Milwaukee, Riobi, or ridgid. Stick with one brand, whichever feels right, you can build on your kit as needed or as you can afford, they will come in handy and can easily be stored in and recharged from your van. As you mentioned your needs were simple so a bed a place to cook/prepare food a way to stay warm, comfortable, a bit of entertainment and a way to stay in touch with your support network. Good luck.
Agree with Kurbmaster, easy to do your build outside.  Though I did have access to a garage, the van did not fit in it, so I worked outside.

I did at one time have a storage with electric receptacle, cost around $100 per month. A van would not fit in that either.

Battery tools are well worth the investment.
Without getting too personal I should have added that I don't have a place to stay, I'm currently homeless with a partial van build and I won't be able to work out of the van as I have what I need in storage but no space to work out of.
Most storage units do not allow work inside or outside I've already done thorough research which is why I expanded my range to the entire Northeast.
So the best I can do is find a garage, the worst would be to dock to a building and work adjacent to the building.
Doing anything else would be illegal or difficult in cold, rain and winter weather.
True. Rain can be expected when you are working outside. I can recall getting pretty wet during my build in Oregon in the fall.
I coped by wearing fleece, and doing my main jigsaw work when it was not raining. I used an igloo ice cube cooler as a work platform.

If you plan to stay in the northeast you may need a generator. Will help power your tools during the build and later for big power draws.

I do understand how much more fun a van build could be in a large shop with all the tools, but most builds happen outside and not far from a home depot. My build took about a month, and I got permission for parking before I started.
Hmm, you have a decent amount of requirements that may make this a bit costly in the NE where a 1 bedroom with a garage goes for $1800+ a month. So the garage alone would be a lot, especially the size you are looking for.

I wish i owned my place. I have a small/short 2 car garage that's rarely used that i run an extension cord to for power. I would love to barter for some cabenentry work on my truck.

Ill keep an eye out, lots of storage/buildings around here that may be up for a short term rental.
You could also consider responding to craigslist housing ads and asking to be added to the household for driveway parking with electricity. Same cost as a storage with electricity, a hundred dollars a month or so.

In my experience with CL situations, there was always a bit predatory going on so be careful. I felt much safer in my dealings with the storage unit where I knew the staff, background checks etc.

If you decide to do your build at a camping spot, make yourself a sanctuary space where you have the essentials for living, probably in the cab. So when the weather deteriorates you can go there to chill. You will also have higher gas expense running the heater to dry out gear in the cab. Have a full gas can with you.

An alternative is using a tent with a buddy heater to dry out gear, probably the cheapest way if you already have a tent and a buddy heater. I did this in Oregon during a storm and cost about $5 for propane fill of the bottle. Most expensive is drying your stuff at the laundromat because you have to drive there.

I don't reccomend using a tent to do carpentry as you will poke holes in it, and paint and glue fumes are too flammable to run the buddy heater in there.

Have fun with your build!
It is unfortunate that it is winter, almost where you are, but you still have time. I started my build in summer, found a small section of plywood propped on a wheel well and a stump on the other end to balance it, slept there with a sleeping bag and a thermorest, used a small camp stove on the doghouse, a cooler and a water jug, a couple scavenged pots and pans. The first thing i did was insulate, then flooring and panelling for the walls. Good luck
I'm currently building out my Transit as I live in it. So I'm in a similar situation.

It's difficult sometimes. Though with each milestone I cross I get encouraged.

First week was awful. Had the bed just on top of a pile of tools and materials.

When I got the bed platform done it made a huge quality of life difference.

Most recently I finished all the insulation. (though I keep finding new places to insulate!)

And have most of the electric stuff delivered to a relative in Long Island. So I'm starting that part next week.

Of course now the temps are starting to creep down so I need to finish the walls and the last few bits of floor.
Anyway, what I've been doing is parking at Home Depot, Lowes and Ikea and working there. At least in NYC they don't give me any grief about hanging out for hours. Or sometimes I chill on an industrial block where power tools and a white van are not uncommon.

Charge the tools at Ikea's cafe, my storage unit, or local wifi cafes.

Where this falls short is some tools really need the corded version.

Cordless circular saws are weak as hell. You have to be careful ripping plywood with them or you can smoke the motor.
The worst one will have to be appling bedliner.

It will take hours to tape up the whole thing. More to paint it.
Then while the liner dries you have to hope it doesnt get twigs or leaves stuck in it.

There are storage places that do boats and cars. Not sure if they allow working? Boats always require work so...

I've seen some rental garages here in Queens where folks work on their rat rods and such. But those are probably too small.

Shoot what we need is a 'maker space' that has all the basic tools and a few specialized ones for van builds.

Like I'm going to buy a spray gun for putting bedliner on the van. After that job it goes on CL for half price. No need for a spray gun once the white van is blue.

Ditto for a table saw. That is the right way to rip plywood. Not with some handheld and a jury rigged fence.

What would be really excellent would be an insulation blowing rig. I've been laying in foam board like little bricks to reach all the cavities in my van. Then blasting expando foam to make it cohesive. Time consuming!

I'll keep an ear out. I've met some folks in Red Hook Brooklyn that are van-lifers or amenable folks like Burners.

ps Just wanted to point out that I do the Boy Scout thing and never leave a mess of construction waste behind. I'm always gathering up XPS scraps and tape backing in a garbage bag.
Even try to contain the sawdust spillage.
If you use expanding foam, be sure to get the closed cell type. The normal spray foam at hardware stores is usually open cell and will absorb water which can lead to mildew.
I'll offer this thought.  There are numerous small airports that have hanger space for airplanes that set empty and idle.  If you were to approach some of these explaining your project and the need for a short term facility to complete the project you may find a space like you described in the OP.  These places are generally quiet, secure, and affordable for a short term. 

Often EAA members rent such a hanger to build a "home built" airplane within.  Most of these facilities would fit the needs you describe.  .......and you may get the bug to build a airplane of your own to fly. :)

If you can build out a rig, you could probably build a Pietenpol Air Camper like this one.

B and C said:
If you use expanding foam, be sure to get the closed cell type.  The normal spray foam at hardware stores is usually open cell and will absorb water which can lead to mildew.
Yeah I found that out when I was already 2 cans in.
Not too bad, as I never got close to the bottom of the can. But in both cases I used them in areas I couldn't possibly fit regular insulation. So there is no getting it out without a lot of work now!
Used Loctite Gaps and Cracks or Windows and doors foam. Which is supposed to be closed cell. Though that is 2nd hand info. Nothing I find on Loctites site confirms or denies this. But the foam is very stiff and does not expand a lot. Which I gather are characteristics of closed cell?
I more put the closed cell info for others reading the forum. I knew you had already done it. I've never used it but I did have a house we built use closed cell spray foam. It did expand, but not like the can stuff.
B and C said:
I more put the closed cell info for others reading the forum.  I knew you had already done it.  I've never used it but I did have a house we built use closed cell spray foam.  It did expand, but not like the can stuff.
Getting off topic here, but it would be great if anyone knew which kinds were for sure closed cell.
On some of these vans there are places you want to insulate that you just cannot reach any other way!
I'm personally wishing I'd bough a high roof transit instead of a medium roof after seeing how much easier it is to get at the roof/wall junction on those.

Back on topic, I'm heading down to Red Hook for a couple days. I'm going to ask around to see if anyone knows any such places were a person could work on their van. Aside from the artsy-burner community in Red Hook it is also where a lot of fleet vehicles are based. Tons of charter busses and school busses. So maybe?
Just back about two months ago after i got rear ended, i spoke to a body shop.. i don't believe this subject is as cut and dry as what some think.. 

The body shop told me most vehicle manufacturers use spray foam in areas, and he went on to say that he also will use it to of he needs to repair where the factory put it...

There are definitely certain types of spray foam that attracts mold.. that i do know.. 

I am actually considering using something like this as a filler to repair my damage when i was rear ended
eDJ_ said:
I'll offer this thought.  There are numerous small airports that have hanger space for airplanes that set empty and idle.  If you were to approach some of these explaining your project and the need for a short term facility to complete the project you may find a space like you described in the OP.  These places are generally quiet, secure, and affordable for a short term...

Thanks I didn't think of hangars I will give some local places a call.

I did find a garage via Craigslist, I expanded my range and found some places even some with an adjacent room to sleep in so the places are out there it just takes timing and patience to find them.
Besides cold calling real estate offices when you see garages and abandoned buildings, CG seems to be the only place to find garages as I don't use Facebook etc.
We do need a maker space for various vehicle conversions, there is high demand but low supply for short term rental garages and work shop spaces primarily for the insurance liability reason/excuse but most places want 1 year lease or longer at minimum.

If anyone else is looking for a place in the Northeast you can use this thread.
I managed to get some work done but am still looking for another garage to finish my van in the Northeast area - Central NY, Upper NY including the Capital District, Western MA, VT, NH and Maine.

If I hear of any places I'll post here but it seems even after these past 3 years of changes it's still difficult to find work spaces.
I think it has always been difficult to find short term places to work on vehicles.

But one suggestion is to get permission to post the request on the local senior citizens bulletin board. Also do so at local coffee shops, feed stores and grocery stores. Some people could use the extra funds. Mention being willing to help with chores as a partial rent trade, especially on the senior center notice board. The right bait and fishing holes attracts lots more catches. Craigslist is a fishing hole that has the banks lined shoulder to shoulder with fishermen.

You could also offer to pay for one of the quick criminal background checks as some potential, temporary landlords might be reassured by seeing that you are a good citizen. That could tip the decision making scales to your side.
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Professional spaces for rent for DIY van builds or vehicle repairs are scarce not just because of liability for personal harm. The biggest major hurdle for the facility owner is that they are saddled with extensive fees and paperwork by the state and federal Hazardous Materials and Hazardous Waste disposal regulations. That situation also creates higher business insurance rates.

As to short term versus long term contracts on indoor spaces. There is too much potential financial loss to a landlord with short term renters. No ability to amortize the loss over time. The landlord knows when the renter is done they are going to be skipping on out of town and it will be pretty much impossible to recover any property damage repairs cost from that individual.
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Thanks for the info, some of it's new, some I was aware of.

I wonder how all the regulations differ between individual states and their local municipalities, maybe some locations are more amenable for either landlord or renter or both to get something like this done if both parties can be trusted to be responsible.