New Darkroom - Need layout advice

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by proslambanomenos, Jan 12, 2006.

  1. proslambanomenos

    proslambanomenos Member

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    I've planned a tentative layout for a new darkroom, and want to see if any of you have any suggestions or changes to recommend. The walls are framed, so the door locations are fixed. The walls, however, have not yet been drywalled so I would like to plan the layout before I hang sheetrock to make sure the plumbing access points, electrical wiring, lighting, and ventilation are all in the right places. Note that the small circle on the north wall is the sewer access pipe, which probably determines where the sink and laundry tub should go.

    The south door is the entrance. The east door goes into a small utility room where furnace, water heater, etc are located. This is also where the water manifold is located; it has a few blank hot and cold leads so it will be pretty easy to run water lines from there to any location in the darkroom.

    The sink is 5 feet long and should accomodate three trays for processing 16x20 prints. The tub is a standard deep laundry tub. It and the and desk to the left of the sink are for additional trays and washes as needed.

    The fridge and desks can account for needed surface space for working with negatives and paper, etc. The desks were purchased from a local elementary school when they upgraded and are the kind that have the builtin book trays.

    Any recommendations?
     

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  2. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Interesting layout - illustrates creative way to stuff a darkroom into a very long and narrow space.

    Several comments:

    1. If it were me, I would really like to see more separation between the sink and the "dry side". I note that you appear to be thinking about a wall (?) between the enlarger and the sink, but in my experience, it is really helpful to have counter space on either side of the enlarger.

    2. You should plan on ventillation. I suggest that air should exhaust through a vent (or vents) over the sink, but it's not immediately obvious where it should enter. In my darkroom, air enters near the enlarger, but that wouldn't work very well here with the sink and enlarger next to each other - given the length of the room, that would result in stale air at the two ends of the room.

    3. Why the dual doors? In a perfect world, a darkroom should have two means of egress (that's a good policy in any "confined space" and is mandatory in industrial settings in the US). But do these doors actually lead to separate means of egress, or do they go to a common space? If they go to a common space, then one of the doors is not necessary and is actually a constraint on how the darkroom could be laid out.

    4. What is the height of the fridge? If it is a small fridge, then there really is a counter space disguised as the top of the fridge. If it is a tall (standard height in the US), I would suggest moving it all the way to the right corner of the room. While it's sometimes convenient to have a fridge in the darkroom, I think you will find that you won't need to get into it more than once or twice per session, and having it out of the way will make sense.

    5. You will want a lot of electrical receptacles. Estimate the number you think you need, and then double that number. Be sure to put at least two behind the enlarger, and a couple more above the sink. The receptacles behind the sink should have GFCI functionality - and it wouldn't hurt to have that on all of the receptacles.

    6. I would consider putting a sheet of "homosote" (compressed fiberboard) on the long wall behind the sink - use it with push pins as a place to hang work prints. Looking at work prints on the wall over time is a good way to assess whether you want to make fine prints of them.

    7. Is the sewer access point at floor level? If not, are you going to have a gray water pump to move waste from the tub up to the sewer? Note that putting the wet side near the sewer certainly simplifies the design, but there are ways to move water around if you choose to arrange things differently.

    8. Where and how will you be drying negatives? Where and how will you be drying prints? Are you planning to have print mounting facilities in the darkroom, or will that be elsewhere?

    9. Final thought - I would suggest that you consider a drastic change in floorplan. Put the sink along the left wall. Move the utility tub far enough to the to the right to permit you to stand between the sink and the tub. You can still have a drain line that runs along the wall and around the corner to drain the sink into the tub. Think about constructing a hinged "lid" over the tub that permits it to be a counter space when you don't need to use it as an auxiliary sink. Move the fridge into the right corner, and put at least one desk adjacent to the enlarger to have a place to lay down paper boxes and/or negative sheets while printing.

    Show us some pictures as your proceed through construction. And have fun with the project!
     
  3. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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  4. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    You don't mention what you plan to do in the darkroom. For example, do you have a separate area in which to dry prints and negatives? What format film will you be enlarging? Why limit the sink to 5 feet + utility sink vs an 8 ft sink? Will you have a print washer?
     
  5. Gary892

    Gary892 Member

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    In addition to what has been said, the first thng that pops out at me is have you considered pocket doors?

    Monophoto has made some very good suggestions.
     
  6. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    It just won't work, there is no coffee pot anywhere!

    You get used to working in the space you have. It doesn't look that bad. Consider that some folks don't have a space at all and have to use the bath room or closet. If you have water and a sink then you will do fine.
     
  7. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    By the way I want my darkroom redesigned by Jerold Harter. It's clean and well organized. Look at what he has done on the darkroom thread. I worked in hospital darkrooms for years, they were some of the worst. When we turned on the lights it was sickening. I vowed to have my home darkroom clean and organized.

    Curt
     
  8. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

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    1. Put a light over the sink on it's own gfi switch in adition to the main switch by the door, this will keep you from walking to the door every time you want to view a wet print.

    2. Consider doing dry wall then electrical in conduit. This will allow easy changes to your circuts in the future. I have made three major changes in five years without cutting into walls.

    3. Buy 4x8 sheets of "Frost White" from home depot,this is the material they make cheap dry erase boards from. Have them cut to 2x8 and mount them to the walls and you will have note boards all over.

    4. wall mount a stero and speakers up out of the way.
     
  9. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    I'm going to question your idea of 3 trays for 16x20 prints...

    I'm assuming your going to be printing 16x20's in fibre, then you'll probably want 5 (dev, stop, fix, rinse & hypo clear) before getting into the wash. Speaking of which, how are you intending to wash a 16x20? Drop the rinse before the hypo clear and you've still got 4 trays. Add a toner tray (selenium) if you do that at time of printing (I don't). Also, remember the trays are actually a fair bit bigger than the print you get in them. Maybe think about stacking them.

    How committed to using the desks are you? By building customer enlarger table and shelving you probably can make it more functional, but it would cost.

    My wet area is a sink made from acrylic sheet, which has 4" high sides (plus 2' splashback I use for squeegeeing prints). If I was to do it again (and I might cut down my existing one) I would get minimal 'sides'. I don't spill stuff that warrants the sides. A few drops of something dripping off a print between trays is about it. I reckon a few strips of 5mm acrylic stuck around a benchtop (formica, etc) would give enough insurance against spilling a tray (1-2litres most likely) as by the time it spreads out, it won't be very deep at all.

    I'm not sure what I'd do with your sink/utility tub. Does it have to cover the drain or can a pipe be angled to it? The tub would be good to mix chems, wash hands etc, but no good for washing big prints (probably ok for 8x10s) or washing your big trays. Probably comes back to how you're going to wash the buggers. If you were to stack your trays, maybe 2 stands of 2 or 3 trays depending on how many you need, you could have room for a tray for the wash. Need to make measurements to see if there's enough space.

    I like a bit of room around the enlarger to be able put the timer, a neg file, focus finder, dodging tools, pens & paper etc. I'd see if I could do something with the sink to be able to do something similar to the rough layout I've attached.
     

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  10. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    You can't have a big enough sink. But 8' is the cheapest pre-built sink you can find. I agree with all of the previous posts. Good advice.

    Consider moving the filing and miscellaneous stuff to another room. Most of the storage, matting, framing, etc, is better suited to other space anyway. I would not want a refrigerator in my darkroom because of dust, noise, vibration, etc. What is the point of that?

    Putting the enlarger on the short wall seems like a good idea. Especially if you could make a drop table and use storage along the sides for paper safes.

    I have spent many hours obsessing about these sorts of things. I have settled on the single tray method of print processing. Check out Lloyd's website:

    Hey Lloyd

    In a small space it makes the most sense and reduces fumes. I have made my own alterations but it works well once you get used to it. I have also come around to his method for drying prints although I have yet to implement it. I just bought some clothes lines to string up.

    Wherever you put the enlarger, you should put a switch next to it that will shut off all of the room lights.

    I am fond of the Jobo minilux safelight which is like a little flashlight that you wear around your neck.

    If you spend much time in there, consider an anti-fatigue (on my list):

    http://www.matmerchant.com/store-pr...01000-Diamond-Foot-Anti-Fatigue_21695646.html

    Put electrical outlets above and below cabinet height. A couple of electrical outlets in the ceiling for safelights is nice. My ceiling outlets are on a switch.

    If you put a vent fant in the room don't forget about return air. I use a Delta light proof louver which works well.

    I would use semigloss paint. Most people seem to prefer flat paint because itis less reflective. However, it is a pain to clean and gets scuffed up. If you deal with light leaks, the semigloss had nothing to reflect and is much easier to clean.

    If you are still framing in, consider a central vacuum system for the house in general and especially the darkroom. Well worth it if possible.
     
  11. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Since you have framed this, is it part of a garage or basement? I opted for a pocket door from a salvage yard because my space was only 8 ft x 9ft. It was very easy to light trap.

    You might want to use plywood instead of drywall on the darkroom side. It doesn't look so neat, but it makes attaching shelves, whiteboards, clocks, etc. much easier.

    Consider the temperature conditions, and see if some insulation in the walls would be wise. I put my extraction fan in the ceiling, which is fine in the warmer months. In the winter it tends to extract the warm air too. I would be better with a duct set a little lower this time of year.

    The design you show implies a right to left processing flow. Since I'm right-handed I would be lifting prints across my body. This may not bother you as much as it does me.

    I assume that you have tray storage under the sink. I think you are optimistic about doing 20x16 prints in standard trays in that space without a tray stacker. I have enough trouble with develop, stop, fix, water for 11x14 in a similar space.

    If you use a timer control like a Gralab 300, or an RH Designs Analyser Pro that controls the safelights and enlarger, allow for that when you do the wiring. I have a set of modular plugs that allows me to swap the control system between two enlargers.

    I put my white light switch in as a pull cord in the middle of the room. Easy to find, even if I am groping about in the dark, and have wet hands. It is the only switch I *might* need to use wet. Everything else is run through a GFCI (RCD for the UK people) and earthed.

    Why not chalk out the layout on the floor put in some furniture and go through the motions?
     
  12. proslambanomenos

    proslambanomenos Member

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    Thanks, everyone, for prompt responses and great suggestions!

    Agreed, I think there's just too much in there right now. I'm trying to cram too much. The south door leads to the garage, where there is actually some space available for the storage shelves and the refrigerator. I'll move them out there.

    I was under the impression that only one GFI outlet is needed (the closest outlet to the breaker) per line. Is this not the case? If they're each on their own line from the breaker I could see why this would be necessary, but multiple on the same line would be redundant, wouldn't they?

    The sewer line is 2-1/2" PVC pipe that runs vertically from ceiling to below floor. I was planning on tapping the sink and tub drains into that.

    Mounting will occur in a different room. I don't even have drying screens yet, but I do have an old FB dryer that I've been using. I will be trying to procure or even build a few drying screens soon, but I hadn't quite figured out where to put them...probably under the corner desk. However, I like Nige's general layout much more than mine, so everything's about to change anyway...

    I mainly shoot 6x7 medium format but also frequently with 35mm and rarely with 4x5. I actually already have the sink--I got a plumbed nuArc 5' sink and base for $100 from a guy locally. Not ideal--except that it was cheap, and it will be in MY darkroom, which makes it ideal!! :wink: I don't have a laundry tub but I figure it's a cheap addition to make up a little bit for the sink not being wide; hopefully it will give me some added flexibility for mixing chemicals, etc. I like the idea of a folding lid.

    For now, I'm washing with a tray and a siphon. Not as nice as an archival washer that I cannot afford right now, but will eventually upgrade to. Gradually accumulating nicer equipment as I go.

    Yes, true, and eventually I would like to. The desks are a cheap solution for now...

    I originally built a mobile enlarger stand because my last location required that I move the enlarger into a nearby closet. Pics of it can be seen at http://lightbox.us/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemId=284. But Nige's layout suggestion makes me think I might be better off just putting the enlarger on a table. What do you think?

    Man, I read that and I just don't think I have the kind of fastidious patience this would seem to require. I really admire you now now though...

    Nige, I really like your layout. I'm going to play with it a little and see what I can come up with. Thanks for doing that.
     
  13. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Following up on a couple of points -

    You are correct that you only need one GCFI to get GFCI functionality on all of the recepticles further downstream on the circuit. I would put the receptacle on the first receptacle that the circuit encounters as it enters the darkroom so that you have protection throughout the space.

    Your sewer connection is interesting and fortuitous - the fact that the pipe is vertical and passes through the floor means that you can tap into it just above the floor, and that gives you great flexibility in locating your sink and then running the drain to the tap.
     
  14. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    I used to think the same thing but it works well once you get it down.

    No stained trays, one tray to clean, no tongs, no marred emulsion on the prints from fingers or tongs. Also, much less smell because only one open tray at a time. In a small darkroom basement that is a big plus. Also, much less space - it is very hard to get 5+ 16 x 20 trays into a 5 foot sink and have any room to maneuver. Also, it is easy to use different developers or different sequences or processing. No cross contamination of chemicals or slopping chemicals around the sink. Less cleanup. You get the idea.

    I thought it was way too obsessive to begin with but once I got frustrated with all of the problems I listed above I gave it a try and I am pleased that I did.