From concrete workshop to plywood-lined office

Turning a former mechanic’s workshop into a high-end office space was quick and easy using PlyPlay.

An old building in the inner Auckland city suburb of Kingsland was going to be the new location for Craig Geldard’s maritime electronics company, but its original state needed a lot of work.

‘Obviously we needed to cover up the concrete blocks, because it was going to have a fairly dramatic change of use, but we also had to adhere to the Building Code for bracing requirements.’

PlyPlay not only provided the structural element for the bracing walls, it also produced an immediate decorative finish that would shorten the project time frame.

‘Working with plasterboard means you need three contractors, which can become a moving target trying to get all the trades in a sequence and on time. With pre-finished PlyPlay, I only had the builder to deal with. And he could complete an area then move onto the next. It was far more efficient than any other process.’

Craig was also after a quality finish and style for the completed space, not only for his team, but for potential tenants too. He knew he would be leasing the upstairs area and wanted to attract a tenant that would be seeking a good design aesthetic.

‘I knew I wanted to make it a little edgy – with a design element – and PlyPlay was spot on. We soon found a tenant who loved the space and they signed up straight away.’

It works for Craig, too, who after many years in nondescript, painted plasterboard interiors, wanted his new space to have character and style.

‘The blonded plywood panels help to break up the large walls, and look great alongside the black joinery. Upstairs, instead of a typical office suspending ceiling, we were also able to install PlyPlay. This detail gave us another 20–30 cm of height, so the top floor feels a lot roomier, and it has definitely created a powerful look.’

PlyPlay transforms a garage into a play space

With the trend toward smaller lot and house sizes, it’s time to revisit the humble garage. Its potential as a multifunctional space is largely untapped, but with the right materials, fittings and design it can be transformed into an attractive and versatile room. In addition to storing cars, it can also serve as a family breakout space, workshop or project space. It can even change use according to the season. Whether you have tots or teens, or an empty nest, the garage is ready to be viewed as a space that can be used for more.


Interior designer Sonya Cotter has styled this Auckland garage three ways: as a secondary living room, as a games room and for a practical yet comfortable gardening workspace. To the existing dark blue polypropylene carpet, she has selected pre-finished PlyPlay™. “The plywood immediately transforms the room with the warmth of timber,” she says. “It feels more welcoming, which is important for a family space, but also because garages are inadvertently used as another entry into the home.”

PlyPlay™ provides equal measures of style and practicality making the space as desirable as it is functional. Glued and panel pinned to the existing plasterboard lining, the plywood offers a strong surface for hooks and fittings. Whether storing bicycles from the ceiling, hanging gardening tools or a bean bag, hooks and brackets won’t rip out like they can from plasterboard. And if a hook is removed, the hole hardly shows due to the texture of the wood.

Being prefinished also means the construction time is quick and relatively mess-free. Builder Phil Hays lined this garage in under two days. “It took me about half an hour per sheet to install,” he explains, “and because they are pre-finished, I was the only contractor required. No need for plastering or painting trades. The protective plastic on the PlyPlay surface allowed me to easily mark my cut lines, which sped up the installation.”

Maintenance is also an important consideration for garages, as anyone storing sports or gardening gear can attest to. Bumped and marked plasterboard is not attractive and takes a lot of work to keep clean. PlyPlay™ by contrast, has a strong Ecoply substrate and durable UV-cured polyurethane finish. It handles more knocks, wear and tear and is easy to clean with a soft wet sponge.

Transform your garage interior DIY-style with PlyPlay

Even the humblest of garages can be transformed over a weekend into a stylish hobby or games room with prefinished PlyPlay.

Standing inside his 1960s garage one day, eyeing the lawn mower and collection of tools, Jake Raines decided the space could be put to better use. It had a concrete floor, timber framing and metal cladding, all in reasonable condition. By making it dust-free and insulated, he could use it as a home gym and store his kids’ sports and hobby equipment, all without the risk of things going mouldy.

Keen on a bit of DIY, Jake discussed lining options with a builder friend – comparing plasterboard with PlyPlay plywood – and decided on the prefinished product. This meant he could do the whole job himself and didn’t need to book plasterers or painters. Plywood would also stand up better to the knocks and bumps of a games or fitness room and allow him to fix shelf brackets and hooks directly into the panels. If there had been existing plasterboard, he could easily glue and screw ply over the top.

So, armed with cordless power tools, two sawhorses and a drywall lifter, he set to work to transform the space over two weekends.

Step one: the clean-up

A 50-year-old garage comes with a bit of history. Jake ripped out old work benches and removed nails, brackets and shelves added over the years. It took him a day – including a trip to the dump – to strip it back to bare studs, nogs and rafters.

Step two: lights and insulation

He measured out where he wanted the new downlights for effective night lighting and got an electrician in to install the cables. Then he spent an evening fitting the insulation between the framing – a nice and easy DIY job.

Step three: ceiling battens

With raking rafters, the third stage was to fit ceiling battens for a nice flat surface on which to fix the lining. Prior to deciding on PlyPlay, Jake installed Rondo battens for plasterboard. So instead of nailing off the PlayPlay, he simply screwed it straight to the battens.

Step four: installing the wall panels

Jake chose two different colours for the walls: PlyPlay Double Trouble (charcoal) for the rear and front walls and PlyPlay Blond Ambition for the side walls. First, he painted every second stud black to enhance the negative detail between sheets – it worked a treat. He then trimmed each panel to fit the stud centres using the two sawhorses and a power saw.

Because he was working alone, Jake used a glass pane lifter (with suction cups) to carry each 2400 mm x 1200 mm PlyPlay panel into place. With a cordless nail gun, he put one 40 mm panel pin on the top edge to hold it in place, then used his spirit level to get it plumb before nailing off the full sheet at 150 mm centres around the edges and 300 mm centres on intermediate supports.

He installed all 15 wall sheets of PlyPlay by himself in one day.

Step five: installing the ceiling panels

Jake knew lifting the ceiling panels on his own was going to be a challenge, so he hired a drywall lifter from Hirepool. He booked this for 8.30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, allowing himself all day and all night for the job.

With eight sheets to install, he measured and cut for a symmetrical layout. Placing one at a time onto the lifter, Jake wound the handle to raise each panel effortlessly into the right location. Using his spirit level and square to position them accurately, he then screwed each sheet to the ceiling, and lowered the tool for the next one. A step-ladder was helpful, but he didn’t need any scaffolding. To his surprise, he had the job done by 2 p.m.

Step six: lights, power plugs and skirting

With all the linings in place, he marked and drilled 10 downlight holes for the electrician and marked where he wanted the surface-mounted power points.

While he had the wall and ceiling central joints neat enough, not being a builder, he decided to finish the floor and ceiling edges with a pine skirting and cornice, both pre-painted black. It took him only 15 minutes to nail these in.

Step seven: carpet is the finishing touch

With the linings fitted over the weekend, the carpet was booked for installation on Tuesday. Covering the old slab, it keeps the space soft underfoot and dust-free.

From start to finish, this DIY job took only 28 hours of his labour and cost $7000 in materials. Jakes reckons that if he had employed a builder, it could have been done in two days.

Adding value to his property and family lifestyle

After doing some online research, Jake found that a basic garage costs around $35,000 to build, while a mid-range garage is around the $50,000 mark. So he was pretty happy with his $7k spend to achieve a really useful space, not to mention the value it has added to his property.

What was an underutilised vintage garage is now a comfortable space to spend time in for hobbies or exercise. It is well insulated, clean and dust-free, and has good acoustics, a warm timber finish, carpet underfoot and good lighting.


Project budget

Please note: This work and pricing was undertaken in 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Please check with a local building firm in your area to confirm what pricing would be likely for this type of project in your area before going ahead. The table is in New Zealand dollars.


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