Other Peoples thoughts on Wood vs Concrete shop floors?

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Forum topic by Richard H posted 06-15-2015 02:59 AM 3206 views 1 time favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Richard H

489 posts in 1645 days

06-15-2015 02:59 AM

I am in the process of planning a new shop to go in a new to us home. The original plan had been to make it with concrete floors so future owners could convert it into more garage space easily if they wanted but the house we ended up putting under contract won’t support a driveway into the back yard just a 4’ walkway so the decision of which is better has come back up and I’m curious what others think.

Some of the Pros and Cons of both from what I can see.

Wood floors are easier on the back and feet. My last couple garage shops have had concrete floors and even with mats after 4-6 hours my back is pretty sore. I took a one week class at The Woodwright’s School and while I was tired at the end of the day even after 8 hours of standing on the wood floors I wasn’t as sore as my time on the concrete floors. I thought about putting sleepers with a wood floor over the top on concrete but that really adds to the price of the shop since your paying for concrete floors as well as wood floors and you likely would have to tear it all out if you sell the space as a garage.

Concrete floor would be at grade making moving tools and materials in and out of the shop easier. While this is true I wonder just how big of a deal long term this really is. If you have a shop that is 2-3 steps up or has a ramp moving lumber into and projects out of it wouldn’t be to hard even in my case where I’m going to need to use a cart to wheel it from the shop out to the driveway. Tools might be problematic but once they are in your shop how often really do you need to get them out so it seems like more of a one time deal that can be solved with some strong backs and maybe something like a engine hoist.

Floor load concerns with wood floors. This is one I am struggling with a bit. Taking a Grizzly 15” planner as a example and using weight / footprint I can see needing to space the wood floor joists around 200 pounds per square foot and this isn’t the largest tool possible one could buy. If I went wood joist floor what would a good number be for planning purposes? I would like to keep the floor as low to grade as possible so was thinking 2X6 or 2X8’s spaced 12” on center with support every 5’ but am having a hard time finding load tables on the Internet with that high of numbers. I will likely consult a Structure Engineer to help with designing the floor after we close on the house anyways but I would like to know ahead of time what I should aim for and if I’m possibly just over thinking this problem or if concrete floors much higher load capabilities is worth being harder on the back?

Heat/Cooling of the space. I was planning on putting hard foam insulation under the concrete floor to thermally break it from the ground and hopefully keep it from getting damp as well but wasn’t sure how well that would work. It seems like wooden floors with insulation would work better but I have never had a well insulated space either way so am not sure.

Power and dust collection under the floor. I don’t know if the design I have in my mind currently will let me run dust collection under the entire floor but it should let me extend dust collection and power into the center part of the floor easily enough. I have always had to step over these things in my shops or send it overhead and deal with the occasional interference so it would be really nice to have that under the floor. While I know I could run those under a concrete floor it does seem like a pain to me. You have to worry about drainage of the trench and how it’s covered not to mention what future buyers might think of it which does seem like a hassle. Not unsolvable just less than ideal in my mind.

Cost? I have no idea how to compare the cost of these two solutions at this point. I guess once I get into the house and can talk to some contractors I can compare them a bit better but right now I can only guess. The only thing I am thinking is that while I can do most of the wood floor construction myself as it’s basely a free standing deck I would probably hire out the entire concrete part of the job to someone with the skills and equipment to do it.

Anything else I am not thinking about?

I appreciate any and all feedback,

Richard H.

15 replies so far

View esmthin's profile


77 posts in 1146 days

#1 posted 06-15-2015 04:38 AM

Wood would also be softer on any tools that you drop. You are much less likely to break a plane or dull a chisel on wood than concrete.

-- Ethan,

View BilltheDiver's profile


253 posts in 2850 days

#2 posted 06-15-2015 05:02 AM

I had an old, kind of broken up, concrete floor in my garage shop. I treated it with termiticide, laid pt 2X6’s wide side down in a floating frame at 16 inch centers and topped with 3/4 t&g plywood. This was a couple of years ago. No problems. Quite easy on feet and tools. Not too expensive. It supports my Powermatic 15” planer and other heavy tools fine. I did make a cutout in 1 corner to enable bolting down a 60 gallon compressor.

-- "Measure twice, cut once, count fingers"

View shipwright's profile


7966 posts in 2763 days

#3 posted 06-15-2015 05:35 AM

I have worked in too many concrete floored shops in my life so when I built my retirement shop I built it with a crawl space and a wood floor. That was eleven years ago and I have never regretted it. I spend a lot of hours out there and my feet area grateful.
All my dust collection and power for my stationery tools is under the floor and it makes a big difference.
You can see my dust collection in the crawl space in this blog and my shop here.
Let me know if there are any other questions I can help with.
As for weight bearing, I built this in the shop.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1313 posts in 1900 days

#4 posted 06-15-2015 12:05 PM

I’m going thru the same sort of question myself. I am about to close on a house with a sweet 3ish car garage that will house my shop and the wife’s car.

I totally agree with you on the feet and back pain. Wood floors make a very noticeable difference there that is worth something.

As far as having your shop above grade, I think about 6” max is as far as I’d want it up off the driveway. I roll stuff in and out of the shop all the time. I currently have about a 2” step that I had to build a ramp for. It is a pain to wheel stuff in and out, but when I need to do it, I am definitely glad it is not a 2’-3’ drop. That would be annoying if you ask me.

Floor loads – I think be smart about it. Wood is stronger than we think. Maybe put the floor joists closer on center in your machine area? Or add an extra pier or beam in the machine area?

I think that an insulated wood floor would make a world of difference compared to a concrete floor when it comes to heat transfer. Don’t know where you live, but even down here in Texas the shop floor gets freezing during the winter and makes it pretty uncomfortable to work. An insulated shop is money well spent in my book. It makes year round woodworking possible.

Dust collection under a wood floor is very possible. I have struggled with whether I want to run mine overhead or below floor. One thing to think about is that if you run it all below floor, the collector will likely have pull the chips up to the intake which may be anywhere from 2’ to 5’ above floor level at the end of the run, which is harder on the collector. Also as I have thought about it, some tools are better set up for overhead dust collection – planer, drum sander, some are better for underfloor – tablesaw, jointer. This one is sort of a toss up in my book.

I don’t know about cost. I’d be you know whatting in the wind if I were to guess which was cheaper.

I do understand your concern with wanting to build a structure that will hopefully at least recuperate some money upon selling the house. My advice there would be to try to make the structure convertable to a back-house or an apartment. Wire it with enough power, water, etc. to make it sustainable on its own. And also add some french doors or windows so that it isn’t just a dark cave, but instead a pleasant place to be. That will be good for your shop experience and for resale value. It could be a shwanky mother-in-law suite for the next person.

Good luck

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 1141 days

#5 posted 06-15-2015 12:13 PM

Depending on where you live you need to consider bug / pest infestation. Concrete is not going to let pests in like a wood floor would.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15280 posts in 2583 days

#6 posted 06-15-2015 12:44 PM

If you can swing it, definitely do the wood floor. I did 2×4 pressure treated sleepers with 1 1/2” foam between, then salvaged 4” pine t&g for the surface. Not much cost, and ‘Oh!’ What a difference!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Oosik's profile


126 posts in 1648 days

#7 posted 06-15-2015 01:09 PM

Anyone layered a garage floor with plywood?

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2647 posts in 2887 days

#8 posted 06-15-2015 01:44 PM

Anyone layered a garage floor with plywood?

- Oosik
Close to that. I have a workshop, not a garage, with concrete floor and I just laid in place tongue and groove plywood that I secured to the floor a few places. Floor flexes a little, supports what ever I need it to and is easy on my back and feet. Cheap and easy to install and about as easy to remove in the future.

-- Website is

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1645 days

#9 posted 06-15-2015 03:01 PM

Paul M. and Smitty those are amazing shops and I bet great spaces to work in.

Thanks all for the insight. It’s given me a lot to think about and is really pushing me towards using this as a opportunity to get the wood floor shop I wanted in the first place.

View AndyPitts's profile


122 posts in 1042 days

#10 posted 06-15-2015 05:29 PM

I had the same questions when I designed my shop. I ended up building it on a basement cut into a hill and used 12” engineered lumber joists on 16” centers with a 16 ’ outside wall span and it supports all my tools just fine. The load is 10 psf dead, 100 psf live. I used 3/4” Advantech floor sheathing and Lumber Liquidators “rustic” (read shorts and lots of filler) oak T&G flooring. I was able to put dust collection underneath. For my heavy tools (20” planer is the heaviest) I simply spread the weight with a stretcher made of 2x material. I use a back loader door for bringing in tools and heavy pieces.

I also built the basement floor, which has garage doors on one end, with only gravel. After a few years I realized that the gravel wicked up moisture continually, so I cleared out much of the gravel, laid down 1” styrofoam, and 4” concrete. The moisture problem disappeared. Here’s a video of my shop tour so you can see how this all worked.

View on YouTube

Hope this helps.

-- Andy Pitts, Heathsville, Virginia,, YouTube AndyPitts1000

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2039 days

#11 posted 06-15-2015 11:08 PM

I have been curios about the thoughts on this myself. how the “hardness” of the concrete floor bypasses a good pair of shoes I cannot imagine. Years ago when there was not the built up insoles or available arch supports in shoes I could understand a problem. I have worked on both many times alternately in the same day. For me at least I have found that fatigue mats can be more of a hindrance than an aide on either substrate and have notice no difference in fatigue or joint pain caused by either one. Kneeling down on the other hand I have knelt down on debris that wasn’t swept out of the way because it was stuck in a gouge in wood floors several times more than the same operation on a concrete floor. Is it a quantifiable claim that wood is better for one physically?

as for concrete floors the 2” insulation is a building code requirement in heated slab on grade installations as well as the 6 mill poly. It does work and helps to keep the floor from sweating in some circumstances. A wood floor can be designed to support any load. Placement is the question. If there is no additional load being applied to the floor on the same supports you will be fine even though the per square foot rating of the floor is exceeded in one place it has not been exceeded in the span of the support structure. One could always double joist the area in question. but you may change your mind as to location in the future.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

489 posts in 1645 days

#12 posted 06-15-2015 11:18 PM

Thanks Andy for the specifics that helps a lot. Your shop is amazing by the way. I can only dream of having something like that one day.

Need to talk the significant other into a county move so we can have the land for a building like that.

I am happy to hear you had such good luck with the Lumber liquidator rustic oak. I was looking at that as well and at around a $1.00 a square foot it seemed like a great deal even if I have to overbuy by 25-30% and put some additional work into it after it’s installed.

View bonesbr549's profile


1531 posts in 3032 days

#13 posted 06-15-2015 11:43 PM

I’m planning my final shop now. I looked at wood but will be opting for concrete with radiant heat in the floor. I’m planning on the heat to help the knees. :)

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View Woodknack's profile


11479 posts in 2345 days

#14 posted 06-16-2015 03:29 AM

Concrete is nice in many ways but it kills me to stand on it all day whereas I can work in my shop with wood floors all day with no trouble.

-- Rick M,

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3550 days

#15 posted 06-18-2015 09:16 AM

I too built first concrete floors. It was absolute murder to stand on them, and eventually the pain in my lower half ( legs feet lower back became so severe, I had to eventually have wooden finished flooring.
It is what we call a floating floor.
It sits on a pre prepared sponge type of sheeting designed for this laminate flooring to sit on.This sheeting is sold by the roll and altogether it is a quite low cost undertaking for even a novice. . It looks good as it is the same finish you get on a laminated kitchen worktop and seems to last for years.I would never recommend concrete alone it is a real pain in the nether regions . Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

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