I Need Help Setting Up New Shop, like Ceiling Lights Location, Size, Type and Wiring Issues?

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Forum topic by Jim Reeves posted 01-07-2016 05:09 PM 1054 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Jim Reeves

206 posts in 2443 days

01-07-2016 05:09 PM

Hi, my name is James Reeves, from Trenton, Ontario, Canada l have been away for at least a couple of years with health issues etc. About 2 years ago a friend of mine made me a deal, she is turning 76 next month widowed since 1998 her husband a cabinet maker built a 24’ x 40’ shop.
So property owner she is 95% blind knowing l love woodworking and having trouble going up and down my basement stairs.

She said l could have 100% use of her shop and her 1 car garage, in return help her around her house painting shopping etc . I could not turn that down, but about 2 years ago preparing to move basement shop to new in town shop heart issues, diabetic issues popped up.
I am close to starting where l left off a few years ago, just have a few tests to get done but below is what l need advice on.
The shop as big and nice as it is has been empty a long time, people who have rented it in the past did some damage to it and some other dump stuff.
Some one cut ends off the 4’ and 8’ ceiling light fixtures owner said her husband had lights all connected all turned at the same time. Ceiling lights are 25 plus years old so is a good time to change them.

1 – What types are good for cold start ups, what sizes T 5, T8, T 12 and is 32 watts average?

2- The shop 24 ft deep how far apart should fixtures be for good lighting, the same for 40 ft length how far apart should each be, should l have a mixture of 4 ’ and 8 ft lengths?
I will have likely 4 ft long lights over benches, just need to know the above to know how many l need and lengths?

3 – For wiring, prior renter changed 240 into 110 need to change back, should l have wall plugs on wall 6 ft apart like in a house, putting 3 plugs in ceiling now just one, before any lights and wiring having present wiring inspected.

4 – Last question for now, before l do the above after wiring inspection want to paint the ceilings and walls, i read online ceilings should be white and walls a lighter color to best reflect ceiling lights.

I just want some advice from those who have done this, ceiling is 8 ft high, ceilings and walls are chipboard sheets and main heat is a fair size wood furnace.
Where you walk in main entrance door the 20 ft on that end has 4 good size windows, the 20 ft at the roll up door end has no windows will put a few in on that end in the spring.

Once l get the above done which will be done l hope by spring, then l can start building shelves benches where l want them and relocated present cabinets and 12 ft long benches.
Also this winter l plan to build a wall 12 ft over from main entrance door side, 24 ft deep with 4 ft sliding door in middle of new wall. And then drywall ceilings, walls make a finished man cave type area for office and tv room and shelves for my ton nof books etc
Thanks in advance to all who help me in above info l need plan to start mid Jan/2016.

Thanks Jim

-- jim

7 replies so far

View AZWoody's profile


680 posts in 643 days

#1 posted 01-07-2016 05:17 PM

What happens if she passes away?
Do you lose access?

That would be a big question to ask before spending money on those kinds of things. I had to redo wiring in a 20×40 shop with a new subpanel and it’s not cheap.

View clin's profile


485 posts in 415 days

#2 posted 01-07-2016 06:21 PM

Concerning lighting. I’m using inexpensive T8 fixtures. Typical dual tubes 4’ long. I have a 12’ x 24’ shop and have 8 of these fixtures. Lots of light. Much more than many people have, but the more light you have, the easier it is to see with aging eyes.

Some like the new LED lights and I was thinking about these when I put mine in past summer. But I never found a fixture I liked at a justifiable price. T8 are almost as efficient as LED. Though there are some complicating factors like the T8’s send light in all directions and rely on the fixture to reflect light down. While the LEDs are designed to send all the light down. So the LEDs probably give you a bit more usable light for the same rated LUMENS of output.

I do believe, lots of even light works against you when trying to see minor imperfections in surfaces and finishes. I’ve read that having a window near a workbench is good for this type of thing.

My T8 fixtures I have an instant start ballast. My shop is heated, so I have no idea how well they work if it is cold. But there is zero flicker when they come on. They come on faster than an incandescent light. This I believe is due to the ballast and not the tubes. I also went with the daylight type tubes (cooler cooler).

In my case, I ran two rows of 4 fixtures each. I more or less butted each fixture up against the other to make a continuous light about 16’ long down the 24’ length. The 4’ at each end happens to work out to be areas that I won’t have machines or workbenches under. Though there’s still plenty of light in these areas. I have no dark corners.

I position the rows about 2’ from the walls. This put about 8’ between the rows. The idea was to have them just far enough from the walls for the light to clear some wall cabinets, yet not be behind me when standing at a workbench.

I’d stick with 4’ fixtures since the 4’ tubes are by far the most common. It’s trivial to butt them end to end and only a bit more work to wire due to more connections. I just use a 1/2” conduit nipple between them. Most fixtures have knockouts for running wire between fixtures. The edges of those holes are sharp, so be sure to put a conduit fitting in them to avoid the possibility of damaging the wire.

I’m very please with my lighting. No noticeable shadows. It’s been great.

I also painted my ceiling bright white and my walls just an off white. I’m covering the walls with french cleats. Though much of this is getting wall cabinets with white melamine doors. I’m basically trying to make the shop as bright as possible. I also added a pair of skylight solar tubes. I have no windows since this is a converted garage bay.

From a user standpoint, you cannot have too many wall plugs. But there are code restrictions on how many outlets can be on one circuit. I put in a sub-panel and on a new wall I put it, I put a row of outlets up high (about 4 feet up the wall) and a row down low at about 20”. Each row on it’s own circuit. I think I put them about 4 feet apart.

One thing I would due differently is make sure the upper row was a bit higher to clear 4 foot wide sheet stock leaning against the wall.

Keep in mind it is easy to add power strips to expand a wall outlet. So I wouldn’t obsess about them. For example, when I get some fixed work benches built, I plan to put power strips on the front of these so I can plug in without the power cord draping across the bench or having to climb under the bench to plug into the wall.

Also also made all the new outlets with 20 A receptacles and of course a 20 A circuit. I added a 240 V, which is now used for my table saw. And put in a separate dedicated 120 V for whatever. But I suspect I’ll convert that to another 240 V for dust collection.

Wiring is actually really easy to do yourself. But of course, still has to be done to code. A few hundred in materials to do yourself, thousands to pay a pro to do it. If you have the budget, and are not comfortable learning how and doing it yourself, then nothing wrong with hiring a pro.

-- Clin

View Gentile's profile


245 posts in 1238 days

#3 posted 01-07-2016 08:43 PM

I hung fluorescent lamps in my shop. The only issue I have is that when I’m working on the counter or the RAS, I’m in the shadow of the lamps. I would suggest that you run some of the lamps along any wall you might be working next to….

-- "I cut it twice and it's still too short"

View TinWhiskers's profile


179 posts in 372 days

#4 posted 01-07-2016 09:53 PM

Happy with my T8 fixtures with LED tubes. 1/3 the power. Good light.

View BonPacific's profile


20 posts in 275 days

#5 posted 01-28-2016 06:04 AM

Not sure if they are available in Canada, but here in the states Costco carries Feit 4’ LED fixtures for $30. Fantastic deal, no bulbs to break or replace, and 3700 lumens. I just bought a few as I put together my new shop, and I’m incredibly happy. I haven’t finalized my plan, but they put out enough light I’m planning to put up 4 in my 20’ x 10’ shop, supplemented with a couple existing bulb lights, and bench/tool task lighting.

I like to drill a hole in every bench surface to mount a swingarm lamp. Easily positioned task lighting. IKEA has great ones (Tertial) for something like $9/each. This gives you the option of raking light for finishing and hand tool use.

As for walls, I’m painting mine bright white, and I will be putting up 5mm unfinished plywood on the ceiling just for the look. One tip when painting OSB, use a PVA primer. It seals up the pores, which otherwise will just soak up gallons of regular paint.

The bright color might mess with some finishes, but given that you will probably be covering them with cabinets, tools, and sawdust, I don’t think its a big deal.

View Kelly's profile


1047 posts in 2363 days

#6 posted 02-28-2016 03:50 PM

RE “1”: With places like Costco selling four foot LED’s for less than mercury bombs (as of this writing, $25.00), they are the only way to go. I have around fourteen of them and don’t miss the cold flicker a bit. The do every bit as good as the florescent lights and could not care less about the cold (we put them in our forty year old walk in freezer and WOW!

As others pointed out, white walls, from blond or whatever, would be an equally impressive (night and day) improvement. I’ve seen this in my shops a few times, and experienced as a painter over and again.

[Of course, that seems kind of criminal on those pine walls. Might want to finish them, then put on a coat of latex, without bothering to establish adhesion, for later removal.]

Re “3”: I have outlets about five feet apart. Each wall has two circuits. They leap frog each other. That way, a collector and a saw can be running near each other and at the same time on two different circuits.

On those many days when a buddy comes over and is running the band saw and a collector, I’m on the other side running the table saw and another collector without taxing a circuit or two.

With exception of one wall, ALL my outlets are above the workbench height. It’s so nice just walking over and plugging in without bending down, or digging behind tools, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have two three-way circuits for [four foot] lights with about twelve on each circuit. If one goes out with the saw running, the other is still on. Too, in a thirty by forty shop, at least twenty four footers seems the minimum. Ill be happier when I push it to around thirty.

If I need a shadow, I’ll make it with a towel and frame to hold it. Setting up cuts and following lines requires a lot of light and having shadows everywhere is more of a problem than not having them.

Re the unaddressed: Plan on an antenna for the radio, and wires for speakers.

View SignWave's profile


276 posts in 2454 days

#7 posted 02-28-2016 05:23 PM

This was kind of mentioned already, but excessive overhead lighting is flat and at some point counterproductive. In addition to a moderate amount of ceiling mounted lighting, I have also come up with a portable light that I can roll around. It provides a good amount of light but from more of a side angle, which makes it easier to see detail, texture. Lighting only from above is flat because it’s coming from the same angle as you’re viewing. Either that or your head is making a shadow….

One thing I really hated about fluorescent lights, besides having to replace the tubes more than I liked, is that in cold temperatures, they didn’t always turn on. I finally got fed up and replaced them with LED fixtures. They’re a bit more expensive in the beginning, but given the cost of FL tubes, I really think they pay for themselves in a few years.

-- Barry,

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