What is the best "shape" for a workshop?

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Forum topic by JeffP posted 06-26-2016 12:02 PM 1625 views 0 times favorited 44 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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573 posts in 811 days

06-26-2016 12:02 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I just bought the large lot for my “forever” homestead.  Naturally, given that I’m posting here, a nice shop building is a big part of the plans.

So, I’m just starting the “blank piece of paper” part of the design process.  Blue-skying it, as it were.

I started thinking “inside the box”, in a rather literal fashion.  Then yesterday, while looking at the most likely spot for the building, realized that a non-square shape, like an “L” shaped building would allow me to make it bigger while still taking down fewer nice big trees.  That got me to thinking…what would be the ideal “shape” for a shop?

Would the ideal shop be a square?  A rectangle?  A triangle?  A circle?  Maybe a Pentagon shaped building with an atrium?

What sayeth the crew here?  What shape would be the ideal shop layout, and why?

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

44 replies so far

View becikeja's profile


617 posts in 2232 days

#1 posted 06-26-2016 12:12 PM

The opportunity to start from scratch. Exciting.
I would recommend thinking of areas, and then let the shape flow from there.
Example, start with an area for wood storage that leads into an area for cutting which leads into an area for shaping (routers, drilling etc..) that leads into an area for sanding and finally a separate isolated area for finishing.
Ahh that would be my ideal shop. But then you have to consider economics and the square footage you have to work with.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View dhazelton's profile


2284 posts in 1716 days

#2 posted 06-26-2016 12:26 PM

Being able to contain sawdust or paint fumes/overspray to certain areas would be a plus. Having little side rooms sounds interesting. That said it makes the foundation and construction more expensive.

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 811 days

#3 posted 06-26-2016 12:46 PM

Other than a separate “finishing” room, what other things are better “separated” in a smallish room?

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 811 days

#4 posted 06-26-2016 02:00 PM

Was just out in the “old” shop cleaning up a bit and found “steel dust” stuck to several magnetically-enhanced and/or magnetized tools on the bench.

That reminded me that a separate room for doing metal-work and other non-wood-related making/tinkering would be a good thing.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

483 posts in 1100 days

#5 posted 06-26-2016 02:18 PM

Using Area’s would be how I would also do it. Size each area than work to put them together into a larger space that flows right and looks good in a building.

The separate areas I can think of I would like in a ultimate dream shop would be; wood/general storage, machine area, hand tool/assembly area, finishing area, and office/bathroom. The storage, machine and hand tool areas should flow well together with any separation being large and easy to move though. The finishing area would be a separate space easy to move stuff into and out of but completely isolated for dust and fume control. The office would be cut off for dust reasons and more a get away and planning space.

Not that I think I’ll ever get a space like that but one can dream can’t they?

View Lumberpunk's profile


323 posts in 1756 days

#6 posted 06-26-2016 02:38 PM

Having built some circular and triangular buildings I would say stick to rectangles… your L is two rectangles together. Any time you use standard building materials for non-standard shapes you get way more waste and spend way more time.
I have a small shop and have always thought I would like to be able to rest one end of an 10’ board on the table of my table saw and be able to comfortably walk a circle around the saw while holding the other end of the board.

2 cents

-- If someone tells you you have enough tools and don't need any more, stop talking to them, you don't need that kind of negativity in your life.

View canadianchips's profile


2310 posts in 2416 days

#7 posted 06-26-2016 02:39 PM

This is my dream shop. Tool area on left side through walk in door, repair and assembly in middle through large door and finishing on right side. Right would be divided in half for assembly and finishing.
I once had welding and woodworking under same roof. NEVER do that again, always had a greasy film on lumber.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 811 days

#8 posted 06-26-2016 04:21 PM

...and office/bathroom….

- Richard H

Richard, now you’re thinking! By combining these two you only need one “chair” for both! :)

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View AlaskaGuy's profile


2392 posts in 1728 days

#9 posted 06-26-2016 07:06 PM

Layout everything you want in a shop and then build walls around it.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View CopperTree's profile


35 posts in 477 days

#10 posted 06-26-2016 07:25 PM

One one word, BIG! But that aside, I do yearn for some areas that can be closed off for finishing, clean rooms, storage, etc. Material flow is also something to consider, in one door, through the shop, out the other end. I get caught up in my own mess often…

View JAAune's profile


1614 posts in 1736 days

#11 posted 06-26-2016 07:47 PM

It really depends upon the types of tools you own and the sort of work you want to do. From a purely utilitarian standpoint, a square is most efficient as it reduces walking time to get from point A to B compared to other shapes of the same square footage. However, certain types of large machinery might make it better to have a rectangular layout.

My personal preference is a single, large room that can be reconfigured easily. The more walls there are, the harder it is to change tool arrangements.

-- See my work at and

View splatman's profile


542 posts in 818 days

#12 posted 06-26-2016 09:45 PM

This old thread has some good discussion about shop design.

From the looks of it, you’re planning a woodshop in the woods, among large trees. If that’s the case, digging to lay the foundation will have issues due to tree roots large and small. You’ll be tearing out countless roots, leaving their ends ragged, which can lead to poor tree health, unless you cut them clean. When new roots grow, they will mess with the foundation and footing.

Better: Scrape away the forest floor litter (you’ll have to do that anyway), and lay down a foot or more of fill dirt, compact it (drive a dozer all over it), and build on that. Do that now, also mix some water with the dirt (~4 gallons/cubic yard) to make it almost mud-like, after the water evaporates/seeps away, it will be hard. When you’re ready to build, it will be ready.

Probably the best kind of foundation to lay in a forest, is a system of concrete piers sunk below the root line. Build the piers several inches above the ground at the highest point, build up the ground with fill (no need to compact the fill, because the piers will be carrying all the load), and pour the floor. The uncompacted fill will absorb any root heave. If building on a slope, build a temporary platform to support the floor when you pour it, so no need for fill dirt.

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 811 days

#13 posted 06-26-2016 09:54 PM

Thanks Splatman. It will be similar to your “pier method”, except on top of the fill will be 2” styrofoam insulation and pex water pipe for heating and cooling.

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View MadMark's profile


965 posts in 872 days

#14 posted 06-26-2016 10:25 PM


-- Madmark -

View AandCstyle's profile


2537 posts in 1676 days

#15 posted 06-26-2016 10:55 PM

Jeff, I would also create a small room for the dust collector and the air compressor for sound abatement, a separate office space room, if that is applicable to your situation and a finishing room. These could be along one side of your structure which would be a square or rectangle or as an ell off one side of the main shop, your choice. Personally, I prefer to minimize separate dedicated spaces because I see them as barriers that reduce efficiency.

-- Art

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