Building a Brand New WorkShop - want design ideas

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Forum topic by toolman946 posted 06-05-2010 12:59 AM 3041 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 3309 days

06-05-2010 12:59 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question shop size

Greetings fellow shop dwellers. I’ve sold my insulated, heated, electrified single car garage to my neighbour and will be replacing it with a new workshop. My local building code permits an outbuilding sized at 12.5 % of the total area of your land. I’m on a 50×100 foot residential lot, equaling a workshop of 625 square feet. I can go larger, to a degree, but would have to apply for a zoning variance that would add another 4 – 6 week delay to the project’s commencement.

I’ll admit that I’m OCD when it comes to collecting tools, so I could fill a workshop of 1,000 – 1,500 square feet very easily. Since I have 2 adult sons to whom I’ll be leaving my estate some day (not soon I hope!) I rationalize ownership of multiples of some largish tools (drill presses x 2; arc welders x 4; band saws x 4; mechanics chest and roll cabinet x 3; bench grinders x 3; air compressors x 3; tables saws x 2; thickness planers x 2; and single items such as metal lathe; wood lathe; milling machine; sandblast cabinet; 12” and 30” shear, pan-brake & slip roll combination units; and far too many smaller tools to mention [ex: 11 angle grinders… since I hate to change wheels and disks!]. A lot of my tools have been in storage (like my Delta Uni-saw and Delta dust collector system) since the single car shop is just too small to set them up.

Size options for my new shop are 25 ft x 25 ft OR 24 ft x 26 ft. Either of these configurations are 625 sq. ft. or less and do not require a zoning variance. Anything larger, like the 25 ft x 28 ft shop that I’d originally planned requires a zoning variance, but I’m confident that it would receive approval from the local government.

The roof system will consist of scissor trusses perched upon a 9 or 10 ft high wall, sitting on a 6 in. concrete curb poured into the slab. Since I do a lot of automotive repairs I’m definitely installing an automotive hoist that’s sold by a local supplier for $2,970.00 (9,000 lb. hydraulic 2 post hoist … very affordable! And very forgiving for my 58 year old bones by not having to roll around under a vehicle on jack stands). The wall height plus the cavity formed by the scissor trusses will nicely accommodate elevating a car or truck so that I’ll have 6 – 6 1/2 feet clearance under the vehicle.

My local electric company will run a 200 volt electrical service directly to the shop (with a separate electrical meter) for about $900.00 so trenching for underground cables is not an issue. I’ll run a natural gas pipe in an underground trench from the house to the shop for a direct vent, explosion-proof heating appliance. Spraying combustible paints, lacquer and such will be totally worry free… and no worries from combustible wood dust, too.

So here is my question: would you build 25’ x 25’ (for the extra foot of depth) or would you build 24’ x 26’ (for the extra foot of width)? Or will I regret not waiting the extra 6 weeks for zoning approval to enable building 25’ x 28’?

I plan to make a temporary partition, from time to time, between the “auto” shop area and the welding/woodworking area. Do you think the extra width (26’ or 28’) is more advantageous than the extra depth (25’)?

I’m also thinking of re-sale value in the distant future. Do you think most buyers would prefer a 24’ x 24’ garage with 26’ of grassy side yard or would a 22’ grassy side yard be enough for most non-shop types?

I appreciate all and any comments.

Mike (toolman1)

10 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117090 posts in 3573 days

#1 posted 06-05-2010 01:09 AM

Hey Mike
This size diferance has to do with how you lay you shop out. If you spliting it in half for your car work it won’t be to much bigger than what you had before.

Heres a good site for laying out a shop

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3757 days

#2 posted 06-05-2010 01:21 AM

My “workshop in the Woods” ( ) is 24’ x 28’, only slightly larger than your allowable 625 sq. ft. I suggest a gambrel roof as this will give you a lot of necessary storage.

Even though my shop was a “garage package”, I decided to go with double opening doors instead of the typical garage overhead door. I needed a workshop, not a garage, so this was a good decision for me.

Every jourisdiction is somewhat different, but variances usually require the applicant to prove a “hardship” not of his making, such as something unique to the land that requires you to be different. I have 8 years experience on planning and zoning boards, and an applicant who simply wanted something more without any substantial justification was going to be denied. If you decide to apply for a variance you should get your neighbor’s approval in writing to include with your application.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View gerrym526's profile


274 posts in 3804 days

#3 posted 06-11-2010 11:32 PM

Don’t have any answers to your questions, but do have a way of answering them. Get a large pad of graph paper, and layout your various length/width options to scale on separate pieces of paper. Measure your workbench, stationary tools, floor cabinets, etc. and include the space you need around and behind each tool (e.g. if you’re ripping a 10 foot board, you probably need 11 feet of useable space behind your TS). Cut out scale pieces representing your stationary tools and cabinets, then move them around on the graph paper layouts. (Sometimes it helps to have a beer and just sit, stare, and think about a particular layout on paper with the tool shapes arranged-LOL!).
My wife always uses this technique before she has me break my back moving the furniture in our home to a new configuration. I used it to lay out my 350 sq ft postage stamp shop, and it worked well for me.
Hope this helps.

-- Gerry

View birdguy's profile


73 posts in 2903 days

#4 posted 06-14-2010 03:33 AM

What I wouuld say is don’t skimp on electricity or your comforts you will be moore enjoyable in there like proper ventilation maby some fans and heat mi shop gets terably hot it has poor ventilation I need to work on that and maby a air cleaner for the closed up winter time

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3770 days

#5 posted 06-14-2010 03:58 AM

I think gerrym526 has a good idea. I have done that myself. My workshop is only 14 X 21 and I consider it a small woodworking shop. Most everything has to be on wheels and moved in and out when used. I do not know how much room is needed for your automotive work and metal work but I would go with the biggest shop you can have. Have fun planning your shop.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2979 days

#6 posted 06-21-2010 06:28 PM

I think if it were me and finances isn’t a major issue. I would apply for the variance and go as large as I could. I would also go with the gambrel style roof system to allow for and overhead storage loft area over the major part of the woodworking area and still allow the height needed for the lift area. This would give you much more versatility in your shop. As for resale purposes most people prefer a smaller yard when it comes to maintenance issues such as mowing and yard work. As stated a lot will depend on your layout as to what will work best.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Lenny's profile


1593 posts in 3523 days

#7 posted 07-09-2010 09:46 AM

I think you will regret not going as large as you can. As for layout and ideas, you might want to get this book/magazine put out by Wood “magazine”: While these are examples of various sized woodworking shops, there are some wonderful ideas here as well as comments from the shop owners about why they did what they did and what they would have done differently if they did it over again. I am about to expand my tiny shop a bit. Going from 8’X18’ to 21’X18’. The biggest change I am making is adding two skylights. I learned from the magazine as well as comments on LJ how much folks like having natural light. That’s something to consider. Good luck.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2922 days

#8 posted 07-09-2010 03:45 PM

Some great input here already!

My barn has a gambrel roof and my shop built in half of the loft (38×42).

That’s fine for the country, but that style will not win you any new neighbours, as you will need the height below for your auto hoist, so the whole thing could end up as mine is (35’ tall), although you could get away with 25’. Still would need a height variance as well as size.

Planning your shop out on graph paper works well, but sometimes you add tools or reconfigure, so I would apply for as large as possible.

As one of our trades always tells me when he needs more money “More is better!”

All the Best!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Sarit's profile


549 posts in 3136 days

#9 posted 07-22-2010 11:45 AM

Have you looked into a residential car lift instead of a 2 post hoist? You can store two cars in the same spot and its much easier to drive onto it.

View 559dustdesigns's profile


633 posts in 3164 days

#10 posted 07-22-2010 01:27 PM

I strongly agree with Lenny I have three of those special issued America’s best home workshops magazines. They are the best, jam packed with great ideas and impressive work spaces. If I had a safe I’d lock them up, at my house these are very treasured items.LOL.

As for your shop go as big as you can. Consider work flow, machine placement, windows, doors, lighting, dust collection, finishing space, a sink, tv, stereo system, computer, phone, heating and cooling, lumber storage,
air compressor/ lines. I see you have already considered 10 ft walls and a dedicated electrical system. I’d consider solar panels to power your house and shop. Your young in 5 years they’ll pay for themselves.

Here is a link to a large but really well thought out shop. This guy’s shop was on the cover of the 09 America’s workshop magazine mentioned above. His whole web site is great.

My favorite LJ workshop.

-- Aaron - central California "If you haven't got the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?"

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