Building a workshop from scratch

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Forum topic by Siv posted 11-16-2016 07:28 PM 1081 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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62 posts in 717 days

11-16-2016 07:28 PM

Hi everyone, my first post here though I have been reading a lot!

I have been working in my garage for a while on small projects (work tables and picture frames) but nothing really significant. We have moved to a new (to us) house and I would like to set up a dedicated work space since we have some room and Houston summers make the garage almost unusable for several months.

We have a pool house which I think the previous owners built as a craft studio. There are the usual 110v outlets and 3×220v outlets already wired and the space is airconditioned by a separate unit from the rest of the house. It has an attached bathroom and polished concrete floors so in my mind, it’s an ideal space for a workshop. My only problem is that it’s our spare bedroom. Since our family lives out of town, it would only get used as a bedroom a few times a year but for an extended period of time (e.g. when my wife’s mother comes to visit she may stay a month or two but that’s once in 2 years).

So what I need is a space that can occasionally be turned into a bedroom but most of the time would be my workshop. My current plan is to build a mitre saw station along one wall with tool storage etc and have a movable table saw and outfeed/assembly table that can be pushed into a corner and hidden away when necessary. I’ve put the mattresses and bed parts in 4mil sealed plastic bags so hopefully no dust will get to them.

Here are pictures of the space (ignore the furniture, it’s all gone)

Here’s my initial plan:

Right now in terms of fixed tools, I only have a 12” mitre saw and a router table. I have a 2’ x 6’ assembly table that I’ll dismantle once I have a larger one built. I have the usual hand tools (chisels, clamps, drills, hand saws etc) and my next main purchases will be a table saw (probably the Delta 36-725) and an air compressor with a few finishing and pin nailers. I’ll also need a pretty good dust collection system – I’m currently just using a shop vac. A band saw and planer are further down the list. I’m not sure if I would get a jointer.

In terms of projects, after building the workshop cabinetry, I want to make some fitter cabinets and shelving for our study and bar. Most of the initial plans are to make fitted furniture for the house. My wife is an artist so I’ll still be making picture frames on a regular basis.

So what do you think? Is it unworkable to keep dust down so that after a good clean-up the space can function as a bedroom? Do you have any better suggestions for arrangement of the work space? Do you think that space for a band saw and planer should be planned in?

Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome!

13 replies so far

View fivecodys's profile


1168 posts in 1784 days

#1 posted 11-16-2016 10:21 PM

Well….it kind of depends of how much you like your mother-in-law. :)
I would think that with good dust collection in place you should be Ok.
Make it too nice and she might be inclined to stay longer! :)

-- I always knew I would grow old, But I expected it to take longer!

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1068 days

#2 posted 11-17-2016 01:53 AM


I suspect that if you convert the pool hose to a wood shop and then bunk your mother-in-law in that space for several months, you are inviting Mr. Trouble into your life. I envision that even after your very best cleaning efforts, dust on will remain (for sure on the ceiling and walls and probably elsewhere). I find that a simple vacuuming is insufficient to do the type of deep cleaning that may be required. Then, there is the problem of the equipment setting the guest space. I cannot image it would make for a very relaxing environment. Lastly is that with the pool house commandeered as a work shop, pool guest will probably enter the house to use the restroom, leaving a trail of dripped water on your wife’s floors. Of course you could still use the bathroom in the pool house to serve swimmers, but I would not like the idea of wet bodies passing by all of my cast iron. I know for me, I would definitely not take over the pool house unless the wife was 100% on-board.

As for the whether the size of the space is sufficient, it is difficult to say whether it is large enough to function well. It appears narrow but long. Perhaps it would be a workable space and you could probably get all the tools you mentioned in the space. But I am not sure how much assembly room and lumber storage would be available.

For what it is worth, I would probably continue working in the garage. Some insulation and an air conditioner could give you year-round access without inconveniencing overnight guests. Assuming it is a 2 car garage, it should be large enough to accommodate your wood working needs.

The planer, bandsaw, and a jointer are tools that greatly extend your ability to complete a wide variety of projects.

View bondogaposis's profile


4996 posts in 2499 days

#3 posted 11-17-2016 02:55 AM

Look at this as an opportunity to design a Murphy bed/table saw. I actually don’t think that this is going work. It will either wind up as a shop or a guest bedroom but not both. Set the shop up first and then figure out where to put the MIL later.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View ajshobby's profile


99 posts in 2456 days

#4 posted 11-17-2016 02:58 AM

Id agree with jbrow. Here is my thoughts on it:

1- Converting a room from shop to long term sleeping arrangements for the MIL would be more work than you would think no matter how clean you keep things. There are all the jigs and misc stuff you accumulate that will take up space. no matter how large a shop is almost every picture I’ve seen of folks hobby areas wheather wood working, scrap booking or underwater BB stacking we hobbyests tend fill our spaces with stuff. Its just plane old Murphy’s law that if there is a spot to put things we will find something to fill that open spot. Also, if the MIL is staying for an extended period you may want to use your tools and then not have the space available.

2 – You mentioned that you are doing some built ins for your study. I would think that is a more appropriate place for a temp guest room (can you say Murphy Bed). Besides that the study would be in the house and i know my mother-in-law would rather have easy access to things such as the kitchen and living room when it is dark out/later in the evenings and early mornings. This is my MIL is not saying yours is like that (I have a 32’ 5th wheel camper on a pad with full hookups inside a fenced in yard that she will not stay in when visiting my home).

3 – Access to the bathroom is available via the outside from the looks of your diagram. The only suggestion is maybe put up a partition between the work shop and the bathroom do to allow for a changing area for guests to avoid the water and cast iron problem.

4 – once you get into the larger power tools (table saw, planer, chop saw, 400lb workbenches, ect) you will probably want to hard pipe the dust collector. Also there are other things that you will eventually want to mount in permanent spots that would make converting to a bed room a pain in the but.

Hope this helps in your decision. Please post picks as you get your dedicated work space built. Should be a fun adventure!

AJ in Minneapolis

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


5559 posts in 2557 days

#5 posted 11-17-2016 06:09 AM

Rather than invite disaster is it possible to build a shop?

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Siv's profile


62 posts in 717 days

#6 posted 11-18-2016 03:28 AM

Hi guys, thanks so much for your input. I didn’t want to continue working in the garage because it always ends up with dust on the cars so really wanted a separate space. I just had a chat with the wife and she’s happy to use one of the kids bedrooms for guests and have them bunk together (my son has a bunk bed). When I finish the study, it can also be another guest room. Sometime in the future we’ll build an extension but not until the oil price goes up again!

So looks like I’m in the clear to use the pool house as my workshop! I’m not worried about pool guests as the bathroom is large enough for changing and opens from the outside so I’d be able to keep the workshop isolated.

View htl's profile


4111 posts in 1307 days

#7 posted 11-18-2016 03:48 AM

Just wondering how dust and house air conditioning work together?
Never had to worry about it but just wondering.

-- An Index Of My Model making Blogs here on Lumber Jocks..

View Siv's profile


62 posts in 717 days

#8 posted 11-18-2016 04:43 AM

Just wondering how dust and house air conditioning work together?
Never had to worry about it but just wondering.

- htl

The room has a single unit so all the return air comes straight back into the same room. Likely the return filter will get plugged regularly and will need some attention but other than that, I’m not expecting much of an issue.

View htl's profile


4111 posts in 1307 days

#9 posted 11-18-2016 06:00 AM

Just an idea make sure there’s room for two filters, have a really good one to the back and put a cheaper one to the front and change the front one often.
Just my $.02

-- An Index Of My Model making Blogs here on Lumber Jocks..

View sawdustdad's profile


364 posts in 1033 days

#10 posted 11-18-2016 02:20 PM

I have a heat pump in my workshop. As suggested, change the filters often. No issues.

-- Murphy's Carpentry Corollary #3: Half of all boards cut to a specific length will be too short.

View htl's profile


4111 posts in 1307 days

#11 posted 11-18-2016 02:23 PM

Thanks sdd that’s good to know, and will be filed back for use later.

-- An Index Of My Model making Blogs here on Lumber Jocks..

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 924 days

#12 posted 11-18-2016 06:12 PM

No way it will actually serve both purposes well. Pick one.

View Siv's profile


62 posts in 717 days

#13 posted 11-22-2016 05:11 PM

I’ve put all the beds away, sealed in plastic and moved most of my tools into the room. The first thing I need to do is make some kind of wood storage and a bin for off-cuts. I haven’t made much yet but the wood is already all over the place and getting in the way.

I also forgot that I have a large Ikea cabinet thing that it taking up space. I’ll see if I can re-purpose it for storage. They shelves will be very useful.

The dust collection from the router table is working really well with the shop vac – I’m very happy with it. The mitre saw is a different animal, there is crap everywhere and the vac is only catching a little. This reinforces my plan to build a mitre saw booth/bench as my first main project.

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