Workshop design help

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Forum topic by eregister posted 01-31-2011 12:32 AM 2759 views 1 time favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14 posts in 2115 days

01-31-2011 12:32 AM

Topic tags/keywords: shop design

Looks like I’m getting ready to build a new house, my deal with my wife was you can have the new house as long as I get the shop I want. I am going to be pretty free for whatever layout I want to build, somewhere in the 25×30 area.

So here is what I’m looking for:
I could go with a walk-out style basement for the shop, if I did this it would probably be a bit closer to 30×40. I could go with a seperate 2 car garage of about 25×30 that would be detached from the house.
I could go with a large attached garage something that would give me 2 cars and about 25×30 more for the shop.

Some of the things I have considered are, dust/noise control for an attached workshop ( I do plan on a nice dust collection system, but still concerned). I think I would prefer attached, just so I wouldn’t have to walk out to the shop. Is it easier to heat/cool an attached? If I made the walk-out basement with 9’ ceilings would that work OK as long as I had a good way for loading in materials such as drive around access?

We are in the design phase of the house and shop so I want to try and make sure I get the best bang for my buck. There is not an unlimited budget but I’m pretty sure I can do any of the above and get it stocked with some nice tools as well.

I’m just trying to get ideas from everyone on what they have, what they like or don’t like about their situations so hopefully I can build something nice that works great.

Thanks for the help,

17 replies so far

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2274 days

#1 posted 01-31-2011 02:45 AM

Nice questions, Ed.

It would be helpful to hear a little about how you intend to use the shop and what kinds of things you visualize building.

If it’s blanket chests and down, 9’ would be fine. If you get into things like beds and larger, you’re going to end up buying 10’ lumber and while it doesn’t have to be stored upright, I think you’d enjoy more headroom.

Of course, having a common wall with a headed space will help somewhat on the heating bill, But there’s also an advantage of psychologically “walking to work” and being able to make noise unfettered.

Considering resale at some point? That could drive the siting situation. In some settings a detached two-overhead-door garage (shop) with one tall door that could accommodate a motor home at some future time might be a good virtue for the property to have.

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Sailor's profile


543 posts in 2689 days

#2 posted 01-31-2011 03:06 AM

How fun! Congrats on the opportunity!

As for basement vs. detatched, I would go with detatched. No noise keeping everyone in the house from sleeping in the early hours of the mornings. Don’t have to worry about dust getting in the house. Attic storage with the detatched garage where you could put alot if things, ie. your compressor maybe.

I have 9’ ceilings in my garage shop and I think they are sufficient. I also have attic storage that I use and don’t know what I would do without, but my space is 13.5’x25’.

I used to have a shop that was 35’x40’ which most people say is huge, then I didn’t think it was that huge, now I definately think it was huge. All my tools where spaced in that massive shop when they really should have been grouped together. In my shop now I notice how much less walking I do to go from tool to tool or to grab another handtools or whatever.

That being said I would suggest making your shop into tow or three different rooms. Like a tooling room with your saws, planer, jointer, drill press. A finishing room and maybe a room/closet for your dust collector. I see alot of open shops with tools out in the center of the floor and to me that seems like wasted space. I like how I have it now with everything against the wall and it makes my small shop seem pretty open.



-- Dothan, Alabama Check out my woodworking blog! Also my Youtube Channel's Facebook page

View rieferman's profile


39 posts in 2115 days

#3 posted 01-31-2011 06:29 PM

I would vote for detached as the first option. That’s what I happen to have, but if I won the lottery, I’d go the same route again. For one, the feeling of walking to the shop is actually a nice mental release. Also, total mess/noise/danger is completely away from your home. My wife and kids really value that.

Second place, I’d vote for the extended attached garage approach. If layed out nicely, you could isolate noise and dust from your home and from your vehicles. And backing in with a load of lumber would be easy to unload. But I’d keep a separation wall between the spaces.

I would not use a basement unless forced to do so. This is not a knock on basement guys at all, I just think the contamination to the home is so likely even with lots of precautions (contamination being sounds, dusts, smells etc.). If you have other options, I’d skip those problems – while they can be worked around, why bother if you have a blank slate?

-- New to woodworking, old to barn fixin'

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2410 days

#4 posted 01-31-2011 06:47 PM

Detached would be the way to go if noise is a concern. Personally, I would not want to walk outside and then back inside, but that has a lot to do with living in an area that gets lake effect snow. :) In my dreamworld, I’d have a detached garage with a “breezeway” or some such thing connecting them. But that’s just me.

Anyway. I have 9’ ceilings in my shop right now and I sure do wish I could get a little more height. Mostly for board storage and ease of moving them around. 10’ would be plenty for my personal needs as I don’t think I ever use boards longer than that.

The idea of an attic for storage is awesome, too! I’m envious. :)

And I ABSOLUTELY would suggest being able to have a separated space for finishing. It doesn’t have to be much space- think of the single largest piece you’ll ever finish and then just big enough to get that object in the space. Being able to have your wood dry properly and store your paints and stains and whatnot without getting sawdust all over them is SO nice.

All that said- when I was a kid my dad had his workshop in the basement. He often used power tools and made noises and it never bothered us. You could hear it, for sure, but it didn’t feel disruptive.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Robinson's profile


41 posts in 2116 days

#5 posted 01-31-2011 09:33 PM

I am “probably” building up my last shop right now and it sort of “had” to be detached because I happened to have a 2,500 square foot structure sitting there unused. The only bad thing about it is that it sits over 300’ away from the house. The farm shop (mechanics and metal working) sits between them in an old 36’x50’ barn. I used to also have my wood shop there but wanted a dedicated wood shop. It is also hard to heat and the wood shop was mostly under a loft which made for a low ceiling in that area. I looked long and hard at remodeling that barn farther and thoroughly but as an old dude I just didn’t want to tackle all the climbing that would have been involved moving that loft and the high work on the outside. I also don’t like welding in a building with a wood shop even with a metal wall between them. Scratch off the barn…
I also have another barn to the east that is around the same size but is all dirt floor (have you priced concrete lately?) and besides I needed a 6 horse stable and it was the best choice for that. Scratch the east barn…
I have a couple of other buildings big enough but they are down the road and driving to the shop is not how I want to do woodworking. Scratch the west buildings…
I did very seriously consider a basement shop. I have a nice dry basement under the east wing of the house that is 36’x40’. It has an inside and an outside entrance but the outside entrance is through the old basement and is hardly what you could call convenient. It does not have any windows at all and I am seriously claustrophobic. I looked long and hard and finally said why do i want a shop where I would always feel a little uncomfortable, couldn’t work on big stuff (access), would use storage we do use now and I would never be able to stand a board over 8’ upright. The constant heat and cooling was a big plus factor there as well as getting up out of my chair and walking downstairs to work in the shop in a down-pour or blizzard. Still the basement lost…
The place that I picked is what was our old house and store I put up new in 1976 when I moved back to the farm to take over. They were built as separate buildings but I later connected them. At one point I was going to remove partition walls (non load bearing) and cut and header 8’ openings in the load bearing walls in the original house. I had temporarily put most of my wood shop stuff in the part that was the store (and later was a family room) which was 24’x48’ with a 7’x24’ add on across the back. In the center of the main part I had opened to a 24’x24’ cathedral ceiling area. As I worked at planning the other part (the original house) I kept migrating back to the former store part to think and plan. After a couple of weeks I told my wife that as nice as the other structure was that I just liked being in the store part better. That is where I am currently working on the buildup and I am very happy with the choice. It is just over 1400 square feet and I can keep it above 40 degrees with one little 500 watt hardwired electric baseboard unit and quickly bring it on up with a fire in the woodstove (Central Indiana). I love the windows and I love the cathedral ceiling. And if I decide that I need it I can still use what ever extra room I want in the other structure. BTW, Having a bathroom is a big plus…
I said that it is “probably” my last shop. We did talk about adding a shop onto the north of the house we live in. Probably a little smaller, maybe about 30’x36’ if the time came that the distance became a problem and I was still able to do shop work. One of the things we decided there, if we were to ever do it, was to build an air-lock between the two and it would contain a grill in the floor where you could dust off on a surface about like a sanding table connected to the dust collection. Maybe even a small hose with a dust brush on it. Maybe a low pressure (safe) blow gun or reversed vac. Then I could “decontaminate” before entering the house. :-)

-- Francis Robinson, Central Indiana, USA - - Shopsmith fanatic

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2108 days

#6 posted 02-02-2011 10:18 PM

#1 regardless of what you do, plan on 9’ ceilings in your basement. It doesn’t cost that much more. By the time your HVAC guys are done you might get finished height of 8’ if you are lucky. I opted for a separate shop for a number of reasons, not the least of which was material movement. It’s not quite finished on the inside yet but I built a 30×56 ladder framed steel building (10’ ceilings) comprised of 30×16 unheated garage bay with a 9×9 overhead door and 30×40 shop space with radiant infloor heat. I spent a few more $$$ for white steel on the shop interior walls and ceiling (put up some T8 lighting strips and the lighting is fantastic even with my “tired” eyes). At some point there will be a wall between the garage and shop with a walk thru door (and no I haven’t fired up the heat in the shop yet…it’s COLD here in Wisconsin right now).

If you opt for that, plan ahead and run electric and water lines. Saves tearing up your driveway later and in my case we had a digger sitting here anyway waiting for the well guys to finish up. I ran 100amp service to the shop and wired circuits through surface mounted 3/4” thin-wall conduit.

All in all, it didn’t cost all that much and I will finally have decent shop space to enjoy what I love to do best.

View Bernie's profile


416 posts in 2261 days

#7 posted 02-03-2011 06:43 AM

You’re a lucky man having options to build what you want. A lot of good thoughts and you probably would be better by building a detached shop. But you asked us to asses our own situation, so here I go! You can see pics of my shop through my link. I call it my ultimate man cave and although it’s small compared to some shops, it’s big enough for me. Yest a 9 ft ceiling would be great, but I manage with my 7ft quite well. I made one bookcase that’s a tad to tall for my wife and I had to maneuver it in my shop… but 7 ft is easier to heat. My shop is under my barn (attached to the house) and is 24 X 24. I find it to be very well laid out for my needs and I make lots of different things. My table saw is in the middle and if I have to cut long boards, they fit between the posts. My plywood caddy is on a swivel wheel and swings in and out. The 2 center posts hold up the barn but when I boxed them in, I overlapped the face boards and placed a peg board on the side. I wish I could have more room and taller ceiling, but my space is mine and I’m grateful for it and proud of it. I dug out the space from a crawl space and have a wood floor… best thing about my shop… easy on my old bones!

-- Bernie: It never gets hot or cold in New Hampshire, just seasonal!

View Les 's profile


201 posts in 2114 days

#8 posted 02-03-2011 02:03 PM

I don’t know if you have ever seen this or not, but if I was building a new house with a walk out I would consider putting it under the garage. When I lived in Kansas city there were a lot of them.
They were 3 car garages with a basement. There was a 8” concrete wall between the basement under the house and the one under the garage. Heat and cooling was just tied into the house unit.

You can plan on painting all the walls and ceiling white.

This takes care of the noise problem and for resale it makes a great place for storage.

I didn’t get to do mine that way because I don’t have a walk out. I have a 30 by 36 with 10” ceiling.

Just my 2 cents


-- Stay busy....Stay young

View eregister's profile


14 posts in 2115 days

#9 posted 02-03-2011 02:16 PM

There are some great ideas and nice shops here. Thanks to all who have commented and given their advice!

Right now I am leaning toward making our 2 car garage into a 4 car garage with 2 stalls for the workshop. This would make the shop approx. 24×24 with 10’ ceilings. I am planning to have a wall between the shop and the other 2 car stalls. I’m also leaning towards a small room for the dust collector. On the shop side of the garage I plan to have only 1 rollup door instead of 2 so I can maximize the wall space.

As I proceed with this I will keep you guys updated and post photos. We are making an offer on the land today where we will be building!

View Bluepine38's profile


3337 posts in 2509 days

#10 posted 02-03-2011 05:26 PM

The one question I have not noticed is, what is the building site? If it is sloped, then a shop below the
garage might be a good solution, I had a master carpenter friend who built one of these for himself, but
the cost of a reinforced concrete floor for the garage if you are not doing all the work yourself would be
considerable. If your building site is flat, that changes the options. With all other advice offered, that is
about all I have. Hope you enjoy the building of the house and shop and get to enjoy it for many years.

-- As ever, Gus-the 77 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Robinson's profile


41 posts in 2116 days

#11 posted 02-03-2011 06:27 PM

I am planning to have a wall between the shop and the other 2 car stalls.

I would seriously consider putting in an 8’ x 8’ double door in any wall between them. If stoutly framed and hung they could still serve as wall space but give you a really nice option for temporarily expanding into the garage space if you find yourself wanting / needing to work on an extra large project etc. I am a big believer in flexibility…

-- Francis Robinson, Central Indiana, USA - - Shopsmith fanatic

View Rileysdad's profile


110 posts in 2702 days

#12 posted 02-03-2011 06:58 PM

I think the best bet for a shop is a detached building, but the basement shop has its advantages. It’s convenient and it utilizes the household mechanical, electric and plumbing systems. You’re correct in you assessment of the disadvantages, i.e. noise, D/C, access, and ceiling height.

I have a basement shop in a villa style condo (2 units/building.) Dust control was a primary concern and I planned for it early on. I have a Clearview Cyclone piped with 6” PVC to all of the machines. In addition, I run JDS air cleaner.
Access requires bringing stock from the garage into a hallway, then making a turn to go down the stairs. I built a vestibule outside the shop entrance which allows me to maneuver things into the 3/0 shop door. 10’ boards are no problem and I break down sheetgoods in the garage before bringing them down.
There are 8’ ceilings and, while I would like to have 10’ or 12’, I manage OK.
Noise will be a problem if you need to work while others need quiet. No amount of insulation will make it OK to run a planer and D/C while your wife’s trying to sleep. I you really can’t schedule your shop time around another person’s need for quiet, it’s a deal breaker for a basement shop.
A finishing room with adequate ventilation and room for some kind of spraying is another concern, as is an office area and at least a 1/2 bath.
Good luck.

-- Measure twice, cut once, buy extra stock.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17577 posts in 3100 days

#13 posted 02-03-2011 07:45 PM

I would do attached for security reasons. Insulation will cut the noise and help heat & cool. If you pipe a smal 2” pipe in the wealls with vacuum outlets, you could use the dust collector as a built in vacuum. I have not tried it, but do not see any reason it would not work,

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3945 posts in 2588 days

#14 posted 02-03-2011 08:27 PM



”large attached garage something that would give me 2 cars and about 25×30 more for the shop.”

Just some thoughts. I have a two stall wide two stall deep garage, with the back half as a shop. It is one of the main reasons I bought this house.

It stays warm, because the furnace and hot water heater are in it, and there are rooms above it.
It is very handy, because it is attached.
Electrical was easy, because it ended up with two panels in it for the rest of the house.
In a pinch, you can move the cars out for an extra big project area (I did that when making trusses for a green house many years ago)
The garage part will usually have some extra storage area in it.

Sawdust tracks into the house, unless you plan the egress to the house well into the garage area. Perhaps a partially walled off shop might be helpful.
Noise can be an issue, I cannot work in the shop when my wife is sleeping (like early morning in particular).

Just a quick suggestion. Be sure to plumb it for a sink, which means hot and cold water and a drain. Hard to do after the house is built, easy if built in. For the first 6 years I did not have water, and that was not good. During a remodel, we added the plumbing. You can even make a case for a 1/2 bathroom.

Hope it works out well

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Cory's profile


754 posts in 2843 days

#15 posted 02-03-2011 08:39 PM

I think you’re dead on with a 4 car garage. That way, if you get tired of woodworking and decide to give us all great deals on your tools you can convert the shop to a parking spot. In all seriousness, a 4 car garage with 2 bays for a shop sounds just about perfect.

A couple of things I’d want in that arrangement:

A dedicated subpanel with plenty of room
Plumbing for slop sink (a small bathroom with a urinal would be awesome)
Dedicated compressor and DC closet
Attic access for seldom used items
Cable TV/WiFi
Dedicated HVAC system (I’d go with a PTAC type unit like hotel rooms have)

I would also go ahead with the two garage doors for your shop. Nothing says you can’t build a temporary type wall in front of the door. It would be nice on a spring/fall day to open all the doors and let the outside in. It would also be nice when it comes time to clean up and you fire up the leaf blower.

Good luck with the build out. Be sure and post pictures along the way.

-- The secret to getting ahead is getting started.

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