Unfinished basement for wood shop?

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Forum topic by perfect posted 09-05-2012 06:24 PM 7992 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 2286 days

09-05-2012 06:24 PM

Topic tags/keywords: basement concrete framed

Hey everyone! I just bought a new house that has a completely unfinished basement. The walls are 9ft of concrete and I’m deliberating how I should go about the workshop portion of the basement.

In order to please the wife I’ve agreed to wall of the section of the basement that will contain the workshop so that dust doesn’t (easily) make it’s way into the blower/furnace and become deposited all around the house. I’ll make this walled off section using the typical 2×4 wall framing and cover with drywall on the outside of the workshop area.

However, I can’t decide if or how I should finish the remaining concrete walls of the basement where I’ll actually be woodworking. I don’t really foresee myself needing to install much into the walls – so I’m envisioning leaving those as bare concrete the whole way up. Should I tarp the ceiling so that dust doesn’t work it’s way up into the living area above the shop?

I should add that I do have a nice 1.5hp dust collector and a ceiling mounted air filtration unit to mitigate as much dust as possible (to avoid a fire hazard and to avoid it from collecting outside of the “sealed” basement unit.

Will I regret not having some type of bare framed walls in the shop?

Those of you with basement woodworking shops – I would love to hear or see your setups.


7 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3168 days

#1 posted 09-05-2012 07:05 PM

Are you absolutely certain the concrete walls will not leak; or sweat. Depends on climate where you are.
Typically I would coat the walls with a product like “Thoroseal basement wall water proofer”

Better would be to apply at least an inch of sheet foam insulation and polyethelene vapor barrier, or spray on foam; which forms its own vapor barrier; followed with a stud wall covered with plywood, OSB, or sheetrock on the interior surface. I personally prefer the 3/8” bead board plywood. Looks good and is easy to put shelves and cabinets on.

Give a lot of thought to HVAC to be sure you vent fumes to the outside and keep the shop under negative pressure relative to the rest of the house. You would be amazed at how fast fumes permeate the rest of the house. Not just finishing with lacquer either. Even sawing wood and wood glue will give off odors that SWMBO might notice.

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2711 days

#2 posted 09-05-2012 07:41 PM

After putting up a 5 mil vapor barrier, I would put up at least 3/4” sheet foam insulation. The difference will be noticible in dryness, temperature stabilization, and even some sound reduction.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View jmos's profile


902 posts in 2566 days

#3 posted 09-05-2012 08:19 PM

Your situation sounds exactly like mine.

I did coat my walls (entire basement) with Drylock; not the best stuff you can get, but not bad. If your place has good exterior drainage, you should be fine even with bare walls. If it has poor drainage, I don’t think any type of interior film will help. My basement walls have been dry (5 years, bought new construction), and it’s not too humid. I’ve had no problems with rust at all.

Temperature wise, the basement is cool, and fairly consistent; summer or winter. I actually prefer it a bit on the cold side; don’t see any need to insulate walls.

I also put up a wall to separate my shop from the rest of the basement. I used 2×4’s on 20” centers and covered it in the non-shop side with 3/8” CDX plywood. My main goals were to keep the kids out and the dust in. My shop area has no HVAC vents or returns, and if it did I would have sealed them off to prevent geting dust in the rest of the house. My shop area also excludes the furnace and hot water heater. Where HVAC ducts run through the shop I sealed them. Then I took a can of expanding spray foam insulation and sealed off any cracks around my new wall, or anywhere that had path to the first floor. My shop has three small windows I can open if needed.

I didn’t do anything to the ceiling, except for the aforementioned sealing of any holes. Tarping the ceiling isn’t a bad idea, but it would be a PITA to remove anytime you want to pull a wire, or something like that. Depending on noise, you could also put soundproofing on the ceiling. I don’t often get into he shop when anyone else is home, but even when I do noise isn’t too much of an issue.

I’ve been running a 1.75hp dust collector (PM-1300) and ceiling hung air filtration unit (PM-1200). I’m happy to report I’ve had no issues with dust in the house (and I’m the one that does all the cleaning, so I would know). I haven’t been entirely happy with the dust collection in the shop (even after upgrading to Wynn filter and pre-separator), and I’m in the process of installing Clervue cyclone to correct that.

As for fumes, I avoid anything that will make a lot of them. They do get into the house, even when I try to ventilate. For me it’s mostly water based finishes and shellac. I’ve pretty much given up the idea of spraying or fuming. It’s a sacrifice I see with a basement shop. If you can use a garage to finish, I would plan on that; I don’t have one, so I make do.

Another issue can be getting material into your basement. My stairs have a landing and a 180deg turn, so I’m limited on what I can bring down or take up the stairs. I can’t manage a full sheet of plywood. I decided against a full cabinet saw in favor of a hybrid mostly because of the stairs.

Make sure you run yourself extra power and lots of outlets. I dropped a bunch of 20A outlets all over the shop and I’m happy I did.

If you don’t have one, buy a decent to moderate hammer drill; you’ll want one for sinking concrete anchors. It’s more trouble than it is worth drilling holes in concrete with a regular drill. I’ve been happy with the Tapcons for medium duty type work (readily available at HD).

Plan on getting lots of lighting too. I put in some initially, then had to go back and add more. Don’t get much help from those three little windows.

Those are all the pearls I can come up with for now. Good luck and I’m happy to answer and other questions I can.

-- John

View perfect's profile


4 posts in 2286 days

#4 posted 09-05-2012 08:30 PM

Thanks so much for the quick responses already, everyone!

I’ve only lived in the house about 4 weeks now so I can’t say with my certainty how dry or not-dry the basement walls are? I guess I could put a hygrometer down there and monitor the relative humidity.

Fortunately the furnace/AC/blower are on the opposite side of the basement and my plan on putting up a wall will hopefully limit the amount of dust that works it’s way into the house. Tarping off the ceiling may present a challenge but I can see clear gaps that lead to the upstairs around the air return vents (which I will be completely sealing already to the best of my ability). I agree that it will be a pain to run wire or DC ductwork with tarps in the way…I’ll have to try and come up with a clever solution to that problem.

I’m still in debate about finishing the walls or leaving them unfinished. It seems like you guys (or gals) who have responded already all have a mix of experiences and decisions. I suppose that starting off bare would be the “easiest” route and I could always add more layers if necessary.

10-4 on the lighting! I can never get enough lighting.

For reference – I’m also a huge garage nut and bought this house primarily for it’s spacious 3 car garage. Unfortunately, woodworking takes a 2nd seat to my true 1st hobby – cars. I’ll use the garage for painting or anything that will create unpleasant smells. Some assembly of larger wood items will happen in there as well.

Thanks for the quick input and I’m anxious to hear other people’s responses as well.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3168 days

#5 posted 09-05-2012 10:16 PM

To test the walls and floor for dryness there is a standard test.
Tape a 24” square of aluminum foil onto the surface to be tested.
It must be sealed air tight; left in place 24 hours.
When checked, if the surface of the foil is wet (sweaty), you have a humidity problem in the basement air.
Then remove the foil and look at the surface of the concrete.
If it’s damp, compared to the surounding surface it will look darker, then you have a potential leaker.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2686 posts in 3119 days

#6 posted 09-06-2012 12:14 AM

I once had a basement woodshop in a new house that did not have a forced air heating system and the dust was still a problem upstairs in the living area.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Website>

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3158 days

#7 posted 09-06-2012 04:04 PM

Drywall would be a lot of work. I did the same thing but used thin OSB for the walls. No one sees it unless they come through the garage and I really don’t care what they think. I’m going to paint the shop with a cheap white paint this winter. The basement is dry and no leaks. I’m going to cut a vent in the duct for air in the shop. It was hot this summer. Make sure you have a good dust collection system. I use a Shop Vac at each work area plus a box fan with a furnace filter. The fan was an idea my wife got from H&G TV.

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