Ballpark figures for building a woodworking shop from the ground up?

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Forum topic by BTimmons posted 12-05-2012 10:53 PM 2156 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2303 posts in 2690 days

12-05-2012 10:53 PM

Right now I work out of half of a two car garage. The other half is filled with antiques and junk that needs to be given away or sold. Long story, it’s not even my stuff! My wife has been pining for her garage back so our cars can have covered parking once again, and I don’t blame her. She’s asked me to figure out how much it would take to build my own shop in the back yard from the ground up.

Keep in mind, this isn’t the “how much equipment can I buy with $3000” thread. I’m talking about building the physical structure that will then become my workshop. How much I can or will spend on equipment to fill the shop is not being discussed just yet.

I have no idea how much this will cost, and paying for it is the big problem. Either go into debt with a bank or ask my parents for an early inheritance? Can anyone hit me with high or low ballpark figures here? How much should the building and its electrical work cost me, before ANY tool budget is considered?


1) I’m estimating a floor plan at 12’ x 18’, with a small attached shed to keep lawn equipment in. I’ll be damned if I have to watch where I stand when hand planing because there’s a weed-whacker in the way.

2) I’m not 100% sure what kind of foundation I should go with, although I should mention that most houses in my area were built in the 1950’s with pier and beam construction. Apparently the soil in my area is more sandy than clay, so I guess that rules out concrete slabs?

3) Assuming there is no concrete work to be done, I know how to swing a hammer and use power tools, so I will be doing all the other construction tasks. That should include laying the foundation, framing, walls, windows, roofing, etc. The only task I’ll need to hire out for is the electrical work. I have no idea what I’m doing with electricity, and I have no qualms about admitting when I’m in over my head.

I know there are bound to be folks here that have done the same, so can you share your experience and advice? What say you good people? I need numbers here more than anything. Thanks!

-- Brian Timmons -

28 replies so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

19018 posts in 2773 days

#1 posted 12-05-2012 11:04 PM

Brian, if you go to a local lumber yard they should be able to give you a material list and price sheet for what you want. Figure its going to be about 20% low, because they really don’t know how to estimate.

Make sure its got everything you need. Then once you do that, call a few electricians and get some prices.

Then you won’t have to wonder what it’ll cost or if my prices in NY are different than yours in TX.

Edit, mine was about $40 a sq ft a couple years ago. Its bigger than yours, I’ve got a concrete floor, attic space, I did everything except some excavation, including electrical, its insulated, finished with plywood. I’m betting yours will be pretty close to that.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 3175 days

#2 posted 12-05-2012 11:08 PM

Kind of like asking how much is a new car? Do you want a Skoda or a Bentley Continental?

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2890 days

#3 posted 12-05-2012 11:30 PM


huh? granted I have 30×40 heated that I share with tractors and stuff…but 12×18?

sounds like 2 pre-fab yard barns laid end to end will work but you’ll want insulation and interior siding. concrete probably $6 sq foot poured and finished (it’s a local pricing thing so check). you probably don’t need heat. add a minimum of $700 for electrical/lighting (includes the run from your house main panel). And don’t forget permits…

View Mike's profile


406 posts in 2893 days

#4 posted 12-05-2012 11:37 PM

You might want to look into a pre-fab. The start around $8 – $9k. You would most likely need a crew for the foundation and the construction. Perhaps $14k at the top of the spectrum? This is a ball park figure.

-- look Ma! I still got all eleven of my fingers! - -

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4330 days

#5 posted 12-05-2012 11:49 PM

I’d do two things: First, buy a copy of the latest RS Means Residential Construction Costs estimating book. Second, look at what pre-fab sheds are running in your area. As others have suggested, 12×18 is pretty small, depending on what finish quality you want and what your slab costs look like you might think about a metal pole-bar/carport type structure, which could cost you a few thousand bucks, on up.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2690 days

#6 posted 12-06-2012 12:10 AM

Yeah, the size is just an estimate on the smaller end. I may be able to widen it by a few feet and lengthen it by 8-10 feet.

My backyard is a good size, but it’s still a backyard in a residential neighborhood. Part of asking here is to figure out whether or not this idea is even worth it at all. I would be forced to use a lot of hand tools and minimize powered equipment to some extent. For instance, edge jointing could be on a router table or with a handplane, as opposed to dedicating floor space to a large powered jointer. For flattening wide boards I could use a planer with a sled to true up one side before sending the other side through, then move the planer (on a cart, probably) back against the wall. It may be a game of musical chairs with my equipment all the time. I just don’t know. This could all be a bad idea, which is why I’m asking for advice.

If it is worth it, the building type I’m thinking of is fairly minimal. Plywood over 2×4 framed walls, cheap insulation, probably a wood frame floor, that sort of thing.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2567 days

#7 posted 12-06-2012 12:21 AM

Check with your municipality to see what the zoning permits.

It cost me around $40K to build my 30×40 two-story shop/studio; but then, I did most of the work myself.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3497 days

#8 posted 12-06-2012 12:23 AM

If it’s in a residential back yard, check your city ordinances before you do anything else. There will (probably) be several restrictions, and you’ll have to check each one independently. For example, the setback from the property lines. Get or draw a plan of what you have now (lot & house & everything else) and draw the setbacks on it. Your available space is what’s inside those lines. Then, there might be a total lot coverage restriction (“no more than 50 or 75%, or whatever, of the lot may be covered by structures”). There might be an absolute maximum size limit, or, like in my city, there may be tiers of outbuilding sizes where different levels of permitting are required (my little 7×8’ dust collector shack required only an application and a plan showing the location [and a fee, of course], but my big 10×20’ shed required a full-blown building permit and inspection).

Edit: beaten to the punch again.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4330 days

#9 posted 12-06-2012 12:40 AM

So I don’t have a total accounting, in some ways I don’t wanna know, but I’m pretty sure I came in under $20k for my workshop, 16'x20' external dimensions, with a living roof, climate control, and extra sound insulation. The electrical service is overkill, all the wires are at least 2 ga thicker than they need to be and there are sockets everywhere. The roof can support 120 lbs/sq.ft. in pretty severe earthquake conditions (In Texas you may be able to engineer for 10 lbs/sq.ft.). The walls use a drainage plane assembly that was derived from South Florida post-Hurricane Andrew code modifications. The foundation beams are half-again wider than my engineer said I could probably get away with because I wanted to be absolutely sure the city didn’t ask me to do a soils test so I did those calcs with the worst possible seismic assumptions.

Except for pouring the foundation, I did the work myself with help from my Dad and friends. So if you do the work yourself, you should be able to come in way cheaper than my extreme overkill.

Size-wise, it can be a little tight, I work with a Festool saw on rail system rather than a tablesaw, but I’ve got a number of projects working through it. Sure, I’d love a 30×50 pole barn, but other issues, like walkable distance from downtown, took precedence. If you’re already used to half a one-car garage, you already know what trade-offs you’ll have to make.

If you don’t care about insulation and your jurisdiction is cool with electrical service to it, I’d go see what steel carports are going for. You’d be surprised at how inexpensively you can put up something basic. Pulling numbers out of my butt, I’d bet you can get covered space for less than three thousand bucks.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 3070 days

#10 posted 12-06-2012 01:12 AM

The common number I see floating around is around $25 a sq. ft. roughly. For a 12×18 building that comes out to $5400. Ballpark number. Probably on the low end of the spectrum.

I see some other numbers in here that are ~ 25-30 % higher or more, but you are probably going to be shopping around for the builders and you are likely to get estimates that will fluctuate from high to low by that amount.

Other factors such as where you live and the number of contractors in your area would also factor in. As well as what type of foundation, insulated or not, electrical,cost of permits, etc.

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2492 days

#11 posted 12-06-2012 01:16 AM

Check with the city or township first. It may be too big if you live in a neighborhood.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View NormG's profile


6283 posts in 3209 days

#12 posted 12-06-2012 01:24 AM

Go for whatever, she will let you. Get several estimates for the different sizes and be very wishful

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View beebop's profile


3 posts in 2208 days

#13 posted 12-06-2012 01:29 AM

pre-fab might be the best way to go. with concrete foundation and floor it would be considered a permanent structure and may raise your property taxe`s if Texas has such a thing. here in Indiana a pre-fab would not have a tax issue. you also might consider upgrading your electric to 200 amp service if you do not already have it. remember what ever size building you choose it will never be big enough. Good luck and let us know how it`s going

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3119 days

#14 posted 12-06-2012 01:29 AM

I would not rule out pre-fab METAL buildings. I built my 24×30 in 2003 for roughly:
  • $4500 for the slab
  • <$7,000 for the building (kit parts)
  • ~$500—Wired it myself
  • $50 for professional electrician to do final hookup and sign-off

Total roughly $13,000 for 720sqft of space or just $18/sqft. Don’t know what restrictions you have, so things nay vary for you. I am rural, between Austin and San Antonio and have no building restrictions in my county.

10-4 on raising the value of your property taxes.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 3070 days

#15 posted 12-06-2012 01:39 AM

I just wanted to add that for a wood floor as you described, you can get away with a floating foundation . Less cost and red tape for sure, and probably less taxes.

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