Shop lighting

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Forum topic by Steve posted 06-01-2013 01:52 AM 1573 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Steve's profile


190 posts in 2238 days

06-01-2013 01:52 AM

Starting to build my new shop in the next two weeks or so. Its an addition to my existing garage which is 540 sq. ft. The new addition is 26’ wide and 58’ long, the roof is constructed with scissor trusses which gives me a vaulted ceiling inside which is around 13’ high. I used my old shop with inadequate lighting and always seemed to be working in the shadows, not a very safe thing to do. My question is what the best lighting for a shop?

11 replies so far

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3152 days

#1 posted 06-01-2013 01:59 AM

Not to be smart, but as much as you can afford. In my 24×30’ metal-built shop I have 6x double-8ft with 75w bulbs PLUS 3×300w Halogens and I still wish I had more lighting. I have 9-12ft ceilings. IMO, you can never have too much lighting.

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

View DAC's profile


148 posts in 2234 days

#2 posted 06-01-2013 02:03 AM

lots and lots of it. also some variable angle lighting to see the work at different views. this will help show up things especially your topcoat/clearcoat

-- Wood is a zen like experiance.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2928 days

#3 posted 06-01-2013 02:36 AM

I have LOTS of floresents (I know that spelling sucks) but I really think the fact that I painted the walls and ceiling with hi gloss white helped as much as anything.

An added bonus is dust doesn’t adhere to the hi gloss as badly.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 3102 days

#4 posted 06-01-2013 02:55 AM

You should read this article , Lighting for Small Workshops. Lighting is not really something you should approach in an ad-hoc way. Though most of us probably do.

Just like heating and cooling, there is a science to how much light and what kind you need in any given work space environment .

The article I linked to is written by an expert in the field. It touches on all aspects of lighting a shop. From types of lights available, cost, some theory , fixtures, etc.

There is also a formula to calculate how much light you need for a given ceiling height and sq. footage.

View Toolz's profile


1004 posts in 3980 days

#5 posted 06-01-2013 12:20 PM

I was fortunate when I bought my house it had a second attached garage 24×44 and that has twelve ceiling mounted ceramic light fixtures with incandescent bulbs mounted to the bottom of the roof trusses. The neat thing is that 1) each fixture has a hanging on/off pull chain AND 2) a three prong grounded socket. I replaced the incandescent bulbs with the new type fluorescent compact bulbs then hung”el cheapo” plain jane four foot shop lights wherever I needed them. The lights are on 2 separate circuits so I only turn on the section that I need for the work I am doing. I just hung an additional two shop lights in the only dark corner I had.

-- Larry "Work like a Captain but Play like a Pirate!"

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 2173 days

#6 posted 06-01-2013 12:29 PM

Lighting and my tablesaw are probably the only things I actually did right when setting up shop. I am a contractor, and often come across decent size demolition jobs of industrial/commercial buildings. Welll, one day we were doing demo on an old Halliburton lab and they had tons of great fixtures that were just going to get trashed, so I ran up there on saturday and nabbed 8 of them. They each hold four T12 tube lights. I put two up for my brother in law in his garage and have five of the other six stuffed on the ceiling of my 200 SF shop. I bought the “natural light” spectrum bulbs and am very happy with them. I am never short on light, and in fact my lighting may be overkill. But, because I had a free opportunity, I went ahead and and did it. Couldn’t be happier with my lighting. It is definitely one of those times where just biting the bullet in the beginning saves you lots of heartache in the end. Sort of like keeping tools sharp, buying good saw blades, checking things for square, etc…

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View johnstoneb's profile


3072 posts in 2410 days

#7 posted 06-01-2013 12:47 PM

In my shop 16’x24’ I went with two 20’ rows of double 4’ t8 tubes. I used the 6500k tubes. I have excellent light. I will still need some task lighting at certain tools ie scrollsaw etc. That is just the nature of the beast.
The t8 flourescents are probably the most cost effective and efficient lights availabe right now. The t5 flourescents areprobably more efficient and with your ceiling height would probably work without the glare from lower ceilings but they are quite a bit more expensive than the t8’s. LED’s are an emerging light source but again while extremely efficient they are still expensive. Halogens put out a lot of light but also put out a lot of heat there goes the efficiency.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3152 days

#8 posted 06-01-2013 01:18 PM

I am glad Bruce brought up bulb temperature. I had forgotten to mention it, though it really is an important consideration, beyond your normal ”I need to be able to see to work” requirements.

Case in point—I had the dickens of a time trying to stain match the doors and top splash of our 1912 sideboard/bar when recreating missing components. I struggled with this for over 2-weeks on a daily basis, and I just could not get the colors to match as closely as I wanted. I stripped, remixed, and re-applied countless times. I eventually got close, but noticeably OFF, gave up and brought the piece into the house anyway.

Guess what?... POOF! The problems with color matching went away and colors matched perfectly. WHY… as it turns out all of my house lighting is CFB, however I purposely chose to temperature match our old incandescent bulbs (2,700K), you know… the yellow cast of what used to be “normal.” My shop is full of 8ft fluorescent bulbs that have a temperature of 4,200K. There lies the difference.

In other words, our old world yellow incandescent bulbs hide many sins. You should take this into consideration when choosing your lighting schema for your shop. I had added 900w of Halogens (3,000K) to the shop trying to balance the shop ‘spectrum’ but it was not enough. I would suggest adding a corner of the shop well lit in ~2,700K lighting (even if it is secondary lighting) in order to color-check the finishing of your projects. IMO, having the higher temp bulbs on when color-checking the finish still pollutes/changes what the project will look like in your house. Of course this assumes your house lighting is NOT predominantly 4,200K fluorescent.

Just a suggestion…

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

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 2130 days

#9 posted 06-02-2013 02:27 AM

Thanks, HorizontalMike, that info warrants real consideration re. finishing work – thanks for that.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View Steve's profile


190 posts in 2238 days

#10 posted 06-02-2013 02:55 AM

Thank’s guys for all of the good information. Sounds like I need to shop around and find a good deal on a stack of 4’ fixtures, lots of work to do before next Winter.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6349 posts in 3432 days

#11 posted 06-02-2013 04:51 AM

I have 16 8ft. T8’s in my shop, and at every major tool there is an independent light for close-up work…..

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

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