Garage workshop - a new can of worms

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Forum topic by ADHDan posted 06-21-2013 04:39 PM 2318 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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800 posts in 2104 days

06-21-2013 04:39 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Some of you may recall my debacle of a thread regarding my downstairs workshop soundproofing. Based on discussions with my wife and contractor, one option I’m exploring is using my garage for a workshop, insulating it but not heating it (I’m in Minnesota). It’s a tuck-under garage insulated on the ceiling and the shared wall with the house. The other two walls are concrete, so I’d put up a vapor barrier and studs and insulation under drywall.

The goal is to be able to park one car in the garage at all times, possibly two cars if I roll all my tools back (I’m going to try to make an efficient roll-away setup). Cost is still a factor, which is why I can’t do anything crazy like wall off a section of the garage and install dual single-sized insulated garage doors and just heat the shop side (I also don’t want to wall off half my garage).

Is this setup asking for disaster, either through rust or something else I’m overlooking? As my last thread demonstrated, apparently I don’t know a darn thing about shop construction.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

25 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3659 days

#1 posted 06-21-2013 04:45 PM

Been there … done that … hated it.

My old ‘shop’ was in a tuck-under 2 1/2 car garage. I don’t know how they figured it was 2 1/2 cars unless they were basing it on cars the size of MG Midgets. It worked, but it was a PITA.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Elizabeth's profile


817 posts in 3139 days

#2 posted 06-21-2013 04:49 PM

I’d worry about moisture levels varying with the space being jointly used as a shop and as car storage…I’m assuming you’ll want to park the car inside in the winter between uses, meaning you’ll frequently be bringing a wet, soggy, snowy and cooling down car into the garage, right?

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 2981 days

#3 posted 06-21-2013 04:53 PM

This is what I do in central NY. It works ok. You do have to take into account the fact that humidity will constantly change, so projects will move over the course of time. Also, it gets wicked cold sometimes in the winter, and really hot in the summer. Definitely not ideal, but at least I have some shop space.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2104 days

#4 posted 06-21-2013 05:22 PM

@TheDane: I took a look at your setup and… wow. I have far fewer tools, which hopefully will make things easier, and for big operations I can pull both cars out of the garage and use the entire garage space and (if necessary) the driveway. It’s not perfect, but it may be the best I can do.

My biggest concern is rust/climate issues; I don’t want to heat the garage specifically for the reason Elizabeth identified – bringing snowy, salty cars into a heated garage to have everything melt and condense on my tools.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2680 days

#5 posted 06-21-2013 05:32 PM

I did your thing when I lived in NY. All big tools were on mobile bases. On the plus side, I was be able to crack a garage door and use a kerosene “bullet” heater (which required careful placement but also took care of any fine airborne dust…I’m a grown-up and no lectures are needed on that part). I didn’t have to worry about fine dust finding its way into the living quarters like when I had a basement shop. Another benefit for me was that the electrical panel was in the garage so adding several circuits was easy.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3168 posts in 3227 days

#6 posted 06-21-2013 05:44 PM

I am in the process of a one car garage/workshop makeover. If you like follow along as I go through my re-organization. Like others, my large tools are on mobile carts (band saw, miter saw, planer/oscillating sander, jointer.

Hopefully, you will get some inspiration from my ideas. A lot of my ideas came from projects posted by fellow Lumberjocks and others from You Tube videos. So far, it is working out really well.

My blog is here.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2104 days

#7 posted 06-21-2013 05:48 PM

Teejk – I’m a grown up, but I could use a lecture. What issues did you deal with in using a kerosene heater to warm up your garage shop in the winter?

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2967 days

#8 posted 06-21-2013 06:30 PM

You will want canvas, or similar, cloth covers for your major cast iron machines. Moving quilts from HF work nice.
Then place a small source of heat, an incandescent light bulb will work, under each covered machine.
This will prevent condensation and its associated rust. Electric radiant heat in the ceiling is good for working, and you can turn it off when not in there.

The cold air is naturally dry so I would be hesitant to use any open flame source of heat as this will ADD moisture to the air.

View Mosquito's profile


9304 posts in 2288 days

#9 posted 06-21-2013 06:34 PM

I do something similar, in the exact same climate (actually, about 30 miles North). It’s not my garage, it’s my parents’ garage, as I live in an apartment. But in the winter when I want to use my power tools, I’ll come there, park a car or two on the driveway, and then carry my tools up from the basement. It’s a finished 3 1/2 car garage, with 2-cars worth sharing the back wall and ceiling with the house, and about 2/3 the side wall. It’s insulated, and has insulated garage doors (a double and a single).

If I limit the amount of time I have the garage door open to unload stuff and move cars, it usually stays around 40-45 degrees in there, depending on the outside temperature. That’s with out running a space heater, but there is a full size upright freezer, and a fridge running in the garage. It works ok. In the summer, it stays somewhat cool, but I generally use the back patio instead anyway.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2104 days

#10 posted 06-21-2013 06:43 PM

So it sounds like this type of setup may not be ideal, but I’m not getting myself into a world of hurt in terms of rust or other climate damage. Has anyone else tried this idea of putting an incandescent bulb under machines? I’ve never heard of it before. I have heard of waxing the table saw and covering it with a heavy blanket.

And again, I don’t really mind working in a cold(ish) garage – just as long as I’m not going to be destroying my tools.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View emart's profile


445 posts in 2624 days

#11 posted 06-21-2013 06:44 PM

as crank said I would suggest using some sort of indirect heat source like infrared which can be bought for fairly cheap and has the added benefit of not having an exposed heating element near a mountain of dust… granted I doubt you keep your shop in the same state of chaos as mine. as for the lumber that can be a major hurdle since I have had completed projects warp the second I removed them from my shop in the winter. The only solution I came up with for that was to store the lumber in my house under my stairs for a few days before I started work and I never left the components in my barn overnight if the seattle weather isnt cooperating (which is usually the case)

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2282 days

#12 posted 06-21-2013 06:59 PM

When your wife pulls her car into the garage in winter, the whole garage will get warm enough to melt the salt boogers behind the wheels. The good part is, my attached garage never gets cold enough to freeze anything. I live about 8 miles east of Niagara Falls, US and it gets down to single digits here in the winter quite often. And sometimes stays there for a while :)

My current shop is a detached 1 and a half car garage sized building but no garage door. I put in French Doors instead. Not heavily insulated, but I did insulate the 2×4 walls and between the roof trusses to about R-15.

I use a small propane torpedo heater to bring the temp up quick and then an electric radiant (small one… 1500 watts) to keep it warm enough to work. If I’m out there a long time and if it’s really cold outside I have to fire up the propane heater for a few minutes because the 1500 watt electric can’t quite keep up. I think 3000 watts of electric heat would do the trick. I’m not out there every day in the deep of winter because I have to keep juggling the heat. I have no issues at all with the propane heater adding too much moisture and all my stuff rusting. I DO clean everything real good and give it a fresh application of G-96 gun treatment and then a few coats of Johnson’s paste wax. No rust all winter. And I could eat off my jointer… hehehe…

I don’t use covers. Covers hold dust. Dust holds moisture. If you DO get really high humidity, that dust doesn’t dry as fast. Kinda like mulching your tools. Take a look at Radiant Cove heaters. I’m probably going to put 3000 watts worth of those in my shop on a thermostat. Cheap to install ESPECIALLY if it’s not a full time space. And they warm your equipment and YOU, not the air. So you can set the temp at 65 and still feel toasty warm.

Oh… and EVERYTHING ON WHEELS and try to make things so they “nest” into each other and under benches and stuff and make it easy to do. If it’s a chore, you’ll never move them to get your car in.

I park outside. All year. Just get a remote start and man up a little heheheh

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2104 days

#13 posted 06-21-2013 07:17 PM

Thanks Charlie.

Another point: I don’t use the shop every day. Sometimes I’ll be making things constantly for a week, but then it might sit unused for three or four weeks.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2282 days

#14 posted 06-21-2013 07:59 PM

My detached shop can go 3 or 4 weeks without a visit. And it DOES get cold enough to freeze out there. So in winter I pack up my “freezables” and bring them in the house. :)
One of my projects for this year (if I get several other ones done) is to build a warmed cabinet. A friend of mine did this. Just a normal plywood cabinet and on the inside he put 1/2” isocyanurate insulation with the foil side in, and he heats it with…. you’ll love this…. a NIGHT LIGHT bulb. Automated by a $12 thermocube (on at 35 degrees, off at 45)

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2104 days

#15 posted 06-21-2013 08:01 PM

Charlie, what are your “freezables”? And that’s a very cool warmed cabinet. I’ve been looking at IR heaters for ad hoc shop-warming in the winter.

Also, as I mentioned two sides of my garage are concrete. Do I need to put in studs and insulate those walls, or is concrete a decent insulator as-is? If so, that would make my life a lot easier.

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

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