Winter workshop in Michigan

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Forum topic by ChipByrd posted 09-12-2013 04:29 AM 1183 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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146 posts in 2127 days

09-12-2013 04:29 AM

I have a shop question. I am a noob to woodworking and began building my shop this past spring. My shop is in one of our two-car garage stalls. It is the one closest to the house and it stays a bit warmer than the other. However, I am in Michigan and it gets cold. I would like to share my general plan and then ask a question and invite helpful criticism.

I am insulating the walls and putting in a space heater that should allow me to keep the temperature around 45-50 degrees. Michigan has low humidity in the winter so that shouldn’t be a problem. If I notice too much humidity or condensation I will throw my dehumidifier in there. Although I will generally store my wood in the garage, but before beginning a project for the house, I will bring the wood inside for a week or so to acclimate.

How does this sound so far?

Also, what are my limitations for finishing in the winter months?

Thanks for the help,

8 replies so far

View Manitario's profile


2681 posts in 3083 days

#1 posted 09-12-2013 05:32 AM

I have a well insulated detached garage (17×30) that I heat with a 5000W electrical heater. I live north of you in Sault Ste. Marie, so it is probably about the same temp in the winter or colder. I keep the temp in the garage at about 5 deg. C until I’m in the garage then I turn it up to to a comfortable working temperature. When I’m doing finishing, I leave the heater turned up until the finish is dry. No problem so far, other than it being expensive to heat! With electric heat there really isn’t any problem with increased humidity, usually just with the propane space heaters.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View ChipByrd's profile


146 posts in 2127 days

#2 posted 09-12-2013 08:54 AM

Thanks. That’s the kind of info I was looking for. Incidentally, my wife and I spent 4 days at Sault Ste Marie about 3 weeks ago. Beautiful area.

Thanks for the help,

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2486 days

#3 posted 09-12-2013 09:37 AM

I’m curious about the actual cost of heating your shop with electric heat. I had considered it as I don’t have natural gas back there and propane is also pretty expensive. (western NY state near niagara falls).

View ChipByrd's profile


146 posts in 2127 days

#4 posted 09-12-2013 09:44 AM

I suspect that n my case it won’t be too bad. My shop is directly under our bedroom. Fo tharpt reason, it is well insulated. During the middle of the winter, it is amazing how much the temperature fluctuated when you walk through the door separating the two garages.


View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5174 posts in 2693 days

#5 posted 09-12-2013 12:04 PM

If you use waterborne finishes you may find it a challenge to get them to dry in the winter, they usually take temps near 70°. My shop is a detached building with LP heat; I’ll usually warm it to 70 for several hours before using them (waterbornes only), then leave it on for an hour or so after I spray. You want the work pieces warm as well, which is why the pre heat. But with almost anything else, it’s not as much a problem. Oil based varnishes cure much more slowly in cold temps, but they do cure (don’t let it get below 50 or so) and lacquer and shellac don’t much care what temp it is. The dry with the evaporation of the solvent. The one thing I didn’t follow was your concern about condensation…is your heat source a non vented combustion appliance?

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1325 posts in 2148 days

#6 posted 09-12-2013 12:13 PM

burn wood its normally 70-80 all winter in my shop. I have no problems.

View firefighterontheside's profile


19430 posts in 2056 days

#7 posted 09-12-2013 12:21 PM

With it being an attached garage and the bedroom above, insulating is a great idea even if you didn’t have a shop out there. Much of the heat lost from your shop will be gained upstairs. I wouldn’t be surprised if you do better than 50 deg. I insulated my shop this summer and am looking forward to more comfortable temps out there. When I have had had trouble with moisture was when it was very cold and then I warmed the garage up with kerosene. The still cold table saw had condensation on it. I think even on your coldest days, with the insulation and heat from the house, your shop will stay above freezing even without the heater on.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Sandra's profile


7207 posts in 2275 days

#8 posted 09-12-2013 01:05 PM

I work out of our attached garage. The best thing I did was make an insulated cover for the scuttle hole because the heat was escaping into the space above the garage.. I also spent the $ to have an electrician put in a 220 outlet and I use a garage heater suspended from the ceiling.

Similar to Manitario, I leave the heater off, and the garage stays above freezing. I turn the heater on before I head out to do some work.

Works for me and I’m in Eastern Canada. As far as finishes, I’ve used very few products thus far, but I keep a plastic table cloth to throw over the kitchen table when I need something to stay warm over night such as a glue up.

At one point, I was dreaming of a detached building, but personally I like being able to pop in and out of the garage.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

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