workshop size

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Blog entry by woodnut posted 06-06-2007 02:01 AM 11783 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After reading sawhorse’s blog about his workshop I have found that I can use some advice on my own shop build. Hopefully I will start the new shop in the very near future. I currently use woodworking as a side job with the hope of moving it to full time in about 3 years. My question is do you think that a 20’x40’ building would be big enough to handle a full time shop (that is the size I am thinking right now).What advice can you give on dust collection? would an outside unit be better than an inside one. should I run the dust pipes in the floor or around the walls? Which building would be best I have priced the prefab metal buildings and have a material price if I build it myself. I can save a little money if I build myself but really like the idea of the metal building being put up for me. As you can see everything is still in the planning stage right now so all advice would be helpfull. Thanks for reading.

-- F.Little

9 comments so far

View RickInTexas's profile


45 posts in 4051 days

#1 posted 06-06-2007 02:17 AM

As far as the overall size goes, I guess it depends on the size/type of machinery you are going to be using. Looking strictly at the numbers, my feeling/opinion would be that unless you are going to separate the building into different rooms, it may feel a little more like an alley setup. Having a really long stretched out feel. The number I have always played around with was 30’ x 40’, but that was with having the idea of putting a bench and assembly area in a separate room from the machining area. I got this idea from an article in FWW Tools and Shops 2002 “Dream Shop in the Woods”. Looks like this would be a great idea to keep the majority of the dust/debris away from an assembly area, which could also be used as a finishing area. The other idea would be to put the dust collector and air compressor in a small room with plenty of ventilation, but a good amount of sound dampening. I would not put the dust collector outside if you plan on insulating/air conditioning the shop, since it would be sucking your “bought air” to the outside. Finally the scenario I’ve considered for construction is to get a pre-fab metal building for the outside shell, then customize/partition the interior to the way I want. This would allow to at least get equipment moved and under cover so that I could play with the setup before committing to a particular setup with a lot of money.

Hope this helps. I’ve been working on my own workshop design/layout for several years now since I currently use my dad’s, since I have no space at my house. But within the next couple years, will be moving to a bigger place with more land to build a separate shop.

-- Rick - Spring, TX

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4312 days

#2 posted 06-06-2007 06:17 AM

Mine is about that size. The working area is ok, but real short on storage. I’m wishing it were bigger. I do like insulated walls, 10 ft cealings, lots of light, well layed out electrical plans. I do plan on moving my dust collector and air compressor to a small outside addition soon.

View Tony's profile


986 posts in 4028 days

#3 posted 06-06-2007 07:16 AM

My main shop is 20×20, with a separate finishing room of 12×12 – Is it big enough? For the most part YES, except when I have two projects running in Parallel. My ceiling height is only 7’, which is not enough – I would like 10’. Would I like more space YES, I am planning a 15’ * 30’ extension (expandable)

You can take a look at my workshop layout or visit my website

My dust collector is outside (serious noise and dust reduction) and I would run some pipes under the floor, but remember you need access to them for maintenance and cleaning. As for the heat loss – I do not notice it too much. If I am not using the dust extractor it switched off – mine is a one man shop, not a factory.

Having a different machine area assembly area is not a bad idea, as long as they are adjacent to each other. You can also heat them at different temperatures, the hand working area being warmer.

Building Type – this all depends where you live and how hot or cold it gets, what is the temperature going to be like inside, when its -30° outside – your heating/cooling bill could be quite expensive -.I would definitely go for an insulated structure, it keeps you warm in the winter, cool in the summer and reduces the noise to neighbours. My walls are 9” thick, 6” of insulation – the ceiling has 16” of insulation. And it still gets cold in the winter.

Go for wooden floors – or if you have a concrete base, then have a floating wooden floor inside. it will save a lot of damage to tools dropped and more importantly it is not so fatiguing on you.

Lots of power points. Lots of windows to let in natural light (important), lots of GOOD general lighting. Spot lights/additional lighting over machine/work areas (switch on & off as required, saves energy).

But the most important thing is LAYOUT. How do I cut that sheet of 8×4 when the joiner is in the way. The list goes on and on and on… would be a shame to be 2’ short of building to get that piece of wood in.

Good luck with the planning

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4095 days

#4 posted 06-06-2007 01:44 PM

Great website Tony. Worth the visit guys to check out his workshop layout.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4049 days

#5 posted 06-06-2007 01:55 PM

My shop floor is 48X32 with 11’ ceilings. THat has proven to be more than enough room for me. I also have a 12X24 office and another 12X24 storage area. The issue that I have with a space this big is heating in the winter.
Visit other shops and see what you like about them, not only online but in person so you get a better feel for the layout.

Mine is a metal pole building and I really like the look of it. Plan ahead and run what you need in the floor. Mine has a cement floor I cannot do much with it as that is the way it was when we purchased it.

-- Hope Never fails

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4159 days

#6 posted 06-06-2007 04:58 PM

It all depends on the tools you will have, and what you want to produce. If you were only turning bowls, that shop would be more than enough. If you were building 16’ tables, it might not seem so big.

Also, definitely set aside a finishing room. I do not have one, and all other work in the shop stops when I am doing finishing. If it was separate, I could continue work while things were drying.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Tony's profile


986 posts in 4028 days

#7 posted 06-06-2007 11:07 PM

Mario – My floor is also concrete, but I placed a floating wooden floor on top. This has several advantages.

1. Not so stressfull on you body, legs and feet. Really a big difference when you are standing all day.

2. stops, or at least reduces damage to tools dropped on the floor.

3. I have this interlocking Particle board – really flat and level surface for moving machines about.

4. Probably the bigest advantage INSULATION. Concrete, 1” air gap, 1” particle board. Result – Warmer feet in the winter – and 20% less fuel used to maintain the same temperature.

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4309 days

#8 posted 06-07-2007 05:33 AM

When I was planning my shop I thought of putting the dust collection piping in the floor, like Norm did, but I talked to a fellow that knew a man who had a woodworking shop and he told me not to. He said that the man with the shop had his piping overhead, which made it very easy for him to change his machines when needed due to expansion of his shop or for more efficiency. I would think putting the dust collection unit outside would be nicer because of the noise reduction in the shop, of course running routers and table saws, etc. make a lot of noise on their own. That’s why I wear ear muffs to protect my hearing. Good luck and I hope it turns out just right.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4175 days

#9 posted 07-01-2007 10:55 AM

Obviously, the pro’s know best.

My only comment is that it seems to me that dust ducting in a concrete floor is not very flexible. It either ties your machinery to one location, or you end up running flexible hosing along the floor surface if you decide to relocate your machinery. This hardly seems sensible. Another disadvantage might be a blockage in your ducting under the concrete. This might be quite expensive to fix.

I would use overhead metal ducting, six inches in diameter; a 3 phase minimum 3hp DC with a large industrial cyclone. If possible, I would install this outside the building. Despite the loss of heated air, it removes the dust from within the shop and definitely reduces the noise.

As for size, you know Murphy’s Law states that your need for more tools grows exponentially with your space to store them.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

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