Workshop Types and Location

Host Jay Baker outlines some basic considerations for selecting the right location and building facility for the ultimate home workshop.

Workshop Considerations

a garage is most common workshop location

a garage is most common workshop location

Figure C

When planning for a workshop, the most important initial consideration is location. The workshop location that most frequently comes to mind is in a garage. There are advantages and disadvantages to housing a workshop in a garage, and there are other options that might be considered as well. In fact, any sheltered space that offers these three key ingredients might be considered as a site for a workshop:

  • Ventilation
  • Accessibility
  • Electricity

This series focuses on the three most common locations that people convert to create a workshop:

  • Garage
  • Basement
  • Outbuilding or shed

Each of these locations offers its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Following is a brief comparison, and some factors to consider.

Garages offer convenient access to the home and family, without the problem of introducing dust and debris into the living space. It's also generally easy to move large pieces of equipment in and out of a garage. Garages are usually easy to ventilate, particularly if there is a door or window at the back. Opening doors and windows can help achieve a natural cross-ventilation. Fans, such as a box-fan used in a window, can help greatly in this regard and will enhance comfort as well as maintaining good air quality when paint and chemical fumes become an issue. A potential disadvantage of a garage is that many tend to be cold in the winter. Most are built for the primary purpose of garaging a vehicle, not providing a workspace for people. Cold can be a problem particularly in garages that aren't well insulated. If converting the garage to a workshop is the best option, the first step may be to insulate the structure. Trying to use a garage both for housing vehicles and for a workshop is generally not a good idea. Cars will create close quarters, making it difficult to work.

Also, cars may tend to get dusty from the sawdust that's inherently present in a workshop, and they could get damaged. If possible, a garage-based workshop should be dedicated solely to being a workshop.

Basements also offer great access to the home and family. They also offer direct access to important staples like electricity, plumbing and the telephone. As a general rule, a basement is not particularly expensive to convert to a workshop. Disadvantages to basements can include lack of natural light and ventilation. It's harder to hang shelving and cabinetry on concrete or cinderblock walls than on garage walls, and untreated basement walls can allow moisture to become a problem. The presence of moisture can be particularly problematic when storing lumber.

Outbuildings may offer the best site for a workshop. A structure of sufficient size will offer adequate workspace and the ability to accommodate plenty of storage. An outbuilding structure that is physically removed from the house will reduce the possibility of noise problems that can come with the use of power tools. If the workshop project is being started from scratch, an outbuilding comes with fewer limitations. The workshop can be built to fit personal preferences. Potential hurdles with an outbuilding may include difficulty in accessing electricity, plumbing and phone lines. A new structure may be costly and, if not properly insulated, may be uncomfortable to work in.

Regardless of which route is chosen, the fundamental first step will likely be to insulate and finish the exposed walls. Doing this will provide a more comfortable and controlled environment, as well as make the space more visually appealing and enjoyable to be in.

Another suggestion for getting started is to paint your floor with epoxy paint – a tough, glue-based paint that's designed to go on floors. Before painting the floor, however, make certain to clean it thoroughly and use a degreaser to remove any grease or oily residues that could interfere with the paint adhering. Paint when the air temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, follow the recommended drying times. A drying time between 24 and 48 hours is usually recommended before walking on the painted surface, but it's a good idea to wait 72 hours or longer before moving vehicles or large equipment onto the newly painted surface. Using a wide roller and extension handle makes painting a floor a quick and easy job.

Tip: For floors that offers better-than-average traction, mix some sand with the epoxy paint before applying it. The paint department at any home center can help with this.

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