I am building a building.
March 10, 2008 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Setting up shop filter.

We are trying to build ourselves an outbuilding in our yard for our various creative needs. We will be doing some woodworking, painting, papermaking etc. The wood stuff takes up the most room.

We can't decide whether to go very basic right now almost like a shed with no water/power right now (just using drop cords) or do it up fancy like a carriage house. Our zoning allows multi family so we can do that, but cost if of course an issue.

I am looking for examples of really well organized shops as well as personal experience in setting up shop and what you wish you had included and what you never use. How big would you say a perfect workshop should be?Any tips, hints, and advice are greatly appreciated.
posted by stormygrey to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure what you mean by 'no power...just using drop cords' since even the drop cords will need to be plugged in somewhere. You can run a lot of small woodworking machinery on regular 110v outlets, but the beefier equipment you'll long for if you get serious will require 220v circuits. Perhaps this doesn't matter so much, since the machinery is likely to cost much more than the 220 line anyhow. Water would be easy to do without, if you were only woodworking, but not for painting or papermaking. Keep in mind that a bare-bones shop will be poorly lit, frigid in winter, sweltering in summer and generally unpleasant to be in for most of the year.

For woodworking, you need space for materials, space for tools and machines, space for a bench and space to put whatever project might be in progress, plus enough elbow room to move comfortably amongst these things. A lot depends on the sort of work you want to do, but a single-car garage is likely to feel cramped for most woodworking. Depending on the machinery you want to have, even a 2-car garage could be tight.

The question's really to vague to answer in any precise way.
posted by jon1270 at 9:28 AM on March 10, 2008

Response by poster: Drop cords from the house, so workshop can be outfitted later. I kept the question vauge to not kill any fab ideas. I've found if you provide too much detail, answerers can get fixated on a little detail.

But here is more detail for those who might want it: We have lots of the wood stuff: planer, jointer, table saw, miter saw, bandsaw, scroll saw, drill press, lots of handheld planes and stuff and maybe 200 board feet of lumber. My paper stuff does not take much room and I prefer to do it outside, so I just need a little storage.

With some tight quarters we could get away with a 10 x 16 workshop, but I think that would be unpleasant. We would like to shoot for more 20 x 30. I am primarily thinking we would pay someone to pour the slab and perhaps do the roofing. Everything else we could do. If I had more money I would pay someone but I don't.

We would probably start just building a simple frame building with a wood stove, leaving space and hole for future water and electric needs. Then as we had the means we would add electricity, water, insulation and other groovy things.

Right now the basic materials (excluding slab, insulation and drywall) are right around 3,000.
The slab is around:3,000
Running proper electircity is: 5,000
I've not got a price for water yet.

I don't even know if we need a slab, it seems a lot of people are using either footings or crushed rock for foundations.
posted by stormygrey at 9:42 AM on March 10, 2008

I think you ought to run proper electricity. Running extension cords out of your house is probably contrary to the building code. And, it doesn't seem like it should cost $5000 to run two or three circuits underground from your house panel, and situate a few outlet boxes around the shop plus some lights.
posted by beagle at 9:54 AM on March 10, 2008

Response by poster:
Here are a few design ideas we like, we have a tough tree ordinance, so another design issue is working around all the root zones.

This is one idea, without the car stuff of course

Our house is a craftsman bungalow, so we want to keep it that look.

This is my favorite for exterior. This would of course break my material budget but maybe we can build it in phases.
posted by stormygrey at 10:00 AM on March 10, 2008

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "leaving space and hole for future water and electric needs", but if you building a stud wall, insulating and covering with drywall, you don't really want to be adding the electrical and plumbing later. How will you run the wiring? You'll need to remove drywall to run it through the wall or you'll have to run conduit everywhere. If you want to have a drain, you'll want to do that when you pour your concrete slab, not afterwards.

It also sounds like a bad idea to try running things like planers and table saws on long extension cords. You will have to buy some very beefy (and thus expensive) cords.
posted by ssg at 10:22 AM on March 10, 2008

Response by poster: Sorry, I am being unclear today. It will just be a fine studdy workshop for a while. The studs and foundation will be prepared for water and electric, but will not be hooked up. After everything is hooked up maybe next year, we will insulate and drywall. We already have the redonkulous extension cords for the tools. I also think its a bad idea, but our electrical engineer friend was just walking us through everything and our electric "box" (converter?) on the outside is too old so we would have to split a lot of fuses and get a new convertor and we want to bury everything, so that is where the high cost comes from.
posted by stormygrey at 10:26 AM on March 10, 2008

Best answer: It's nice to have a concrete floor instead of gravel. Gravel is easy to lose things in, and things with wheels do not roll well on gravel.

Have drains put in before the concrete is poured. You can put a laundry sink in before the freshwater pluming goes in, with a 5 gallon water container next to it. Consider putting in a drain for a future toilet, it's really handy to have one in the shop. Depending on what sorts of chemicals you work with, or might work with in the future, a shower.

Supply of drinking water, in jugs if you have no other water or your tap water is nasty. Snacks. Mini Fridge. A sofa is nice to have, but you probably don't want to add extra space just for this.

A circuit breaker panel in the shop makes adding new circuits easy.

Good lighting.

It's nice to have a shop door that's big enough to back a moving truck through. It's also nice to have a regular door that you don't need to shove overhead to get people through. A concrete apron that comes out a few feet from each door will help keep dirt down. The one on your largest door should be a ramp. People who use wheelchairs will appreciate it if the other one is also a ramp. It's even nicer to have a large concrete slab outside with some sort of sunshade/raincover over it. A bug screen for the big door is awesome.

Deadbolt locks. Consider the question of keying them the same as your house. Padlock on the inside of the big door.

Windows (depending on neighborhood, perhaps with bars), that open, with screens. A vent system of some sort. Sawdust collection for woodworking. Areas where things you don't want sawdust all over can be worked on or used (like your laptop).

I'd put in a swamp cooler, but they probably don't work where you live. Don't use a wood stove if you will be working with flamable materials (What kind of painting? What chemicals will you be using?). Consider how you will store things that won't survive a freeze or getting too hot.

Think about any shop functions you want to add in the future. New hobbies? Eventually convert to a second dwelling unit?

Do you have a landline in the house? Run a wire out to the shop (you can just run it along the ground, this is cheap), or keep a cordless on a charger there.

If you have fire ants, or work with any acids, keep an open box of baking soda by the sink.

Absolute musts: fire extinguisher(s), one should be mounted to the wall by the door, since this is where any guest would be most likely to look in an emergency. First aid kit. Something to wash your eyes if need be, if you have no other water have water for this. Knowledge and materials to clean up any chemical hazards. Good supply of safety goggles, hearing protection, hair ties, etc., including extra for any guests/helpers.
posted by yohko at 11:28 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: During the late spring to early fall, your workshop can remain uninsulated, which will allow you to run electrical wiring and any necessary plumbing in the wall. But I agree that you should have a poured concrete floor with installed drains. Concrete will be better for you and the equipment and is easy to care for.

Draw a few layouts in 1"/1' scale and then build a small scale model from foamcore and use that to decide on your final layout. For sufficient room, add 20% to the size of the place.

If you're not going to make a loft area in the attic, concider installing basic skylights to let in more daylight in the work area.

Have two human-sized doors front and back and one large garage-sized door to let you move big equipment as necessary.

If you plan on putting up some pegboard, paint it, front and back. Not only with this help protect the pegboard against moisture, it'll also close up the holes slightly so peg board accessories will be anchored a little more securely. Peg board panels on either side of a large window looking down on the main workbench will allow you to dynamically adjust to suit yourself.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2008

Best answer: Definitely put in the conduit for running electric, even if you're not sure. It's a lot easier to put it in while everything's all torn up, rather than trying to work around stuff later.
posted by electroboy at 2:51 PM on March 10, 2008

Best answer: Oh, and a table saw in a 10'x16' workshop? If you are cutting any 4'x8' sheets of plywood, that doesn't leave you anywhere to stand. To figure out how big your shop should be, make up a plan with all the equipment you want, and move it around until you have a good setup including enough room to use and walk around the equipment. There's probably some software out there for arranging furniture that could be used for this, or you can draw it out on graph paper. Print up your plan, then cut something to scale to represent the longest lumber you intend to work with and see if that will fit in the space once it's sticking out of your planer or whatnot.
posted by yohko at 6:48 PM on March 11, 2008

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