I'm in the early stages of looking for a new house - pondering floor
plans, considering pros and cons of modular homes vs. "stick-built",
etc. My question to y'all, though, regards your opinions on a basement
vs. a garage workshop. I could probably claim about 10'x20' of garage
space (separated from car storage), or at least 20x24 of basement
space. I know getting large tools into a basement would be an issue,
so I'd look into wider stairs that lead directly outside - any other
solutions I haven't thought of for that? The garage would probably not
be heated or insulated, so I'd guess that wood stored there would move
more (basement dryness will be an important part of site selection
either way). I'd guess wiring would be easier in the basement as it'd
be closer to the circuit panel. What am I not thinking of?
I'm hoping for comments from people who use both garages and basements
- pros and cons? What do you wish you would have done differently?
Building a separate workshop (i.e. large shed) is also a possibility -
are there any reasons this would be better than a garage or basement?
Thanks in advance,
IMO, that is the biggest detriment to a garage sop. That is what I have and
in the winter, I work in it a lot less. On a really cold January night, it
is not simple to go out there just to tinker for an hour because it takes so
long to get up to a comfortable temperature. Then you shut the heat off
after an hour and it is all lost. Three seasons it is nice to be in the
garage, door open sun shining. In August, it is too hot and at night there
are the bugs flying in to land on your new finish. Just something to think
about and think about what times you like to work in your shop.
If I had a good basement for a shop, that is where it would be.
The first thing I did when we got the house was insulate the entire
garage and drywall over it. My shop is a separate room off the main
garage, but over the past 6 years, I've slowly expanded it into the
garage proper and it's nice and toasty warm all year long. I also
replaced all the windows with insulated glass and they can be opened
during the summer and closed in the winter.
IMO, there's no difference between an unfinished basement and an
unfinished garage, you'll have significant work to do on both before
they're ready for a shop.
It not only takes time to heat up the garage, but even longer to heat up the
tools. It doesn't bother some people, but my fingers ache like crazy if I
have to hold onto cold tools for more than a couple of minutes.
I used to have a garage, but as my shop took form, it did so in the
- Owen -
A fine dry basement is some of the cheapest space you can get. Build a
driveout, but keep a lot underground. Put in a woodstove with a flu in the
chimney for the upstairs woodstove and you'll easily keep it up to working
You are close to the kitchen, so can be called for meals.
You are next to the breaker panel and can hook up whatever you like.
You have the compressor, water heater, and freezer in a good environment and
it's comfortable if you hav eto work on them.
If some of the basement walls end up above grade, use windows for natural
I have about 2200 SF of basement with poured walls (much nicer than block)
and it's not too much!
Usually the kitchen is the closest room to the garage, the basement is
down a flight of stairs.
Our utilities in this house come in next to the garage. Electrical
comes in to a panel in the garage and then on to the main panel in the
basement. So for us getting a panel there wasn't even an add on.
But the shop is in the basement.
The biggest thing for me is there's no sink in the basement. Having
to chug upstairs to wet a rag or clean brushes is a pain. Especially
since the times you need a wet rag you don't always know in advance
and need it right then. If you can get a sink or a half bath down
there you'll appreciate having it.
I did it the easy way, we have one of those nice wireless expandable
phone systems so I have my own phone in the shop. When my wife wants
to call me, she hits the intercom and we can talk any time she feels
like it. If I'm out of the range of the phone, she just calls my
Speaking of this subject: (its now a sore point for me)
Those expandable systems with intercoms just do not work for me in my
woodshop... just nowhere loud enough for me to hear especially if I
am running a machine...
My local Phone Company (Verizon) stopped offering the Home intercom
feature about 6 months ago in my area...and I still have not solved
the problem...of of letting my wife "call" me in the shop...
I can not find another carrier MCI etc that offers it anymore... SOB
When I had the home intercom system from Verizon when the ophone rang
Radio Shack strobe lights lite up and flashed ...easy to know I had a
Anyone have another solution...???? As of now I have 4 Family Radios
in chargers, always on in my shop and the wife has a couple in the
house... She can buzz me with them BUT I still miss a lot of calls if
I am running a machine..
Rather Frustrating... almost to the point of installing a seperate
phone line just for the shop...OR installing VOIP and creating a
vertual phone number for the shop... Thinking about that option...
Iam not too old (60's) and I have not been able to remember to carry
my cell phone down to the shop... heck I forgget it most of the times
when I leave the house... Cell Phones and Me just are incompatable..I
It was a lot easier to install a sink and plumbing in the
basement than in the garage.
I can add new circuits easily in the basement.
The basement already has heating and cooling ducts, and the
temperature is pretty stable throughout the year anyway, so
adds little to heat or air condition along with the rest of
If only the basement were at street level, it would be
Having air conditioning in your shop is wonderful, but if the ducts are
connected to a central system that also supplies the rest of the house, you
are going to have sawdust spread evenly throughout the entire house and you
will suffer the wrath of SYMBO. Putting filters in the return duct won't be
adequate to stop it. After your first project you may never be permitted to
use your shop again. In order to avoid this, your shop air
conditioner/heating system must supply only your shop and all air duct
connections to the rest of the house must be blocked off and sealed. All
other openings that could pass dust to the rest of the house also needs to
be blocked off and sealed as well.
"Mike Berger" < firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote in message
I've always been of the opinion that dust can be a major problem in a
basement shop if the HVAC is a whole house system. With a little
effort I think that problem could be overcome.
I do know that my wife won't let me saw much in the house.
If you have a lot of open positions on your house circuit panel, then
it would be easier. Otherwise, you'd have to put in a subpanel anyway.
Once you do that, it's not much more money to put the subpanel
wherever you want.
Yesterday, I move six sheets of plywood into the garage. After doing
that (loading and unloading alone) I'm glad I didn't have to put them
in the basement. Even if I had a walkout, I'd hate to have to walk
around the house to get them into the basement. If you had a driveway
that went around to the basement door, then it would be ok I think. In
that case, I like the basement idea because heating/AC is a non-issue
and there's usually a lot of space. Having said that there's the
probem with sawdust not getting along with the furnace, headroom,
getting tools in, getting raw materials in, getting comlpeted things
out, fumes and ventilation for finishes. I think it could work, but I
wouldn't do it unless I had solutions for all these problems.
I'm about to build a new house also. I plan to put the 80 gal
compressor in the basement and run air lines up to the garage/shop. I
think I may use the basement for some lumber storage, but I doubt it.
I also plan to put up the largest outbuilding the association will
allow so that I can get things like bicycles, lawn and snow equipment,
and other stuff out of the garage/shop. Anything that's convenient to
put elsewhere, that's the plan.
I've never had basement shop, just the garage. Heating/AC is the
problem there. Insulating makes a big difference though. I'm going to
try to frame in an opening for a window ac/heater in the new house.
Having had both, I'd like to offer a list of the advantages and disadvantages
- a two-car garage is much roomier than any basement shop I've ever seen, IF
you can persuade SWMBO to park the cars in the driveway 24x7
- easy to get tools, lumber, and finished projects in and out
- dust, and fumes from finishing, don't get into the house too readily
- in a humid climate, tools will rust overnight, perhaps even faster
- tools are more vulnerable to theft, especially in a detached garage
- too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter
- wide swings in humidity levels can cause all kinds of problems with lumber;
for example, a project built with lumber that was at equilibrium moisture
content with the humidity in the garage may break within a few weeks of being
brought into the house where humidity is lower
- noise of power tools can disturb neighbors
- consistent comfortable temperature year-round
- much easier to control humidity
- convenience of a dedicated space (not shared w/ cars, bicycles, etc)
- noise made by power tools won't disturb your neighbors
- moving heavy tools down stairs is a pain (but you only do that twice: when
you buy the tool, and when you sell the house)
- likewise bringing lumber down, or finished projects up
- dust & fumes are in the house -- good dust collection and ventilation is a
- noise *will* disturb wife and kids
My preference is the basement.
Not that I can see. Seems to have all of the disadvantages of a garage, with a
few more added on:
- expensive to build and maintain
- less secure
- you have to go outside to get to your shop
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
This has been discussed many times here; Google "basement vs. garage shop".
I have a separate building for my shop and I think some of these same things
apply to a garage workshop. After having a shop in both the basement and
the building that I built, I wish now I had stayed in the basement. While I
enjoyed the process of building the shop, the shop is not nearly as cozy as
the basement was. Unless you have dedicated heating and cooling, you have
to think about how you are going to handle finishing when it is very cold
(will you leave a heater running when you aren't in there? Will you
remember to take all the glue etc. out to keep it from getting ruined in
very cold weather?
Regarding a separate building I have to agree with Doug in that when it is
pouring rain on a cold night in January, it is not fun walking to the shop.
I invariably forget something, requiring traipsing back & forth to the
house, whereas I never got wet walking downstairs. You can always use both:
I still use the basement for storing lumber and finishing some projects. It
is fun to go to the outside shop on Saturday afternoons sometimes and
"think" with my eyes closed. :-)
Let us know what you do and how it works out.
Having had both I would NEVER go back to a basement shop. Reasons
Noise: you will NOT be able to work anytime you want. SWMBO will have
all kinds of reasons for this.
Dust: It is extremely difficult to keep dust from entering the rest of
the house. Again SWMBO will be a major influence here.
Headroom: Swinging 8 foot or longer boards in a basement is much more
difficult than in a garage with 10-12 clearance floor to joists.
Humidity: I have yet to see a 'dry' basement. I suppose there are
places in the world where a dry basement is possible but I've never
lived there. If you're lucky, you will only need to dehumidify.
Minor but important: Getting 300-400 lb pieces of equipment into a
basement is hard. Getting finished work in and out of a basement is
How I manage to use my garage:
I insulated it and put in a window mount heat pump. I can use the
garage year round and the garage stays dry. This is an easy
conversion and not very expensive to do - make a deal with SWMBO and
include the insulation as part of the house purchase/upgrade before
you have all your stuff moved into the garage (and can be part of your
mortgage so little additional cash outlay). Include lighting in the
Mobile bases on all my equipment and workbench. When I don't have a
project, everything can be pushed against the outside walls and I can
park the car and my SUV in the garage.
Wood storage is ceiling/back wall suspended so equipment can be parked
under it when not in use.
Noise: The garage is attached to the house but compared to basement
noise is at a SWMBO acceptable level.
Space: a 2 car garage will give you at least 20x20 uninterrupted floor
space. A basement may be bigger but typically has center support
beams that always seem to be in the wrong place.
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