I have a little shop in my basement, and it works, especially since
it's my only option right now. What are your alternatives?
Pros: Easy access from the house - don't have to go outside. Doesn't
get below freezing. Lots of floor joists from which to hang tools etc.
Access to electricity (main panel) is usually easy. Your tools and
projects are hidden from prying eyes. Noise is less likely to bother
Cons: Noise can bother others in your house. Access is limited - think
about getting all your machines and stock down whatever stairs and
through whatever doors are there... Windows for ventilation may be
limited. Size for shop expansion is limited. Dust can get into rest
of the house. Theoretically, dust and/or fumes can pose a threat with
the open flames (pilot) of furnaces/water heaters. Ceiling height
limited - a shed/outdoor shop can be higher, which could be nice.
That's what comes to mind right now - I'll let you know if I think of
anything else. Good luck,
(Sorry if this gets posted twice!)
Joe Roberts wrote:
Add to that:
- temperature is more clement in the summer, too
- with central air conditioning, humidity fairly well matches the rest of the
- *much* less expensive to use space you already have, compared to the cost of
constructing, heating, and cooling a separate building
Add to that:
- access is a problem not just getting raw materials in, but even more so in
getting finished projects out
- many basements have water infiltration issues; you need to really be on top
of that -- and if you have a sump pump, make sure you have a battery backup
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
My buddy has a basement shop.
Dust and noise getting into the rest of the house, difficulty of getting
sheet goods and tools into the basement, difficulty of getting finished
Already heated, easy electrical access.
Well, there are several considerations. I won't classify them as pros
How's your headroom?
Remember, you'll be handling potentially long pieces of lumber. It
would be nice to do so without bapping them (or yourself) into the
How's your access?
How will you get those long pieces in and out of the basement?
Through the house? Through a window?
I myself load lumber through a basement window. It works well for
Also, you'll need to get machinery down your basement stairs (unless
you have a walkout). Can you do that safely? Will you be able to get
finished projects back up those stairs?
How's your layout?
Do you have enough infeed and outfeed space for your saw(s)? Will
you need to move one machine in order to use another?
How's your lighting?
Four 50-watt bulbs won't cut it. Figure on at least three times the
lighting you probably already have, plus task lighting where needed. I
use can lights set between the overhead floor joists. Works nicely.
Like clamps, you can never have enough lighting.
How's your dust control?
Get a dust collector if you don't already have one. Tracking sawdust
on the carpets is not appreciated. Your mate and your lungs and your
furnace will thank you.
Any open flames?
Solvents and flames, such as are produced by furnaces and water
heaters don't get along. Enough said.
How's your electric service?
Do you have enough capacity to run those additional lighting
circuits mentioned above, plus possibly dedicated 220V lines for
stationary tools, plus general-purpose 15 or 20 amp lines?
How's your lumber storage?
Can you store your stash accessibly and safely within your shop?
The preceding are just a few points off the top of my head. NOT an
exhaustive list and NOT meant to dissuade you. I have had my shop in
the basement for many years. Half the fun is constantly tinkering with
the shop layout and making things work more efficiently.
The other half of the fun is "sawdust therapy" - right downstairs!!
One thing that really helps, and I can't even really take credit for
it, is that the basement stairs in my place were carpeted when I
bought the place. Works really well for scrubbing the sawdust off
while climbing the stairs.
I guess it matters on the size of the shop. The basement and the house were
built around the shop(10 ft ceilings, dust collecting pipes under the
concrete,extra large double walk out doors, vents to the outside ,ect) I was
lucky the wife wanted a sunroom and gave me the basement as a woodshop. I
have 3 areas that I use a 16x16 main ,a 10x12 finishing room,and a 16x12
wood storage room.. The main advantage I found with the basement shop over
the garage shop is the all year use of the room and controlled humidity and
security. You may also save some money on house insurance if the insurance
company doesn't see your equipment(the garage is readily visible and the
basement is not)
On Tue, 16 Jan 2007 17:50:01 +0000, Joe Roberts wrote:
Pros--convenient, easy to heat. Cons, getting tools and wood downstairs,
noise and dust in house. Some basements just plain leak--something went
wrong with the membrane seal or there wasn't one and water gets in. If
yours is one of those then it's going to be hard on both tools and wood.
Make sure that there's at least one path that you can get a sheet of
plywood through without buggering it up. There are generally exposed
wires in a basement--make sure that you have them protected to the extent
that you're not going to continually be wanging board-ends into them. If
it's a new house currently under construction you may want to talk to the
builder about putting in electrical outlets and additional lighting--if
there's an electrician on site already to do other work the incremental
cost should be small, however the builder may charge a ludicrous markup
True dat! I run a dehumidifier most of the summer, but our area has
flooded in the past, so that's always in the back of my mind. Of
course, if I had a garageshop, security would probably be more of a
worry. Nothing's perfect.
I've noticed everyone agrees on getting the tools, material, and
finished products in and out.
There are a couple of companies that can cut a hole in your foundation
and add precast
stairs to the outside. just add the doors. I'ts a whole lot easier than
going through the house
with everything. Also, use a dust collector, even though most
unfinihsed basements have no
air returns in the basement it sure does help the breathing.
But since the stairs are close to the wall you do have some height
limitations. No problem getting boards in, sheet goods can be done
but you have to be careful. Can be an issue getting something like a
The cost is very high -- I was told to think about
$ 5000 as a minimum starting point and another $ 2000
for proper drainage.
You can hire a lot of people to help move your tools
and supplies for that much money.
Yes, it is pretty expensive add on. Even if you are requesting it when
building new, the builder is going to probably charge you considerably,
since an outside stairway to the basement is a pretty custom thing.
If you are willing to have a sloped yard with a walkout basement, that
works well. Otherwise, try to buy a house with a straight stairwell
that is fairly accessable. Ideally it's a straight shot from the garage
door or is in an open area like a kitchen. Even if you have to move the
kitchen table everytime you move a new big tool down, that's not too
Even if you DIY it.. I was considering it.. it's a lot of time and
labor that could be spent in the shop.
Yep, a guy could DIY it, but it's unlikely to be easy or pretty. I've
done the job as part of a professional crew, and it was a real PITA
Big things to consider are digging the hole- you could use a shovel,
but it'll be an insane amount of work, and cutting the foundation.
Cutting the foundation is the hardest part, if you ask me- we used a
"partner" saw with a diamond tipped blade for the job, and it was
about the loudest tool I've ever used, and created a huge amount of
dust. The footing could be left in place for a stairwell, but the one
we did required it's removal, and nearly took off a guy's foot in the
process (the only real access was standing on top of the concrete
itself while cutting it.)
Those saws are available as rentals, and a guy can get them- but using
them is very much like real work. Once that is done, then you've got
to pour a new footing, slab, and three walls. A guy can do all that
as well with some plywood and wailers, but then you're left with a lot
of concrete-splattered plywood at the end of the job.
There's really no part of the job that is fun for a woodworker, with
the possible exception of laying out the stairs and building the
doors. Having done it before, I'd consider $5000 a bargin for that
particular job. If I were pressed, and someone really, really wanted
*me* to do it, I'd quote at least double that.
I guess the moral of the story is that if you want it, and intend to
stay in your house for the forseeable future, I'd bite the bullet and
pay the man who gave you that quote. It wouldn't be a terrible idea
to check with an asessor as well- there's a fair chance that that
would increase the value of your house quite a lot. If you think
about it, it makes the basement legal living space (you've added the
required second exit, after all) and depending on your house's layout,
it may effectively double the square footage you can report when it
comes time to sell.
Maybe, if the basement meets the other requirements of code. Mine
doesn't, not because of the lack of an outside access (carefully sized
to make it very difficult to get a piece of Baltic Birch in without
buggering it up) but because of the ceiling height--the distance from
the first floor joists to the basement floor is a few inches shy of
what code requires--I'd have to jack the whole house up about 6 inches
to have the basement become legal living space..
I have had a basement shop and presently have one over the garage.
Basement is cheap and has problems listed by others. One benefit I wasn't
expecting occurred when I build a boat in the cellar. EVERYONE who came by
to check out progress opined that it probably wouldn't make it out the
cellar steps. So, when I called people to help lift the boat out the cellar
steps, EVERYONE showed up.....hoping to witness a disaster? Needless to
say, the boat came out without a scratch.
Over the garage looked great on paper; it is a really big two car garage
and the roof is 45 degree with an 18 inch knee wall. Problem is....there is
very little wall space. Wall space is very valuable!
I'll agree with everything else already said. If its a new house as
you state, make sure it is a walkout. Or build in from the start those
outside cellar doors.
With the old basement shop I was always worried about how to get big,
huge, heavy, industrial equipment into the basement. This was always a
deterrent. Maybe a good deterrent to getting crazy big equipment. I
had a straight shot from the outside door directly down the stairs so
12 foot boards and 4x8 plywood were easy to get in and out of the
basement. An appliance dolly could have handled a cabinet saw easy
enough if I had ever bought one. I made do with a contractor saw.
Biggest benefit is it is always available anytime night or day for a
minute or two or hours. Just walk downstairs and you are in the shop.
No walking outside to the detached garage/workshop. No walking in the
rain. No walking in the snow. And as someone else said, you work with
what you have. In most parts of the US basements are standard on
houses. No building an extra outside building. If you can even do
that. Cost or permit restrictions. No having your car ice and snow
covered because your shop is in your garage. And security.
I never found ceiling height much of a problem. All the stuff I ever
built had the long boards cut down to 6 feet at most at the very start
of the project. And if you are working on an 8 foot dining table, why
would you be standing the boards up on end anyway? They would always
be in the horizontal position. Never considered ceiling height a
drawback to worry about.
Basement is temperature controlled. Never colder than 50 in the
winter. Rarely above 80 in the summer. Never have to preheat or
precool the shop before you can use it and worry about the extra time
and cost before you can start using the shop. If you only have 30
minutes to enjoy, are you going to spend 15 heating the shop from 35 to
55? Middle of the midwest location for me. Do have to run a
dehumidifier as a necessity or precaution.
Bathroom is right upstairs. Or maybe have one in the basement too.
Water is accessible. Nice in a shop. Main electric panel will be in
the basement. Or as my situation is now, its in the garage but I can
easily run a subpanel to the basement. Just use some half size
breakers in the main panel to get extra space and put in a 60 amp 220
breaker. Run some heavy wire to the new big subpanel in the basement
and I'm all set with electricity. Run lights and outlets all over the
I never noticed dust in the rest of the house. I think this is usually
a fear of people who don't have a shop in the basement or people who
are not woodworkers. I do use a dust collection system.
I guess if I was fabulously wealthy, I'd have a separate building for
the shop. But if building a new house, I'd put in a walkout basement
and plan for the shop in the basement. Lot more advantages than
disadvantages for the recreational woodworker. A full time
professional would likely be better off with a separate building.
I pretty much agree with russellseaton1 above.
"Bathroom is right upstairs. Or maybe have one in the basement too.
Water is accessible."
We have a half bath in the basement.
"Biggest benefit is it is always available anytime night or day for a
minute or two or hours. Just walk downstairs and you are in the shop."
This is particularly handy for me. I am retired and I do not work for 6 - 8
hours at anything as a rule. While there have been times I wished I had a
shop in a detached building because of dust and noise, I would not spend
much time in it as I would not want to heat it continuously, I would not
want to heat it up of a few minutes of work (or cool it). As it is, I may
run down stairs for 15 minutes or a couple of hours when ever the notion
strikes me. We do have a straight in the back door stairs which is wider
than normal and makes access a little easier plus I cut plywood to rough
sizes in the garage. A basement where ground level entry is possible would
be better. I also have a dust collector plus a filter on the return air from
the shop area.
"You may also save some money on house insurance if the insurance company
doesn't see your equipment"
Anyone who thinks they are fooling the Insurance Company are only fooling
themselves as hidden, unreported, items aren't likely to be covered and may
even void the entire Insurance Policy if the need for it ever arises. Hobby
equipment is covered under our Home Owner's Policy.
Let me summarize my rambling response. And agree with WConner. With
the shop in the basement, it is far more likely to be used because it
is so close and always ready to go. No preheating for 15 minutes to
use it for 10 minutes, no precooling. Since a basement is mentioned, I
assume the house is in the colder climates where heating a detached
building or even attached garage would be required. Think about how
often you just walk into your shop for a minute or two? Easy to do if
the shop is in the basement. That convenience trumps lots of
disadvantages. If starting with a new house you can build in ways to
overcome the main disadvantage of accessibility for big heavy tools and
wood and plywood and finished projects. Walkout basement, outside
Bilco door, straight wide stairs to the basement from outside. As for
dust getting in the rest of the house, new nice gas furnaces can use
outside air for combustion so they can almost be selaed off from the
inside air. Double door vestibules to keep dust downstairs can be put
in. Weather stripping on doors downstairs. Lots of easy ways to keep
dust in the basement. And put a bathroom in the basement so you can
clean up and not track dust and dirt upstairs. Put a small cheap
refrigerator in the basement so you don't have to go upstairs and track
dust for a drink.
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