I would like to add a room to the side of my house for a small wood shop.
The best I can do with my property is a shop no more than nine feet wide.
Length can be as much as twenty feet. I would need a table saw, of course,
as well as a work bench and some of the essential, smaller power tools
(router table?, band saw?, etc.) Do I have enough space?
I have seen a "complete" woodshop contained in one portable box! It
really depends on what you intend to build. You can improvise too. I
know one shop that when he needed to rip a long board he opened a
window to feed the board. In another shop he rolled the machines out
onto a patio--of course this can only be done on good-weather days. A
table saw is very important to me, but I've seen small shops without
one. At one time my "shop" was my apartment living room, and I waited
until my neighbors left before powering up my tools.
It depends. What do you anticipate building?
Do you really need a cabinet saw with a 50" fence?
Will a benchtop DP, BS, etc be adequate?
In any event consider putting everything on wheels so
you can park the stuff you aren't using at the moment
out of the way.
It depends on what sort of projects you're going to be doing and how
much stuff you plan to cram in there. It's probably more of how
efficiently you set up the shop and how well you use the space, rather
than simply the square footage.
Rule #1: go vertical early. Start thinking of utilizing the wall
space for cabinets and hanging items from the ceiling rather than just
planning the floor layout.
I've been working in half of a two-car garage (with the double door on
the long side) for years.
Small shops are a real challenge, and like others have said, you have
to be very selective re: big iron, and what you can realistically
build. In my shop, a highboy or armoir are not realistic.
The biggest challenge is to balance the floor space occupied by tools,
bench, &tc., and still have enough room for a make-up table for larger
items. That's my biggest grip: no room for a make-up or finishjing
table. If you're not careful, you'll always be moving tools, jigs,
&tc. from the bench to the TS and back.
My advice: PLAN AHEAD. Think through and implement the dust
collection, wood and sheet goods storage, clamp strage, and fastener
and hand tool storage BEFORE you clutter it up with power tools.
Overall size is secondary to layout.
I have a 24x32 basement that is all mine, minus a furnace, 275 gallon
tank, and washer / dryer pair. Said basement has 7' ceilings, a
center staircase, and lolly columns down the center.
It's not as big as it sounds!
Two recent projects were a 6 (comfy) person QSO dining table (for me),
and a king sized maple platform bed (for a client), and they really
maxed out the space. The bed is built using two ~twin sized units,
with the headboard being a third piece, along these lines:
The guy wanted a clear maple bed with a birdseye headboard, which
isn't available from the factory. The bed really pushed the space for
all it's worth.
The toughest part of maxing out ANY space of any size is not damaging
work in progress while you move it about the shop. It's taken me
years to learn how not to move large parts around without banging them
on walls, posts, or stationary tools. So even if the space is small
think "parts movement"!
Mine is 12x14. Pretty crowded, I don't have room for a bandsaw or a
separate finishing room. My table saw, drill press, lathe, and
stationary disk sander are all mounted on storage cabinets. My
workbench also has storage under it. Other tools like my planer,
scroll saw, grinder, etc. fit in the cabinet under the tablesaw and
most of the hand tools hang on the walls or fit in cabinet drawers.
It's not ideal, but I do OK except when building large pieces of
furniture. Your 9x20 would be a bit larger than mine.
Mine's 9' x 18' with a furnace in one corner. I'm still in the process of
building storage cabinets and such so I can get all my tools in and still have
a place to stand. With mobile bases and clever storage, all the standard
stationary machines and accompanying accessories can fit, but it's a big
Doors and windows AND a 10 foot ceiling.
Carefully plan the placement of your doors and OPENING windows and you can
plane, miter 16 foot boards and molding, and cut full sheets of plywood on a
table saw in that space.
Don't under estimate the value of a high ceiling in a small shop. It will make a
Do I have enough space?
Also agree with many others about wheeled tools. It will make your
life so much easier! Also, plan for wood storage. To be honest it is
the WORST thing about my shop - not planning for it and buying
too much at one time. I'm considering a separate whole building
just for that! I'm building some wheeled storage units for the small
pieces and I have racks for the longer ones. The sheet goods are
another matter and are quite troublesome in my arrangement.
You will NOT have enough space - you never do. Your space
is fine for a number of things and as you get more 1) tools, 2) wood
you will feel a squeeze!
My shop is 9 x 19. It is tight, but managable. Here is a list of the
major things in it: workbench, 14" bandsaw, 6" jointer, 12.5" planer,
1.5 hp dust collector, 12" CMS, a little wood storage, router table,
bench top drill press. I think not having a table saw is the key to
making my shop work. It just takes up too much floor space. If you do
get a table saw, make sure you get the smallest one you can find. You
will be cursing a 52" fence.
In addition to what others have said, here are some things that I have
* Working with plywood in a shop this size with these tools is very
unpleasant. It is very difficult to manipulate the sheets, even if I
got out and cut them on the driveway. Aside from dealing with plywood,
I feel like I do just fine without a table saw.
* I moved most of my wood storage outside. I just got adjustable
shelves at Home Depot and put them on the side of the building, under
the eaves. I don't store fine hardwood out three, but it is great for
material left over from fencing, etc. that was taking up room in my
shop. Under the eave, it is actually very dry.
* I have a garage door at one end and a man door at the other end. I
didn't choose this configuration. The garage door is very useful and
makes the effective shop size bigger because you can stick long boards
out the door. A man door actually takes up quite a bit of room,
especially if it swings in. I would consider just having french doors
at one side that swing out.
* If you have a garage door, remember that raising the door impacts
things. For example, it may block your lights or hinder your plans for
* My band saw jointer, planer, and dust collector are all smashed
together as tightly as possible at one end of my shop. That leaves a
much larger open space to do work.
* Remember that with 9 x 19, the 9 is almost always your limiting
factor, so try really hard not to put things against the wall. For
example, my workbench is 24" wide and I have considered building one
that is 18" wide, just so I don't use up as much space.
* At the end opposite the garage door, I put up shelves. The very top
of the shelves hold lumber < 9' long. The rest is tools, etc. I used
to have shelves along the 19' wall, but that eats up too much width.
Again, try not to have anything permanently attached to the 19' walls.
* I feel like I really don't have room for lumber storage. I basically
have to buy wood for a project, use it up, and then move on to the next
project. I have one sturdy set of supports pretty high on the 19' wall
to hold that wood. Then as it gets milled down, I can move scraps over
to the shelves on the 9' wall.
* As somebody else mentioned, vertical makes a big difference, too. I
built shelves all the way around the top, very high, to hold paint and
finishing supplies. My clamps are stored in the rafters. That's the
only thing that I've found I can effectively fit in my rafters.
* When you start building miter saw stands, router tables, etc, build
them small! I've basically rebuilt very thing because they were way
too big to start with.
* Somebody on the web has Visio templates for shop layout. Those are
very useful. If you don't have Viseo, make scale drawings of tools you
have or plan to buy and arrange them on paper. As somebody else said,
I would definitely buy one tool at a time based on what you need right
them. You will quickly get to the point where your shop is "full."
I have 11 x 31 (1/2 basement). I find myself crammed in because I didn't
plan ahead. I most especially didn't plan for "windfall lumber" ... which
has to be grabbed when it's offered or lost forever.
I am in the process of re-arranging based on a scale profile layout and
about 18 months experience.
As you plan this room, figure on about twice as much lighting as you think
you'll actually need. Also allow for about twice as many amps as you guess
you'll use and outlets much more often than code requires.
If I could build my ideal shop (say 24 x 60 or so with high ceilings and
an overhead office), I'd have to convince my wife that it was time to move
... or else buy & demolish the house next door.
That's not gonna happen.
What IS going to happen is that I am going to learn how to use the space I
have. I expect that I will be moving things around again in a year or two
... I might be able to talk my wife out of half of her laundry room by
doing a bang-up job of remodeling the part that's left over. But I will
never have a 'model shop' unless or until I can squeeze a lot more money
out of this one.
Then I can buy those 20 wooded acres in Tennessee my wife and I were
looking at last year.
Look at it this way, if this is what you can get, then it is 180 square
feet more than nothing.
Certainly this is do-able, you will really need to plan ahead regarding
where you are going to store things (sheet goods are going to be an issue,
as will other wood storage). You might want to see if you can store your
As others have mentioned, see how high you can build up. Vertical height
will help with both storage and the ability to rotate long pieces.
If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough
I've read all the replies and it seems everyone is answering in terms
of what they have at hand. But you are talking about building new,
from scratch. That's quite an investment and it pains me to think
about all that new construction for only 9 feet of width. On top of
that you're talking about building it as an addition to your house. It
seems to me you are going to be getting very low bang for the buck,
that is overbuilding. Have you considered selling the house and
finding something with more room?
While I don't think I would add a 9' wide addition to my house unless
it would make it proportionately more valuable and suitable for other
uses by potential future owners, my theory on shop size is this:
No shop is too small to start with; no shop is too large to outgrow.
Mine is 16' x 24' completely separate from the house. I considered it
huge when I built it. I now consider it outgrown and I am laying out
a 25' x 40' which will be the next step. Have reached a consensus
agreement with my better half that now that the kids are gone, house
size can be reduced by one third, shop size can increase by a factor
of three. This, of course will require a move.
I always have to laugh at what some people consider 'necessary' for a
wood shop. My father did an amazing amount of woodwork in the basement
of our house when I was a kid. Now, this basement was nothing more than
a dirt hole. The ceiling was so low (and Dad was 6' 2"), he would
literally bang his head if he wasn't careful. The basement was small,
cramped, and stuffed with all sorts of things to get in the way (oil
furnace, water heater and water softener, canned food shelves, etc.).
And yet, somehow, he managed.
If you've got the space, use it! If not, work in the space you got!
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