Planning My Future Shop - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Planning My Future Shop

 In Shop Blog

My girlfriend and I closed on our first house at the beginning of July, so we’ve been busy packing up our worldly possessions, moving and planning. While the house is lovely (built in the early 1900s, with good bones and a park directly adjacent), I’m more excited about the garage. And by garage, I mean the soon-to-be incredible workshop.

I’m not quite sure when the garage was built, but from the looks of it, I’m thinking it was around the same time as the house. Structurally, it’s in OK shape, though there are very few plumb corners. My first projects in this garage are going to be the decidedly not fun ones: shoring up the structure, running electric, doing a little demolition to the various shelves and storage cabinets hung haphazardly throughout and developing a plan to insulate the shell. I also need to figure out a solution for a level floor that doesn’t take up too much headroom.

For me, the biggest hurdle will be how much to insulate and heat. I’m in Minneapolis, so it gets quite cold for extended periods of prime woodworking time. I’ve had a drafty, uninsulated 2 car garage space to use for the last few years, and it’s usually bearable through early November. But November to March, it’s too cold to be working without gloves for an extended period of time. Also, from November to March, we need to be able to park one car in the garage. So there will be some compromises.

The fun stuff is just around the corner, though. Right now, the plan is to have a dedicated spot for my table saw and workbench, and keep the rest of my shop relatively mobile until I get into a groove. Dust collection is another consideration, and I’m planning to install a centralized system, with drops for the table saw, jointer and planer. I’ll use a shop vacuum to collect dust at the miter saw.

There’s also the matter of security. I did have a break-in and lost a few tools at my last place, and my house and shop is still in the city. Right now, I have a couple wireless cameras that work pretty well (I can always check in on my shop from my phone as long as I have service), and a deadbolt on the door. I don’t have any tools that are irreplaceable, but I have quite a few that I’d be bummed to lose. So I’ll also have a locking tool cabinet and will have to be vigilant about putting things away at the end of each day.

But all-in-all, I’m completely stoked to have a space to call my own. If you have any advice for a garage shop or things you wish you’d done before you started setting up your tools, please comment. And, I’ll keep you updated on the progression of the buildout. For now, though, it’s back to moving.

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Showing 12 comments
  • Andrew E

    You live in Minneapolis? I live in St Paul! I assumed the PopWood folks were all in Cincinnati. I’ll be interested to hear what you decide to do about heating, as I also work in my garage. I was actually thinking of renting studio space near work over the winter months.

    • Andrew Zoellner
      Andrew Zoellner

      I’m hoping to be fully insulated by the first freeze. Still crunching the numbers on heating – our house has a gravity furnace, so replacing that might take priority this year.

      • Starliner

        One thing I would suggest is to make a scale drawing of your proposed shop area. Make templates (also in scale) of the items you have information for, and things you estimate to be a certain size. Take into consideration your AC power distribution, receptacles, lighting, plumbing, heating sources, storage, dust collection, safety aspects, future growth, room access, and areas that will not be dedicated solely to your shop needs.

        It is WAY cheaper to lay out a space on paper first, before a REAL investment in time, money, and sweat. I’ve done it for manufacturing spaces, studios, garages, and smaller rooms alike. It’s worth a few days, or even more, to pre-plan what you want to do.

  • C. Stanley Plane

    If you do not need both overhead doors, you may be able to frame off one opening and add insulation. Overhead doors are huge heat leakers. You’ll want to maintain a 50° temp inside when your not in there, otherwise glue freezes and it takes too long to warm up when your set to work.

    • Andrew Zoellner
      Andrew Zoellner

      The plan is to replace the overhead door on the left with something more insulated and substantial. I’ve grown accustomed to doing winter glue-ups in the house, I’m hoping to find a way to keep the shop at 50° as much as possible. We’ll see!

  • Mightytuba

    I ran power to my shop by a 60 amp breaker to a sub panel and used a couple 20 amp single pole breakers to power the lights, receptacles, etc. I would run the lights separate from the receptacles so if you need to flip the breaker to the receptacles you will still have lights to see.

    • Andrew Zoellner
      Andrew Zoellner

      There’s a sub panel in the garage already, but it’s just two 20-amp circuits for the lights and garage door opener. Not sure if I’ll have to upgrade the electrical run from the house or if I can just upgrade the panel. Good advice on keeping the lights on a separate circuit!

  • Bentheredonethat

    You should think about doing a radiant heat floor with copper tubing running through your concrete floor. The copper tubing would be connected to a hot water heater equiped with a pump and thermostat. Speaking from experience you can get the temperature in the shop to be very comfortable with a wood burning stove ar conventional heater but you’ll never get that floor warm in the garage with those methods.

    • Andrew Zoellner
      Andrew Zoellner

      I wish I could do radiant heating – maybe in the next shop. My current plan for the floor is to frame it out with pressure-treated 2x4s on their faces, with rigid foam insulation in the gaps, covered with plywood. I’ve been in a couple other garage shops that did this and it seems to help. Plus I’d rather stand on plywood than concrete.

  • Chip Sawdust

    I have a little less space in my garage. I found that placing my workbench at the iutfeed end of my table saw, and putting it at an angle to the rest of the shop, saved some space and made it easier overall to work around that. My space is about 13×24. I have the usual, table saw, planer, jointer, still press, dust collector, dust filter on the ceiling, and my new Laguna 1412 band saw. Two of my benches roll around; one is a flip top with my bench grinder and one of my sanders mounted opposite the planer and jointer.

    • Andrew Zoellner
      Andrew Zoellner

      That sounds like an interesting layout. My first workbench is the right height for an outfeed table. I’d love to see a picture of your space if you have one handy. You can send it to

  • Joeellisseattle

    I’m glad for your excitement about your future, but why should anyone want to read this post? It’s all about you and shares no ideas about planning or “how-tos” for the reader. The article is written as though your were going to post it on Facebook. Not helpful. Thanks.

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