Ask WWGOA: Garage vs. Basement Workshop

Question:

I’m planning on moving from Las Vegas back to Minnesota. I’m in the process of designing my house which will hopefully be built next year. I want to build a work shop in my attached garage or basement. Both will have a dust control system and both will be confined to a single room. My question is…which would be the better location?

I’m concerned about the possibility of the cold temperatures and humidity rusting my stationary power tools in the garage. On the other hand, would a basement shop confined, to one room, pose a health hazard for my family? I’d appreciate any advice or suggestions.

Submitted by Wild Wood

Answer:

There are plenty of reasons to take you in either direction on this.

Lots of woodworkers are doing extensive woodwork in their basements. If you choose to go this route, you’ll need to make sure you have an isolated room in your basement and good dust collection on your tools. The benefit is that you’ll be working in an environment that’s consistently heated and humidified, which is best for your tools and your material.

Having your tools in the garage can create some maintenance issues. When your car comes in in the winter, covered with snow, and the snow melts, you’re adding moisture to the environment.You can stay ahead of this, by treating your tools with woodworking-specific products, such as Empire’s Table-Top Lube. These products do a great job of protecting cast iron. In good weather, you’ll be able to open the garage doors and let in lots of fresh air (along with mosquitoes….).But if you’re using your garage for typical garage-type stuff, you’ll have to put your tools away in order to park your cars.

If I had to choose, I’d probably go for the basement shop, instead of sharing space with cars, a lawn mower, bikes….Just make sure that in planning your house you make it easy to get tools and materials down there. A great alternative would be an extra deep garage so you could dedicate some shop space there. With just a little framing, you could separate that space from the rest of your garage and have a great dedicated shop space.

George


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Discussion
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14 Responses to “Ask WWGOA: Garage vs. Basement Workshop”
  1. PAUL

    I was faced with the question a number of years ago, I live in a similar climate (Green Bay, WI). I decided on a basement shop with wide stairs leading to the garage in addition to an interior stairs. I have a seperate heat source and no return airs in the basement connected to the rest of the house. I have a separate forced air unit for the basement, the only thing that I would change is to skip the FA heat and simply utilize a milkhouse heater. I’m always happy when I’m in my basement.
    And my wife has never complained about noise or dust in the house, that’s because there is none, dust that is.

    Reply
  2. David Walcher

    I have a friend who excavated the space under his garage. That is inexpensive to do when you are building and he had a large shop, the size of his garage, without sacrificing his garage space. Also, insulate it and you can heat it as you would a basement and no dust in the house.

    Reply
  3. Bryan Olsen

    I live in Minnesota and recently built a new house. I added and extra 28 feet to the garage with a wall to separate the garage and shop. The walls are insulated with LED lighting and infloor heat. The shop is also wired according to my needs to include dedicated 220.

    Reply
  4. Jim Goode

    I used to have a basement shop when I lived in a Chicago suburb. I now live near Phoenix and have a 3 car garage. I put up a wall with a pocket door to separate the one car space for my wife’s car and the 2 car space for my Woodshop. I park my truck on the driveway.

    Reply
  5. richard

    Agree with alternative for extra deep garage. Had a friend who did that in Colorado in designing his house was to add 12 feet to the back and access from the house or garage. Plus he made the garage 4 feet wider to store all of the garage stuff and lumber.

    Reply
  6. Bob Wye

    A retired neighbor recently moved in to a house designed specifically for his family — and his woodworking. It’s built on a sloping lot. The lower level (a.k.a. basement) has a huge space for workshop and storage and is walk-out to the driveway with double doors (5-1/2 ft clear opening) plus another door at the other end to outside (mostly for emergency, I suppose). High ceiling, lots of lighting, big space in exterior corner for dust-collection machinery. If you have the time and you have the money, do things right while you can.

    Reply
  7. KEN

    I had basement shop/tornado shelter and car garage when I lived in WI. However, in eastern WA, we typically don’t have basements.My new house has 4-car (insulated) garage with a center divider. Cars on one side and workshop on the other side. Also no stairs in my single-level house.

    Reply
  8. Michael Dilling

    It has been said here in Indiana that if a single man designed a house it would have a bathroom, a kitchen an bedroom and a 10 car garage. While I don’t have that, I am retiring and finding a place to do something similar. Unless you have a walk out basement, the location and accessibility to the basement can determine the size and weight of your projects. Sharing a garage that houses vehicles with a wood shop is a problem, whenever you want to use the workshop you have to move the vehicle out and set up the machines. That’s time you could have used enjoying your shop. My choice is to have a separate space dedicated to the shop and let it’s size be determined by budget and what machines you have. You will be surprised how much more you will enjoy the work and the space.

    Reply
  9. John

    I currently have a workshop in my double car garage which the first winter we were here I shared with my wife’s car. The second winter, the car stayed outside and this fall we just purchased a car tent that her vehicle will be parked in this winter. Having the whole garage is great, however it is currently unheated which pretty well shuts me out of woodworking over the winter since I don’t think running the power tools in the cold does them a whole lot of good. However, I just move into the basement and play with my model railroad in the winter! Problem solved!

    Reply
  10. Michael

    Had woodshop in both, garage was small, so no cars made it inside.
    Watch for moisture in the basement, still remember the humid summer day I opened the basement window for fresh air. Basement was cool, so were the tools. Fine layer of rust showed up on every unprotected surface.

    Reply
  11. Kevin Snyder

    I built a wood shop here in N.E. Ohio in half my basement by framing the walls with 2×4’s and covering the upper half of these walls with plywood so I could make lumber storage racks and hang what ever I wanted. Spacing of tools is always an issue but every tool is on a cabinet on wheels so I can move around for premium use. I did move my older miter saw to the garage to cut long pieces before carrying them down stairs and left my better more modern miter saw in the basement.

    Reply
  12. Red shrum

    I prefer the climate control in my basement but find a limitation imposed by egress. Larger projects must be built sectionally due to limitations in the size and shape of the stairway.

    Reply
  13. Jay Pugsley

    I am finishing up a wood shop I walled off in my garage. about 32″ X 24″. wiring seperated from the garage, with separate lighting and a 36″ door right next to the main garage door to make materials entry easy.

    Reply