How to Design a Workshop: A Guide

Do it yourself (DIY) projects are becoming more and more popular with around 47% of homeowners in America taking on at least one DIY project in 2019.

A workshop can be a sanctuary where you can go to get things done or a workshop can be a nightmare of confusion and mismanaged space that gets in the way of progress. It all comes down to how you design it.

Designing a workshop that you can be proud of will bring you years of productivity and satisfaction with each successful project finished, but how to design a workshop for your needs? Read this guide to designing the workshop that you have always wanted.

How to Design a Workshop

Don’t approach designing your workshop as a choir. This is your opportunity to create a workspace that will be more comfortable and more functional than the area you use now. Have fun with it and imagine the possibilities.

Design the Shop Floor Plan

Take a moment to plan the project out. Laying out a workshop can be done using CAD software or just draw it out on grid paper. Decide the best places for big pieces of equipment like table saws and generators.

Workshops have two fundamental functions – to provide an adequate area to comfortable work on projects and a place to store all the equipment, tools, spare parts, raw materials, and any number of other nuts and bolts. When drafting up your floor plan make sure to keep in mind:

  • counter spaces
  • closed storage (cabinets, bins, barrels, lockers, etc.)
  • open storage (shelves, racks, hooks, magnetic strips, etc.)
  • sitting and standing work areas
  • waste removal area(s)
  • open areas for bigger projects

Be realistic with what you can expect to put inside your workshop’s space. A cramped workspace is difficult to move around in and is an accident waiting to happen. The efficient use of workspace is what differentiates the amateur DIY workspace with the professional and well thought out workshop.

Be creative with the space you have. Counters can be designed to fold down. Machinery can be mounted on carts to move around the shop when needed and rolled out of the way when not.

Build to Last

Workshops are not meditation gardens. Everything you put into the design of your workshop should be strong and durable. It is tempting to use cheap inferior building materials to save money, but you get what you pay for.

Workshop shelving should be metal or thick wood. Heavy tools and other materials will come on and off these shelves and overtime cheap materials will bend, bow, weaken, and break.

The heaviest piece in most workshops is the workbench. Traditional French workbenches had six-inch thick hardwood tops and massive supports to hold it up.

These days workbenches are engineered to be strong but not as heavy. A quality workshop workbench or countertop doesn’t sway or move when you put your full weight on it. If you’re looking to shave some dollars off the budget don’t compromise on your work surfaces.

Organize and Organize

Project after project keeps adding to the endless flow of “things” into your workshop. Do you have a place to put them and better yet remember where they are when you need them?

Using a designated drawer for odds and ins, often lovingly called a “junk drawer,” is a good way to train yourself into thinking throwing together a bunch of random stuff in a drawer will keep you organized. Before long your whole shop will be a junk drawer.

You may have hundreds of tools and each with an important purpose for your work. How much time do you want to be hunting down the tool you need rather than getting the work done? Creating a workshop that you can go to and feel you have everything ready allowing you to fully concentrate on the project is a good goal.

In a well-designed workshop, every tool has a place within hands reach of the project. Consider keeping a basic hand tool toolbox only for out of shop work. When in your shop you want all your tools organized on the walls, counters, work tables, shelves, and areas where you can easily see them and grab them.

Add a Sink

One feature often forgotten when building a home shop is a sink.  Water is a basic element in so many projects from mixing glues and concrete to cleaning tools and washing your hands.

You don’t want to be doing these things in the kitchen and bathroom sinks. Find out the best place to add a sink based on your existing plumbing and have it installed first.

You could buy a scrap used metal or porcelain sink. If you go the route of buying a new sink consider fireclay undermount sinks. These sinks are durable and the surface is easy to clean making them good workshop sinks.

Ventilation Heating and Cooling

Proper airflow in your workshop is vital for your health, comfort, and safety while you work. Workbenches and counters where you will be using chemicals with toxic fumes should have direct ventilation. Install an exhaust fan and hood above an area of your workshop you use for such work as painting, sealing, and polishing.

Especially if you live in hot or cold climates, your workshop needs to be designed with temperature and humidity comforts in mind. Hang up a digital thermometer and humidity gauge in the heart of your workshop. Regulate the air in your shop with heating, cooling, and dehumidifiers to keep it dry, clean, fresh, and cool.

Install Lighting

Start with the shop’s ambient lighting first. Install Fluorescent overhead fixtures over all the walk areas of the workshop. The ceiling lightings should be bright enough to light up the entire room and the light coming from above will work nicely to eliminate shadows and dark corners of your shop.

Next, install separate lighting for your workbenches, tables, counters, and the areas where equipment and machinery are used. Going with bright white or soft yellow lighting is a matter of preference, but most find working in bright white light more to their liking.

You may want to consider mobile lighting as well. An electric lantern can come in handy when you need light in or under something you’re working on. Check out this guide for more information on selecting lighting and installing them.

Creature Comforts

Just because it’s called a work-shop doesn’t mean you can’t be comfortable and even enjoy your time there. Take the time to add something to the design the will give you entertainment, relaxation, and pleasure to the space you spend so much time in.

Here are a few ideas that might get you thinking about spoiling yourself a little:

  • refrigerator for cold beverages and snacks
  • stereo system and/or PC for music
  • a couch or small bed for serious rests
  • dartboard or toy basketball net
  • a real comfortable chair
  • a chair or two for guests
  • plants or even a waterfall
  • paintings, posters, maybe a calendar
  • a cork pinboard for pinning up photos and project plans

Sound Proofing

You don’t want to be bothering everyone in the general area with loud machinery and music. For a few hundred bucks you could put up sound-absorbing foam or even work it in between the drywall if you’re framing out your workshop.

It is a secure feeling to know that behind the closed doors of your workshop you can be as loud as you want and not disturb the neighbors.

After Thoughts

Great workshop designs are always a work in progress. Keep adjusting and rearranging until you get it just right. As you work in the space it will call out to you for changes that will make things easier.

Listen to that little voice and your workshop will grow and evolve as you do. Don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. Keep in mind your first workshop design is just the beginning and you can always add to it later.

Always be looking for new inspiration. Workshop magazines and social media groups online are packed full of valuable workshop design ideas that you could incorporate into your workshop as your needs evolve.

Where the Magic Happens

In the end, it is all about the project. A well-designed workshop makes for a better home for your projects and gives you everything you need to pour passion and love into what you do.

How to design a workshop doesn’t have to be a mystery. All big projects, including designing a workshop, start with research, and careful planning. Go online and do some image searches to stimulate ideas, but first read a couple more lifestyle articles here on our blog.

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