Basement Workshops

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Blog entry by Rev. Jim Paulson posted 02-11-2014 01:28 PM 2927 reads 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

How many people find that a basement is the ideal place for a woodworking shop? I am guessing that the number is high for those who prefer a basement and it might even be 50:50 between those who opt for the basement or the garage. There are pros and cons to a basement environment and I’ll touch on those later. Before I could get excited about my basement for a shop, I opted to install a backup sump system. It provides added protection during power outages. Well, I was also blessed to have an unfinished basement in a fairly newer home with concrete poured walls. You might have a basement shop if you have moved a number of times in the last ten years. I was in favor of a basement shop because I wanted a space that could be usable year round and didn’t require a separate heating system.

The challenge that I have after experiencing moving last year is that I want to get my stuff organized and yet I really crave the opportunity to get busy making projects. I am also looking over my floor space and making decisions about storage, placement of tools and machinery, and wood storage. So while I wall off areas and make progress on getting organized, I am thinking more about the layout of the machinery. Shop layouts based on the literature and blogs are very individualistic to me and mine will be the same way—it will have to make sense for the tools I have and woodworking projects I take on. It truly seems like trial and error for now on the placement of machinery and maybe that has been your experience too. Mobile bases aren’t always that helpful either although I do appreciate them on some machines. My beef with mobile bases is that the larger footprint of the mobile bases has to weighed against keeping a machine in one place and gaining some space from the smaller footprint of the tool base/stand.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a basement woodworking shop? The ease of temperature control is certainly a positive. I can remember firing up the woodstove for hours in my separate shop building in Upstate New York, before it was comfortable to work in. I also like the fact too that being in the house one can work in the shop for short periods. Some of the negatives though are the need to protect the furnace from dust and the chemical smells that work their way through the house. It encourages the use of environmentally friendly finishes. I think that a challenge to both the garage and the basement settings for a workshop is that storage of household items often competes for shop space. Basements and garages are areas that lend themselves to accumulation of seasonal and extra things.

Shop pictures will come later in a follow up blog. You can see what kind of woodworking I do from my blog at and


16 comments so far

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

10022 posts in 3666 days

#1 posted 02-11-2014 02:53 PM

Shop noise bugging the people above is an issue.

To avoid “mixed use”, partition off the basement shop from the rest of the basement and declare it shop use only.

Insulate well and you can heat a basement shop with a couple electric space heaters.

Wet basements are not good candidates for basement shops.

Getting large projects out of the shop can be very difficult.

And the all time #1 draw back of the basement shop…..... ceiling height… this makes handling full size panels difficult.

All that said, I have a basement shop and have found ways to overcome the problems.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View Rev. Jim Paulson's profile

Rev. Jim Paulson

120 posts in 4614 days

#2 posted 02-11-2014 03:03 PM

Matt those are great comments. I can certainly relate to several of them, especially the difficulty of handling and putting up sheet rock on the walls. I mostly pre cut the length of the sheets in the garage. I like the idea of insulating the ceiling too. Regarding wet basements, I had that problem in Upstate New York. It was pretty disturbing to see some carving chisels showing rust after a short time in the basement. Suffice it to say the problem wasn’t as easy as running a dehumidifier.


View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4204 days

#3 posted 02-11-2014 03:13 PM

It’s becoming more and more an issue of insurance. Insurance companies are starting to take a dim view of a woodworking shop in a basement of your house. In fact, they are beginning to take a dim view of any shop that is attached to your house at all. If you have a shop that is even small and attached to your house where you make some money on the side it’s becoming difficult to get any insurance. You need to ask your insurance agent some hard questions to find out if you are covered under various circumstances. You shouldn’t just assume that you are covered. The Devil is in the details (fine print).

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View ScottStewart's profile


120 posts in 3469 days

#4 posted 02-11-2014 03:50 PM

When I started out and was researching, Bill Pentz scared me to a garage shop to keep the dust out of the house. The downside is that I am out of the shop 2-4 months in the winter and 1-2 months in the summer due to temperature extremes. Now that I am moving back toward hand tools and want to be able to do more year round work, I am going to put at least a bench back in the basement.

View Ottacat's profile


556 posts in 3189 days

#5 posted 02-11-2014 04:14 PM

Have you found getting machinery in the house, throught the upstairs and down the stairs to the basement to be limiting in any way? To me it would eliminate several types of machines. If I ever moved I’d dread having to basically disassemble the machinery to move it up and out. At least in the garage a moving company can put it on a dolly and move it.

View chrisstef's profile


18140 posts in 4344 days

#6 posted 02-11-2014 04:30 PM

Ive got a basement shop and the noise definitely can be an issue. Our living room is located directly above the shop with nothing in between except subfloor and finished flooring. Partly because of this ive moved to using a lot of hand tools. I try and break down and mill my stock on the weekends so im not waking the whole house up during the weeknights when im down there. The other downfall is that im constantly tracking gossamer shaving up the stairs so ive moved to wearing a shop apron and a dedicated pair of shop shoes.

I haven’t had too many issues with the smell from finishing migrating upstairs. A good ceiling hung air filtration unit has helped to keep the dust out of the furnace. It stays a moderate 55 in the winter and 65 in the summer (new England climate) in the shop which is fine working weather in my book, id say temperature control is a bonus. Luckily I have a walk out basement so getting stuff in and out hasn’t been too much of a problem.

All in all I like a basement shop but if I could have a climate controlled garage shop I would prefer it. The thought of opening the garage doors on those nice days is something awesome but the expenses of heating and cooling the garage may out weigh that.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Rev. Jim Paulson's profile

Rev. Jim Paulson

120 posts in 4614 days

#7 posted 02-11-2014 05:15 PM

Charles makes a good point about insurance and in my mind it just helps me want to move more toward a hand tools shop as soon as I can. In the meantime though, controlling dust is essential when machines and sanding is involved and I will opt for an overhead system like what chrisstef mentioned. When you think about the chemicals many folks have in the house whether they are woodworkers or not, some common sense has to prevail in how we approach woodworking.

Concerning heavy machines, the toughest machine I had to move was my JET thickness sander. I acquired it years ago to make table tops and it is a sweet machine. The movers took care of it. When you move heavy machinery you start to think that maybe you should have sold it a long time ago. But seriously, I probably need it for now. Fortunately things like a lathe and the table saw can be broken down. But access to the basement was a consideration when I purchased the home.

But let’s face it if someone wants to do woodworking we’ll usually find a way. I would find a way to do woodworking in a bedroom if that was the only space available. Not too long ago, Bob Rozaieski, of Logan Cabinet Shoppe, talked about his bedroom size shop in Popular Woodworking. Some basements though make it tough to navigate tools and wood into them and then the garage or another space seems the best fit.


View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 5103 days

#8 posted 02-11-2014 05:36 PM

Do you guys with basement shops have ant dust problems in your living quarters?

View lepelerin's profile


498 posts in 3662 days

#9 posted 02-11-2014 06:06 PM

I do have a small basement shop. Glad I have this space to work.
Dust is not usually a problem as I tend to use more and more hand tools. I only have a few electric tools (TS, router, planer and sander). I did manage to build efficient connectors to all the electric tools and connect them to my shop vac. No dust escaping here. I do have a pair of dedicated shoes for the shop. and I rarely use the sander. I use scrapers.
Ceiling is low but I am already thrilled I do have a space to work.

If I had the money and space to build a bigger exterior workshop I think I would do it.

View Grumpymike's profile


2500 posts in 3653 days

#10 posted 02-11-2014 07:23 PM

Very interesting topic to say the least.
I have in the past had a two car garage shop, then moved to a one car garage, then moved again to a basement shop (multi use basement), then into a two car garage and now into my 24’X48’ detached shop.

The things I found most annoying were the low overhead in the basement shop and the lack of ability to cut an 8’ board let alone a 4’X8’ sheet of ply. This limited what the project could be, and getting them out was always a two person chore.

Basements and garages are very useable spaces and for many of us, and I was always darned proud of my shop where ever it was located but they all have their limitations and trials.

When I retired and moved to this nice warm sunny spot, I had some requirements for the purchase of our home. #1 was lots of kitchen space and loads of cabinets, and #2 space to build my dream shop to name a few. As I moved here we set up shop in the garage … the first thing we noticed was that the micro fine dust went everywhere in the house … added filters to the shop and the AC … and then a bought Roomba.

I spend a lot of time in my new shop and I love it, but often I think back to the times that I had to break down material off the PU tail gate, and sit at my dimly lit bench wishing that I had a bit more room …
Then I think of AngieO Working on a stack of pallets … Oh how fortunate we really are.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View dbhost's profile


5864 posts in 4569 days

#11 posted 02-11-2014 09:46 PM

Where I live, the big disadvantage of basement shops is… Nobody has a basement. Houses here are all built slab on grade. The water table is VERY close to the surface. A basement around here would be an indoor swimming pool before too long…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View HerbC's profile


1821 posts in 4197 days

#12 posted 02-11-2014 09:59 PM

+1 to built on slab, high water table, swimming pool …


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View BJODay's profile


528 posts in 3280 days

#13 posted 02-11-2014 10:49 PM

At my old house, I had a 12×16 outbuilding. It was insulated well, but no heat. I could make it tolerable with a small portable electric heater. This took forethought and planning ahead. Not my strong suit.

I now have a warm dry shop in the basement. The best part is being able to walk down for 10-15 minutes of farting around. I sand and finish outside.

A walk out basement would be ideal. Easier to move machinery and lumber.


View clieb91's profile


4264 posts in 5272 days

#14 posted 02-12-2014 02:59 AM

The one request I have from DW is that she has a space in the garage for her car. So with that and the other stuff in the garage it really was not an option. I love my basement shop, it is close to my basement office, I can wander in there for a few minutes or a few hours.
Larger pieces of wood can be a problem especially since I do not have a a walk out, the one thing I would like to have. But I still have access to the garage and I can breakdown most of my larger stuff there and carry it down when I am ready for it. I also do a far portion of my finishing in the garage. As for equipment I have found it is handy to have a friend or two around for the really heavy stuff, most of my equipment is benchtop though so it has not been too bad.

Growing up I always seemed to carve out a niche for myself in the basement of any of the houses we lived in so it only seems sensible that I am still in one now :)


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View Picken5's profile


327 posts in 4029 days

#15 posted 02-12-2014 04:39 AM

My basement shop is walled off from the rest of my basement. (The basement was unfinished when I bought my house.) It’s a small shop, but I do have most of the basic power tools (TS, BS, jointer, planer, DP, lathe, etc). The basement has a concrete slab floor and the walls are all poured concrete. I weatherstripped the shop door (yep, it’s an interior door) and added a sealing threshold. That, and the fact that I made sure there was no HVAC return in the shop seems to keep the dust out of the rest of the house. I controlled the noise by insulating the ceiling of the shop and all the shop walls. Getting bigger tools down there is a bit of a hassle. I’ve taken the larger ones apart to get them down there. (My TS won’t even fit through the single door into the shop without being disassembled.) It’s pretty rare that I have to work with large sheets of plywood — and when needed, I’ll pre-cut them before taking them down to the shop. The plus-side is it’s only a few steps from my basement office so I can check in on a glue joint I’ve left drying or head down in the evening for an hour if I feel like it. It’s always been dry, warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Pretty much I can use it any time I want to.

-- Howard - "Time spent making sawdust is not deducted from one's lifetime." - old Scottish proverb

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