Air quality in the small basement shop

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Forum topic by Dave posted 04-17-2017 03:08 PM 965 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Dave's profile


8 posts in 1285 days

04-17-2017 03:08 PM

I just moved into a new home. My woodworking shop will be in a small unfinished section of my otherwise finished basement. My college aged kids have their bedrooms down there. My space has no windows or exterior doors. I want to set up my table say, miter saw and router table but am concerned about dust escaping to the rest of the house.

Right now my DC is a harborfreight cheappy and shop vacs. No air cleaner yet. But i am looking.

I think i can seal the shop up from the rest of the house but there will always be the door between the finished and unfinished areas.

What have people done to keep the dust from spreading around the house?

8 replies so far

View HickWillis's profile


115 posts in 1539 days

#1 posted 04-17-2017 03:55 PM

Best way to control it is at the source…the tools. I would consider upfitting the HF DC or upgrading to something more substantial. If your DC at the tools is on point, you will have little to worry about.

-- -Will

View clin's profile


1121 posts in 1876 days

#2 posted 04-17-2017 04:54 PM

While there is an ongoing debate about just how serious a health issue woodworking dust is, I think common sense says you want to keep it out of your living space.

As Will said, collecting it as it is generated is the most important thing. A room filter is real helpful as well.

You definitely want to seal off the shop from the house. Treat the door from the living area into the shop like an external door. Good weather stripping, threshold, and door sweep. Every other crack should be looked at as well. This will also help to sound proof the shop.

Obviously you don’t want the shop air to be part of your house HVAC system. So seal that off if it is even there. Supply the shop with it’s own heating and cooling.

My shop is a converted garage bay and I have a door that opens directly into the house. Being it was a garage, this door is effectively an exterior door and sealed well. Unfortunately I do not have a DC other than a shop vac. Though I have fitted that shop vac with a Dust Deputy cyclone, vac bag and HEPA filter. I also use a Jet room filter.

I have a Dylso particle counter and can see by direct measurement how well things work. Would a full blown DC work better, absolutely. But the shop vac does really well. Or rather I should say if I forget to run it, things are very much worse. The room filter also is extremely important for bringing the particle count down.

In may case, I believe the dust on my clothing is the worst offender concerning bringing dust into the house. I do make a point to vacuum myself off as best I can. Which I think actually works well.

As an extra safety precaution for your kids who sleep nearby, is to put HEPA room air filters in their bedrooms. This would help to ensure air they are breathing many hours a day is clean. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but it’s not that expensive, and if it does matter, there could be lifelong benefits for them.

I would also suggest you get a Dylos particle counter. Though not dirt cheap, you could run it in your shop and kid’s rooms, collect the data and know with some certainty what is going on.

Of course, keeping your shop clean helps. Again based on my particle counter. If the shop is dirty, just walking into the shop kicks dust up into the air. And of course moving dust covered tools and wood around does as well.

Another idea, if you vent your DC outside, you can lower the air pressure in your shop. This way air will tend to leak from the house into your shop, rather than the other way around. Of course, you still need to create an actual air return (vent from outside).

But air pressure is a tricky thing. Due to wind, you can get rather large pressure difference on different sides of the house. So I would not rely on this, but at least don’t do anything to pressurize your the shop. For example, don’t install a fan that forces outside air into your shop. Even with an exhaust vent this will pressurize the shop. Nothing wrong with a fan and venting., Just make sure the fan draws air from inside and blows it out. This, like exhausting a DC outside, will lower the air pressure in the shop.

Note: Ventilating with outside air is also a great way to reduce airborne dust in the shop. Though this tends to only be viable in moderate seasons or climates.

-- Clin

View JayCee123's profile


200 posts in 1644 days

#3 posted 04-17-2017 10:10 PM

A lot a good information in clin ’ s response.
I have a basement shop. Two stationary dust collectors, a Jet hanging cleaner and two shop vacuums. I collect dust at the source. But I still cross ventilate when I can, by opening a window at one end of the basement, and using a window fan to draw air thru a window at the opposite end. I have a gas fueled boiler for home heat, a gas fired water heater for domestic hot water, and my wife has a gas clothes dryer, they all share the basement area. It is very easy, when using an exhaust fan, to draw a negative pressure in my work space, interrupt and actually change the exhaust flow from any of those units. CO is an odorless and invisible gas. You will never know it is accumulating in your space unless you install a CO detector. I’ve positioned four in my work space. One near to each piece of Nat Gas equipment and one by the door to the stairway. Please review your work space for similar items.

View Dave's profile


8 posts in 1285 days

#4 posted 04-17-2017 10:27 PM

Thanks for all the responses. I wish this forum had a “like” button so that I could acknowledge them.

My short term plan is to seal the workshop off from the rest of the house as well as I can. And I have an eye on 2 surplus furnace fans on craigs list that I would like to turn into air cleaners.

If anyone has a source for an upgraded filter for the HF DC I would look at that as well.

No windows in this section of the basement but I am considering installing ductwork and fans to expel dusty air and suck in fresh air.

Thanks for the reminder on CO. I actually have the HVAC sub coming back tomorrow to install a fresh air supply for my high efficiency furnace. Once that is done I still need to deal with fresh air for the water heater.

View hairy's profile


3121 posts in 4412 days

#5 posted 04-18-2017 02:08 PM

Most of my tools are in the basement. I have a dc that I always use, and 2 air cleaners. 1 high and 1 low. I also use a box fan with a furnace filter when necessary.

My work area is not sealed off. The furnace is about 8 feet from 1 of my bandsaws.

Last week I had to have the A/C updated. New coil inside and a new unit outside, kept the old furnace. The old guy doing the install asked about my woodworking because the inside of the furnace was so clean.

It can be done. It takes commitment and effort, plus a few $.

-- Genghis Khan and his brother Don, couldn't keep on keeping on...

View Iamjacob's profile


48 posts in 3506 days

#6 posted 04-18-2017 07:00 PM

And I have an eye on 2 surplus furnace fans on craigs list that I would like to turn into air cleaners.

If anyone has a source for an upgraded filter for the HF DC I would look at that as well.

As far as furnace fans go, call up your local HVAC contractors and see if you can dig through their scrap bin / trash. You should be able to get nearly unlimited fans and motors for free as they usually have to pay to have them disposed of from units that they are replacing.

Wynn filters are pretty much the go to for the HF DC filter upgrade.

View clin's profile


1121 posts in 1876 days

#7 posted 04-18-2017 07:46 PM

I’m just going to underline what JayCee123 said about CO. My advice concerning negative air pressure assumed the gas units like furnace, hot water heater or gas cloths dryer were NOT in the space. You never want negative air pressure in the spaces gas is burned for the reason JayCee pointed out.

In my garage bay converted to shop, my water heater is located in that space. Because the space was no longer a garage and was now separated from the larger garage, I needed to supply air to my water heater. It was already up on a platform in a large niche’ in the wall. I simply enclosed it with a wall and large, well sealed access door. I then ran two vents up to the roof to supply that air to the water heater closet.

Water heater is “happy” and I can do whatever I want with the shop with no concern for screwing up the water heater.

It does pay to put some thought into these things. You’d hate to start poisoning yourself and your family by not thinking it through.

-- Clin

View Dave's profile


8 posts in 1285 days

#8 posted 04-19-2017 01:27 AM

“As far as furnace fans go, call up your local HVAC contractors and see if you can dig through their scrap bin / trash.”

Believe it or not an HVAC tech was here today, I talked to the owner once and to the office two other times and it never occured to me to ask. Doh! Just sent an email.

This is a new house and CO detectors are required by code. So I hope we are covered there. But I do take that seriously.

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