Regrets from building your own shop?

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Forum topic by scr5008 posted 07-15-2017 09:36 PM 5460 views 4 times favorited 68 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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26 posts in 2103 days

07-15-2017 09:36 PM

Hey all – Pretty new to the forum, but already learned a lot from this crowd.

I just started building a shop. It’s a 16×20’ separate shop on our property. I wanted to know what kind of regrets y’all had if you built your shop from scratch. Would love to learn from y’alls mistakes!

Unfortunately the size is locked in (so going bigger is not an option).

I’ll have 2 windows on a 16’ wall, and a 6’ door with a 3’ window on the longer 20’ wall. There is a 12’ dormer window going on the roof. I read on here that most people regret not having enough natural light, so I think this’ll give me a good amount.

For electricity, I’m thinking the below. Would love some feedback or pointers!

- 200A sub-panel in the shop

110v circuits:
- 2 circuits for wall outlets – multiple outlets on the wall mounted at 4’6” from the floor for smaller power tools
- 1 circuit for ceiling outlets (ceiling mounted extension cords)
- 2 switched circuits for interior lighting (or just 1)
- 1 circuit for AC Mini-split (not sure if 110 or 220 yet)
- 1 switched circuit for exterior lighting

220v circuits:
- 3 individual circuits for power tools (dust collector, table saw/jointer, 1 extra)
- 1 circuit for AC Mini-split (not sure if 110 or 220 yet)

68 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


9201 posts in 3266 days

#1 posted 07-15-2017 09:53 PM

You’ll probably want more windows than that. I’ve got 6 windows going into a 25×37 garage that I’m in the permitting process with now. Some more thoughts on what I’m going to be doing:

High ceilings. 8’ is not enough. 10’ minimum so you can have room for assembling cabinets and standing plywood/wood upright. If you are putting in a ready-made shed, you can put a couple layers of concrete block to raise the whole thing up the 1-2’ extra. Cheap and adds more water resistance for the wood siding/framing.

200A subpanel is probably more than big enough. 100A will likely be more than sufficient.

Put the bottom of outlets at >48” above ground so you can stack a sheet of plywood under it.

Epoxy the floor to make cleanup easier.

Insulate the crap out of it.

Add I-beam in line with the center of your 6’ door with a traveller. Then you can use that for moving heavy equipment/furniture items easier.

In a shop that size, add on a “carport” area on the outside for storing wood. Don’t want to take up valuable floor space with your wood storage. Under 200sqft generally doesn’t require a permit.

Water supply is nice to have. I won’t be putting in any drains, but I will be running a water pipe out to the shop for watering plants/cleanup/etc.

Ceilings get high gloss white. Upper halves of walls at least get white as well. White = more light bouncing around.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View clin's profile


1128 posts in 2112 days

#2 posted 07-15-2017 10:38 PM

I agree 200 A is a lot.

Your mini-split will be 240 V

I’d add more wall outlets. I think you’re limited to something like 6 or 8 sockets per circuit. So two circuits is only 12 – 16 wall sockets. When I walled off one bay of my garage, I put two circuits in that one wall. A set of sockets high that can be reached above any workbench and a set low that would be accessible under any workbench.

While this sounds like a lot. You will always have things cover some sockets. You don’t want to be stuck thinking, “gee I’d like to but a wood rack right there, but it will cover the only two sockets on that wall”.

I would shoot for something like this on all walls, or at least 3 of the 4 assuming the door takes up a lot of room on one wall.

Don’t cheap out on wire size. Make circuits as big as you can. For example, assume you might one day want a 5 HP dust collector and put in a circuit for that.

Bottom line, do more of everything electrical than you think you will need. It’s not that much more expensive and is 1000% easier to do when you build than to add on later.

I’ll reinforce the idea of insulate well.

While epoxy floors are easy to sweep, they can be slippery and they are hard on your feet. In my case I covered my floor in heavy duty PVC tiles (not cheap). Noticeable cushion to those. It certainly doesn’t sweep as easy as an epoxy floor, but I tend to vacuum and it is fine for that.

I’d consider putting down sleepers (2×4 flat ways) with foam board insulation between, and lay down a plywood floor. This can provide a lot of nice give and is easy on the feet from what I’ve read. You can even raise it higher to create a false floor where you can pull up the plywood and add or modify wire runs under the floor (check code) or even run dust collection under it.

Agree 100% with paint walls and ceiling as bright a color as you can. Ceilings can be be super bright white. Walls might need to be a bit tamer. But light walls will really help to reduce the shadows and dark spots.

Add a crap load of lighting. I have 8, 4ft 2-tube florescent lights ion my 300 sq ft shop. It’s lit like an operating room and I love it. You’re looking at a similar size. This is where you could wire half to one switch and half to another. Much of the time half will do, but when needed, turn them all on.

Water is nice if you can get it. I was able to tap into plumbing on the other side of a garage wall to add a utility sink.

Skylights are nice also. I put in Solatubes and these work pretty well. But for new construction, I’d go with traditional skylights. In that case, place them near walls, NOT in the middle of the room. When a skylight is near a wall, the light will bounce off the wall abd spread out into the room.

-- Clin

View ColonelTravis's profile


1976 posts in 3010 days

#3 posted 07-15-2017 10:46 PM

Good advice from JMart & Clin.

I’ve majorly overhauled my garage three times for working in there, I wish I could do what you’re doing. Two big problems I just fixed were lumber and clamp storage. I had both thrown all over the place and never had the foresight to solve those problems until it got out of hand. Now I’ve got three racks on two walls for lumber (stored horizontally) and finally a dedicated area for clamps. Was lazy and bought some hanging racks from Rockler, but they are very good.

Good luck!

View Manitario's profile


2818 posts in 3999 days

#4 posted 07-15-2017 10:49 PM

Lots of windows on one side, 10ft ceilings, +++light (take the amount of lights you were going to put in and double it; seriously, seems ridiculous now but you won’t regret it later), wood subfloor and consider in floor heating.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View jmartel's profile


9201 posts in 3266 days

#5 posted 07-15-2017 10:59 PM

For slipperiness on epoxy flooring, they usually include sand to mix into the topcoat so you get traction. It’s a very hard surface though. If you put down epoxy, use some rubber mats in front of the table saw, bench, and any other major tool you spend a lot of time at. My shop won’t just be for woodworking so I don’t want a wooden floor for mine.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Redoak49's profile


5272 posts in 3104 days

#6 posted 07-15-2017 11:02 PM

Put in lots of outlets and circuits..

Tall ceiling and maybe a ceiling fan or two.

Consider what you want for digital needs such as Ethernet WiFi, cable, cell phone, etc. It is so easy to put wiring in during construction. If you are working by yourself, you need the ability to contact someone if you have a problem.

Do not know where you are or what the property looks like. But you should consider security issues and fire sensors. Windows are nice but also can be a security/theft issue.

Lastly, consider how you might build in stages to get everything in if money is an issue.

View B4B's profile


173 posts in 2474 days

#7 posted 07-15-2017 11:06 PM

Use plywood on the walls rather than drywall. Makes it easier to hang some things compared to finding a stud behind drywall. Its also more durable.

-- There's two routers in my vocab, one that moves data and one that removes wood, the latter being more relevant on this forum.

View Texcaster's profile


1293 posts in 2790 days

#8 posted 07-15-2017 11:08 PM

No regrets here. I knew exactly what I wanted after years working in some pretty ordinary sheds. Max. light and ventilation, 3m to the guttering, big doors all four sides, 3 phase and 220 power points everywhere.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7927 posts in 4030 days

#9 posted 07-15-2017 11:35 PM

NO! The 200 amp panel is NOT overkill!

I have a 24’x30’x12’ detached shop with a 125amp sub-panel (hooked to 100amp breaker on main 200amp box), and I have had to keep re-arranging loads on my 120v and 240v equipment. Coulda’, shoulda’, gone with 200amp to begin with. I have managed to swap things out to make room for more, but this last time I believe I am now maxed out.

Recently added a 2-ton AC mini-split system and had to combine two 240v machines on one breaker. Pulled it off, since I am a one-man shop and only use one machine at a time. THAT IS NOT THE POINT. All of my common-wire slots and all of my ground-slots ARE COMPLETELY FULL! I have finagled my load so everything works and has the appropriate breakers, but there is now NO ROOM for anything else.

Lesson learned… You can never have too many/much capacity when wiring your shop. Go with a 200amp panel/box. Seriously… The added cost is minimal when compared with any/all future headaches.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4347 days

#10 posted 07-15-2017 11:49 PM

I will be honest. Around my parts, I don’t want any windows, period. To easy for someone to break into. Other than light, they don’t do anything for me. I run my mini-split and the whole garage is insulated. The only time I open the overhead door is when I am loading/unloading projects or materials or when the material I am ripping is longer than 4 feet. I have the saw positioned at the front near the door and facing into the shop. My outfeed table serves as an assembly table/general work bench for everything else. I am comfortable working there any time day or night, hot or cold.

The walls are painted white and I have several 4 light panels.

Note: My mini split AC is 11K BTU and it runs on 110v with a 25 amp breaker. It also has the heat feature.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View RangerJay's profile


7 posts in 1438 days

#11 posted 07-16-2017 12:03 AM

My shop is only a hobby shop but I’d offer that:

- whatever number of outlets you think you need – then triple it.
- whatever number of lights you think you need – then double it – and work to have lighting over every work station.
- a couple of strategic windows are good – in my case I have my main tool in front of a window that overlooks my yard and bird feeders – might sound a little hokey but it is great.
- be careful of your shop doing double or triple duty – mine also house a garden tractor, garden tools, camping equipment (in the summer), ladders and just some other general storage – all of which crowd my shops tools.
- flexibility is important – lighting set up for a certain tool will – somewhere alone the line – have to change, electrical outlets will also become problematic over time as you change the layout of your shop – think about overhead outlets as well.
- don’t know what kind of work you do – but wood storage can also be problematic – it’s easy to provide storage for longer lumber – but don’t forget those smaller cutoffs that you don’t want to throw away – they are the ones that turn your neatly organized shop into a state of perpetual clutter.

Would look forward to seeing pictures of your as-built shop once it is finished.


View Kelly's profile


3566 posts in 4060 days

#12 posted 07-16-2017 12:25 AM

I back the “NO! The 200 amp panel is NOT overkill!” thing. You don’t know what the future will bring and “do overs” are expensive. For example, I’m looking at swapping out my 1-1/2 horse collector for a 3 horse. With a friend over that is:

1) Two 15 amp (running amps) collectors for 30 amps.
2) A 7 amp table saw (at 240)
3) A 7 amp band saw (at 120)
4) An HVAC system (60 / 40 amp)
5) Lighting at 15 amps
6) Shop stereo at 5 amps
7) another friend over and the other collector and miter….... or

Like Mike said, consider what you might have to have circuits for. For example, the following items in my shop require to slots for 240:

Table saw
Dust collector#1
Dust collector #2

That’s ten slots before you even get to the outlets. My shop has three lighting circuits. It has two circuits on each wall (so I could leap frog them). That’s eleven more circuits, and I don’t have to worry about breakers tripping, when two other three others are playing in the shop. I also have circuits for the bays for the cars for vacuuming or running chargers or trouble lights. All told, that’s about twenty-three circuits, and head ache free.

View ArtMann's profile


1483 posts in 1932 days

#13 posted 07-16-2017 12:26 AM

My current shop has T-8 fluorescent lights. My new shop will have LED lights. My new shop will have 7/16 inch external Masonite siding. I have that now in a utility room I remodeled and I like it a lot. The color is primed a light gray and I saw no need to paint it at all. If you do paint it, it takes paint a lot better than OSB or plywood and I think it looks much cleaner and nicer. This board is thick and tough enough that you can nail or screw lighter things to it directly without looking for the studs.

I’m afraid I will have to disagree with some of the other posters on the need for a 200A subpanel. Your shop is really small and you will have a hard time putting enough equipment in it to utilize anywhere close to 200A @ 240VAC. Bigger is not always better if it just wastes money.

View Kelly's profile


3566 posts in 4060 days

#14 posted 07-16-2017 12:31 AM

When I installed my outlets, everything 120 was on 20 amp circuits and outlets. I have eight circuits and they leap frog (two on each wall).

All my outlets are installed a bit above my waist, so I don’t have to bend over to plug and unplug items.

I’d installed single duplex outlets, but went back and and installed doubles in several areas. For example, my bandsaw, scroll saw and the small collector are within a couple feet of each other. The collector is on one of the leap frogged outlets and the bandsaw, scroll saw and light are on the other. Over at the sharpening area, I have a four wheel grinder, a couple lights, a small grinder and a polishing station. These things left the choice of using a double duplex box or a plug in unit.

View Kelly's profile


3566 posts in 4060 days

#15 posted 07-16-2017 12:32 AM

Consider looking into hog wire fencing for the windows, if security is an issue and you still want light. Cut and mount sections of the panel accordingly.

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