12x12 Workshop realistic? My workshop woes...

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Forum topic by Biddles posted 06-13-2020 02:32 AM 1409 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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32 posts in 1386 days

06-13-2020 02:32 AM

I’ve been yearning for a real workshop for years, and finally I am in a permanent place to do so. My previous attempt at a workshop failed miserably when the landlord evicted me after fixing the entire basement and setting up shop… I had to sell off all my tools when I moved and it’s been about 5 years since that happened. Now however I have options, but still I feel limited. My basement is big enough, but the entrance to get into it is so steep and narrow with limited head space as well. It would be a constant struggle trying to get wood in and out, (even 2×4’s are annoyingly angled in) and any finished projects would be very hard to get out or have to be assembled elsewhere. It’s a real shame.

So my other option is a 12×12 shed. Where I live anything bigger requires a permit, and from what I’ve asked around from people who specialize in getting permits my taxes would go up with anything bigger than a 12×12 shed… Just how much I don’t know, but then there are the costs of getting the permits themselves. I was quoted $1100, and $1500 just to start the process of getting the permits with no guarantee’s it would be approved…

Or perhaps the best option would be to hire someone to expand the stairs to the basement, make it wider, and put in a wider door. The outside wall of the stairs is part of the foundation that holds the house up though, so I’m not sure what kind of headache that creates but I know it would require permits too.

So back to the 12×12 shed. I can have more than one, but workflow becomes an issue. Do you really want to work on a piece of wood, and then take it to another machine in another shed to continue? I’m not a pro, I’m just a hobbyist, but having a good setup and easy access to everything all at once makes a big difference. Each shed is roughly $2500 in materials if I build it myself.

These are some of the tools I have in mind, with the dimensions, I’m not good with 3d rendering programs or any of that stuff like I see in other threads, but I also have to put a workbench in there. I’m just not sure I could pull it off comfortably with 144sq ft. There are still other tools I want, drill press, sanders, etc… Utilizing this space properly is the hardest part.

Table Saw: Grizzly G0771Z
Overall dimensions: 64” W x 40-1/2” D x 36” H Bandsaw: Grizzly G0513ANV
Overall dimensions: 32” W x 32” D x 73” H Jointer: Grizzly G0725
Overall dimensions: 29-1/2” W x 19-3/4” D x 12-1/2” H

Overall dimensions 24” D x 64”

Then again I see this girl did it, although with some smaller tools, and husky rolling benches, etc… but after seeing her do it I think I should be ok. She’s from the same neck of the woods, so it’s no surprise she’s got a 12×12 shed like I’ve been planning.

It’s just a headache getting started, and hard to commit to anything right now because I can’t visualize it, but the 12×12 seems like the only option for me. Any help or advice greatly appreciated. I’ve just been exhausting my brain overthinking everything lately, I just want to get started.

31 replies so far

View WoodenDreams's profile


1222 posts in 882 days

#1 posted 06-13-2020 03:11 AM

The main area of my workshop is 14×14. You didn’t mention what area your in. Would you need heat in the winter or A/C in the summer. You may be surprised how many have small shops. Check out youtube and search ‘small woodworking shop’ to get some ideas

Put away enough moola to finish the shed once started. Don’t over think it, or you’ll still be thinking about it eight months from now. In my neck of the woods, a shed must be considered portable or a permit is required. Which means no concrete footings or concrete floor. Portable can be setting it on blocks with studs and plywood. The 12×12 shed you highlighted on youtube looks like a workable plan. And using casters on all equipment stations. Using the top of tool chests for work benches is workable.

View Walker's profile


440 posts in 1443 days

#2 posted 06-13-2020 04:23 AM

Every time there is a thread like this I see a few of the same things mentioned like heating/Cooling/airflow. Be creative with storage space, like having a high ceiling and adding lofts for storage. larger tools and workbench on casters. Consider how to expand your work flow area during good weather, i.e. is the door wide enough to run 4×8 sheets through? Some folks have designed windows with shutters that fold down and act as an outfeed table. Some cleverly placed windows could solve your two sheds workflow problem.

-- ~Walker

View CaptainKlutz's profile


4001 posts in 2465 days

#3 posted 06-13-2020 06:21 AM

+1 With small work space, have to learn how to color outside the lines, while working in 3D? :-0)

For several years my work shop was 8×8x20 metal sea shipping container sitting in AZ sunshine. Cost me $1200 delivered to back yard on back of flat top tow truck. Had 2 large 4×8 doors, but still broke down sheet goods outside the front door. Used those plastic strip door like found on commercial freezer to be able to go in/out easy and keep it cool inside. Had a nice 2.5” thick solid hardwood floor. Installed an attic exhaust fan, window AC unit, some spray on insulation, and 60A sub panel feed by 50A RV outlet hanging off the breaker panel. Only had one 220V tool at that time. Hardest part was wood storage. Didn’t have space to hoard much wood. Also was struggle to build anything larger, or numerous. Built kitchen/bath cabinets and built-in book cases for home remodel out of that sea box. Used a 10×10 Ez-UP shade canopy on shady side of box for an extra assembly table and spray finishing area for large projects when weather was decent. Since box was portable, and power panel was fed by extension cord, no building permits required. Eventually added rented a second one for storage during remodel construction.

Had a friend find a cheap 8×8x32 portable office/school room trailer that he converted to a wood shop. Came with sub panel, vinyl floors, overhead florescent lights, plus windows and doors; what more could you ask for? :-) There are some work flow advantages to long and skinny, plus you get extra wall space. :)

IMHO – HOA rules are bigger impediment to many folks choice in out buildings for work shop, not building permits. My HOA wouldn’t let me have the 8’ high sea box, as it was eye sore over the concrete block fence separating homes. They also limit my ability to have large ‘travel’ trailer next to house as work space. :-( So I work in 2 car garage, park cars outside, and build shed for storage!

Planning a work shop is never easy. Best Luck.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Biddles's profile


32 posts in 1386 days

#4 posted 06-13-2020 10:03 AM

Here is a guide to an approved shed build for my area. Concrete pier footings are recommended, but not necessarily mandatory. I plan to live here for a long time so I figured I’d do it right.

I didn’t think too much about the weather. I figured I’d get a small space heater in the winter, and have enough windows/vents with a good fan in the summer. For now. I’ve always been interested in solar power, and wonder what it would take to power an air conditioner with just solar power.

View Eric's profile


854 posts in 844 days

#5 posted 06-13-2020 10:31 AM

Good luck on your shop project. I just started my build a few weeks ago. Had no problem getting the permit, $120 in cost. I spent over a year in the design and went back to add length to the shop, planning ahead. It is my goal to have the shell, exterior finishes and electrical system completed in 3 months. I work full time so it evenings and weekends for the build.

Depending on your builds and planning that size shop could work out very well If you have a second one set up you can use that as your finish area and storage. We all work with what we have available in space to pursue the hobbies. I have had a few places, with big and little shops, and it worked. To me a deadicated shop is great, don’t have to put everything up to put the car back.

-- Eric, building the dream

View Biddles's profile


32 posts in 1386 days

#6 posted 06-13-2020 11:33 AM

Its the permit stuff and increases in taxes that worry me. Plus I would need building plans to submit and include with a survey of my property, and I dont want to open a can of worms. New York is notorious for this stuff going bad. I think a 12×16 would be perfect for my needs, that extra 48sq ft makes a world of difference.

I wonder if someone could get me a set of 12×16 building plans that match my states specifications.

View controlfreak's profile


1611 posts in 572 days

#7 posted 06-13-2020 11:59 AM

I am with Eric in the Upstate of South Carolina. Taxes and permits are easy here but I live in a “Historic District” and the review board likes to veto almost everything. Sometimes it is better to just sneak things in if it is not to big. My shed is 10’ x 16’ and is to small but I am having fun trying to make it work. My plan is to do with it what I can and then apply for a permit to build a garage (they are quieter than a shop). If that falls through I am going to drag my shop over several feet and attache a taller and larger wing on it without permission and add a deck for outside work when the weather is nice. Than add a storage building for stuff that I don’t need in my shop along with plywood sheet goods and such. Things will change so just be ready to adapt. I was all about power tools when I started but have been drawn into hand tools, so now I have both. The biggest problem I have is ripping long stock. Good luck!

View becikeja's profile


1159 posts in 3784 days

#8 posted 06-13-2020 12:13 PM

Its the permit stuff and increases in taxes that worry me. Plus I would need building plans to submit and include with a survey of my property, and I dont want to open a can of worms. New York is notorious for this stuff going bad. I think a 12×16 would be perfect for my needs, that extra 48sq ft makes a world of difference. I wonder if someone could get me a set of 12×16 building plans that match my states specifications.

- Biddles

Don’t over think this. I’m finishing up a new workshop build in my back yard as I type this.. Should be finished next weekend. Lets hope… HOA was a bit of concern, and like you needed drawings for the permits. Simply did a sketch on notebook paper with dimensions. Then description of electrical work, concrete work etc…. The only issue I had was that the HOA required it be covered in brick to match the house. Since this is a detached garage, tax increase and home insurance increase was negligible. If I had attached it to the house, or if I added water, it would have been a different story. The assumption is once plumbing is added someone could essentially live in there and that changes everything.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View natgas's profile


55 posts in 1960 days

#9 posted 06-13-2020 01:09 PM

I purchased a 12×32 and thought it would be like a mansion with loads of space; not so, wish I had sprung for a 16×48 so I could have plenty of room

-- Randy

View Biddles's profile


32 posts in 1386 days

#10 posted 06-13-2020 01:29 PM

Yea Im strongly considering just buikding a 12×16, and concealing it because my property is a decent size, and bushes woukd completely cover two sides, and I could just do a vine fence or something to cover the side that could be visible from the street…. Even though mt neoghbors are awesome you never know if one would make a call and complain.

View GT350's profile


382 posts in 2952 days

#11 posted 06-13-2020 01:44 PM

I don’t know what area you live in but where I live the building department is easy to work with. I have added on to my house, put in a hot tub with it’s own breaker panel, completely tore out and remodeled the kitchen and never had a problem with the building department. I almost forgot I put in a 100 amp panel and all wiring with conduit in my shop. It helps to draw up some plans and then take them to the building department along with lot lines and have the inspector take a look. Respect for their work and their respect for yours goes a long way. I wouldn’t worry about hear say though.

View bilyo's profile


1256 posts in 2073 days

#12 posted 06-13-2020 03:09 PM

Here is an opposite point of view. You say that your basement is suitable except the access is too small. Assuming that there are no issues with noise and dust in the rest of the house, fixing the access is a no brainer. You might have to hire someone to re-work the foundation wall for wider access but, most if not all of the rest of the work you can do yourself. Doing this one project will solve all of the other concerns regarding space, power, heating, cooling, and neighbor relations.
I have a 20×16 shop and it is barely adequate. You won’t be satisfied with 12×12 or 12×16.

View Biddles's profile


32 posts in 1386 days

#13 posted 06-13-2020 03:28 PM

Im glad you gave your point of view, I used to work in brick and masonry and still know a few people, I’ll make some calls to see what it would cost.

The only downside to the basement build is I’ll never get that pool table I always wanted :(

Truly I appreciate all the help given. Helps me put everything in perspective.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


4001 posts in 2465 days

#14 posted 06-13-2020 04:03 PM


+1 simple respect of building permit process, earns you a lot of help/respect.

Have worked with many different city/county building permit offices several times in last 40 years, and they all want to help, and with minimum amount of paperwork for both sides. They prefer you call/stop by and ask questions for help, then make assumptions and attempt to argue drawing interpretation during inspection stages. Be sure to ask about inspection steps, or ask for the full blown building permit guidelines. If they have shed PDF, they have a much longer version for real buildings.

- Building permits for uninhabitable space (no water/plumbing) are easier to get. Rules are relaxed on quality/quantity of prints required. The PDF you posted shows the 4 details they want to see: land plot, top view walls, top view footing, and side detail view. That is a max of 4 sheets of paper – Period.
It is NOT like getting a home permit where they require massive pile of prints with all kinds of details.
TBH – you could cut and paste the building drawings they provided in PDF with proper overall dimensions on outside and be done very quickly. I can be that simple.
If you don’t want to use concrete footing piers, then call and ask about alternate methods. One common accepted method often includes ‘floating’ base frame (pressure treated wood and/or metal) on proper concrete/gravel pad with cable/metal straps attached to in ground anchors placed 12-24” below local frost line. Read the mobile home anchoring section of your building code for rough guideline. :-) Can buy screw into ground metal trailer/shed anchors commercially, but they are no fun to install.

- Building permit folks are supposed to keep records of all work done on each property. Can often obtain a print of existing land plot from them for a printing fee. Nice part about existing land plot, is should have all the easements drawn out, which will help locate the shed where it is allowed. For shed, can just draw on top of old drawing to show new shed location. Land plot done.

- If you lack the skills to sketch on paper, or cut and paste the PDF file; hire a drafting person (cheaper) or architect. Drafts people work by hour, and would need only a couple hours to recreate the required shed drawings. My CAD skills were too rusty and hired some one to draw up a 1800 sqft addition and remodel to existing home for < $1200 that I did 15 years ago. Drawing services can be found cheap as the best folks work FAST. Ask your realtor, or any builder friends if they know any drafting folks. Look in ‘gigs wanted’ section of CL. With lock down, drawing is something that can be done remote and at home. Lots of people do it as second income on side.

- If you are having issues visualizing the entire work shop project, stop. Don’t get hung up on where to put tools/outlets. First focus on building the biggest shed you fit and afford. Shed work spaces are constantly evolving, and changing as you use them. Leave walls unfinished on inside. Make the electrical permit plan really simple; just show a panel with one 120v outlet, one 240 outlet, and light with a switch. Once shed is complete and approved, then figure out rest. You can ‘minor’ upgrade electrical panel with extra outlets without a permit as long as you don’t permanently install HVAC or water heater that requires inspection. :-0)

Last but not least: Costs are always higher than initial estimates.

Reason you were quoted over $1000 for getting permit, is it takes lots of time to deal with paper. Drafter will get almost half of that money. There is small permit fee by county/state too.

Be cautious about your electrical plan: Costs add up quick. Estimate every 120v GFCI outlet circuit costs ~$50 in materials alone. A 30A 240v circuit is double that due cost of heavy wire/outlet. Cost me $500 in materials alone to upgrade my present garage shop with (3) 240v circuits, (6) 120v circuits in existing panel. More if count light fixtures and cooling fans.

Little things will cost a lot. Spent $200+ on the wire alone for main run of 50A service to a sub panel in my 6×12 shed couple weeks ago. Turns out the 1 gal of primer and 1 gal of paint planned for shed,ending up being 6+ gallons at ~$200. Don’t forget the case of caulking and/or panel adhesive, vapor barrier, and insulation; that is if want to seal things up to keep bugs out and indoor temperature indoor?

My first ‘shed’ and electrical sub-panel seemed like daunting shop projects when I did them 40+ years ago. Now the plans pop out of my brain, even while I sleep, and I don’t need to upgrade. LOL

Like this one I just finished after several months of part time work:

Live in a rental home with neighborhood full of HOA Nazi. This one is built as portable unit on a welded frame that fits on a 6×12 trailer to haul to next place. No permit required by limiting height and size. Power is supplied via a RV extension cord. Wife calls it my man cave. She wants one for a she shed now. :-)

Best Luck.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View JCamp's profile


1262 posts in 1521 days

#15 posted 06-13-2020 06:29 PM

When I was a teen we had a 10×16 work shop and it worked out well. I think a 12×12 could b very nice. I would suggest a nice set of double doors or a garage door on one side with a large concrete slab that u can roll some equipment out on and work. Maybe have it covered by a pergola to provide some shade while you work.

-- Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might

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