First time poster: Advice sought on garage workshop - and pics of first project!

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Forum topic by OEFVet posted 02-13-2015 02:19 AM 1796 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2441 days

02-13-2015 02:19 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workspace garage 220v advice workshop

Hey guys and gals,

I’ve been lurking for about a month now, and I think it’s about time I introduced myself (and desperately pleaded for advice).

I’ll try and keep this brief. I’ve always loved tinkering and projects, and woodworking has always been a hobby I’ve wanted to get into. It was one of my favorite courses in high school, and I did some cool things with my dad’s limited selection of tools.

However, from my dad’s house, I went to (in order): A crummy college apartment, an Army Barracks, a shack in Afghanistan, back to an Army Barracks, to another crummy apartment, before finally, two months ago, purchasing my first home – with an attached three car garage.

After long and passionate debate with my wife (that I lost), I was given one bay of the garage to use as a shop, with as-needed space in the second bay during the warmer months (I argued that she could always park outside; she felt otherwise).

Still, I was happy. Over the past few years I’ve collected some small scale tools (Jigsaw, Circular Saw, Power Drill, Sanders, hand tools, few other things) and I was about to go out and blow a bunch of money on a table saw when I realized that I should probably take a step back and work on the workspace first. Because as big as my garage is….it’s not really a place I want to spend a lot of time.

You can see the pictures below. It’s dingy and dark (the pictures are brighter than it actually is), it’s unpainted, the cabinets are non-functional (too tall and too deep), the drywall is pretty beat up, and it’s really cold and has no insulation or heat.

So I talked my wife into letting me do some upgrades. The problem is that I’m a little overwhelmed. While I consider myself fairly handy, I don’t know where to start. These are the things I want to tackle, in order from what I consider most important to least important:

1. Improve the lighting
2. Get it wired for 220v
3. Figure out a way to get it warmer, which leads me to…
4. Drywall the Ceiling
5. Paint the Walls (white?). Will require a lot of work on the walls, as they’re covered in scuffs, holes, etc.
6. Take out at least one set of cabinets, possibly both.
7. Put an epoxy floor over the cement

The issue is my budget is maybe $1500, and some of those things (The 220v and the insulation, probably the drywalling too) I would have to have someone else do, which won’t be cheap.

Sorry, this is getting longer than I intended. I’m looking for some advice from the guys who have done this before, and any offered is much appreciated. So if you were me, where would you start?

Below you’ll find some pictures, including my first project: A 2×4 shelf for my wife. Nothing fancy and it’s not pretty, but it’s level and sturdy. This weekend I’ll be working on a workbench.

(Forgive the mess, we’re still settling in)

Thanks guys!

13 replies so far

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4472 days

#1 posted 02-13-2015 02:55 AM

Improve your lighting, even at minimum, run your electrical and rough in at the boxes/receptacles. then…
drywall the ceiling, then
insulate the ceiling.

Around these parts, if it’s 100 outside, it is 100 inside the garage. I couldn’t take it any longer. I now have an insulated garage (walls and ceiling; one car- wishing for three) with a split system AC w/heat pump. Not cheap, but comfortable to work in year round.

Good luck.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View ruddhess's profile


117 posts in 2451 days

#2 posted 02-13-2015 03:22 AM

Big Table Saw VS rennovation, hmmmm. I know what I’d go for. ;)

-- Rodney, Arkansas

View Jeffnoregon's profile


2 posts in 2464 days

#3 posted 02-13-2015 03:33 AM

Looks like you have a good size beer fridge.

1. Improve the lighting
I would pick up some 8’ at the big box store. You can install them yourself. For a few hundred you could light it up a lot better.
2. Get it wired for 220v
Not to hard. Run your own wire and then hook it up yourself or have an electrician do it from there. Might be able to get it done for a beer out of the fridge if you have a neighbor that is an electrician.
3. Figure out a way to get it warmer, which leads me to…
I used a dual head propane heater until I could install a natural gase heater.
4. Drywall the Ceiling
I would insulate and then drywall.
5. Paint the Walls (white?). Will require a lot of work on the walls, as they’re covered in scuffs, holes, etc.
It’s a workshop. Just paint over the bad stuff. It will make the shop a lot brighter if you paint it white.
6. Take out at least one set of cabinets, possibly both.
I would leave the cabinets for storage.
7. Put an epoxy floor over the cement
Sure makes it nice and is easier to do before you fill the shop with heavy tools.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 4212 days

#4 posted 02-13-2015 03:47 AM

That doesn’t look so bad. Good bones to build on anyway.

Are those wall cabinets 24” deep? Could you just make floor cabinets out of them with a work surface on top. Seems a shame to just discard.
You would need a 2×4 frame on the floor, 4” set back under the bottom to make a toekick space.
I’d use pressure treated for that frame because moisture will wick up through the concrete.

You have a breaker panel right there. Check if it has any open spaces for additional breakers. If it has 4 to 6 spare slots you are golden. If it only has one or a pair of slots you will need to add a sub-panel.

Shouldn’t cost much at all to add a row of outlets along that wall.
You could also make a couple of 220V outlets right there as well.

Do some research, get a DIY book on wiring and run the wires and mount the boxes yourself. Just don’t run the wires into the panel box if you are not comfortable with that part. Then hire an electrician to finish and inspect.

In any case, move, repurpose, or demo the cabinets and do the wiring before you finish that wall.
If you need to insulate it this is the time for that as well.

View OEFVet's profile


2 posts in 2441 days

#5 posted 02-28-2015 06:55 AM

Hey guys,

Apologies for the late reply. Work has been crazy lately, which hasn’t given me a ton of time to work on the workshop stuff.

However, I’ve managed to do a few things. First things first, I built a workbench:

It’s nothing fancy. Its 6 feet by 3 feet, which seemed like a good size when I was planning but turned out a bit large when I actually built it. Still, it was an easy and fun project. And it’s on casters so I can tuck it away when needed.

I appreciate all the advice – especially about re-using the cabinets. They’re only 18” deep, but I think I can still work them into a (much more narrow) workbench design that will go along the wall, for bench mounted tools. Then put pegboard above that.

I’m still weighing my options with the 220v. I’ve looked up how to do it, and I think I could probably handle it. With that being said, the wife isn’t too thrilled with the idea that I’d be doing something that could either A) Get me killed or B) Burn the house down.

A local contractor is coming out to give me a quote on Monday for both the 220v and the drywall/insulating the ceiling. I have a $ amount in my head that I’m willing to spend, so we’ll see what he says.

I’m doing the initial planning on layout for the shop when the wiring gets done. I looked up some sizes of the larger tools (Mostly on Grizzly’s website, as their Bellingham warehouse is only 2 hours north of me and I’m leaning towards their new table saw) and put it into Visio. Here’s the super early preliminary work:

It’s super rough, but if anyone notices some glaring stupidity of mine, I’d love some feedback.

Thanks again for the help guys :D

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4472 days

#6 posted 02-28-2015 07:45 AM

Your dust collector would fit nicely where the band saw is. Easy hookup to the table saw and easy to empty.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View joey502's profile


558 posts in 2759 days

#7 posted 02-28-2015 05:40 PM

I think your list looks right. It will be a long process to get everything done, materials are expensive. Best advice I can give is to be patient and read everything you can in preparation for each stage of the project.

Power will need to be addressed before you add insulation or drywall. You could run your power on the outside of the walls. Plastic conduit and metal boxes. This is what I did partly because my garage was drywall when I moved in and mostly because I wanted the ability to make changes as they were needed. Exterior electrical is not for everyone but it fits my needs well.

View fuigb's profile


596 posts in 4198 days

#8 posted 02-28-2015 06:03 PM

Off-topic: appliance guys will tell you that a garage fridge is very expensive to run. Something about working against the freezing cold and the raging heat. Move ‘er to the basement if you can and you don’t want to spend more on electricity than you do on beer.

On-topic: a strategic plan for workshop build-out and tool acquisition doesn’t make sense, IMO, for a hobbyist. Having one of everything is damn expensive, especially if you cannot justify this with earnings. My advice is to bank the money and just have fun atttempting whatever projects strike your fancy. Youll be building skills and along the way discover what it is that you are missing, at which point you pull a trigger. I started with a few cast-offs from an elderly friend and over time built up an arsenal that for my purposes is complete. 17 years in, for example, before I decided that a powered jointer was necessary. Have fun with what you have, vet, and let the walls that you encounter tell you what to buy and when.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View Holbs's profile


2383 posts in 3270 days

#9 posted 03-01-2015 04:31 PM

I started out in my 2 car garage with a single light bulb in the center and 1 15amp GFCI outlet, no insulation, no heat, unfinished drywall. It was a daunting task to even begin to make into a work shop. 2 years later: 2 toned yellow colored walls (sunrise top half / sunset top half), R-19 rolled batt insulation in ceiling rafters, 13+ electrical outlets of 110v and 220v, Reznor gas heater, 2 zoned strip t8 lighting, shelving, etc. Here comes my advice:
1.) coloring the walls is not necessary at all, but does help the radiance and ambient of future lighting. Also, adds a little psychological flavor. Best to hit painting first because easier to do now before you get machinery in place, cabinets, etc.
2.) to start, use R-19 or higher insulation in your ceiling. You can add to it later on with more batt insulation or blown-in insulation. You can also do the walls later on as the ceiling is the primary attention getter from the start. I
3.) Electrical. This is tricky. If you are not a DIY’r, you will have to go the contractor route. I did not go that way. Researched heavily by reading and watching videos and talking to certified electricians. End result was that I ran all my 14/2 (14gauge 2wire + ground) for lighting, 12/2 for 110v outlets, 10/2 for 220v outlets, installed a sub-panel in garage from main house panel, and had the city come inspect for code compliance.
4.) Epoxy the floor. You could wait on this part if getting financially challenged.
5.) local auctions can be your friend for finding T8 lighting & bulbs, electrical wire, insulation and future garage shop needs.
Here is example of when things started to get going for me. You can see the single bulb up there and my moveable light base. Do not ask how I got anything done in that mess :)

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2727 days

#10 posted 03-01-2015 05:10 PM

If your saw, router and bandsaw will be on mobile bases, then where you have them drawn is fine. If it will be semi permanent, you have to pull them out from the wall and garage door to work longer stock.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1029 posts in 2816 days

#11 posted 03-01-2015 05:19 PM

insulation is easy to do you want the highest number for the ceiling.
I would put the table saw where the red bench in the middle’ll want a lot of space for a tablesaw.
If your taking down the drywall, then run your wires and boxes ( most required the “chase” holes in the studs be in the middle of the stud and a size=% any home depot/lowes etc.has some good easy to read electric books with basic how-to’s on placement and sizes of hole for the wire and outlets,put in more outlets than you think you need,and put a couple up at upper cabinet height so later you can build a charger station for you battery tools.Then insulate then drywall or better 3/8-12” cheap ac plywood,then you never have to find a stud to fasten to.
Put a 220v over where one day you’ll put your dust collection.Drywall is easy to put up.
buy a used table saw.
Put a wired box over the bench area for future under cabinet lighting

View BurlyBob's profile


9322 posts in 3506 days

#12 posted 03-02-2015 03:45 AM

Start with finishing off her parking area, plugs, insulation, ceiling and floor epoxy. Make the epoxy a light color it helps with the lighting. She’ll appreciate all your effort at making her stall nice and attractive.

I built a counter with round corners and some nice cabinets just for her. They’re all stained, varnished, nice and pretty just the way she likes. SWMBO only had to gripe about the garage being dark when she pulled in at night. I hung a 10 minute motion light on the wall for her. I’ve also got the majority of my stuff on mobile bases. I move my boat into the back side of the garage during the winter months. Being able to move things around has proven to be of great benefit in my half of the garage. When need be I can spread out to do a big project then move back to my half of the garage. I only have to make 3 to 5 times suggesting an improvement to the garage and I pretty much get it. Oh yeah, I make sure to add how much nicer it will be for her!!! Ya got to work the presentation Man, work it good and smooth!!!

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 4312 days

#13 posted 03-02-2015 04:24 AM

> 1. Improve the lighting

This is easy; just buy some T5 or T8 fixtures and tubes. T8 fixtures are slightly less energy efficient but the fixtures and tubes may be slightly more readily available locally.

> 2. Get it wired for 220v

If you already have a subpanel in the garage it shouldn’t cost much to have a couple 240V circuits added. If you don’t have a subpanel in the garage and the main panel isn’t near the garage, make sure adding a subpanel is part of the wiring job. When I did mine it didn’t cost much more for the subpanel than it would have been to just run 2 circuits from the main panel in the basement on the opposite side of the house.

> 3. Figure out a way to get it warmer, which leads me to…

I haven’t managed to get my garage warmer yet…maybe next year. I discovered recently that my garage door doesn’t make a good seal all the way around, so I need to add weather stripping around the top and sides. My person-doors also could use some improvement in the weather stripping area. I did get a couple pieces of “3/4 inch” foam and plywood down in the middle of my garage by the table saw and workbench, and that makes it almost bearable to work out there when it gets up into the 50s since the floor doesn’t suck all the heat out of my body through my feet.

> 4. Drywall the Ceiling

Mostly you need to put up insulation. You don’t necessarily have to drywall it. It looks like you have a lot of storage space up in the ceiling, so at least keep it somewhat accessible even i you close off the rafters from the rest of the garage to make a smaller space to heat.

> 5. Paint the Walls (white?). Will require a lot of work on the walls, as they’re covered in scuffs, holes, etc.

It’s a shop; it doesn’t need to look pretty. I wouldn’t spend more than a weekend on patching and painting.

> 6. Take out at least one set of cabinets, possibly both.

Whatever works for your organizational scheme.

> 7. Put an epoxy floor over the cement

Maybe for an automotive shop, but for a woodshop I wouldn’t bother with epoxy. It won’t make the hard concrete any more pleasant to walk and stand on. Concrete also isn’t very forgiving when your tools fall off your workbench or when you drop them. Put down a plywood or OSB floor, at least in your side. If your slab isn’t insulated, I’d put down 1×4 sleepers, lay foam between them, screw sheets of plywood or OSB on top, and paint it. Based on my experience you can almost get by without the sleepers and lay the plywood directly on top of the foam, but the sleepers keep the floor panels pulled together.

Another thing that you may find helpful would be to pull everything out of the garage once it gets nice out. Then put things back in the garage how you think you would like them to be organized. Don’t feel bad if you have to evict a bunch of stuff. If you haven’t used it in the past year or two, you probably don’t need it.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

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