How to Design a Garage Workshop

Written by felicia greene
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How to Design a Garage Workshop
This one-car garage can be converted into a comfortable and functional workshop. (red garage door image by green308 from

Garage workshops have evolved from cramped spaces with workbenches piled high to well-planned environments with multiple work surfaces and storage options. When planning a garage workshop, garage design expert Steve D'Gerolamo recommends that a homeowner think about both his current and future system and utility requirements. For example, a hobbyist woodworker planning to enter the custom furniture market may at some point require a larger table saw and other more powerful equipment. Since the new equipment will likely require more heavy-duty electrical service, he would do well to include that service in his workshop design.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • List of essential workshop equipment
  • Cardboard mock-ups of future equipment
  • Contractor's tape measure
  • List of workshop dimensions
  • List of table and bench measurements
  • List of equipment power requirements
  • Overall electrical and lighting needs
  • List of local heating and cooling contractors
  • Ventilation and air source information
  • List of project materials and supplies
  • Material storage plan information
  • Building permit information
  • List of local architects

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  1. 1

    Decide on the workshop's function. Resist the temptation to cram materials and equipment for several hobbies into your workshop. The resulting disorganisation will likely keep you from completing projects efficiently. The chaos might also prove dangerous if there's insufficient room to use equipment safely.

    Examples of dedicated workshops include those for auto repair, woodworking, metalworking or boatbuilding.

  2. 2

    Identify essential workshop equipment. Once you've chosen your workshop theme, list the equipment typically used for that discipline. If you don't currently possess the equipment, measure for and create mock-up cardboard versions in preparation for designing your workshop layout.

    When planning a woodworking shop, for example, your equipment will include a table saw sized for your needs, a planer and a jointer. You will need precision power tools such as a band saw or scroll saw. Finally, you will need a dust collection system.

  3. 3

    Measure available workshop space. Using an extra-long contractor's metal tape measure and, with the help of an assistant, measure the usable workspace within your workshop. Determine dimensions of existing worktables, workbenches and cabinets. Taken together, these dimensions will help you determine how your equipment can be safely positioned in your workshop.

  4. 4

    Calculate electrical and lighting needs and power supply. First, list all electrical equipment planned for your workshop. Next, list the equipment's respective power requirements (and any special power service required for that equipment's operation). Contact a licensed electrician to evaluate your power needs and to install or modify the electrical system.

  5. 5

    Examine climate control systems. If your workshop space currently has a heating and/or air conditioning system, evaluate those systems in the context of your planned needs. If you will be spending considerable time in the shop, and you live in a warm climate, a good air conditioning system will add to your comfort. In cooler climates, search for reliable, safe and affordable heat sources. Contact a local heating and cooling contractor for help with remodelling or new construction needs.

  6. 6

    Design an adequate ventilation system. Good ventilation will help to circulate air and may contribute to the cooling of the workshop as well. If you will be painting or using hazardous chemicals or sprays, however, you will need an excellent ventilation system augmented by a supplied air source.

  7. 7

    Create a materials storage plan. List materials and supplies needed for your projects and decide how you will store those materials. Storage options include cabinets or bins, toolboxes, portable tool supply units and special purpose shelving for bulky items, such as lumber. Your advance planning will accomplish two goals: You will be better able to locate materials when you need them, and you will minimise safety hazards which might occur with excessive clutter.

  8. 8

    Hire an architect to create your workshop design. Work with a licensed architect to meld your workshop design elements into a cohesive remodelling (or building) plan. The architect will analyse workshop dimensions, load factors and other variables to provide you with a workable design. She may also be able to assist you with building permit issues (or contact your local building inspector's office). Find a local architect through the American Institute of Architects.

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