Make Your Dream Garage/Workshop A Reality
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
The perfect space to work for homeowners with their DIY projects replete with cumbersome sheets of sheetrock and large lumber and for the brigade of enterprising entrepreneurial craftsmen such as finish carpenters and metalworkers, is the garage workshop.
The garage building is already close to the house for power sources and for daily use, and yet can be detached from the house to minimize noise, mess and stress for the operation of buzzing saws and nail guns. Unpleasant odors from paints and stains can be isolated from the regular household environment, and the outdoor structure provides a private retreat where tasks can be safely completed.
Another advantage of a garage workshop is that children and pets are not underfoot. Inquiring minds are not hitting switches on machines and the family dog is not chewing through power cords and traipsing sawdust around the house.
When you are busy working on a project and need to stop to run the kids to a soccer game or join the family for dinner, you can leave everything at the drop of a hat and come right back to where you left off without the need for tidy up. Yes, you want a garage workshop! No stairs and lugging everything up and down to and from the basement or trying to squeeze building supplies or furniture for refinishing into tiny spaces. So we’ve established that a garage workshop would be awesome to own. Now how can you make your dream workshop a reality and how should it be designed?
Machine Tools and Tables
Almost every workshop will need incorporate large machine tools and space to move around them. By choosing a garage design that is not restricted by post supports in the interior and is constructed with an open plan design the placement of the tools and tables will be less restricted.
It is a lot better for your health to work at the proper height and not be bending down and straining your back so a correct height table space is essential. It is also much easier to see what you are doing when you are working at full height. If your workshop is to involve working on something heavy such as motorbikes or cars, then adding a lift system is a good idea. Although these can be expensive, it is sometimes possible to buy second hand units. For motorbikes a scissor-lift table is a great option. These can be moved around easily and stored to take up less space when not in use.
However an open plan garage can cost a little more to build, especially if it incorporates a loft space and staircase. On the plus side a loft space can provide additional storage space for supplies or room to sit down and plan and reflect on project in the works.
If you place machine tools in the center of a large space, be aware that you will need to position suitable amp power outlets close by so extension cords are not posing tripping hazards or even fire hazards in the workshop. You will want to have a shopvac set up or vacuum system in place to dispose of sawdust or other debris. It is best to implement these systems in the design phase of the garage/workshop, not halfway through! Consult a licensed electrician or an experienced modular or prefab construction company with electricians on staff for suggestions on how to manage necessary power sources.
Division of the space between the vehicle storage area and the workshop is easily attained with a two-car garage and has other advantages. See below:
Size Matters With Entrance Doors
Garage doors are not only large enough to accommodate moving large objects and materials in and out of the building, they are also easy to use with one hand or even with the help of an automatic opener. It is prudent to also have a regular ‘people’ size entry door for daily use, as during inclement weather or for times when the garage is actually being used to park a car, you might want to avoid the main entrance.
Design of the garage/workshop space will ideally be separated, so that when crafting that beautiful new piece of furniture you don’t accidentally dent the auto. If you incorporate a wall that divides the vehicle storage area from the side of a two-car garage where the second vehicle space is converted to a workshop, remember to allow plenty of door opening room for the vehicle. The general rule is a minimum of 36 inches, but if you are adding cabinets then allow for the space they take up.
A sincere advantage of adding a dividing wall is all that extra wall space you have for shelving and cabinets in your workshop. A tidy workshop is a safe workshop, and having the ability to secure expensive tools and equipment in a cabinet is another plus of built-in design cabinetry.
If you plan to operate welding or metal-working tools that may flame or spark, seriously consider using fireproof materials such as firerock throughout the construction. Check with local ordinances for any special requirements or permits that may be required.
What’s Best? Square or Rectangular Workshop Area?
The answer to this question depends mostly on the type of work you expect to utlize the workshop to complete. Obviously if you plan to work with long sheets of metal or dimensional lumber, you need to be able to not just place it on benches but also move around it to work.
A square space on the other hand is ideal for smaller projects such as fine furniture carpentry where a large central table can provide a stable surface that can be easily worked around from all sides.
Light And Airy/Dark and Dismal
Natural light will obviously lessen the utility bill and whenever machinery and tools are used, good ventilation for the area is essential. Windows and vents in the gable end of the building, ridge vents and eave vents can all provide passive airflow to cool the building in the summer.
When working natural light is also less tiring on your eyes than fluorescent or other types of artificial light sources.
Wall and roof insulation is a wise choice as it will keep the workshop cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
The only disadvantage of windows (aside from the cleaning!) is that prying eyes can see into the workshop unless screens or blinds are added (more cleaning!). Windows are also less secure than solid walls. Placing the windows higher in the sidewalls or adding skylights can mitigate this risk. Homeowner policies often restrict the insured value of tools to a few thousand dollars. It may be worth adding a rider to your policy to cover the investment you have in your equipment.
Placement of a security system that ties into your computer or cell phone is always an option and can provide a useful deterrent.
With doors and windows always plan their location with care. It is easy to break a window turning a large piece of wood around on a table if the window is placed behind you.
Light airy spaces also provide a sense of well-being to the human spirit.
While motoring in and out of garage space the inclusion of pillars and an overhang does add the need for careful negotiation. The advantage of an overhang is it shields the interior space from poor weather so the large garage doors can be left open more of the time providing more light and ventilation. If the garage you select is two story and has a loft space that you plan to finish later, you can also add a deck to do double duty serve as an overhang
As a craftsman or do-it-yourselfer you will want to spend whatever free time you have at work in your workshop, not working on maintenance issues on the building.
You can select low maintenance siding options, hurricane rated roof shingles, types of roof design best to withstand high winds, colors to complement your home, and top quality craftsmanship to put these quality ingredients all into a purposeful design and well built structure.
It is also smart to pay attention to the interior surfaces of a workshop to minimize cleaning time. The floor demands special attention especially where there is a likelihood of spillage of stains, paints or other liquids. A stained and sealed wooden floor will clean up better than one that is made of unfinished rough lumber boards. A concrete floor should also be sealed and protected from damage as it is also a porous surface. The use of products such as the rubberized slip-resistant Polyurea floor covering can also be useful in certain applications.
Selection of your new garage/workshop can be easily accomplished with a few phone calls and some research online. The option to buy a large shed as a workshop rather than a garage is a budget friendly way to go and also works well if you have limited site space to place the structure.
Choose to partner up with a construction company that has a proven track record of providing garages and outdoor structures and can factory build components without the weather delays, noise and mess caused by on site construction. Look for financing options, to the penny quotes, full warranties and upfront contract information and site preparation and plan/permit help.
We spoke with Stoltzfus Structures Project Manager and co-owner, Jonathan Zook of Stoltzfus Structures, based in PA, who have been in the prefab and modular construction business for over 43 years, to garner some advice based on his wealth of experience:
“We manufacture many different types of structures and our Amish crew produce stellar products, including sheds, garages and workshops. At our plant we have the ability to customize any design the customer wants, as well as offer structure ready to go on our lot at discount pricing for those in a hurry to get their new garage on site right away. The addition of loft space and overhangs or decks is a cost effective method to improve the amount of usable space available within the structure.,” said Zook.
Delivery and set up of a new structure does not take long. And with the help of a ‘mule’ machine access difficulties can be overcome in most cases.
Zook welcomes prospective customers to check out all that is on offer at Stoltzfus Structures:
“There is no reason to compromise on adding a garage/workshop to your property. If you come to sell your home down the road, you have the added curb appeal and resale value. We can help with financing, and you can get started using your new workshop right away. There’s nothing better than producing fine craftsmanship with your own two hands. We know a bit about that in our Amish community!”
To get started please visit Stoltzfus Structures website or give their staff a call at 610-593-7700