Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

How to Design the Perfect Workshop

By: Danny Lipford

Workshops come in all shapes and sizes, from a separate room to a corner of the garage. Watch this video to find out how to design a workshop for your home, including:

  • Wiring
  • Lighting
  • Plumbing
  • Shelves
  • Storage
  • Workbench
  • Dust collection

Read episode article to find out more.

Print   Video Transcript

This week we’re putting together the workshop you always wanted. One that’s unique but still very practical and functional. So whether you’re creating a workshop from scratch or just looking for ideas to improve the one you have, you’ll want to stick around to see it all come together.

Hey, you ever wonder what it look like behind the scenes at a home improvement show? Well here’s a little glimpse of it. This is a storage building I’ve had for awhile and we use this for storage and materials and props we use on the show and it’s also used by my construction company. Well this part of the building has kind of turned into a little bit of a dumping zone, where people just dump things that they’re not sure exactly where they go in the rest of the building.

Well, all these years we’ve always planned on this being a nice little workshop, and now’s the time that we’re about to remove all of this and create a nice realistic, practical workshop. Not a TV workshop that just looks good, but one that will be perfect for us to use for some of the projects we have on the show, and again it will be used by our construction company for some of the projects they have.

Now, some of the things we’ll be covering in this week’s show will be things that you can use around your house whether you’re an avid woodworker or not. We’re going to talk about a little fold-down workbench that’s perfect for maybe that little area you have in your garage or your storage building. Also the importance of building the proper surface to work on, lighting, dust collection, a number of other things I know that you can use, but I’m so anxious to get this stuff out of here. Within the area like this whether it’s in a business or home there’s plenty of stuff that just needs to go away. But there’s also some tough to decisions to make about what to throw away, what to keep and how to organize what you hang on to.

For now we’re just getting it out of the room so that our electrician can get started. In any kind of workshop you want plenty of access to power and lots of use of the light. So Mike our electrician is hooking us up. If a service call from an electrician isn’t in your budget you can plan your space so that you can best take advantage of the outlets that are already there. Now Mike has checked all of these surfaces to be sure they can handle these extra outlets he’s adding.

He’s also providing power to a cool light grid we’re building from several old fluorescent fixtures that we salvaged from past remodeling jobs. With six four-tube fixtures, we should get plenty of light. In a work space you want to install these lights high enough so they don’t get in your way when you’re moving materials but low enough to provide good even light.

It’s also a good idea to cover up any exposed insulation or open stud bays so that you have a flat surface to mount stuff on the walls of your workshop. Here we’re attaching plywood panels to the metal framing but in most garages or sheds you can just nail them directly to the studs. We’re also getting a jump on organizing by putting in a hose reel next to the location we’ve chosen for our air compressor.

Well I think I’ll have plenty of light once we get all of 24 bulbs in place. I’m really glad I saved those old fixtures. Hey another thing we’re reusing, and I’m really glad I saved, is these old cabinets that we took out of a kitchen renovation a couple of years ago. This will be perfect to serve as our base cabinets so that we can build our sturdy countertop on this side of the shop.

Now, another thing that I held onto for the last year or so is bookcase that came out of a living room renovation that we did and this will be perfect to put all the shelves back in, position it over on that side of the shop, for all of the caulk and paint, sandpaper, all those things you have to have in a shop like this.

Now, another thing we’ve recycled that’s kind of unusual, all the wood walls you see here were actually and old backdrop that we used on a show a couple of years ago, perfect for our wood walls we need. Now, to store some of the tools, we have we created this simple little shelf unit out of cedar. And you know it kind of adds some of that warm wood feel to a shop, which I wanted it to look more like this than just plain painted walls.

This holds a lot of stuff but mainly our handheld power tools, so it needs to support a lot of weight. Any shelf in a workshop will probably wind up supporting more than you initially planned so build it as strong as you can and don’t scrimp on the materials or the fasteners you use to hang it. Now the next step is to install our recycled cabinets that will line the wall under the shelf. Now these cabinets are a little plain but that should work great for a shop like this. Even if you don’t own a remodeling company you can usually find these things pretty inexpensively from salvaged warehouses which recover them from renovation projects then resell them to the public.

Now, the same is also true about items like this bookcase. Now even though it’s just a workshop you want to pay attention to details like being sure these things are level so you don’t end up with stuff sliding off the shelves down the road. Now with most of the big stuff in we can start laying on the paint.

While we were painting all of the walls in our workshop our plumber dropped by to hook up an old laundry tub sink that we’ve had for several years. Now, he hooked up to the cold water line on an outside water faucet, so we’ll only have cold water but still this will be really convenient to have this right here in this shop. Well we’re about to set our last base cabinet, and once they secure that well to the wall we can start on all of our countertops.

Now we’re not buying any expensive countertops for this, we’re basically using three quarter inch plywood that we’ve stained so it will really look good for a long time and provide a great work surface. Hey, Joe has another great workshop tip for you in our Simple Solution segment.

Pegboard panels like this are extremely popular way to display and store hand tools. But they have one annoying problem is that when you lift off a tool, often the hook itself will pop out of the board. And that happens with over a number of times, every time you reach for a tool it can get pretty annoying. So you can buy at the hardware store, they make straps and special devices to hold the hook in place, but I’ve found this works just as well and it’s a lot cheaper.

Simply get a one-inch drywall screw and drive it into the hole right beside the hook. You want to use a one inch screw because you don’t want to hit the wall behind it and you just drive the screw in until the head of it is tight against the hook, it’ll just act as a shim, and you’ll see once I get this all the way in, it lock the hook in place, and now when you take the tool on and off it won’t come off. The hook won’t pop out.

And here you see there’s a hook that has two prongs that go in and in a case like this all you need is a single screw and that locks it in place. And now when you reach for the tool, the hook stays right where it belongs.

Hey coming up the centerpiece of every shop: the workbench.

Well I was just thinking about all of the supplies I’ll be able to keep in this large shelf unit we just installed in our workshop. Hey, that’s we’re doing this week is creating a very practical realistic workshop where we’ll be doing a lot of projects for the TV show, but it’s also going to be used by my construction company so it really has to be set up properly.

Now we’re using a lot of recycled materials in this project including some kitchen cabinets that were removed some a kitchen renovation project a few years ago and you know this is something that a lot of homeowners do if you’re real careful about removing the cabinets from a kitchen renovation or a bathroom renovation you can use them in a lot of ways around the house and certainly works good for a workshop like this.

Now also we have some shelves that we built here above this, little cubicles like this work great to organize your workshop so you can have different tools or different supplies in the different little areas. And we’re about to install a very simple countertop. Now this is nothing more than just three-quarter-inch plywood and we decided to stain it instead of painting it, because you know it’s going to take a lot of abuse with all the pounding and the dings, and dents you’ll get in a workbench so staining it and then sealing it with a coat of sealer will probably hold up better than anything else. Now we’ll put another coat of sealer on it after we finish the front edge band and the backsplash and once all of that is complete, boy this thing is going to work nice.

Now if don’t have space for a dedicated workbench say in your garage you can build one that folds out of the way when it’s not in use. Simply mount a board to the wall to hinge the table on, then you can use some eye hooks and chain to support it. Now it won’t support a ton of week but it should be just right for a weekend project every now and then.

Another flexible option is the portable work tables the guys are building back in our shop. This gives us a work surface that we can move wherever we may need it. Now the main workbench we’ve left a little gap between two of the cabinets for a trashcan or a stool to slip in but we did need to support the countertop where it crosses so Tim and Chris are adding some 1x4s to bridge the space. They’re also putting in a 2×4 inside one of the cabinets where the two pieces of plywood will have to be seamed. Then it’s just a matter of laying in the pieces in place and nailing them down to the cabinet. That trim strip around the edge is mostly for looks but the cedar backsplash along the back will keep us from banging up the wall or getting small items stuck between it and the counter. All in all it started to look pretty good.

A very simple countertop but one that should work great for our workshop, now we’ve already applied one coat of polyurethane to kind of seal up the plywood. Now we’ll be applying another coat once that dries to give it a little bit of durability because this thing will get a lot of abuse. Now Tim’s applying the same kind of clear sealer to our little rolling workbenches here, and I think this is a great idea, we’ll be able to roll these out, lock down the casters on the bottom then you can have a drill press or any other bench top tool that you can work on, then when you’re finished with them you can roll it right back, tuck them up against this wall and it serves as a good storage unit and gives you the chance to keep the workshop wide open for some of the larger projects we might be working on.

Now, this is kind of an odd situation here, a few years ago when we bought this building there was a concrete block wall around here and a large drain right in the middle of the floor. Well the drain will certainly come in handy for any cleanup in the shop but the walls kind of left us when we removed those kind of left us a little divot and a little bit of damage here, so to make this nice and smooth so that our rolling workbenches will roll around real nicely we’re having to do a good bit of floor patch.

Now, we’ve already applied some resurfacer to fill up some of the deeper holes and after that dries overnight we’ll use a floor leveling compound tomorrow morning to really smooth everything out. Leveling compound is more fluid than the resurfacer so it flows into all of the low spots to even out the surface. Now, this won’t look like a finished floor when Tim’s done but it should do the job for our shop. Now, while he wraps up this Emily has a Best New Product that might be a great addition to your workshop.

The idea behind this segment is to find products that solve common problems we face as homeowners. And the cool thing for me is that I get to learn a lot about the professional side of home improvement. Well, I’m looking for do it yourself items. For example, do you know why carpenters pencils are shaped differently than ordinary round pencils? So they won’t roll off of an inclined surface like a roof. And the larger size allows you to draw fat lines as well as fine ones while you’re marking lumber.

Now this Super Pencil from C.H. Hanson does all of that and more. The entire pencil is made from a non toxic graphite composition so the whole thing is a writing surface with no wood around it to shave away. Super pencil marks are water and smudge resistant and because the composite is so durable it never needs sharpening even when you use it on rough materials like concrete.

Since you won’t constantly be breaking the lead and re-sharpening the pencil it should last about seven times longer than normal which helps to justify its price tag of about $5. But you know what, I think it’s worth it.

After the break we’ll bring in the brain trust to consult on the final details.

Our practical workshop is coming along nicely. We’ve created a big open space and added plenty of electrical power and lots of light. We’ve also added some great storage capacity using recycled kitchen cabinets and some old shelves. Now, with our tool compartment and work surfaces in place we’re getting very, very close, but I wanted to get a little input on the final details from some other folks who spent a lot of time making sawdust, so I asked my co-host Allen Lyle and our website editor Ben Erickson to look around and give us some of their ideas.

Do you have any plans for dust collection? How are you going to handle that?

Well, I thought about that I don’t want all that dust to kind of infiltrate everything else in the building. So actually instead of putting in some kind of dust collection system, I thought that I would probably just put a nice shop vac here. And then I have room that I can bring some hose back behind this column and then you know if you’re sitting here working on something we can have adapters that go right into a miter saw or right into a sander or have a little outlet more or less to lay up on the counter that would collect all of the dust. And the same thing could happen on any of the work we do out here.

Anything you could do to keep the dust down really helps as far as breathing, and it’ll get everywhere, even if it’s in a garage it’s going to find its way inside.

And that’s what I’m afraid of, is it getting everywhere else.

Why no pegboard?

Well, I hate pegboard, pegboard’s in every shop, people use the heck out of it. And what I wanted to do was start moving the tools in, get a few of them in and then maybe just build some little racks for the screwdrivers and a few of the things like that. But things that are like categories – like a drill, drill bits – just let the drill bits be right here. Certain things maybe that you don’t use all the time, hole saws or maybe brass for something like that, can go down in other drawers.

And then after awhile you know where everything is, but still we’ll have things that you really need handy, the pencils, little bit of glue, that kind of thing.

One other thing I love the idea of this. But it’s a small area, so how about a larger assembly table?

Well I’ve been kind of fighting that, because I wanted to keep it open to where you could have the flexibility of moving things in and out. It probably makes sense. Actually have another old set of cabinets I thought about putting here, maybe put some really good casters on it to where you could keep it here. I’m also, wanted to be able to store like drum sander, other things that can go under it and then you can take those out and put them on this.

That central rolling work table turned out just that easy. With a plywood top and some casters, that cabinet worked great, and all it needs is a coat of paint to fit right in. Now instead of the pegboard I wanted to avoid, we found some cool magnetic tool hangers that are just as flexible without having to keep up with all those little hooks.

And for all those little incidental things that always wind up on a work bench we’re building a little lipped shelf to take care of that. We kept it pretty small to avoid collecting too much clutter, because whatever space you have you’re bound to fill it up.

The dust collection was as easy and simple as I hoped it would be, and we even had time to clean up the floor and add a coat of paint to it before moving in the tools. Now, this is where you can really get organized with little additions like these self adhesive hooks on stationary tools to keep up with safety gear and accessories.

An old drywall mud tray does the same thing over by the compressor where there’s always a lot of little attachments that need to stay real handy. And wheels are always a great addition to big items like the table saw, especially when they make going from stationary to rolling this easy.

I got a couple more tools here. Put them up on that shelf there. You know this is the aggravating and really exciting part of putting this shop together, trying to figure out where all this stuff is going to go and where it’ll go in a very convenient place when we really start doing some projects in here.

Well, of course this is a work in progress, we’ll always being changing a few things here and there because once we start getting into a project we might realize what we put in this drawer maybe would be better off there or vice versa.

Also, we tend to build a lot of little jigs to make a project go a little smoother, we’ll be saving those jigs and they may end up hanging all over this back wall, but we’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to put away right now.

I’ll tell you what, while Danny anguishes over where to put everything let’s check out this question we recently received from one of our viewers.

Danny, what kind of records should I keep on my home?

Most people know they should document their homes contents for insurance reasons but they often ask why or how to do it the right way. If you have a loss due to fire, theft or a natural disaster your insurance company will need certain details to complete the claims process, including a description of the item, the model number, the serial number the date purchased the color and the purchase price.

Now, photographs or video tape will also be very useful especially to pass along to your insurance adjustor. Now the problem is this documentation won’t help you at all if it’s lost or destroyed so consider saving your information electronically. Take your photos with a digital camera and create a list of all your valuables, and save both in a computer file. This file can be saved to a disk you can keep at work or upload it to a website that you can access it from anywhere including your home.

Record your home improvement question and submit it at todayshomeowner.com/askdanny or mail it to us at this address. Who knows you might see yourself right here.

It’s almost done, but not quite, so stick around for the tour of our new workshop.

Well, we’ve managed to put together the workshop I’ve always wanted. One that’s practical, functional and neat, well at least for the moment. We have plenty of light, plenty of power, lots of work surfaces and enough cabinets, shelves and hangers to organize all of the tools we’ll be using here. I’ve even managed to do a little creative workshop decorating along the way to remind me of how I got started in this business in the first place.

Well, my workshop is finally complete and I’m ready to take on just about project that comes down the line. And I’m pretty well set up here. I’ve got a great workbench, plenty of table space over here that easily rolls around the shop if I need it, lot of storage space down here, I can tuck these tools away or bring out any new ones that I need. And as you can see I’ve got plenty of supplies to tackle just about any project.

You know I can remember my very first workshop, and the very first power tool I ever bought when I was nine years old. Well, I have still have it, doesn’t work anymore but it lasted for 20 years, and I bought it from a mail order catalog for $11.41. I’ve held onto it all these years, because I knew I would find some special place sooner or later that it needs to rest. Well here’s a nice spot right here, I think that’s where it’ll end up.

Hey, I hope we’ve been able to share with you some ideas that you can use if you’re thinking about building a workshop or any type of hobby room or just about any room in your house that you can get this kind of enjoyment out of. We have a lot more details on this shop as well as other things you need to consider if you’re building a shop on our website at todayshomeowner.com. hey thanks for being with us.

There may be more space in your home than you realize, next week we’ll help you find it.



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