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I am a new homeowner of about 2 months now. I have not done much in the way of home repair before now, but I do find that I am quite capable so far. My largest project so far was the re-tiling of my kitchen backsplash.

Kitchen Backsplash

I am telling you this you know where I stand and my level of experience. As time goes on I find myself taking on projects that require a good "Man Space" as I call it. Someplace to store my tools, cut sheetrock, etc.. This is the area I am working with to accomplish that. Pardon the weird perspective from the panaramic photo. As you can see from the tool/paint collection I've built over 8 weeks, I am need of something to better organize and work.

My Future Work Area

I've commandeered a full wall of my Fiancee's Laundry room, as well as some of the wall next to the staircase. This is the layout I have in my head (again, please excuse my horrible art skills).

What I am picturing

As you can see, this will consist of a variety of surfaces and storage areas. I plan to use standard Kitchen Cabinets to support the work bench surface. This will provide easy-out-of-the-box stability and storage. The back wall will be lined with peg board and/or storage bins. The left wall will consist of shelving I'm sure this will all need to be custom-cut to fit the area under staircase since it obviously gets smaller as you go up. In addition, that area has the back-side of an in-the-wall book-case as well as its support structure to contend with. I'm also considering leaving the paint cans pretty much where they are and just have an access door.

My question in this - since I am inexperienced in actual carpentry at all, my skill set pretty much consists of measuring, cutting, and screwing things together. What advise would you give me on the construction of this? Are the Cabinets a bad idea? Do you think there is a better / more efficient layout I could utilize? What type of lighting would you recommend? Really, I am just looking for any constructive feedback before I partake on this project.

Many thanks!

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DIY project #2. Build yourself a garage/workshop. Sharing space in a laundry room does not seem like a good idea since cutting, sanding, etc. will create lots of dust. Remember to make the garage really nice, so if you find yourself "in the dog house" it's not so bad ;) –  Tester101 Mar 20 '12 at 16:31
    
That's a great point, for sure. I have a bit of a workspace in my garage for the real dirty stuff. My garage however does not connect to the interior of my house (maybe DIY project #3? JK) so it isn't heated or cooled making it a real pain to work for long amounts of time. Really, this indoor workspace will be for storage and your run of the mill tasks. –  Dutchie432 Mar 20 '12 at 17:05

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Echoing Steven's answer, I wouldn't do kitchen cabinets either. I would get/build a real workbench that can hold 100's of lbs on the surface.

If you aren't up to building your own, you can buy some nice-looking kits from Lowe's, Home Depot, Sears, or Sam's Club. Maybe start with a ready-made workbench as the core of your workshop, and build the remaining shelving and storage yourself.

Here is what I use for my workbench. I picked it because I liked the metal surface. Since then, I saw this one at Sams, and I might pick that if I had a do-over.

Some things to consider that you may have not thought about:

  1. Tools come in all shapes and sizes. Big long things that need to be hung up. Small things that go in a drawer. Odd-shaped things that need a big open shelf. Your needs will change over time. Someone will buy you a nice big circular saw for Christmas, and then you'll discover it doesn't fit on the shelf. Adjustable shelving and modular storage will go a long way.

  2. Don't just think about tool storage. Think about storage for supplies and scraps. You will accumulate a wide variety of nails, screws, wall anchors, nuts, bolts, washers, plumbing fittings, etc. These will all need little drawers and bins for storage. (Here is what I use)

    Also, you will end up with big scrap pieces of wood, metal, and plumbing that will need a home. This stuff won't fit in a drawer or on a shelf. You'll want a big open box (a trash can works pretty well).

  3. Vice (or "vise" depending on who you talk to). Get one and bolt it to your workbench. Holding stuff with your hand while you cut it is not fun. There are different sizes of vices, with different types of jaws (smooth, jagged, etc). Make sure you get one that is big enough to handle the pieces you expect to be working with. Also, it is a good idea to pick a jaw type that can hold your work piece without damaging it. I have a set of Vice Jaw Inserts that I use for delicate items.

  4. Dust collection. Cutting wood is messy. You should have a decent Shop Vac (or equivalent) in easy reach of wherever you will be doing most of your cutting. You may also want to consider locating your workbench/cutting area as far away from the laundry as possible so you don't end up with sawdust in your clothes.

  5. Lighting. A single bare bulb may seem like enough light in a regular basement, but it won't be enough when you're hunched over you workbench casting a shadow. You will need some extra lighting.

  6. Power. You will need outlets all over the place. Power saws have beefy current requirements, so long thin extension cords are a bad idea. Also, the standard 15A circuit for all of your basement outlets may not be enough. If you want to run your Circular Saw at the same time as your Shop Vac, expect a blown breaker. Consider putting your workshop outlets on their own 20A circuit. The circuit should be protected by a GFCI. Pay extra for the heavy duty receptacles. I like the tamper resistant outlets, because they keep dust out, and also seem to do a better job holding the plugs in.

    Keep in mind that local codes probably call for all exposed electrical wiring in a workshop to be protected by solid metal conduit (protection against flying sharp/heavy debris). If you install any new outlets, make sure they are protected accordingly. If you have existing exposed wire runs, consider re-doing them with conduit, or nailing some plywood over the studs to cover the wires.

  7. Fire Extinguisher. Power tools, heat, sparks, fire. Get a fire extinguisher that is at least 3A:40BC rated. I would recommend 4A:60BC. Make sure it is in arms reach while working (a few seconds can save your house). Depending on your workshop layout, you may also want a second extinguisher by the door (e.g. you walk in the room and discover a flame).

  8. Smoke Alarm. It looks like the door to this room will be shut most of the time. Does that room have its own smoke alarm? If not, it should. Consider a dual sensor smoke alarm to detect "fast" and "slow" fires. If your existing smoke alarms are interconnected, you should connect the new one to the existing system.

  9. First Aid Kit. Should be in arms reach of the workbench. Stop the bleeding fast.

  10. Safety Goggles. Use them whenever you are cutting/drilling. The tiniest little bit of fling crud will burn like hell in your eyes, if not make you blind.

  11. Hearing Protection and Work Gloves (good idea Tester101). Power saws are loud. Scared my wife the first time I used my circular saw. You can damage your hearing. Gloves will help if you pinch your hands, and can dampen vibration from power tools. (Get good gloves that are comfortable.)

  12. Where will you wash your hands? Pumice Hand Soap and Shop Towels. Your spouse may not want these things at the kitchen sink. I keep mine in the basement bathroom. And don't wipe your hands with the "good towels"!

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Wow - Quite an extensive opinion, and very much appreciated! Thanks!!! –  Dutchie432 Mar 22 '12 at 9:53
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+1. A good vise is very important. Make sure you know what kind of work you will do with it. Some are better at holding metal versus wood. Many can do both. A folding stand like a Workmate is also useful, allowing you to bring a bench and a workstand to where you are working, that can clamp things in place. –  user558 Mar 22 '12 at 12:16
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Vise - "A metal tool with movable jaws that are used to hold an object firmly in place while work is done on it, typically attached to a workbench." Vice - "Immoral or wicked behavior.", "Acting as deputy or substitute for; next in rank". –  Tester101 Mar 22 '12 at 12:50
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Ear protection, and gloves. Protecting your ears and hands is just as important as protecting your eyes. –  Tester101 Mar 22 '12 at 12:52
    
Vice can be spelled both ways: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vise. –  msemack Mar 22 '12 at 13:25

I don't know if cabinets are the best idea as a base for your bench. There are not designed to hold a lot of weight from the top and be forced upon. As well, often you will be banging on your bench and rattling it around - imagine what will happen to what's in the cabinets. It's best to isolate them from your bench.

Here is a relatively simple but very sturdy bench that you can build yourself without too many tools. It's even easier if you get the top and shelf surfaces cut at your local home reno store.

Bench picture

Also, I agree with the comments that sharing a laundry room might not be the best idea, but if you are short on space I'm sure it will do just fine. It also depends what you are doing on it. Wood working is dusty, fixing household electronics is not (though I've seen some pretty dusty computers!).

Don't forget lots of room for peg and slat boards as well as general tool storage. I've found that a tool chest works well for me while occupying a small enough footprint.

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