Equipping a Workshop

The home workshop should be a highly organised place. Ideally, it should be purpose-designed. Frequently, however, it has to be confined to a garden shed or share the garage with the car. Providing adequate workshop facilities can become something of a “space” project.


Siting considerations are important. There will inevitably be a certain amount of noise from the workshop and, particularly where a garage serves as workshop, the noise may be a source of annoyance to any near neighbours. Try to site the work area where it will create the minimum of disturbance to others. Avoid working late in the evening if any hammering or banging is involved

Room into workshop

A workshop can be set up in an existing room in your house if it can be spared or can double up for the purpose. The merits of this solution are that a work area within the house will be warmer than an outside shed and tools, materials and equipment will be less likely to be affected by damp weather. Such a workshop also affords greater security for valuable items of equipment. Against this, there is the risk of transferring the debris of work to other parts of the home. The golden rule — clean up as you go— is more than ever necessary.

Try to use a room with a good natural north light and remember that noise late at night will disturb the rest of the family, let alone the neighbours.

Workshop extension

A lean-to structure or adapted conservatory may provide reasonable workshop facilities. But a glazed or plastic acrylic roof may be unbearably hot in summer and damp with condensation in winter.

A workshop extension can be either a manufacturer’s kit or a purpose-made brick or timber-built structure. Its siting will be dictated by the site and plan of the house and the nature of the surroundiny plot. The extension will probably have to go either at the back or at one side of the house. A pitched roof, slated or tiled, may be chosen to fit in with the design of the houses. A flat roof is easier and quicker to construct and fits in with most house designs.

Whether you propose an extension or structural alterations to an existing out-building, it is likely that the project must conform to planning and building regulations. There may also be covenants in the deeds or lease of your house restricting what you may do. Check first — or you may have to undo your work Security is an important consideration with any form of outside workshop. Fit stout locks and do not broadcast its contents among strangers.

Timber workshop.

A timber shed is one alternative to sharing the workshop with a car. You can buy a ready-made workshop which can be erected on a firm base within a few hours.

Ready-built sheds have the advantage that the manufacturer has bought his timber in bulk. Buying smaller quantities for a one-off construction involves a relatively higher bill for the timber and more man hours spent on construction. If you hire labour to erect a one-off workshop, obviously you pay out cash. But even if you construct it yourself, it is prudent to cost, however notionally, your own time spent on the project.

Brick workshop.

A brick-built workshop has a number of advantages. It will keep in sound. It will afford better security than a timber shed. A brick workshop can have one or more large picture windows — standard joinery can be bought “off the shelf” for this — and a ready-made door and frame.

A flat chipboard roof, with bitumen felt covering, provides a straightforward type of construction.


Light is the most important initial factor in planning a workshop. North-facing windows offer the best natural light. South and west light may be too intense in bright weather and windows will then need shading. Venetian blinds effectively control bright, natural light.

Artificial light is needed for work in dull weather and in the evenings. The best form of workshop light is fluorescent. It has an even quality and low shadow content. You should plan your lighting with care: for every 10 sq. ft (1 sq. m) of area, provide around 3 kW of lighting. For close work, to ensure accuracy and, above all, safety, bench lighting is needed. It can be in the form of ordinary tungsten bulbs in a batten holder, possibly adjustable, or consist of a small fluorescent strip light.

To make the workshop a brighter place to work in, walls can be painted white to ensure the maximum reflection of light.


List all the items for which you will require power in your future workshop — including heating, lathe, battery recharging etc. Allow an adequate number of power points on this basis, distributed around the workshop. They should be of the 13A metal-clad variety. If these are switched, you will have better and safer control of the operation of tools and appliances. Points should be located just above the height of the bench.


Workshops should be insulated. In a garage it may only be possible to line the roof with flame-proof polystyrene slabs, mineral wool or glass-fibre quilting. Similar methods can be used to line walls and roofs of garden workshops, whether timber or brick.

Tools and materials soon deteriorate in damp conditions if not protected. Some form of heating will keep out damp and stop condensation. A wall-mounted infrared heater is a reasonably economic way of maintaining dry warmth. An electric tubular heater provides even heat at reasonably low running cost.

Floor surfaces

Flooring should be level and free from damp. A concrete floor is hard on the feet and feels cold in winter. A simple covering might be a duckboard, which can be taken up easily when you need to sweep the floor. A covering can also be made from tin. (2 cm) chipboard, laid on polystyrene or polythene. Many types of floor-covering in a semi-outside environment, such as a garage, will collect condensation beneath. Since bench work can involve dust, shavings and chippings, keep the floor clean. Always sweep up regularly and particularly after a major job of work.


Good work benches are essential for handyman jobs. The bench, or benches, should be placed to receive the best natural light. A bench should have a good even-textured worktop. Hardwood, such as beech, kiln-dried if possible, is a good choice. Bench joints should be strong, accurate and the entire bench steady. Legs should be sturdy and stable to prevent the bench from rocking or tilting in use.

Tool well.

There should, ideally, be a tool well in the bench. The bench should contain one or more sturdy vices. A front and a tail vice will usually cover all needs. A good standard bench size is about 511 (1.5 m) long, about 3 ft (91 cm) high and about 1 ft 2 in (36 cm) deep. Aids. Such as bench hooks and slots in the top surface to take bench-stop pegs, will increase its scope.

Benches can be bought complete, or you can make your own. It is a good idea to incorporate a replaceable or turn-over top in a self-built bench Slotted steel angle. Which is widely available in kit form, can be used to construct benches or shelving. A firm blockboard top can be incorporated for a worktop. Shelving can also be built in beneath the bench. Fold-down benches in garages save space. When the workshop has to be part of the garage, a “u” or “I”- shaped bench arrangement is most useful.


  • Storage racks and cupboards should allow you to have items readily to hand and, at the same time, protected. Storage racks can be built using 2 in. by 1 in. (5 cm by 2.5 cm) planed timber, nailed, glued and screwed together and shelved with lightweight chipboard.
  • Cupboards afford a greater degree of security, since valuable tools can be locked away. Some makes of proprietary bench incorporate lockable cupboards underneath.
  • Ensure that shelves are not only firmly fixed but deep enough to prevent items falling off and being damaged — or causing damage. Racks for tools can be made or bought. Magnetic racks are available. You can also make a rack from Terry clips or you may clip tools to a sheet of pegboard. Alternatively, a rack may be made by drilling holes in a wide piece of timber, fixing this horizontally and slotting the tools into it.
  • Tools with metal surfaces should be sprayed with an anti-rust coating and stored in cupboards or in boxes to afford further protection from damp.
  • For storage of such items as wood or ladders, simple timber racks can be made in the form of a letter “u”. Steel tube, bent to shape. Will serve well. The ladder or timber can slide beneath the structure once it is firmly fitted to the roof timbers (which should, of course, be strong enough to take the weight).

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