Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional that works from your home converting your residence living area to a workspace requires a lot of proper planing and use of the right materials to make sure your family is protected.
So what considerations are important when converting an attached garage to year round workspace if you are a wood worker?
Although the lighting in your garage may be good enough for small projects if you are serious about your work you will need some serious lighting.
Florescent lighting can provide good light while keeping your voltage demands relatively low.
If you have standard 110v lights in your garage you can probably replace them with a hanging florescent kit but remember your garage circuit may be shared with other parts of your home.
It is important to define all of your circuits and include lighting requirements in any electrical upgrade you may need for other parts of your shop.
Defining your HVAC Needs
When working with wood you are likely to create a lot of dust and use chemicals that can pollute your home’s living space.
There are commercial vacuum systems designed to collect dust from your work area by attaching to fixed sanders, drill presses and lathes. You can also design your own dust collection system by using a large canister vacuum.
Canister vacuums or shop vacs can be fitted with dust arresting filters or you can fill them partly with water to reduce out dusting. This is a common practice in the Drywall business and you may want to look at some of add-on products available to Drywall installers for sanding.
Ventilating The Workspace
To cut down on breathing problems you will need to ventilate your workspace and because you are using flammable chemicals you will need to use a fan system that will not generate a spark and cause fire.
Heating the Workspace
Glues and paints will need to be applied at 70F to 90F meaning you will normally need to heat your garage in winter.
Because you will be using flammable chemicals such as paints, solvents and other products you can not use a heating system that has an open flame.
The possibility of fire in your garage is one reason most garages are not heated in the first place.
If your home is using a Forced Hot Air system you will not be able to add a vent into the garage workshop to heat the area. Fire Codes will require that you use an independent heating system to reduce the possibility of back flow of vapors into your home.
You should also stay away from kerosene heaters or propane heaters that have an open flame.
If you are performing a lot of sprayed finishing you will want to use water based products or those with low VOC Volatile Organic Chemical makeups.
You may want to install an automatic sprinkler system or introduce some other method to protect against fires.
Walls between your living space and workshop must be covered in fire rated materials such as 1″ thick drywall. You do not want to leave studs exposed or apply a material that could burn such as plywood.
Doors that enter into your home must be steel fire rated doors with no windows.
You should also provide easy exit from your garage that does not depend on operation of your garage door opener in case of power failure. Most garage doors have override systems but you may want to install an exterior door separate from the main house door and garage door.
At minimum an egress window will probably be necessary by code.
Storage should include a fire rated paint cabinet for any chemicals that could cause a fire and storage of trash should be outside the work area.
Upgrading your electrical
The standard electrical provided to your attached garage will most likely be 110v at 15 amps. Some lucky people will have a 20 amp circuit with 12 gauge wire but even that will not be sufficient to power all your tools and lighting.
To properly calculate your needs you will need to gather the amperage needs of all your tools and other devices.
Once you have calculated all your needs you will most likely need to run a dedicated circuit for your HVAC and another for welders or larger standing tools. This will require both a circuit breaker and new heavier wiring.
Protecting your Surfaces
If you ever plan to sell your home you should consider using a wall covering that can be removed to protect your drywall from all of the products you will be using.
Additionally you should protect your garage door and floor.
It may be a good time to think about using an epoxy floor paint on the concrete floor before it gets contaminated with oils and other products which could cause problems later.
Rubber mats are available for work areas where you are likely to see lots of traffic or the possibility of floor damage from dropping hammers or other heavy items. Put a few in front of your workbench and because they are somewhat spongy they will reduce leg and joint stress as an added benefit.