WT268 – Basement Shop Pros & Cons

We are breaking from our usual format while we’re on vacation but don’t worry, we’ll be back on Sept. 14th!

Shawn submitted a question asking about the pros and cons of a basement workshop versus keeping it in the garage or elsewhere. Is having an area equivalent to 4x’s the existing garage space make it to irresistible to pass? Or are there too many hidden dangers or concerns that a woodworker is overlooking?

Matt suggests checking out two links in the episode. His own episode “Minimize the dust” from 2009 and an article on shop lighting from Marc.

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10 replies on “WT268 – Basement Shop Pros & Cons”

Don’t enclose the furnace too tight. If Shawn walls off the furnace/water heater be sure to put louvers in the door or pipe in outside air for combustion purposes.

Stan P beat me to the one point I wanted to add to what Matt said. If you want to enclose your furnace and water heater, check your local building code for requirements for the size of vents that are needed to provide sufficient air for combustion. Building Codes also have requirements for how much room you must provide in front of the furnace for servicing of the furnace. I placed the vents on the side of the enclosure that was away from my shop so they don’t defeat the purpose of the enclosure.
I agree with the other points that Matt had. The one about air ducts transferring noise throughout the house is key. I enclosed mine and used Roxul soundproofing insulation to further isolate them.

That is true for older heating systems. Newer high efficency furnaces and boilers have sealed combustion with an intake and exhaust for combustion air. An hvac contractor can verify that for you
Electric water heater do not need combustion air and again good gas water heater can have a supply ND exhaust system. Many tankless water heater have supply and exhaust piped also.


As for sound isolation, the drywalling of the ceilings will help, but like the rubber bumpers under your tools, the ceiling itself should be mechanically decoupled from the floor joists for any real drop in sound transmission. A good way to do this is with something like Resilient Channel’s, which are basically strips of aluminum that mounting to the framing, and then the drywall mounts to them. http://www.soundproofing.org/infopages/channel.htm

Also if you double up any drywall you could use green glue between them which will greatly enhance any gains from double drywall. http://www.greengluecompany.com/

Rockwool is commonly used for insulation where sound transmission is a concern, but with out mechanical decoupling, the insulation is of minimal value on it’s own.

I have a basement shop 16 x 32 which means it uses the temperature and humidity control of the house. It has all the noise makers including a Dewalt planer, saw stop and all the other tool including running a cnc. I used denim insulation in the ceiling floor joists and sheeted the concrete floor walking area with 3/8 foam pad (those 2×2 puzzle piece). The tools themselves set on the concrete floor. The foam absorbs sound, is easy on the legs, sweeps and vacuums easily, easily reconfigured, if you drop a tool or part it’s rarely damaged. The DC is the largest noise generator and the low frequency is picked up and carries through the duct work so I am considering spraying fire rated 2 part foam on the duct work to further seal it from noise infiltration and dampen the duct vibration.

Openings are you biggest source of noise and dust transmission so focus on that and the noise absorbtion.

I have a great wife and no children at home so my man cave is truly a great place to work.

When I started my basement shop I put up some2/3 stud walls to separate my shop from the rest of the basement then I stapled up some plastic to cover them to keep the dust in. It worked well. I have since then enlarged and replaced the plastic with plywood (free) and added two glass doors also free. I am able to put a fan in the window to. Blow air out to help with fumes an have three systems to help with dust.

From Friday’s Show regarding the Cross-cut Sliding Extension from SawStop. It does not support sheet goods at full extension (as I found out trying to push a 1/2″ sheet of MDF with 44″ to the left of the blade). I reached out to SawStop, here is their response:


We are sorry if the Salesman misunderstood that the slider cannot support heavier sheet goods in the rear left area. I will pass along this information you have provided internally here at SawStop.


Technical Service

9564 SW Tualatin Rd

Tualatin, OR 97062

(503) 582-9934



To that I say “BOOO!” Essentially it is a REALLY Expensive Cross-Cut Sled Support.



At least as an easy/cheap fix for setting up a physical barrier around the shop is to just hang some curtains. I didn’t want to or have the time immediately to set up an actual wall around my basement shop area (which is 250 sqft at best), so instead I just headed down to the closest thrift shop and picked up some curtains. You can attach it with some furring strips straight to the joists above the shop (and in the other way, I have an structural I-Beam that also worked) for a fairly tight gap. Pinning together the sheets makes it hard for the large dust to get through it. While it’s fabric, all the really small stuff will still get through the curtain itself, but at least it makes a decent temporary stopgap until something better can be put in place (or you can’t wall off the area entirely). As a nice bonus, you don’t have the same issue with the gap around a doorway, since you can just use some spare spring clamps or velcro to pin the doorway shut while you’re working.

Not the most effective solution out there, but is definitely in the “cheap-but-still-rather-effective” category.

One plus that I don’t remember hearing mentioned… When I lived back in the NE, the humid summers made me want to die. The basement was the only cool-ish place in the house…

If you don’t have A/C (and his unconditioned garage certainly didn’t), think of it like very poor mans A/C.

I know this is a late addition/question to the thread, but maybe someone will see it and help w/ the last question I have about basement workshops. So I am going to be building my house in the NE, I have the option of building a basement workshop that would be 800-1000 sqf depending on water/heater/electric panel needs. I will eventually be building an attached garage to the house a few years down the road. Putting my workshop in the basement would be a huge boon, but I find myself worrying about the fire danger, which strangely, I have not previously worried about when in my garage despite the garage being attached. So question being is there a good way to alleviate the fire danger in the basement, and is there a difference in fire danger from garage or basement workshops? Ideally I know the best way to ameliorate this danger is to separate the workshop completely but I am years if not a decade from that possibility. Thanks to anyone that answers.

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