Setting up a garage workshop can be a rewarding project, providing you with a dedicated space for DIY projects, repairs, and creative endeavours. These tips will help you create a safe, organized and functional space no matter what square footage you’re working with.
My Step-Dad, while not an avid woodworker, does enjoy puttering away at projects in his garage. Over the Holidays he asked me to come over and build a step for my brother, and I got a look at how he’s been functioning in his space. To say it was a dangerous setup feels accurate. I decided then and there that as soon as I could get access to his garage (when he wasn’t home) I was going to create a proper garage workshop with space, storage, lighting AND most importantly – safety in mind.
This is where we started:
Here’s my step-by-step guide to help you create an organized, safe, and functional garage workshop:
Step 1: Assess Your Space
Before diving in, evaluate the available space in your garage. Consider the layout, available square footage, and any existing shelving or storage units. Take note of power outlets, lighting conditions, and ventilation.
We had one wall outlet that was feeding 3 separate power bars, which were feeding at least 7 tools and chargers.
There is a light in the ceiling, but if you look closely, you can see how even it is funding two separate outlets – one of which is a long cord with a lightbulb that is dangling in the corner. The hanging shelf you see was built to hold the hardtop for my Jeep YJ (in 1992), but has since become a catch-all space.
Step 2: Declutter and Organize
(*Note: this post contains Amazon affiliate links to items I used. For full Amazon affiliate disclosure, please see the bottom of the page)
Clear out unnecessary items from your garage to create a clean slate. Donate or discard items you no longer need, and organize the remaining belongings. Group similar items together to make the next steps more manageable.
The biggest space eater in this space was wood; boxes of wood, piles of wood, cut-offs of wood… I collected them all and sorted them into usable and unusable categories. The usable bits were stored in the front corner of the garage. I used a big green bin to keep all of the smaller pieces together in one place.
That kingsize sofa bed has been sitting in the garage for 2-3 years now. I posted it on Marketplace and it sold within hours! (with my Step-Dad’s permission of course). This funded the next steps in creating a garage workshop for him.
Step 3: Define Your Workshop Zones
Determine the specific zones you want in your workshop, such as a workbench area, tool storage, and a designated space for larger equipment. Plan the layout to ensure easy access to tools and materials.
The previous set up had his mitre saw on top of a wire storage shelf with the handle sitting almost at chin-height (for me, and I’m 5’8″). Big no no.
Even worse was the table saw sitting at nipple height! (or where my nipples would be if I were younger and “pert”)
I used both saws over the Holidays and I will admit that I was SCARED. The tablesaw has a dull blade and no guard, so everything you feed through grinds and burns and shoots sawdust and wood chips back towards your eyes.
What is needed:
- Tools, with outfeed space, set at proper heights.
- A surge protected solution to corral all of those cords.
- A purge of scrap bits of wood less than 8″ long.
- Relocate anything from the area that isn’t needed in a garage workshop.
- Storage solution for tools and chargers
- Usable worksurfaces
- Wood storage
- Proper lighting
Step 4: Install Proper Lighting
Good lighting is crucial for a functional workshop. Consider adding overhead LED lights or task lighting above workstations. Adequate lighting reduces eye strain and ensures precision in your projects.
We didn’t need to add any additional lighting to the garage. All that was needed was to clear out the hanging shelf that was blocking the existing light and get rid of the makeshift hanging bulb.
With that shelf gone, and the rack from in front of the window, the overhead light projects so much more light, and the natural light coming in feels doubled.
Step 5: Upgrade Electrical Outlets
Evaluate your electrical needs. If your garage lacks sufficient outlets, consider hiring an electrician to install additional ones. This is especially important if you plan to use power tools and machinery regularly. In my She-Shop at home I’ve had additional outlets added in my garage so that I don’t overload the circuits when I run more than one tool at a time. In creating a garage workshop for my parents, I felt safe just paring down the number of cords feeding off of one outlet. This surge-protected power bar actually came with the workbench purchase, and was already mounted on the side. Now all of the tools and chargers can feed off of this one bar and all of the cords are tucked away so there’s no tripping hazard.
Step 6: Create a Workbench
Invest in or build a sturdy workbench that suits your needs. Ensure it has enough surface area for various projects and has built-in storage for tools. Customize it with pegboards or a tool rack to keep frequently used items within reach.
This was my big score; a used workbench, upper cabinet with lighting, power bar AND screw cabinet for $80! I paid an extra $20 for delivery and I’m still MILES ahead of the game! You can’t build a workbench with drawers, an upper, lighting, power bar etc for less than $100. The workbench I built for him last year came in around $200 CDN and it had NO bells and whistles.
This gives both storage and a great work surface, but I brought in the other workbench I built to give additional space and storage. (I should have cleaned out that corner, but some of the items were just too heavy for me to move by myself. That and I didn’t have permission to purge anything I might have found).
Step 7: Tool Storage Solutions
Organize your tools with a combination of toolboxes, cabinets, and wall-mounted storage solutions. Magnetic strips or pegboards are excellent for keeping hand tools visible and easily accessible.
I *may come back and add a pegboard, but I haven’t decided yet. The upper cabinet holds the day-to-day tools and chargers;
The drawers are a convenient spot to store drill bits:
and the second drawer keeps the sandpaper together, flat and from getting damp:
My Step-Dad and I differ on one thing very dramatically… he stores his nails, screws, hooks, drill bits etc in a few buckets scattered around the garage. IT MAKES ME CRAZY! I like to be able to easily and quickly find what I need without searching or guessing. Since I’m the one creating the garage workshop this time, I decided he’s going to live with my solution for awhile and deal with a little organization.
I wasn’t going to go through all of his buckets and sort the mass amount of hardware bits to types and sizes, so I used some of the sofa money to purchase new. All size 8 so that he only needs one drill head (Robertson, aka “square head” to me) no matter what he’s building.
Step 8: Dust Collection and Ventilation
If your projects involve woodworking or other activities that generate dust or fumes, consider a dust collection system and proper ventilation. This helps maintain a clean and safe working environment. Since building is just an occasional hobby for my Step-Dad, dust collection (for now) will be limited to a small shop-vac.
Step 9: Flooring and Insulation
Consider upgrading your garage flooring for comfort and durability. Epoxy coatings or rubber mats can provide a clean, slip-resistant surface. If your garage isn’t well-insulated, adding insulation can make the space more comfortable, especially in extreme temperatures. My workshop has an epoxied floor and I absolutely LOVE it. Super-durable, easy to clean and hides so much. It’s an easy DIY if you ever choose to do it, but for this 3 ½ car garage it would have been very expensive – even as a DIY. Instead, adding in a couple of mats – anti-fatigue is a nice treat – will suffice.
Step 10: Personal Touches
Make your workshop an inspiring and enjoyable space by adding personal touches. Display completed projects, incorporate motivational posters, and consider adding comfortable seating for breaks.
During the garage clean-out I came across a few treasures that were hidden in the dust – an old laundry washboard, some old roller skates, an old phone and a wooden star that he and I tried to make a few years ago. It was a fail, but a humorous reminder of time spent together. Since nothing above the cabinet is easily reachable, it seemed a perfect place to display these memories.
Step 11: Safety First
Table saw is now sitting on a workbench that is 36″ high.
I’ll change out the blade and find the guard to make it even safer, but for now nothing is shooting directly into your eye sockets. It’s easily rotated so that the workbench will catch anything coming through. It should be screwed down to the work surface for safety, but for now it’s sitting there until he decides where he wants it.
The mitre saw is also on a 36″ surface with plenty of room on either side for longer pieces of wood. Now that it’s sitting lower, the actual placement of my nipples (just above my belt) leave them in jeopardy.
By following these steps, you can transform your garage into a well-organized and functional workshop tailored to your specific needs and interests. Creating a garage workshop doesn’t have to cost an arm & a leg either. The total outlay of money for this makeover was $250; $100 for the workbench, $35 dumping fee, and another ~$100 for all of the new screws and hooks. I sold the kingsize sofa bed for $250, so I wasn’t out of pocket a cent!
How about some before and afters?
I may go back and tackle his gardening tools another day – they are making me crazy even in the photos.
For now I’m pretty pleased with how it all turned out. He has space, he has light, he has organization and most importantly; it’s MUCH safer.
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Whether you’re into woodworking, automotive repairs, or general DIY projects, a thoughtfully designed workshop will enhance your creativity and productivity.
Love you Papa! ♥️