A small workshop can feel cramped, but with a few clever tips your shop will feel bigger, DIYing will be easier and shop time will be more enjoyable.
Setting up a small workshop can be more challenging than setting up a large workshop. Square footage is at a premium, so it’s critical to make the most of your limited space.
Note: The workshop photo above is not my shop. It’s the workshop of Saws on Skates community member Barry Thomas Sr. of New Jersey. My workshop is so small that it’s difficult to back up far enough to get a good pic lol Thank you to Barry for giving me permission to use his small workshop pic for this post.
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My goal with Saws on Skates is to prove that you don’t need a HUGE workshop to DIY or to build quality DIY furniture. Do you want some proof? All of the DIY furniture plans I share with you were built in my tiny 10′ x 13′ workshop. The point is no matter if your small workshop is in your basement, garage or shed the floor plan isn’t as important as how you make the best use of your limited space.
The big question is how can you make the best use of your tiny space AND make your shop feel as big as possible? For me, there are three things that contribute to making a small workshop feel even smaller:
- Too Dark – Poor lighting and dark walls can make a workshop feel unnecessarily small.
- Oversized Workshop Furniture – Workshop furniture that is not properly scaled to the size of the space will make a small workshop feel even smaller.
- Poorly Organized – Disorganized spaces feel cluttered and cramped. Organized spaces no matter the size feel large and spacious.
With some careful planning, space-saving workshop furniture, and a little organization your small workshop can feel bigger and DIYing in your shop will be easier. Plus, a well thought out small workshop will make spending time in your shop more enjoyable.
Clever Ways to Make Your Small Workshop Feel Bigger
1. Paint Your Space
The previous owners of my house were DIYers and had set up an area to use as a workshop. The workshop was well used and the shop walls were dingy, scraped and scuffed. Who cares what our workshop walls look like, right? It’s just a workshop! That’s what I thought, so I loaded up the shop with tools and workshop furniture.
The fact is after working in the shop for a bit those dingy, scraped and scuffed walls got kind of depressing. Not only that, the shop was dark and uninviting which made me not want to spend a lot of time in there.
This prompted me to give my workshop a makeover. Well, actually two makeovers! I moved all of the workshop furniture and painted the walls a bright lime green. The lime green was fun and inviting but it looked AWFUL in the build photos I was sharing of my furniture projects. So, I moved all of the workshop furniture again and painted the walls a gloss white.
The dingy, scraped and scuffed walls were gone replaced with crisp, white walls which are fresh and inviting. The small workshop now feels larger and airier. The gloss white paint helps to reflect the light and makes the space brighter. The shop not only looks clean but thanks to the slick, gloss paint it’s also easier to clean.
I also painted the door and cabinet the same color as the walls. If I had painted the cabinet and door a different color it would have made the space feel smaller. Painting the walls, door and cabinet the same color tricks the eye and makes the small workshop feel bigger.
Oh, and those doors? I built them! Skate over to my free plans to Make a Door with Pocket Holes.
Looking back I wish I had given the floor a makeover too. My workshop floor is unsealed concrete and sawdust sticks to it like a magnet. I would love to seal the floor with something like the Rust-Oleum Garage floor coating kit. The coating would make the floor easier to clean and also help to reflect more light. Sealing the floor is on my wish list.
Paint the walls and coat the floor in your small workshop. It will make your shop feel larger, it will brighten your space and you’ll want to spend more time in your shop.
2. Let There Be Light
The previous owners of my house installed five fluorescent shop lights in the workshop, despite the lights the space was very dark. It reminded me of working in a cave. I installed four additional fluorescent shop lights but the shop was still dark. Painting the walls gloss white helped to brighten the small workshop but still wasn’t as bright as I had hoped.
Last year I removed the fluorescent light fixtures and replaced them with bright LED light fixtures. The difference is literally like night and day! Now the small workshop feels larger and is sooo much brighter. I went from feeling like I was in a cave to what now feels like working on the set of TV studio! Replacing old shop lights with LED shop lights will brighten your space and make your small workshop feel larger.
3. Make Your Tools Mobile
Have you ever wondered why the name of this site is “Saws on Skates”? It’s because my saws are on skates. Well, not literally, but all of my workshop tools are on wheels to maximize space in my small workshop.
Making your tools mobile in a small workshop is not just a good idea, but it’s a necessity to maximize your workshop space. For some furniture projects, I pull out all of my tools… pull out the table saw and push it back, move the router table to the left, shift the workbench to the right, etc. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing a life-size game of Tetris in my shop!
Making your tools mobile will make your small workshop feel larger, will make the layout of your shop more flexible and will maximize your limited workshop space. Skate over to this post to see 7 Ideas to Make Your Tools Mobile and Maximize Workshop Space.
4. Space-Saving Workbenches
Every small workshop needs a space-saving flip-top workbench. With a flip-top workbench, you can mount a tool, like a miter saw on one side, then flip the top and the other side reveals a sturdy workbench. It’s like two pieces of workshop furniture in one.
I use this flip-top workbench for nearly every project I build. If you have seen any of my furniture plans chances are it was built on this workbench. Build a DIY flip-top workbench and double the size of your workbench space. Skate over and get the free flip-top workbench cart plan.
Tip: Has spilled glue ever ruined your workbench? I use this to protect my workbench from glue spills.
This DIY folding workbench is perfect for those DIYers with a small workshop. It’s easy to set up when you’re ready to work and folds down when you’re done. It can be used as an assembly table, as a place to paint/stain a project or can be used for an outdoor project. Skate over and get the free DIY folding workbench plan.
Mobile Project Center
I received the Mobile Project Center in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I’m not sure if there is anything the Kreg Mobile Project Center can’t do. It’s a workbench, it’s an assembly table, a clamping station, it can be used as a sawhorse, it folds flat, it was named a This Old House Top 100: Best New Home Products 2017, and it’s perfect for a small workshop! I have one and I want a second one and maybe even a third!
I thought my DIY folding workbench was handy, but the Mobile Project Center has it beat hands down. Not only can it do all of the things I mentioned above, but it also has pre-drilled holes for mounting a Kreg Jig, a drill holster, a lip around the perimeter to hang Kreg screw containers, plus so much more. If you need a workbench for your small workshop than look no further than the Mobile Project Center. Skate over to see 12 reasons why a Mobile Project Center will replace your traditional workbench.
More Space-Saving Workbench Ideas
Looking for even more space-saving workbench options? Check out these five DIY workbench plans that are perfect for a small workshop.
5. Build a Space-Saving Miter Saw Stand
One of the best projects I’ve built for my small workshop is a folding miter saw stand. The stand has a spot for a miter saw and folding arms or wings on either side. The wings extend to provide extra support when cutting long boards and then can be folded back when the cutting is complete. It’s a big miter saw stand when you need it and then tucks neatly away to save space. And of course, my miter saw stand is on wheels.
Skate over to see these 6 DIY Space-Saving Miter Saw Stand Ideas perfect for a small workshop. There are a few folding miter saw stand ideas and a few options for small, but slightly larger workshops.
6. Build a Space-Saving Table Saw Station
Who wouldn’t want one of those large cabinet style table saws? Oh man, all of that surface area makes ripping plywood a breeze! Oh yes, those of us with a small workshop definitely want one, but because of the size of our shops, they simply won’t fit. That’s why most of us with a small shop end up with a benchtop table saw.
But there is a way to create more workspace on our benchtop table saws. Just like a miter saw stand provides more support when cutting long boards a DIY table saw station provides more support when cutting on a table saw. A table saw station virtually turns our benchtop table saw into a cabinet style saw. Skate over to 6 DIY Table Saw Stations perfect for a small workshop to find an option that would fit your shop the best.
Tip: Do you wax your table saw? No?! Skate over to Wax Your Table Saw to see why you should.
7. Deal with Your Scrap Wood
Nothing makes a small workshop feel even smaller than being surrounded by piles of scrap wood. I’ve struggled with scrap wood ever since I started building DIY furniture. Sure, I have made lots of projects with scrap wood, but at some point, you have to let some of it go. Constantly moving piles of scrap wood, or worse yet tripping over piles of scrap wood is not only a safety issue, but it makes a small workshop feel cramped.
The quicker we can make decisions about what scrap wood to keep and what to toss, the quicker we can get back to our DIY projects! And the safer our shops will be, and as we know, safety is always number one. Establish a what to keep and what to toss policy. It will make your small workshop safer and more organized. Skate over to How to Decide What Scrap Wood to Keep to see the scrap wood policies I use in my small workshop.
8. Organize Your Scrap Wood
Now that we’ve decided what scrap wood we’re going to toss, where are we going to organize and store the wood we want to keep? Even though I have been building for years, I still haven’t found a method for storing lumber and wood scraps that completely works for me. But I can say developing a method of sorting and storing wood is imperative for keeping your shop safe, organized and to feel as large as possible
What’s the best method for storing wood in a small workshop? That’s something I’m struggling with. Someday I’ll figure it out. In the meantime here are 9 wood storage ideas I’m considering for my small workshop.
9. Organize Your Clamps
You know what they say. You can never have too many clamps, but finding a place to store those clamps in a small workshop can be tricky. And no, piling clamps on a workbench is not an option!
Wall space and floor space are always at a premium in a small shop so we have to get creative with our storage. Skate over to see 7 clever DIY clamp storage ideas that are perfect for a small workshop.
Tip: Did you know there is a science to clamping? Skate over to 6 Tips to Clamp Your DIY Project Like a Pro for the details.
BONUS: Organize Your Sandpaper
How do you store your sandpaper? Up until recently, my sandpaper was just thrown in the bottom of my workshop cabinet. Norm Abram would have declared my sandpaper “storage area” a DISASTER ZONE! It was time get organized. Skate over and see the WEIRD way I store my sandpaper! And here’s a hint… you won’t find this storage solution at the hardware store.
A small workshop can feel cramped, but with a few clever tips your shop will feel bigger, DIYing will be easier and shop time will be more enjoyable. What techniques do you use to make your small workshop feel bigger? Please share your ideas in the comments.
Thank you for stopping by to check out some ideas to make your small workshop feel bigger. If you found this information helpful, would you please pin it to Pinterest? Other DIYers would appreciate it and I would too! Thank you – Scott