Once the decision has been made that a dedicated workshop space is needed, it is really easy to rush in and just get on with it. While that enthusiasm is a great force for getting things done, it is worth spending some time planning out exactly what you need and the best way to organise things to get the very best out of your new workshop. Everyone has tried to complete a project or task in an environment that made the job ten times harder than it needed to be; inadequate storage, poor ergonomics, and cramped working conditions are just some of the factors that can be easily avoided with a little forethought.
The secret to success is all in the planning.
Before investing time and money in a new project, it is always advisable to check with your local authority to make sure any plans you have do not violate any planning regulations in your area. You may find it useful to check out our blog post about planning regulations here.
When converting any building, whether it is an old shed, a garage, or an outbuilding, it is worth taking time to ensure it is fit for purpose; make sure it is watertight, well insulated with a non-slip floor.
It is recommended that a dedicated workshop electrical circuit should be installed to take care of the demands of running machinery in a home workshop, simply running an extension lead from an existing power supply is not a safe option.
If the workshop is being set up in a garage, it is most likely that there are a couple of 13amp sockets; these are usually just run as a spur off the downstairs domestic ring main, if so, these should be upgraded to a circuit capable of handling the extra output or you risk overloading the ring main and tripping the fuse box.
A workshop in a shed or out-building will need to be supplied with power from the existing consumer unit in the house to a small two-way distribution board in the workshop. A circuit breaker should be fitted to the house consumer unit and RCD (residual current device) fitted at either end of the new cabling. The most usual solution is run an SWA (steel wired armoured) cable underground to a sufficient depth to avoid accidental damage.
None of these electrical solutions are a DIY job; these tasks are covered under Part P of the building regulations and should be undertaken by a certified electrician.
Placing power sockets over head can be really useful for some tooling requirements as it ensures flexes are not trailing on the floor. Forward planning is important here to ensure the socket and switch placement is as ergonomic as can be. It is a good idea to label each plug to identify which tool it is for- this can reduce the risk of injury if the wrong plug is disconnected in error during changing a cutting blade for example- most plugs look the same.
Although a workshop can be set up on quite a tight budget, securing it is a really important step. Motion sensor lights on the outside can help deter the ‘would be’ burglar but do make sure they will not disturb your neighbours every time a cat walks past. Some people opt for a shed alarm to emit a piercing sound to let you know if someone has entered, usually a loud siren will be enough to make any intruders leave quickly.
Good quality sturdy locks should be fitted to doors and windows to protect your property, for further security, grids can be easily constructed from mild steel welding mesh to cover windows and doors.
Plan your working area
The work bench is most likely going to be the hub of the action, so it is very important to get this right. When deciding where to place it, think about the positioning of light and power to ensure the best working conditions. A built-in work bench is the best option as it will provide a robust and secure working area that is perfect for securing bench tools to. If the work space is large enough, a free-standing bench with room to walk all the way around is perfect, however, if the workspace is housed in a garage or shed, then building the workbench against the wall will help utilise the space more effectively. If space is tight, or home building a work bench is not a viable option, there are some very reasonably priced workstations available that require simple home assembly- these are a great addition to any workshop as they have storage built in, have a reasonable weight bearing capacity, are economical to buy and are compact.
Having well thought out and adequate storage in your workshop can be a real game changer. If the workshop has a built-in workbench, this will probably be the place that works best to store tools and equipment as they can be wall mounted for easy identification and ease of access.
Shelves are a good way to keep tools and equipment out of the way, but easy to see- do make sure the shelves are constructed well enough to hold the weight. Heavy duty shelving units are available to buy that are easy to construct and can be extended and reconfigured as your needs change.
A wall mounted panel with plastic storage bins provides a clear open view of small tools and bits and bobs; as the bins are available in different colours it would be possible to use different colours for different categories of consumables and tools.
Storage boxes to lock your tools and equipment in can be a good investment- these help to keep children safe should they wander into the workshop and stop any intruders helping themselves to your equipment. A wide range is available to suit all pockets, from lockable tool chests and secure in-vehicle storage, to secure hazardous storage for gas and chemicals, and secure site storage.
A peg board with hooks can also provide a clear view of all tools without having to rummage through a tool box; some people decide where each hand tool will be placed and draw around them on the board to make tidying up even quicker. Wall mounted hooks are a great way to provide storage of bulky items to keep the floor space clear.
Hooks are available that can support bike frames, metal profiles, and cables, right down to handy small ones to hang your coveralls or welding apron on.
Keep it safe.
When embarking on projects in the home workshop it is important to pay attention to your safety. No job, however small, is worth risking an injury. Always wear eye protection and protect your hearing with ear defenders or ear plugs when using loud machinery. Heavy duty gloves are important when cutting and welding metal or using other heat sources and chemicals. A dust mask helps to protect your lungs from dust particles or for protection from irritant or toxic particles, a face mask with replaceable filters is recommended.
Don’t forget to wear protective shoes or boots, just because you can pop into the new workshop in your slippers, doesn’t mean you should; always maintain a responsible attitude to safety.
Due to the nature of the projects that may be undertaken in the workshop, there may be a risk of fire- this may be from welding equipment or flammable liquids. To help protect yourself, a dry powder fire extinguisher is definitely worth installing. These can quickly put out small fires before they take hold, although never put yourself at risk of becoming trapped in the workshop or burned. If in doubt as to whether you can safely tackle the fire, it is best to get out quickly call the fire service.
Make sure you have a first aid box within easy reach of your working area, and that it contains eye wash, burn gel, and a good selection of dressings and plasters- although hopefully, you will never need to use it.
At metals4U we stock all the items you need to create your perfect workshop, just browse our ranges online or call customer services for more help finding what you need.
We would love to see your home workshops, so please do send us pictures; you may even get featured on our social media!
Useful links to products.
Fire safety equipment