How to Create the Garage Workshop of Your Dreams

A weekend and a few hundred bucks can unleash your inner craftsman.

Garages often harbor a not-so-secret second life: heroic home workshop. They’re well-suited to the task, with a tolerance for the noise and dust of do-it-yourself projects.

But if a garage workshop isn’t comfortable and convenient to use, you’ll avoid projects rather than enjoy them. Here are the essentials:

  • Adequate work space. Ideally, you’ll need room to work even when your cars are parked inside. Figure a minimum area of 10 ft. long and 6 ft. deep.
  • Appropriate storage. Places for tools and supplies are mandatory — the top of your work surface doesn’t count!
  • Excellent lighting. Both task and ambient lighting help keep you safe and projects mistake-free.
  • Durable surfaces. Pound away on your work surface — it can take it.
  • Easy-to-clean environment.

You can assemble a basic workbench, cabinets, shelving, and add simple overhead lighting for less than $500. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s no end; you can spend tens of thousands of dollars creating an ultimate garage shop showplace.

Your Workbench — Heart and Soul of DIY

Your primary work surface should be a rock-solid bench with a hard and heavy top. Buy or build the best you can manage. (Then vow to keep the top clear — tools and materials have a way of eating up workbench space).

Premade workbenches run $100 to $500 and come in many lengths; they’re usually 24 inches deep. A 38-inch height is typical, but you might be more comfortable with a work surface as low as 36 or as high as 42 inches. Some benches include vises, drawers, and shelves.

Build one yourself using readily available plans. A simple, sturdy workbench takes less than a day to build and materials cost less than $100. The Family Handyman magazine offers detailed instructions for several, including an inexpensive, simple bench. A more complex bench with a miter saw stand and drawers costs $300-$500 to build and takes a weekend.