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Wrap Your Shop for a Lifetime of Comfortable Woodworking

Nothing beats a comfortable day in the shop.

Discover the excitement of woodworking year-round!  Integrate comfort into your total woodshop design and you’ll discover just how prolific you can be.

You already know the feeling of putting in the hard work and time investment to receive continuous payback afterwards.  You build a table, and from that point forward you get to use and enjoy it every day.  Worth it every time.  Imagine doing the same thing to your shop.  Treat your shop like your furniture, and your woodworking enjoyment will be multiplied.

In Revolutionize your Woodworking Enjoyment, Parts I, II, and III, we walked through your shop Location, Workflow, and Layout,  which will have the most impact on your day-to-day operations.  Next, consider your overall woodshop envelope (walls, roof, doors, windows, sound control), and environment (temperature, lighting).  These things will affect your comfort while woodworking.  If you are uncomfortable (too cold, too hot, too dark), you will have a tendency to avoid (!) going into the shop.

My shop happened to get very hot in the summer so I did little woodworking as a result.  If only I got control of the shop environment sooner!  There are many simple things you can do to create a true indoor environment, insulated from the elements.

Workshop Envelope

WoodChip Tip: Check with your local building department before making changes to your shop’s envelope to see if there any permits or other requirements you need to fulfill before you begin.


Your shop walls serve many critical functions.  They block sound, keep out the wind, keep hot or cold temperatures at bay, keep out insects, provide security and privacy, serve as storage space, house utilities such as electricity or ductwork, and can even be a source of aesthetic enjoyment.  Maximize your use of all of these and you will have a tremendous boost in your shoptime by being able to work comfortably.

Knowing that your neighbors (or your family) won’t be disturbed by your working unrestricted in the shop is priceless.  There were many times I didn’t start my woodworking too early in the morning or continue after about 9pm because I was afraid that my neighbors would complain.  Below, and in later posts, I’ll show you how to stop most of the sound from leaving your shop.

How about not using your shop in the winter or a hot summer?  Adding insulation, radiant barriers, and tightly sealing up your walls can help result in an all-season shop.  Upgrading your shop walls should be amongst your next few projects.

In a hot climate, a radiant barrier can make a huge difference…ask me how I know!


The roof, and ceiling for that matter, provides protection from the rain, seals in heat during the winter, blocks the hot sun during the summer, serves as a convenient place for lighting and ductwork, or provides storage if you want.  You can also create an architecturally pleasing ceiling to add a wow factor for yourself or your clients.  If you have a tall enough roof, you can even think about creating a small loft space in your shop.

Your roof can be a huge source of heat loss during cold weather, simply because heat rises, and is lost through poorly insulated or sealed roof/ ceiling assemblies.  During the summer, the roof bears the brunt of the sun, heats up and then re-radiates this toward your shop.  Consider adding a radiant barrier to your roof, and increasing your insulation.  A thermostat-controlled attic fan can help to keep temperatures down in hot climates.  We’ll expand on this in future posts.


Doors & Windows

Most people think of the doors and windows as part of their house, so why do anything with them, since they function just fine.

These elements need to be evaluated for temperature control (weather stripping, insulation, and solar performance), security (solid construction, deadbolts), and aesthetics (how it looks from the inside and outside).

If you are considering replacing your windows (or adding some), using dual-pane glass combined with a low-E coating will substantially reduce your energy costs to heat and cool your shop.  These features will also help moderate temperature swings throughout the seasons.


Your floor plays a role in your comfort.  In cold weather, a concrete floor acts as a heat sink, absorbing precious heat from your space.  If you have a wood floor over a crawl space, only a well-insulated one will prevent major heat loss.  A concrete floor can be tough on your feet as well.  Integrate the floors into your shop design to seal the deal on your comfort.

If you have concrete floors, degrease the surface, and decide on the covering you would like, if any.  It could be wood, tile, or epoxy.  Water-seal concrete, and seal wall-to-floor corners.  Consider adding radiant heat below your floor, especially if you are building a shop from the ground up.  You could also consider adding electrical conduit for future outlets that will need to appear in the middle of the floor, perhaps on a low wall or column.  Check your local electrical codes first, though.

Sound Control

At first you might think that sound control is critical for your neighbors and your spouse or housemates.  But, it’s critical for you, too.  You can integrate sound control measures in almost every aspect of your shop design.  Your walls, ceiling, floor, doors, windows, individual machines, dust collection, and even landscape can all play a role in sound control.

Controlling sound from escaping your shop and reducing the sound generated by your shop are the two critical goals of your efforts.  The result is a more pleasant environment for you, your family, and neighbors outside the shop walls.  You’ll have less worry that you’re making too much noise, and you might get to work in the shop earlier or later as a bonus.

Sound Escape:

A big part of preventing noise emanating from your shop envelope is to eliminate holes and gaps to the outside.  Caulking and sealing wall penetrations, trim, floor-to-wall corners, ceiling-to-wall corners, weather stripping side doors and roll-up doors are the most simple yet effective things you can do.  Beyond that, you can increase or install insulation in your walls and garage doors, install dual-pane windows, and insulate above the ceiling.

WoodChip Tip: If your water heater is in the garage, consider enclosing it and providing combustion air openings at the exterior wall of the enclosure, isolating it from your shop.  Make sure these openings are sized and located according to code to prevent combustion problems.

Other sound leakage control methods you can employ include:

  • Adding an extra layer of drywall, and stagger the seams
  • Adding resilient channels between the studs and drywall
  • Using alternating or double studs (see drawing)
  • Dual doors to create an “airlock” (see drawing)
  • Sound-absorbing panels suspended from the ceiling or mounted on the walls

Alternating Studs

Dual Doors (Airlock)

Double Studs

Sound Generation Control:

Limiting the sound from each offending machine can be accomplished with a few tricks planned in advance.

  • You can use rubber pads between your mobile base and its machine
  • Use rubber locking castor wheels
  • Line your router table with sound absorbing material
  • Line your table saw and jointer cabinet with sound absorbing material
  • Add a muffler to your shop vacuum
  • Add open baffles made of sound-absorbing material near your dust collector motor (do not enclose)
  • Use link-style belts on your machines with pulleys


The good news is that you can often improve your shop envelope a little at a time, as budget allows.  As long as you have a plan thought out in advance.

How have you improved the environment in your woodshop?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Click on the link below for the free supplement to this post:

Woodshop Envelope & Environment Design.PDF

Connect with me on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter for more ninja tips to Optimize Your Woodshop!


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3 Responses to “Wrap Your Shop for a Lifetime of Comfortable Woodworking”

  1. Dan carpentier says:

    Do you have any experience or knowledge of using SIP panels for a workshop?

  2. Liam says:

    Thanks for the tips and overview. I overlooked stuff like this when setting up my workshop and I suffered in the heat all summer. Nice article!

    • Bobby says:

      You’re welcome, Liam. I hope you implement some of the tips before the summer comes around again! I remember this summer was so hot I didn’t like being out there insulating walls very much.

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