December 10, 2022
Do you know that you can set up a small woodworking shop even if you live in an apartment with limited space? Well, that was precisely what one of my woodworking friends did a couple of months ago when he moved out of his parent’s house. Moving to an apartment, he immediately set up a small workshop in one of the vacant rooms. Yet, let me tell you frankly that it is not easy to set up a workshop in an apartment, and there are obvious limitations to what you can do inside your apartment.
Of course, if you are like me, used to having a spacious workshop, you will be struggling at the start. But you can surely manage if you carefully plan and scale down your projects. Moreover, it will be best to prepare yourself for possible reprisals from your neighbors who may howl in protest once they hear even the slightest noise and notice a little dust coming out of your apartment.
Potential Issues You Must be Aware of in Setting Up Woodworking Area in an Apartment
Effective people, of course, plan everything before setting out on a project. Similarly, it will be useful to plan everything before you endeavor to build your makeshift shop inside your apartment. Planning necessitates anticipating potential risks and problems and knowing how to overcome those risks and concerns.
Here are some problems that you need to address beforehand.
- First, there are noise restrictions that most cramped apartment owners may impose on their tenants. You cannot, for example, use power tools because of the noise that they create.
- Second, there is a space limitation. Moreover, if your project is large-scale, you will find it hard to bring it out after you’ve finished it.
- Moreover, there’s also the dust problem, which may be one of the issues you need to overcome. Even if you are not using power tools, you will end up with dust flying all over your place. If you can’t control the movement of dust, you will end up with complaining neighbors.
- Plus, there is an inadequate power requirement that will prevent you from using more powerful tools. Check out the power requirements of a table saw and also the power requirement of a circular saw.
However, if you are hell-bent on having a small workshop in your apartment, you will always find a way to achieve it. Noise and space are the most important issues you should address beforehand.
Best Practices & Guidelines On Setting Up A Woodworking Workspace In Your Apartment
The most significant limitation you may encounter comes from noise. You can’t hide the noise of using drills or any electric tools. You can’t suppress the vibrations created by your hand saw. Moreover, you can’t also smother the sound of a hammer unless you can soundproof your workshop well. So, more often, you will need to choose the time when you would do woodworking. Here are some succinct tips on how to engage in woodworking in your apartment the right way:
Select the Right Room
During the planning process, you first need to select the room that is most appropriate for woodworking. Make sure that this room is not adjacent to the walls of your neighbors. Once you’ve chosen the room, you need to clear out that room of any unnecessary equipment and things. Once emptied, you can take a hard look at the open space and plan where you are going to set up your essential woodworking tools.
The most recommended size for a workshop, of course, is 125 square feet. A minimum requirement for a workshop, however, is 75 square feet. You should also ensure that you have an extra room for storing your lumber. You have to reorganize your living space and working space appropriately, so your apartment will not get messy with lots of cluttered hand tools, wood stocks, clamps and etc.
Since the primary issue that may arise from having a workshop in your apartment is noise issue, you need to do some soundproofing to muffle the noise. The best thing to do is to cover the space with materials that absorb sounds as a precautionary measure to minimize the risks of your neighbors’ complaints.
Just like when creating a home recording studio, you can use soundproofing panels from the nearest local hardware. Hang these panels on the room’s walls to ease the impact of the noise on the walls. Moreover, you can use insulation sheet boards to insulate noise and sounds. Regarding insulation sheet boards, you should buy the thickest sheet if you can afford it. Afterward, it will help if you would cover the openings of that room with these sheets.
You can also add some thick curtains, blankets, or foam to improve the room’s soundproofing. You can also make use of bookcases to minimize the bouncing of sounds.
The noise level of normal conversation is in the 60 dBA range. Adding the factors of room space and distance. Implementing proper soundproofing procedures in your woodworking room to reduce the noise level down to 70 dBA is quite a reasonable measure to avoid troubling your neighbors with an unreasonable level of noise. If power tools are necessary in your woodworking tasks, try to use power tools with lower noise measures, and also arranging your power tools usage to daytime or working-hour time is also a best practice.
Below is the chart showing the noise level of major woodworking tools and Activities:
|Hand Drill||98 dBA|
|Miter Saw||102 dBA|
|Circular Saw||100 dBA|
|Chop Saw||106 dBA|
|Belt Sander||93 dBa|
|Hammer Drill||114 dBA|
|Table Saw||92 dBA|
|Hammer & Mallet||91 dBA|
|Angle Grinder||90 dBA|
Protect the Flooring and the Surfaces
It will be best if you would protect the floor from damage likewise. The best way to protect the floor from damage is to cover it with plywood. The plywood will also let you walk through it safely while protecting the floor from accidental drops of tools.
For instance, The impacting force of a mallet or hammer knocking will generate a range noise vibration. And the vibration will be transmitted via the workbench legs to the floor. Thus, laying a good floor protection foundation will eliminate floor noise. A base layer of plywood and a top layer of at least 1″ of rubber mat is the best floor setup for absorbing the vibration and isolating/preventing the noise from transmitting to the apartment downstairs.
Check Out the Tools that You Will Need
When you scale down your workshop to fit your apartment, you will also scale down your tool choices. It will be best if you give up your power tools. Yet, if you want to jar your neighbors and become the most hated man in the neighborhood, you can try to use power tools. Yet, I bet you would have the decency not to do it.
Therefore, at the onset, you need to carefully choose the tools to fit nicely into your apartment workshop. It will be best if you would opt for more hand tools instead of power tools. You can still have a band saw or trim router. But it may mess up your well-thought plans. So, you must be very careful when weighing your options, like choosing between using a table saw and a circular saw.
Choose Lightweight and Cordless Tools
The lightweight cordless tools are excellent choices for such a workshop. Given a choice between corded and cordless, you should always go for cordless types of devices. Check always for a cordless version of every tool you are going to use.
You can indeed find cordless circular saws and drills. The good thing about cordless tools is that they are handy and lighter to carry around. Plus, you can free yourself from the limiting cords that corded tools have and save you from any accidental trip. Moreover, they usually emit less noise compared to their corded counterparts.
Storage of Your Tools
To unclog your workshop room, you need to set up another room for storage. You can stack away your tools, materials, and workbench in that room when you are not engaged in work. However, you can skip this requirement if your workroom is spacious enough to accommodate your tools and materials.
If you don’t have another usable room for storage, you can utilize the space on your balcony. You can stack away on your balcony those materials that you will not be using. You can maximize the use of any empty closet inside your house for storage. A good tip would be not to store materials that you would not be using.
Make Room for Good Ventilation
If your room has large windows, you can always open them when working on something. However, it will be best if you would avoid using fumy stains, polyurethane, and shellac that emit harmful odors. It will also help if you close the doors but leave the windows open.
If you can use more natural finishes, you should go for them. Remember that good ventilation is necessary to protect you from health risks. So, as much as possible, when working inside your workroom, you should ensure that it is properly ventilated.
Another big problem that may put you in hot water when doing woodworking inside your apartment is dust. Dust is a safety concern that you should meticulously address. Dust will pose a significant risk to your health and those around you. So, you must develop a master plan to contain dust to its minimum level while engaged in woodworking. You can use a dust collector to collect the dust particles. Shop Vac could a better option if you are on a tight budget.
You can readily get rid of one of the main issues involved in engaging in woodworking in your apartment if your work will produce less or no dust at all. So, if you can avoid producing dust, it would be better.
You should invest in some fabric drop cloths to protect furniture from dust. While you work, sawdust will fly all over the place. So, having a fabric drop cloth can help protect your machines and furniture.
Moreover, since you would minimize the use of power tools, you can always reduce dust production. Yet, if your work produces dust, you should ensure that your workroom is sealed to prevent dust from coming out. It will be best to have a dust collector at hand or buy tools that come with a dust collection feature.
Choose Your Projects Wisely
The best thing to avoid the risks of being reported by your neighbors to authorities is to choose the projects that you will take, considering your limited space. It will be best if you scale down your tasks to those manageable projects, given your limited working tools and equipment. Moreover, with small-scale projects, you will not need to haul large boards and lumbers inside your apartment.
So, keep your work small. Small jobs will produce less dust and noise. With less dust and noise, you are already on your way to minimizing the risks of getting your neighbors’ ire. You will also need not many bulky materials for such projects. Plus, you will have no problem bringing your finished projects out of your house.
At the onset, measuring the project you will engage in will be best, and figuring out if you can comfortably do it inside your cramp workshop. You can scale it down if it does not fit into your workspace.
Remember that many woodworking projects are scalable. So this means you can scale down or resize the measurements and requirements to a manageable scale or size. Besides, if you’re a tyro in woodworking, it will be best to begin with more minor works or projects. For me, small woodcraft, wood carving, and small furniture projects are more suitable for apartment woodworking.
Then, once you’ve gotten into the groove, you can transition to larger projects. This will be wise for beginners because smaller projects will require less time and wood and will let you get the hang of woodworking.
There are many small projects that can showcase your woodworking skills. Examples of such projects include chairs, stools, cribs, vases, candle holders, and many more. You can work on these small-scale projects and eventually monetize your woodworking skills. It will be best if you remember that there is a good market for the abovementioned items.
Choose the Wood Materials to Work On
Your choice of materials will factor well in the success of your woodworking undertakings. Hence, it will help a lot if you carefully choose the materials you are going to use. You can use custom boards that you can buy online or from the local store. Using these custom boards is a more practical option if you don’t want to draw your neighbors’ attention to what you are doing.
Custom-sized wood boards will not require you to cut much. Moreover, you can save time and effort if you buy custom-made wood and boards. Your local lumberyard will do the dirty job for you by cutting the lumbers for you. Moreover, you can also buy boards and sheets that are custom-made for your specific project.
Utilize Vertical Space
When engaged in woodworking in a cramped space, it is crucial to optimize the use of every space. It is also important to keep enough floor space open because you will need enough floor space for your large projects. Besides, you will need sufficient space to move your tools around and work safely. So, a walking path would not be enough in such a situation.
To maximize the use of floor space, you can use vertical space in your garage to store woodworking supplies. You can also use a storage unit and shelves, for example, to get those large items off the floor to have enough working space.
Table Saw Worktop
If you have a cramped working space or area for assembling items, you can optimize the use of any flat surface. If your table saw, for example, takes up enough space in your workroom, you can maximize the use of the table saw worktop. In this situation, you can do away with the rip fence of your table saw.
Then, unplug your table saw and move the cleats to the bottom edge to make them snug up to the table sides. If you need additional table space, you can lay plywood temporarily on top of the table and cut, then glue, and paint.
Another excellent idea is to put your tools like the table saw, miter saw, and air compressor on wheels. If every bulky device you have is on a stand with wheels, you can push each tool out of the way whenever you will not need it. Having 3 to 4 units of tool chests with wheels will save up lots of floor space and get all your smaller tools organized.
If your room or living room, for example, can no longer accommodate the work you will be doing, you can work in the driveway by simply pushing your tools to the driveway.
In this way, you can minimize the sawdust in your room. After finishing your work, you can simply wheel the tools back to your storeroom for storage.
Temporary Work Surface
Another way to have sufficient working space in a cramped room or area is by setting up a temporary work surface. If your workbench, for example, is relatively small for your assembly, set up this non-permanent work surface to have extra elbow room for your work.
You got two ways to set up your non-permanent workstation. You can use a folding table or a temporary table with sawhorses and plywood scrap.
The daunting restrictions you must overcome when engaging in woodworking inside your apartment may deter you from pursuing your love for woodworking. The odds are great, and you may end up hated by your neighbors and even by your companions in your apartment.
But if you will carefully plan everything and are mindful of the abovementioned tips, you can surely go on with your woodworking projects without being anxious about drawing the attention or ire of your neighbors.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.