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What Types of Flooring Work for a Small Workshop?

9/1/2008 12:00:00 AM

Tags: woodworking, finish

What’s the best kind of finish to apply to the three-quarter-inch-thick wood floor of the 12-foot-by-12-foot woodworking shop I’m planning? 

Clyde Catlin
Alliance, Nebraska

There are a couple of ways to go, including simply leaving the wood bare. I’ve worked in buildings with unfinished wooden floors, and they perform quite well. That said, there are two reasons a finish makes sense: It helps the wood resist staining, and it makes it easier to remove the inevitable hardened glue blobs that build up on the floor of any wood shop. Oil-based urethane works well as a basic sealer. Exterior grade latex paint lasts even longer under gritty foot traffic.

May I make a suggestion? Twelve-by-twelve is small for a wood shop. By the time you get a few tools, a workbench and some wood storage in there, there won’t be much room to move.

If your budget is a concern, how about extending the roof overhang and floor on the gable ends to create a semi-sheltered space outdoors? Couple this with double doors, and you can extend your working space considerably during good weather. This is especially useful if you’re sawing or planing long pieces of lumber. Any outdoor floor you create should be solid lumber; three-quarter-inch-thick plywood is best for an interior floor.

Will you plan to heat your shop? Consider an insulated floor sandwich. Put a 1-inch-thick layer of extruded polystyrene foam down on the plywood subfloor; then add another layer of three-quarter-inch plywood on top. Anchor all layers to the underlying floor frame with 3 1/2-inch deck screws.  You’ll get warm performance that’s also completely able to support any normal floor traffic.

For more information on designing and constructing small buildings, visit

Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on . 

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