How to Insulate an Outdoor Workshop

Reader Contribution by Megan Wild
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Your outdoor workshop is likely one of your favorite places to be. You can spend hours out there working on projects — but now the weather is turning colder, and an uncomfortable workshop can hamper your productivity.

Will you have to go all winter without working on your projects? No! Just throw on some warm clothes and spend the weekend insulating your workshop. You’ll be able to enjoy it even when there’s snow on the ground.

Photo creditUnsplash

Tools and Materials Needed

Before you get started, you’ll need some basic tools:

• Measuring tape
• Staple gun

• Drill

• Utility knife

• ½ inch long wood staples

• 1 ½ inch long wood screws (or 1-inch drywall screws)

• Fiberglass insulation with vapor barrier

Additionally, you’ll need to make sure you are dressed appropriately and have safety gear. You should wear a long sleeve shirt, pants, shoes that cover your foot and toes, protective eye gear, a dust mask and protective gloves.

Steps for Installing Insulation

Now for the installation of your insulation. Start off by using a measuring tape to measure the interior walls for insulation. Measure from the footer boards to the header boards. Tip: If you have a shed that has a 2-inch by 4-inch lumber frame, the studs are 16 inches apart, which means you need fiberglass insulation that is 15-inches wide.

Once you purchase the material and are dressed to work, roll the insulation out and cut it to the appropriate size using the utility knife. Go ahead and cut it all at once, too, so you can install the insulation without having to stop.

The vapor barrier side of the insulation should face the interior of your workshop. The lining is wider than the insulation and should be lined up and stapled to the wall studs to hold the insulation to the wall. Continue installing the insulation so the vapor barriers overlap, and there are no gaps. Once all of the insulation is in place, you should finish it with ½-inch thick plywood sheets or drywall.

You can choose to paint or otherwise finish the plywood or the drywall so your workshop looks like a finished space and one you would want to work in.

Insulating Windows and Doors

Windows and doors are the main sources of warm air escaping and cool air coming in during the winter. To help insulate the windows and doors in your building, use a hardening foam filler around the edges after you install the insulation and before you put up the plywood or drywall. This material is easy to use and expands to fill gaps and holes, so you won’t need any additional supplies.

Once you have your walls finished, you should install curtains or blinds, and open them during the day and close them at night. This will help the sunlight warm the shed during the day and provide an extra layer of draft protection at night.

You can test if you are still getting a draft from your windows or door by closing up your building and lighting an incense stick. Slowly move the incense stick around the windows and doors and see if the smoke changes. If it does, you may want to add additional sealant around the windows and door to make sure there aren’t any gaps in between them and the wall.

If you are getting a draft from the underside of the door, you can purchase or make a draft stopper that slides onto the bottom and fills the gap while still letting you open and close the door.

Photo CreditUnsplash

Insulating the Floor and the Roof

The floor and the roof are often overlooked in an outside building, but if you want to achieve the best insulation possible, you need to take care of these areas, too.

An easy way to do this in an existing workshop is to install a breathable membrane to line the floor and then lay a rug or a section of carpet on top of that membrane to add insulation. The membrane prevents the rug or carpet from getting damp and molding or rotting.

If you want to do a full floor, cork makes a great workshop floor because it is comfortable to stand on and easy to take care of. Plus, it will add insulating properties of its own to keep you from feeling the cold from below.

You also will likely want to install a vapor barrier and plastic sheeting on the roof to keep it from leaking in the rain or snow. If your roof is bare, install shingles to help add a layer of protection. You can then add some insulation in the roof space as long as you leave a two-inch gap above the insulation for ventilation.

Ready to use your workshop this winter? Plan a weekend and knock this project off your to-do list. A bonus to doing this now, too, is that when summer comes back around, your shed will be cooler and more energy efficient.

Megan Wild improves homes by focusing on increasing their sustainability and finding new ways to repurpose old materials. When she’s not holding a hammer, you can find her writing up her ideas and thoughts for her blog, Your Wild Home, and read all of Megan’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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