Spending time in the shop is a special kind of escape for me. It's a time to get some things done, to be creative, and to unwind in my own way. But this time of year it can be hard to enjoy the space. The cold wind and cloudy skies can make it dark, cold, and just not worth the time I want to give it. Here are a few simple upgrades to make your shop a place you can escape to year round.
1. Retractable Cords and Hoses - I've added electrical outlets and iron compressor lines on my shop walls lately. These projects were a great upgrade, but for a faster upgrade, go retractable. In about an hour, you can hang both power and air from the ceiling in a central spot and reach the whole area. I picked up my reels from harbor freight during black Friday for a deep discount, but if you don't want to wait, here are a few recommendations:
- Bayco 30ft retractable power reel $40
- Chamberlain Garage Power Station $50 - This system has a 25' cord and delivers power, light and air for light duty ball and tire filling.
- Cyclone Pneumatic 25ft retractable air hose reel $70
2. Anti-Fatigue Mats - Spending the day walking from tool to tool, the lower back starts to really feel the hours; and working in the winter on concrete floors can cut shop time short due to cold feet. Alleviate the pain and cold with a layer of anti-fatigue mats. I've put down enough to cover the common areas in front of tools, and spaces where I spend a lot of shop time. The best mats for me have been the interlocking foam 1/2" 24"x24" squares. They can be linked together to keep in place, and the layout can change when the shop is moved around. Another viable option is a 2'x3' dedicated mat for each area.
3. Even More Shop Lights - We recently wrote about some amazing shop lights that add some great character to your space. But sometimes you just need more light in a hurry. The key to good shop lighting is combining high, bright lights with a few extra focused task lights to fend off the shadows when leaning over the counters for finish work. Florescent lights are a favorite in the shop because they are big, bright, and relatively cheap, but keep in mind that low temperatures make them flicker and the consistent buzz of the bulbs can be a bit off-putting. If switches aren't dedicated to shop lights, go for the simple pull string models.
4. Heat!- If you want to extend your shop time, a heater is one of the best ways to make that happen. I used to have a few floor heaters to keep my toes from frosting over, but keeping them out of the way was a constant battle. The solution? Mount them on the ceiling or wall. A Ceiling heater won't get all the way to the floor, but if you've installed mats that will be less of a concern anyway. The wall heaters generally have fans and are a bit more expensive but for the added efficiency it could be worth it. Go for reflection heat, or something with a fan for a good reach of the warmth.
What items in your shop do you consider essential upgrades? We'd love to hear how you make your corner of the house into a comfortable place to spend your free time.