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The Best Garage Workbench & Awesome Basement Workshop Ideas

best garage workbench

Are you one of those house-proud types? Do you spend a lot of time putting around with home improvement projects? Or maybe cars are your hobby. Either way, you probably spend a fair amount of your free time on activities that you execute from your garage or basement. So why shouldn't you have the best garage workbench possible? Whether your interest is woodworking, auto restoration, or just tinkering, an awesome basement workshop or garage always makes things more enjoyable.

For handy homeowners, a workbench often ranks as a necessity alongside the need for a kitchen table. It's one of those things you simply can't do without. And why should you? Whether you like to make stuff, fix things, or work on restoration projects around the home, you need a comfortable place to do the job. And the addition of numerous bells and whistles doesn't hurt. An awesome basement workshop or a fully equipped garage with a nice workbench may be the space you've been craving. Look at these tips and find your inspiration.

What makes the best workbench?

Whether your preferred habitat is the basement or garage, you need a good tool area with a sizable countertop to perform tasks in this space. In other words, you need a workbench. The best garage workbenches and basement workshops will always have certain elements in common.

finished garage workbench with storage and lighting
This garage workbench provides a lot of storage in the form of drawers and cabinets. Additionally, a PVC wall track system keeps small hand tools and hardware at the owner's fingertips. The 36-inch-high workbench countertop prevents back pain. It is illuminated by cool white LED strip lighting mounted under the overhead cabinets, eliminating eye fatigue.

10 must have workbench features for your garage or basement workshop.

1. Temperature and moisture control:

Unfinished garages can be excessively hot or cold. Basements can be damp. Neither is conducive to a pleasant work experience. Your workshop area doesn't need to be completely finished, but some level of temperature and moisture control is a must to ensure comfort. And don't forget the floor. A polyurea floor coating transforms a concrete floor so that it looks as nice as any flooring used inside the house but is durable enough to drive a car over and resist the outdoor elements.

Example of basement floor with polyurea coating as a moisture resistant finish
This polyurea floor coating looks like granite. It isn't slippery and applies directly to the concrete floor, offering good traction indoors or out.

2. Work surface placed at a comfortable height:

No one can enjoy their workbench if it causes back pain. That's why height is so important. But it's also partially a matter of preference. The best placement for your workbench countertop depends on how tall you are, whether you intend to stand or sit while using it, and the type of work you'll perform there. That's why installations range from 28-inches height for a sit-down unit to 38-inches high for a standing workbench. That being said, 36-inches is the standard height for workbenches and if you buy a ready-made unit from a home improvement store, this is probably the height you will receive. This should suit an average height adult who wants to work standing. However, not everyone is average. A more exact height can be derived by measuring the distance from the floor to your carpometacarpal joint (first thumb joint) while standing with your arms dangling at your sides. This renders your ideal ergonomic workbench height.

The best workbench height may also vary depending on use. For those interested in woodworking, placing the countertop at 34-inches will match most table saw heights, allowing the workbench to be used as an outfeed support. However, many woodworkers prefer the bench a couple inches lower than this because they get better leverage and can bear down when hand-planing or chiseling. By contrast, someone interested in automotive restoration will probably prefer a higher workbench of 36-inches or more.

Basement workbenches at different heights for woodworking functions with tools on wall
These basement workbenches are at different heights for various woodworking functions.

3. Adequate width and depth of workbench surface:

Unless the workbench is an island with access on all four sides, the work surface should be about 24-inches-deep so that you can reach all the way across it. This depth should allow enough room to use your larger tools as well. Before committing to the depth, make sure you can comfortably reach any small hand tools mounted to the wall behind the countertop from that distance.

Ideal width of the countertop can vary from 48-inches to 96-inches-wide depending on the type of work you're doing but be sure to place a support under the countertop every 30-inches so that it doesn't sag. This is especially important if you plan to work with heavy tools or materials.

Best garage workbench for woodworking tools and auto repair
This awesome workbench is wide enough so that tools can be permanently mounted to the countertop but there is still plenty of open worksurface.

4. Organizers for screws, fasteners & small hardware:

Use pegboard or wall track to keep small items convenient and organized. Specialty hooks and other organizers are available for these materials. Use them to hang items on the wall behind the workbench. When deciding between wall track and pegboard, remember that pegboard is most often used by DIYers. Wall track systems look more professional, whether PVC or metal, but are also more expensive.

closeup of workbench countertop and small hardware organizers

5. Good lighting:

Garages can be dark. Include an LED light over your workbench countertop for task lighting. A general rule of thumb is to use 130 to 150 lumens per square foot of workspace. Low voltage strip lighting is easy to install, will do the job, and can be built into to the underside of any overhead cabinets. Alternately, purchase a shop light to hang above the workbench. Lights with a temperature range of 4000K - 5000K work best and will simulate daylight. And don't forget to install some general ambient lighting for the ceiling. You wouldn't want your workbench to be the only light in the garage or basement

6. Drawers or pull-outs to store small handtools:

We've all seen the rolling toolchest with a slew of shallow drawers for organizing hand tools. But did you know that you can build this storage directly into your garage or basement workbench? Add workbench drawers as additional storage or as a substitute for a tool chest.

closeup of workbench drawer with handtools
Small tools remain organized and are handy to locate in the pull-out compartments of this workbench.

7. Cabinets for larger tools

Larger tools and supplies also need a place to go. Use the empty space above, below, or alongside your workbench for some cabinets that can hold these items.

best garage workbench with storage
Open shelving dominates this workbench design. However, the design includes upper and side cabinets for larger tools and supplies.

8. Locked storage

No matter whether it's in the basement or garage, your workshop is no place for small children. Always keep safety in the forefront of your workbench design. Make sure you include a storage area for sharp instruments or chemicals that can be locked. Even an electric drill can pose a hazard to children if they try to play with it. Keep your family safe by locking up these potential hazards.

Open garage cabinet with lock on door
Even a simple drawer lock like the one on this garage cabinet goes a long way towards protecting small children from poisoning or accidents.

9. Electrical hookups/outlets

Some of your tools will need electricity. If your equipment requires a special electrical hookup, make sure that is available. Even those that are cordless need the ability to be charged. And of course there's lighting. That's why every workshop needs access to electricity. The best setup places the workshop on a circuit breaker that is separate from the rest of the home. But whatever you do, make sure your workbench has plenty of outlets and charging stations to keep everything running smoothly.

Basement workshop charging station for battery operated hand tools.
Basement workshop charging station for battery operated hand tools.

10. Entertainment

For a workshop to rank as truly awesome, it must offer adequate entertainment. This might be a place to mount a TV, speakers for listening to music, or just accommodations for snacks and beverages. Install a big television and let the space do double duty as an entertainment area. Or invite friends over to join in your workshop hobby. They'll be pleased when it's time to take a break in front of your well-stocked refrigerator. Place a small one under the workbench or better yet, install a full-size unit into your cabinetry with a matching panel front for that custom, built-in look.

Garage workbench with TV, storage, and built-in refrigerator
This garage workbench for an automotive aficionado places a large television above the work surface. A built-in refrigerator completes the entertainment set-up. The workbench has numerous drawers for hand tools in addition to cabinets, rendering Wall track or pegboard organizers unnecessary.

Planning on finishing the garage or building an awesome basement workshop?

The workbench is arguably the most important part of any workshop. Without it, how do you work? It would be like an office without a desk or chair. That's why it's so important to get the design of it right. Make sure you get the best basement or garage workbench possible by following these tips. And if you decide you'd like some help, the designers at Closet Works are always ready to lend a hand. Why not schedule an in-home consultation today?