What’s the Best Shop Flooring?

What’s the Best Shop Flooring?

I’m getting ready to retire in the coming months and am in a position to build an actual workshop for my wood orking toys instead of sharing with the garage.  I know my wife would be happy to have a place to park her car out of the elements, as in west central Georgia there aren’t many basements that I could use.  My question: if I build a two-car garage, what should I use for flooring?

I know standing all the time on concrete is tiresome and can cause problems with leg issues that I would like to avoid, but are rubber mats the answer or should I consider something else?  As I am in the planning stages, it would be nice to have some ideas so I can pass along to the builder so they can be worked into the construction plans. – Lee Nalley

Chris Marshall: What a great position to be in, Lee: building your dream shop! I’ve had shops with plywood flooring and concrete. Honestly, I’ve found that wearing a good pair of supportive shoes makes concrete as comfortable for me to stand on for extended periods of time as my plywood floor used to be. As you suggest, dense foam or rubber mats, placed in front of your bench and machines, could be another good preventive measure to try. There are also resilient flooring tiles that interlock like a puzzle, or even rolled rubber flooring that could be applied over your slab similar to what you might see in an athletic building. Cost-wise, I’d go with a concrete slab, and start with mats. You could always roll out a rubber floor or lay down soft tiles later. Or even install wood sleepers over your concrete floor and lay plywood over them. Concrete will afford you lots of options, and a slab floor will give the next owner of your shop every alternative for using the building, too.

Rob Johnstone: If I was building my perfect woodshop (and I’ve daydreamed a good bit about this), it would have hardwood floors (wide red oak boards). But my preference would be as much for how the floor would look and feel as its performance. Perfect dream woodshops don’t need to be paid for and don’t take much maintenance. When I build my next workshop, it will have concrete floors.

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  • Bill

    I’m in the process of building my dream shop. I’ve spent 25 years in a basement shop and I’m done with concrete as a floor. I’m putting in a hickory tongue and groove floor with a 3′ crawl space under it. This will allow me to run all of the electric and dust collection under the floor, keeping the shop quieter and with fewer obstructions. The crawl space floor has a 3″ pour for easy access and humidity control.

  • John Glenn

    Lee, I retired 5 years ago and built my shop. I have a concrete floor with in-floor hot water heat. This has worked great for me. I lay carpet padding in the walkways and work station areas to prevent any fatigue issues. The in-floor heat (supplied from a boiler in another room) prevents any possibility of a fire or explosion from open flame or electric heat element. Good luck in your retirement and woodworking. I just started turning and find it very relaxing.

  • Kevin Vernon

    My shop has been in a 2 car garage, on a concrete slab. For all intents and purposes, I “Carpeted” the whole are with interlocking rubber mats from Harbor Freight. It works well. I have considered a second layer in those spots I stand for long periods, directly in front of benches & machines.

  • Al McKague

    I just retired a month ago. I’m also building my dream shop. The initial floor will be concrete, but l’m planning to put in pressure treated 2×4 sleepers with blue Styrofoam insulation between them and 3/4 inch plywood on top. The sleepers will give me room to run conduit in the floor to bring power to my machines.

  • A similar question, and premise, I have is here in NE Maine is what about concrete, and PEX-based radiant heat. At what depth, type (hydraulic or standard , w/ or w/o ‘tiger hair’ additive’s) and slump should I set for a concrete floor for a similar shop floor ? My site has a heave issue and is forcing me to look at a shallow foundation. But to do so leaves me with a heated mass depth problem that a radiant floor is going to be struggling with, at best. And given the plan’s, at 40′ x 70′, this is not an issue that I can afford to make a mistake on. Any objective help would be welcomed. (retired04497@gmail.com)

    • John Glenn

      Mike, not sure what your problem is. I live in Alaska where we also have a “heaving” problem due to frost. Builders here place footings below the frost line and lay block. I have a 4′-5′ crawlspace, the sub-floor is plywood on wood joists then the pex radiant heat lines are stapled to the plywood and a layer of cement is poured over that. The cement is now the sub-floor and I have laid wood, carpet and tile on top of that. In the shop and garage the foundation was dug down to frost line, backfilled with gravel and the pex was laid and then concrete. The concrete will crack but nothing serious. The best thing I think you can do is have an arcitect and contractor look at your situation. Hope this helps.

  • Facts_Only

    I would agree with the concrete option, however I would cover that concrete with a concrete floor paint. It makes the cleanup so much easier as the dust and shavings are easily removed from the painted surface (I favor a light color too as it will help make the shop brighter). One must be aware that footing on a dust covered slick surface is a concern. Due to cost, I favor an oil based concrete floor paint, not the expensive two part epoxy. For the cost of the epoxy, I can recoat my floor with oil pased paint 4 times.

  • servant74

    In my perfect world, I would do a concrete floor, with a sand covering, and end grain wood tiles set on the sand. http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/end-grain-flooring-ze0z1204zsie.aspx?SlideShow=1 has a quick video tutorial, or a google many articles under ‘end grain shop floor’. There are commercial end grain wood tiles or a easy (but big) DIY project. — I worked on one in college with metal working machine lab. It was easy on the feet, and on machine tools when dropped. I would prefer untreated wood. It can be replaced tile by tile without a HUGE job if something happens. A friend made a garden patio from 6×6 cut 2″ slabs that was nice. but you can use any wood with end grain for the look you desire. It also sweeps and cleans pretty good, just don’t expect it to sweep up as easily as a smooth surface.

  • Graeme Coles

    I recently had the pleasure of building myself a new (small) workshop) and the floor was a puzzle for a while. My key concerns were warmth, safety and ease of cleaning. So:
    first step was to lay a concrete floor 70 mm below the desired finished height, This floor was finished to a standard that means that it could be painted, or used as a substrate for vinyl flooring if required. 70 mm allowed enough space for ducting for wiring to in-floor electrical outlets (protected by wall switches and RCD breakers at the nearest wall.)
    45mm thickness firring was then used (300mm centres) to provide bearing for 25mm strandboard (oriented-fibre chipboard flooring). Firring was fixed to the concrete with Ramset gun nails. Openings for floor outlets were made in the flooring as it was laid. Loose packers of the same firring were used to support cross-joints in the flooring. flooring was fixed to the firring using stainless steel screws without adhesive. This will allow me to remove the flooring and replace it with the recently milled hardwood stacked undercover to dry at present.

    Make sure the flooring doesn’t run under the wall linings: use skirtings to trim the corner between floor and wall so they can be removed to allow for the flooring to be replaced if it is ever necessary.

    And it may be necessary. There is no finish for wooden flooring of any type that is immune to the effects of all the catastrophes that might occur in your workshop. I have suffered everything from spots of vinyl etch primer (which are there for good) to a hole punched by a protuberance on a drill press knocked over by an earthquake, and an easily repaired floor is is a good alternative to the time spent repairing edges on tools occasionally dropped on concrete. A floor with a good gloss level makes sweeping up sawdust easier, mind you.

  • Mark Kamprud

    Having been a professional woodwork for over 40 years, the only reason that I would use wood instead of concrete is to have a very deep crawl space in which to put your dust collection piping, compressed air piping and electrical runs. This method is costly to install and costly to maintain, but keeps the space above your machinery completely clear to handle material. You can do a version of this in a concrete floor also with steel tread plate to cover the concrete chaseways to your tools. I have seen both of these methods used and both are very effective.

  • I’m currently working in a small temporary shop with a plywood floor. The plywood is nice thick 1 1/8″ t&g. The problem is when I try to move machines around. The floor supports the weight well, however the wheels dig into the top layer of the plywood , making it very difficult to roll. The planer is the worst ( 20″ Grizzly), Basically crushing the top layer of veneer everywhere it goes. Needless to say, my “under construction” shop has all concrete floors!
    Have fun building your shop!

  • Randy Wolfe

    My first shop was a concrete floor in a garage. My next shop had a crawlspace and had a OSB subfloor. I never did bother to put anything on top of that and it worked great for years. It was much easier on my feet and back then the previous concrete in my garage shop. Several years ago I build a larger shop. Because of the slope of the ground it was not practical to put in a crawlspace with a wood floor. It has a concrete floor. I put electrical conduit and dust collecting piping beneath it when it was poured. That works well but I can never move it. walking on concrete even with mats on the floor is not my preference. If I were doing it again I would do as some others have suggested and put in a concrete floor below final level and put in some two by fours or two by sixes on edge and put a screwed down wood floor over that. Then I would be able to access the space under the floor for electrical wiring, dust collection, etc. and it would be easier to walk on.

  • Airman

    I built my shop 3 years ago. I wouldn’t have a shop floor in anything other than unfinished solid wood. It’s easy on the body, looks great, and doesn’t damage tools when (not if) I drop them. Stains and drips are easily sanded out if they bother me and I don’t care about dents or cuts from dropped items. It’s a shop, not a museum.

    My property had dozens of ash trees that were dead or dying from the Emerald Ash Borer. I had them all cut down, sent to a mill for rough sawing and drying and then finished milled as T&G flooring, ship lap siding for the walls, and beveled edge T&G for the ceiling. The wood walls make it easy to hand up jigs, fixtures, and tools without worrying about pulling through drywall.

    The flooring was laid on sleepers over a concrete slab. I had 6″ PVC pipe laid under the slab with inlets every 6-8′ around the perimeter of the slab as well as down the center line. 120 and 240 VAC power was also run along the center line with the outlets 2 feet on either side of the dust collection inlets.

  • riverrat37

    I too am building my dream retirement wood shop. I never considered anything for the floor but wood. And not too hard a wood either. This is for multiple reasons, but the foremost is that concrete is not polite to dropped tools and other things (like those made of glass). I want them to bounce … not break! And my legs and feet will appreciate it. Here in Maine it would be hard to keep the concrete warm. Standing on a cold floor … not good! Yes, I could run in-floor heat, but hey, this isn’t a house. Wood is better for sound absorbing qualities over concrete. But best of all … it looks like a wood shop, not an industrial car repair shop. And lastly, it’s wood. The very thing I love enough to build a shop and work with it. Best that I use it for many reasons to bring me delight.

  • Jim Bowe

    I built my 20×24 shop 8 years ago. It is on a cement slab with standard 2×4 construction. The floor is covered with Delta-FL dimpled plastic to provide a vapor barrier then 3/4 inch OSB. Lastly wide plank tongue and groove pine floor was laid, stained and sealed with polyurethane varnish. The floor is easy on the feet and legs yet give great support for all of my tools.

  • Lee Ohmart

    I went with a concrete floor in the 24 x 32 shop I built in central Maine. The concrete is separated from the frost wall and ground by 2 inches of blueboard so it acts as a heat sink for the heat pump I use to heat/cool the building. It doesn’t have to work hard because the building has 6.5 inches of foam in the walls and 10.5 in the ceiling in the form of SIPS panels. I acid stained the floor green for some color and finished it with 2-part polyurethane. For the sake of my knees and hips I bought a roll of stall matting from a farm supply store, cut it up and strategically placed in front of the machines and benches. Works for me.

  • Dave skigor

    I built a 30X40 shop in Chicago. I used pex tubing in the floor for comfort. Tied it to a hot water heater, small pump, tied to a thermosetate.

    Thicken the edges, use a vapor barrier, perimiter 2″ blue insulation board. 1″ blue insulation board in the feild, place the concrete 5″ with welded wire mesh 6″x6″ (4″x4″ better) The key to cracking is cut the concrete into squares no larger than !0’X10′ cut the joints as soon as you can walk on the fresh concrete without leaving a mark. Place a sprinkler on the concrete. 5-7 days. It cures harder under water. Prime the joints after 28 day cure, use a good urathane caulk. Now you can do anything. I used a cork floor. soft easy to clean. and when it gets beat to a point that it has to be replaced I replace it for not a big cost as hardwood, or plywood.

    Also go with a minimume 10′ ceiling

    built a 30X40 shop in Chicago. I used pex tubing in the floor for
    comfort. Tied it to a hot water heater, small pump, tied to a

    Thicken the edges, use a vapor barrier, perimeter 2″
    blue insulation board. 1″ blue insulation board in the field, place the
    concrete 5″ with welded wire mesh 6″x6″ (4″x4″ better) The key to
    cracking is cut the concrete into squares no larger than !0’X10′ cut the
    joints as soon as you can walk on the fresh concrete without leaving a
    mark. Place a sprinkler on the concrete. 5-7 days. It cures harder under
    water. Prime the joints after 28 day cure, use a good urethane caulk.
    Now you can do anything. I used a cork floor. soft easy to clean. and
    when it gets beat to a point that it has to be replaced I replace it for
    not a big cost as hardwood, or plywood.

    Also go with a minimum 10′ ceiling you could also split the ceiling height like I did 1/2 is 10′ the other 1/2 is 12′

  • gway17

    A year ago I build a 24′ x 30′ shop attached to an already attached garage. I went with in-floor heat and cement and painted it with patio paint. It is warm, easy to move anything around on and the paint is very durable and easy to clean and find anything I drop. I’ve dropped heavy tools on it without a mark. It is perfect (for me).

  • Duster

    My shop is a 1929 garage built to accomodate a model A. The floor is concrete, somewhat the worse for a neighbor’s pecan tree. Roots from the tree cracked the floor. So, if you go for concrete, I would suggest reinforcement – rod or mesh. One important fact about shop floors is that regardless of how careful you are, occasionally you will drop things. I would recommend as rigid a wooden floor as possible. It doesn’t take more than a broken hand plane to convince you that concrete by itself is a hazard. I would suggest wood on sleepers over concrete. That should provide a stable, flat, firm base for any heavy machine tools and still provide a more forgiving surface for a dropped tool.

  • plusaf

    I made the naïve mistake of having a concrete floor poured for my workshop built into an excavated area from our home’s crawl space.

    It literally took about two years for the floor to completely DRY and the entire shop suffered endless mold and mildew on virtually every surface until it finally dried out. Today… no problem. Some kind of moisture barrier over the cement might have helped, but I can’t imagine what it would have been like to seal all that moisture under a vinyl or even wood surface on the cement!

    I’ve got reasonable insulation in the walls and ceiling so my wife can watch TV directly upstairs in the living room and a 10-14K BTU heater/A-C unit in the wall to maintain a comfortable temperature year ’round. Four two-tube 4′ fluorescent fixtures in the ceiling are not quite enough for my old eyes, so several local lighting and spot lighting fixtures are needed, such as on the band saw and over the lathe and bench-top belt sander.

    I learned a lot from the experience and I’m extremely happy with my shop, even though it’s pretty small and packed to the hilt with tools and turning wood!

    http://www.plusaf.com/woodshop/_woodblog/_woodblog.htm for photos and bLOG.

  • Yankee_Biker

    My shop has a poured concrete floor and since I use the area for auto and motorcycle maintenance as well as woodworking I was reluctant to put in a floor that would be ruined if grease stained. My solution is a batch of puzzle mats that I can put where they are needed, but the best idea came when I replaced my desk chair. A comfortable chair is the best way to rest my old legs and ponder my next project.