How Do I Choose a Workbench For the Garage?
Every garage needs a workbench (or two), but choosing the right one isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Workbenches are designed to last for decades, so you’re going to have to live with your choice for a long time.
Workbenches are a must-have for any garage workshop. If you like tinkering with stuff, or if you’re in the habit of building, repairing, or maintaining your own mechanical or electrical stuff, a good workbench is a must-have item. Of course, they can be used as regular tables as well. You could essentially turn your garage into a workshop/home office.
There are a few things worth considering before you get a workbench for your garage. A good workbench is a sizable investment, so it’s important to do your homework ahead of time.
Benefits of Having a Garage Workbench
The first thing you need to consider is what you can expect to get out of a good garage workbench. We believe there are four fundamental advantages to having a workbench installed in your garage:
- It gives you a proper working space that you can properly tinker around on without disturbing or annoying anyone else.
- A safe environment in which to conduct mechanical, electrical, or any other potentially hazardous work.
- Adequate space to work with large equipment and items.
- A workbench will also provide you with extra space to store all your tools and equipment.
Types of Garage Workbenches
There are a lot of different types of workbenches, but you can narrow them down into a few broad categories. Before we get into what to look for in a garage workbench, it’s important to know what kind is right for you.
I’m deliberately going to leave out one of the most obvious categories, which is also one of the most popular: building your own.
For many woodworkers, it’s considered a rite of passage to build your own workbench. While I have A TON of respect for anyone who can pull that off, it’s not what I want for my garage. It’s better that I leave that to the professionals, like April.
With that notable exception, let’s take a look at some of the major types of garage workbenches.
Portable workbenches are a great option if you don’t have a lot of space or if you have to work at different locations, like a professional handyman/mechanic. They’re also great if you just want to work outside and enjoy the sunshine in your driveway.
I had a portable Black & Decker workbench for several years before moving into my current house. It had a small format size and could even be folded up for storage.
The only drawback is that you don’t have very much room to work because of their small footprint.
Cost: Between $60 and $175
Stand-alone workbenches are as basic as you can get. They’re usually a thick, heavy wood top supported by thick steel legs. Occasionally you’ll hear them called workbench tables.
Both of my Gladiator workbenches fit in this category. They’re probably more than I’ll ever need, but they’re solid and look great. If you want to check out my detailed review on them, click on that link to take you to that article.
Some standalone workbenches come with pegboard mounted to the top. Personally, I’m not a fan of this design. I think there are some great pegboard companies out there and some great workbench manufacturers. But I haven’t seen one company that excels at both. If you want to use pegboard in your garage, look at that as a separate solution.
Similarly, some people prefer to have a workbench with cabinets and drawers. Many like me just prefer the minimalism of stand-alone workbenches. On my smaller 6′ workbench, I have two rolling cabinets underneath so I get the best of both worlds.
Cost: Between $125 and $1500
If you can imagine the exact opposite of stand-alone workbenches, that would be a mobile workbench cabinet.
In addition to the tabletop, these cabinets are usually on heavy-duty casters and offer a wide range of storage, ranging from tool drawers to large door cabinet doors.
These cabinets are ideal for storing tools and equipment that you want to wheel t where you’re working. If you have a large garage, this could save you constant trips back and forth from your car to your tool chest, for example.
Although these tend to be pricier than the other workbench types, they are by far the most practical. In all honesty, I’ll probably end up replacing one of my Gladiator workbenches with a mobile workbench because of the additional storage.
Cost: Between $250 to $1000 (and up)
What Matters Most in a Garage Workbench
Before you click that ‘buy now’ button, there are a few factors worth thinking about.
Choosing wisely here can help you make a more informed purchase decision. Remember, you’re going to have this workbench for many years to come.
One of the first things you need to know about your garage workbench is how much weight it can support.
If you just need your workbench to store your circular saw, you don’t need a big weight capacity. But if you’re planning on more more involved projects, be sure that you choose a workbench with a weight capacity rto match.
I’ve seen workbenches with a weight capacity as low as 300 lbs, but some of the high-end garage workbenches can support weights of up to 3000 pounds.
The Workbench Top
Arguably the most important part of your workbench is the top. That’s where you’re going to be doing all of your work.
There are plenty of options here. You can find workbench tops in various solid woods, steel, plastic, particleboard, or laminate. Each has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
For example, stainless steel has a higher heat tolerance than wood, so it’s great for welding or soldering. A wood workbench is warmer and more pliable than steel, and any imperfections can potentially be sanded out. It’s also easier to keep clean than stainless steel.
It is absolutely crucial that you get a workbench with a surface that is ideal for the kind of work you expect to do.
Depending on the type of workbench you want, storage capacity may be a factor.
While this won’t apply to standalone workbenches, many workbenches will come with at least some storage cabinets, drawers or tool holders. While it’s not a deal-breaker for most people, having a little extra storage can never hurt.
Here’s the big one. The price of a good garage workbench will vary wildly, depending on what type you want and the manufacturer.
I cannot stress enough that you’re going to be living with this workbench for years to come. It’s far better to buy a portable workbench now and save up for the one your really want rather than buy the wrong one just because it was on sale.
This is an investment. Remember that.
Here’s where you check boxes on your wish list. Do you want a workbench with built in electrical outlets? lights? wheels?
Because this is a highly competitive space, you’re likely t find a manufacturer that has a workbench that has some of these bonus features for you. It may take a little digging, but it’s worth it.
Garage Workbenches: What’s It Made Of?
The material that the workbench top is made of has a huge impact on durability, weight capacity and, of course, cost. Each of the three main materials its advantages and disadvantages.
Plastic workbenches are the most affordable and light-weight option.
Even if cost isn’t a factor, you may want to consider this: Plastic doesn’t conduct electricity well so they are perfect for working with electrical appliances.
Some of the better plastic workbenches come with a coating on the surface to protect them against stains and scratches.
Wood is the most common material used to make workbench tops, and the one that I chose for my garage.
There’s a good reason for this: wood-top workbenches look great but are also very durable. They’re able to withstand just about any kind of work that you’d expect to do on a workbench, including working with heavy weights and heat.
If you want to get an all-purpose workbench that is suitable for general workshop purposes like assembly, repair, or maintenance, consider getting a wood-top workbench.
Metal workbenches are the strongest and the most durable of the three varieties. They are usually made of heavy-duty stainless steel and are perfect for working with heavy equipment.
They are incredibly resistant to oils, chemicals, garage fluids, etc. However, you should be aware that they’re much more difficult to install, are more expensive and hard to keep clean.
Is There a Best Size for a Garage Workbench?
In short, no. There is no one right size of a garage workbench.
It’s going to differ for each individual and each garage. That said, there are a few ‘best practices’ that you can follow.
Garage Workbench Height
There’s not a lot of flexibility here. Most workbenches are between 28 to 38 inches in height, with 34″ being the most common.
This is so important because people’s preferences will vary depending on factors like their age, size, ability, etc. If you’re forced to work at a workbench that doesn’t accommodate you, it might hurt your productivity.
Some workbenches are adjustable and can vary their height to fit your exact needs. Adjustable height workbenches will cost you a little more than fixed height workbenches, but they are totally worth it.
Garage Workbench Depth
The depth will typically vary between 24 and 36 inches. For most general use, this is just fine.
One thing to consider is the depth of any tools you’re going to use. For example, my circular saw sits on top of one of my Gladiator workbenches. It’s an inch or two too short, so the back of the circular saw overlaps a bit. It’s not that important to me, but it might be to someone else.
You need to select a workbench with a depth that fits in the space you have in your garage. Don’t forget to also factor in the size of your car and remember to plan for enough space to walk around.
Garage Workbench Length
Here’s where all of the options come into play. However, if you’ve chosen the height and the depth of the workbench properly, the length shouldn’t really be an issue. For the most part, the longer the bench, the more room you will have to work in.
Just don’t go out of your way to get an extremely long workbench. For most general purposes, workbenches that are between 48 and 96 inches long should do the trick.
Addons That Work Well With Garage Workbenches
There are a few things that you can add to your garage workbench to make it more versatile. I want to stress that these are compliments to the workbench, not things that you look for in your workbench.
To help really bring out the best in your workbench, consider getting the following add-ons:
- Pegboards: Pegboards are a perfect compliment for your garage workbench. These are wall organization systems that can be used to hang anything from your tools to shelves and really give it the feel of a true workshop.
- Plastic tool boxes: Of the two varieties of toolboxes we will be discussing here, plastic tool boxes are the lighter add-ons to your garage workbench. They are also cheaper and are perfect for storing most of the tools and items that you’ll need.
- Metal tool boxes: Metal tool boxes are more expensive, and are much heavier than plastic toolboxes. However, they’re much more durable and are more suited for heavy-duty usage.
- Tool cabinet: While a toolbox is more portable storage for your tools, a tool cabinet is fixed storage. Besides a cabinet, you may also opt for a couple of drawers. Together these can be really convenient to store your tools and other equipment.
- Workbench stools: One of the most important add-ons to your workbench, something which surprisingly we haven’t talked about yet, is the workbench stool. This is the stool that you will be sitting on when you’re doing some work on your workbench.
Make sure you get a stool with an adjustable height, as the height of the stool is one of the most important factors. Also, getting a rotating stool with wheels wouldn’t be the worst of ideas.
Garage Workbench Maintenance
Knowing how to properly maintain your new garage workbench is a key element in its durability. Most workbenches are built to last, meaning it is highly unlikely that they will break down.
Still, it pays to follow a little preventative maintenance. This won’t take more than a few minutes and will help keep your workbench looking and feeling new for a long time.
- Always clean the surface of the workbench after you are done using it. This means rubbing off any chemicals or fluids (like grease, paint, or primer) that might have fallen on the surface.
- If you own a workbench made of hardwood, consider polishing the surface with wax at least a few times a year.
- Another thing you could do to protect wooden workbenches is to cover them with a nice coat of varnish.
FAQ on Garage Workbenches
What Is the Best Location for a Garage Workbench?
When it comes to finding the right location for your workbench, there are many factors you have to consider. First of all, if you have an attached garage, choose the wall that is shared with your living space. This way, it will be a lot easier to manage all the electrical power outlets.
Also, if you intend to keep the car inside your garage, then make sure you have enough space for the workbench. It’s not enough just to fit the workbench to a side. Remember, you will actually need enough room to sit or walk around it.
Can I Replace the Top of a Workbench?
If the existing top of the workbench has been screwed into the rest of the frame, then yes, you can remove the top and replace it. The replacement, however, has to be thicker than the original top.
However, if the top of the workbench has been glued in, then replacing it could get nasty. In either case, you are better off selecting a workbench that comes with a top that you already like.
What Tools Will I Require to Assemble a Workbench?
Most workbenches can be purchased in flat-pack style assembly jobs. What this means is that they can be assembled without any fancy tools like you an IKEA furniture. At best, you might require a measuring tape, a few screwdrivers, spanners, and a hammer.
A workbench is a must-have item for any garage workshop. And a good workbench can actually improve your quality of work. You will also find yourself working on your projects more often once you have a nice, comfortable, and well-organized space to work in.