If you are passionate about woodworking and want to do woodworking in an apartment it is entirely possible. There are some considerations you need to make, precautions to take and you are good to go!
Woodworking in an apartment seems an unlikely location to pursue your hobby or profession of woodworking. But surprisingly, it is not an impossible proposition. With a bit of careful planning and taking adequate safety measures, you can establish a successful woodworking shop in a room in the apartment where you live.
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Woodworking in an Apartment
- Major Considerations for Working in an Apartment
Advantages and Disadvantages of Woodworking in an Apartment
Working from your apartment has a few pros and cons that you need to consider. Let’s first take a quick look at these advantages and disadvantages of woodworking in an apartment:
- Being in an apartment gives you access to all the comforts of the city when you step out.
- You can have access to all your creature comforts in the apartment and you are at home when you want to eat and sleep.
- Your family or flatmates will be there to keep you company when things get a bit monotonous.
- You save on rent as you aren’t spending a lump sum amount on standalone premises.
- Transportation is easy because of the proximity of your apartment to the main road and available transport vehicles.
- You have better security working in an apartment than working in a standalone property which can get ransacked when you lock it and leave at night.
- Possibility of complaints from neighbors for noise or dust pollution, if you don’t take adequate measures. (And even if you do, some people complain just for the sake of complaining!)
- Space is extremely restricted, so you’ll need to plan your layout carefully.
- You have to take adequate precautions to collect sawdust and chips while working. The same goes for volatile fumes from varnishes and paints.
- You need to restrict the use of power tools again, because of the noise that you might make. Some power tools also create heavy vibrations that may not auger well with your neighbors.
- You cannot bring your workpieces outside for sanding, painting, or varnishing.
- There are severe limitations for large-scale projects because you can’t pile up stuff in the corridors without risking complaints from your neighbors.
Major Considerations for Working in an Apartment
You need to consider noise as a critical factor while planning to do woodworking in an apartment. The noise of electric drills or the vibration of even hand tools cannot be suppressed easily.
There is no foolproof way of muffling the sound of a hammer except perhaps by soundproofing the walls of your apartment. There are many other considerations involved if you intend to do woodworking in an apartment.
Once you understand the advantages and disadvantages involved, you can consider these points to succeed in your venture:
Choose Your Room Carefully
Ensure that the room you choose is suitable for woodworking. It should not have any adjacent walls with your neighbors. Before you occupy the room, you should clear it from all unnecessary items.
Once you have access to the empty room, you can start planning how you intend to set up your woodworking workshop. The ideal size for a woodworking workshop in an apartment is 125 square feet, but it could be as low as 75 square feet. Of course, there’s no upper limit on how big your workshop could be.
No matter big or small the room for your woodworking workshop might be, ensure that there is sufficient space for storing lumber.
Decide on Your Projects
If you choose projects wisely, you may not be bothered by neighbors. For example, you can avoid projects that involve moving big sections of lumber or heavy machinery. People can be very critical of someone who is doing complicated stuff which they don’t understand and could report you to the authorities, even if what you are doing is legit.
Scale down your projects so that you can deal with smaller sections. Also, avoid mass production which is a sure-fire way of getting noticed for the wrong reasons. For example, it wouldn’t be prudent to take up an order for 100 chairs and desks for a local school.
By sticking to smaller projects using hand tools, you stand less chance of generating dust and noise. Do be mindful of neighbors and what they think, because they can cause your little woodworking venture to close down.
Stick to simple items like small furniture or knickknacks like vases, wooden bowls, candle holders, and small figurines. If you are a bit smart about it, you can monetize your venture to earn a decent amount of money.
Decide on Your Machines and Tools
In a spacious woodworking shop, you can usually bring in fairly large machinery without thinking too much about it. On the other hand, in an apartment due to the space restrictions, you need to consider the size of the machinery, if you are considering using any at all.
There are many woodworking operations that you can carry out by hand in preference to using machines. For instance, you can make more use of shaping tools like hand planers, sanders, and files. Plan what you intend to use based on the available space.
The best decision you could make is not to use power tools as much as possible. Power tools make tasks easier and faster. You get immense satisfaction from using them. But considering the noise and vibration, you’ll be generating, it’s not worth the flak that you might get from your neighbors.
So, keep power tools to a minimum. Perhaps a hand drill, a miter saw, or maybe a hand-held router should suffice. These are items that many regular households possess. Use these power tools sparingly and at a convenient time of day, and you should do just fine.
Plan Your Layout
Before you start setting your tools and machinery around your allocated room, you need to plan the space. Whether you already own the machines or you have yet to purchase them, it’s a good idea to measure the physical dimensions first.
You can allocate a rough area, like say, five square feet for a particular lot of tools. Then, you also need to leave enough spare space for moving around on the shop floor.
Preserving Your Floors and Surfaces
You need to protect the flooring and furniture of your apartment from dust, particularly if the floors are carpeted. The best way of doing this is to use drop cloths. A good means of protecting floors from damage is to lay plywood sheets on them.
Whether the apartment belongs to you or it is a rented one, you don’t want to damage the floors unduly which will be expensive to repair.
Soundproof Your Room
As we mentioned above, the primary issue that you need to consider is noise. The best way of approaching this issue is to treat the room as if you were soundproofing a recording studio.
Cover the walls and ceiling with soundproof material. You can buy soundproofing panels from a hardware store. The thicker the sheets, the better acoustic insulation you will achieve.
Adding thick blankets, curtains and foam will also add to the soundproofing effect. Even bookcases filled with books can serve to absorb some of the noise that you generate.
Light and Cordless Tools
Given that you are strapped for space, cordless hand tools that are lightweight will be a great help to you as you work. Nowadays, most power tools have cordless versions. It gives you a lot of flexibility in moving around a restricted space. It improves the safety factor as well. You stand less likelihood of tripping over power cords s you move around your shop floor.
Cordless tools are inherently lighter than the corded versions. The added advantage is that they tend to generate less noise.
Plan Your Storage Space
When you plan your space, a major consideration should be your storage area. You can divide the available space into storage and work. There is no fixed percentage of these two areas.
If you have a lot of gear, you may need a wider storage area, and compromise on the work area. If you have another room available, then you can use it as a storeroom for your materials and tools.
Another good idea for storing tools and materials is to put them on a balcony. Or you can use a spare closet. Put a priority on storing tools, materials, and consumables that you won’t need immediately.
Dust is the next critical factor after noise you need to consider when woodworking in an apartment. You should not neglect this factor as it can get you into big trouble. The important thing is to have a plan in place to contain the sawdust that gets generated.
Typically, a dust collector is a practical choice for dust containment issues. There are many different types and models of dust collectors on the market. You’d do well to familiarize yourself with the various models. Then you can choose a suitable one.
Cleaning up meticulously after each work session is a good practice. Avoiding the use of power tools can also reduce dust production significantly. Also, ensure that your woodworking workshop is properly sealed from other rooms and the rest of the apartment.
However, sawdust and chips are avoidable occurrences in any woodworking shop, big or small. They get into everything, whether you use hand or power tools. The sawdust can cause severe respiratory problems. So, using respirators is in order.
Installing an exhaust system with a filter is also a good practice. There is a variety of air filtration systems of different sizes available on the market. Do a bit of shopping around and procure one that is suitable for your setup.
Last but not least, do not neglect your flooring. You can cover the floor with a laminate or linoleum to make cleaning up after each session easy. Don’t rely on a domestic vacuum cleaner for this purpose. You can get dedicated dust extractors specially designed for picking up sawdust and wood chips from shopfloors.
Don’t Neglect Ventilation
The best form of ventilation comes in windows. So, if you have large windows in your room, you can keep them open while working, especially when applying finish to the wood.
Some finishes like polyurethane and shellac are particularly volatile and the fumes can be harmful. Natural finishes are the best way to go to avoid the emission of volatile substances. But if you have to use them, do so sparingly and with ample ventilation.
Choose Your Materials Well
If you procure full-size beams and sheets and lug them into your apartment, you are asking for trouble. As we mentioned above, you need to be discrete and use smaller sections.
But the best alternative to this is to order custom boards from the lumberyard. They will cut your lumber to the requisite sizes. You can either go and collect them from the location or order them online.
There are two advantages to this arrangement. First, you have less grunt work to do. Then, bringing your lumber in small pieces and perhaps staggered deliveries draws less attention to your woodworking activities. The cherry on the top – some lumberyards don’t even charge for cutting if your order is substantial.
While on the subject of choosing material, you will do well to avoid engineered woods like medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or particleboard. These materials typically contain toxic chemicals like formaldehyde which can be harmful.
It is a general misconception that you need huge spaces to set up a woodworking workshop. But in reality, you can work out of surprising small spaces if you plan out your layout well and take adequate precautions.
Woodworking in an apartment can be a highly satisfying experience if you go about it in the right way. Follow these useful tips and you can have a delightful experience with your favorite hobby or profession and complete some beautiful projects from the comfort of your home.