5 considerations for setting up workshop ventilation

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man using a saw in a workshop Photo by Sova Vitalij / Shutterstock

Whether you’re watching a few Brojects videos for inspiration or heading to your local TIMBER MART with an itemized list in hand, chances are you’ve spent hours planning out your next project. But have you put the same thought into your workshop?

For the craftsman (or craftswoman), the workshop is home away from home—well, another home away from home when you count the cottage—which is why it’s absolutely essential that it’s set up correctly. Beyond just having the right tools, the perfect workspace is as safe as it is functional, and a big part of having a safe and comfortable space is ventilation. From simple life hacks to integrated systems, here are a few considerations to take before setting up (or upgrading) your shop.

Even an open window goes a long way

Whether you’re working out of our basement, your garage, or the shed out back, make sure there’s something you can open. Sometimes, that’s as simple as the door you came in through, but ideally, it’s a window or even a garage door. It’s far from fancy, but a short breeze will do more than cool you off on those summer sessions, allowing everything from solvent fumes to sawdust to drift outside.

Only you can prevent workshop fires

Those oily rags you’ve been wiping your hands with? Be sure to dispose of them safely. Even if they’re nowhere near a spark, solvents, stains and other oily workshop staples are incredibly flammable, and can combust on their own, igniting with nothing more than a little old fashion oxidization. Proper ventilation won’t just keep you breathing easy after putting the finishing touches on that beautiful bench you just made; they’ll keep your work rags from heating up to the point of igniting. If you want to dispose of them in the safest way, here’s how: fill an old metal paint can with water, submerge the rags, and dispose of them at your local hazardous waste disposal centre.

We’re big fans of big fans

Something as simple as a fan can work wonders for ventilating your space, but be mindful of where the air’s blowing. A box fan can keep your shop from stagnating, but placement matters. You can put one in or around your window to bring in outside air, or flip it around to push the stale air out—better yet, use multiple fans to get the best of both worlds. Just be sure that you’re not making a mess—an ill-placed fan could mean sawdust goes everywhere, and nobody wants that.

Trust the system

Usually, collecting dust is a bad thing. But this isn’t about your bookshelf—when it comes to your workshop, collecting dust can actually help prevent a health scare. Unbeknownst to a lot of amateur craftspeople, even untreated wood can be replete with toxic chemicals that, when sawed or agitated, can irritate your eyes, kickstart an asthma attack, or make your skin itch. The easiest way to avoid those issues is to use tools that have a dust collection hook-up, usually an easy to connect spot for a shop vac or exhaust fan. But dedicated workshop warriors should consider stepping it up a notch with a whole-shop system that can be easily assembled with the right pipes, tubing, clamps, and patience. Use a cyclone system to take things a step further and collect the tiny dust particles you might not be able to see.

Be realistic

If you can’t spring for the fanciest system, then spend a little more on your mask. It’s easy to default to the cheap paper option, but a reusable respirator (preferably one that’s NIOSH approved) will pay off in the long run. At the same time, consider the space you’re working in. In a perfect world, your workshop will be detached from your home or cottage, but so few of us have the luxury of living in a perfect world. That means you might have to make sacrifices—maybe you do more work outside than you had planned, or maybe you skip the odd project if you can’t complete it safely—but when it comes not just to cleanliness, but to safety, some sacrifices are worth it. Just be smart about it. Smells are going to carry, so if you’re working in the basement, don’t stain your wood indoors; it doesn’t matter how many windows you open; you’re going to smell that throughout your house for days (but also keep in mind that most stains won’t set if it’s colder than 10ºC).


Few of us have access to the kind of spaces the Brojects work out of, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of what we got. With its expert staff and incredible range of products, TIMBER MART is more than a store—it’s the starting point to your next great project.