Dust & Fumes in Basement Workshop


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Hello, I have started refinishing furniture but now it is too cold to work outside so I want to work in the basement. Is there a way to make is safe to sand and paint? I currently have a shop vac that I attach to my orbital sander but that is it. Should I tarp off the section that I'm working in? There are so many types of dust collectors and air cleaners that it is overwhelming. Our basement is one large open space with an office at one end. I've seen people put a furnace filter on a box fan, is that a smart way to go? Is sanding indoors just not a good idea? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Every house is different, older houses aren't built the same as newer houses and there is less "sealing" that was done between rooms. Modern homes have fire blocking in a lot of places that help prevent air movement. I have had a basement wood shop in our house and have been making and finishing furniture in it non-stop for the last 10 years. I have not once noticed finishing fumes escape to the rest of the house, nor have i noticed sanding dust outside the shop.

If you can work in a completely enclosed space that is the best. If there isn't a wall with a door between the office and the rest of the basement I'd consider framing a wall and using plywood or sheet rock to separate the space. A door would help get in and out. Other considerations are HVAC, if they are located in the space as well, it's not an immediate cause for concern. My furnace is 5 feet away from where I sand and my HVAC person was not concerned when i discussed the situation. They always comment on how clean the furnace is all things considered. That said check your filter more frequently, and the filter may need to be replaced 25% sooner.

Continue using a shop vac with your sander, avoid removing sanding dust with compressed air and instead use the shop vac with the brush attachment on the hose. Air cleaners can help, the furnace filter on the box fan is a good 2nd choice. This won't help with paint fumes and also air movement can work against your when painting. If you can use water based paints, it's unlikely that there will be much difference between painting furniture and painting walls, people paint their walls all the time. Oil based paints and finishes will be another story. A painting respirator with VOC cartridges will go a long way in protecting your lungs when applying the finishing in a semi enclosed space.


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The blast gate gap is misleading. I have those and they don't leak much at all, as soon as the collector is turned on it pulls the gate hard against the opening closing any gap. It's apparent because they slide easily when the collector is off but when on, there is a lot of resistance the the gate sliding.

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In our old house, the furnace drew in combustion air from the basement.  It didn't take very much woodworking to clog up the jets to the point it shut down and had to be cleaned.  Any more modern house is going to have the furnace pull in air from outside.  I still have the shop walled off from the HVAC anyway in the new house.

I can finish all day long with oil based polyurethane and have the shop smelling like a chemical factory and not smell anything in the house.  But if I use rattle can spray lacquer for 5 seconds I will be greeted by burning candles and dirty looks when I come upstairs.  Can't explain it, I just only use the lacquer outside unless I have no alternative.

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A sheet of plastic sealed as well as possible would be best until you can wall it off permanently. Keep it closed for an hour or two after you stop generating dust. Much of it will settle there and stay out of the rest of the house. I actually went ahead and framed in a wall with an exterior type door and covered it in plastic until I can drywall it. My inspector said I was ok to do so without a permit as long as one side of the wall is uncovered. (your local codes/inspector may differ of course)

Be very careful if you have any gas or oil furnace or water heater down there. Keep dust and especially vapors completely away from them. If you have a forced air gas furnace, make sure it's the high efficiency type which draws combustion air from outside. 

Open a window while working. There are many simple DIY air filters on youtube which work just as well as commercially-built ones. I currently use a simple box fan with a 20x20 pleated furnace filter (high MERV rating) taped on the intake side. It works ok. I hope to install a bathroom or oven exhaust fan for extra ventilation.

Wear the best dust mask you can. Use a HEPA filter and bag in the shop vac.

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