Space - the final frontier?


Grumbler in Training
Nov 13, 2005
Hi there - I'm new to this forum and trying to find premises to start up a framing and digital imaging/printing business, so would appreciate some help!

I've just been to look at a shop that's for sale, good location, potential for lots of local custom, nice storefront area, the trouble is it could only have a very small workshop. The potential workshop room is 12' x 13' with another room coming off it which is 8' x 6' and that would have to do everything (storage and working area). I think the smaller room is too small for working in but would be useful for storage, and it would be difficult to partition the larger room into 2 spaces (clean room/dusty room). Do you reckon that it's reasonable to use this space as a framing workshop, or will it just be too difficult and too much of a pain? Does anyone have any experience in working in spaces this kind of size, or working in one room without the clean/dusty areas separated?

I'd really appreciate some advice as to what people here reckon is a minimum workable space for a workshop, and tips for making best use of small spaces too... wherever I end up is likey to be cramped.

Leo welcome to the Grumble

Larson Joul (a US framing supplier no longer in the UK) had a book out at one time which was a guide to laying out a workshop with various sizes catered for…I have retired from framing to concentrate on other business interests……but I just may have a copy of the LJ booklet laying around that you could have……I suspect that this would be one of the few copies of this book in this part of the world……

Drop me an email at with your address and if I can find a copy of the book I will send it to you….

You might also like to have a look at the UK/Irish Grumble

Best regards and the best of Irish luck to you with your venture….

I had a workshop about that size for a while. (Second location.) I did everything there except (and this is a big "except") store and cut mouldings.

My solution was to load up the mouldings, as they were delivered, into my big cargo van and take them home with me. My old house was coal-heated at one time, so there's a steel door next to the driveway where they used to shove the coal into the basement.

I used it to shove moulding into the basement, where I had moulding racks and a saw.

Basically, I was my own chop service, I would take the chopped frames to work with me the next day and join them there. Sometimes they'd be the wrong size and I'd curse my chop vendor (me) loudly and enthusiastically.

I had an employee in that shop. I just made sure I hired someone small.

It wasn't a great situation, but you do what ya gotta do.
Hi there - thanks for the replies. Andrew, your workshop is bigger than the ground floor of my house and there's no chance of me getting anything like that! Dermot, I've sent you a mail directly. And Ron - no mouldings - yes that's a big 'but'! I wouldn't have any choice in the matter but one thing I didn't mention is that I'd be living above the shop so it just *might* be possible for bits and pieces of stock and equipment to overspill there if necessary although I wouldn't want to rely on it too much (my girlfriend's got enough to put up with having to move above a shop without having to live in a framing workshop too... best keep in her good books since I might be needing her help).

I do like the idea of small employees though.

I'd be grateful for any more thoughts and discussion on the matter...
I have been to shops that was around that size. Very cramped. My work area is 20 x 20 and I cut frames offsite just as Ron mentioned and I need more space.

Could it be possible to take the wall down between the two rooms to make one large room?

If you squeeze into that space can you post some photos?

Good Luck
I thought I was cramped with a workshop of 450sf or so. You might want to consider velcroed walls, ceiling and shoes. I would think again about using the small room for frame building, puttying and glass cutting. They can create a mess. You could do it, just don't take orders for 6'x8' frames (unless you have a parking lot) Make sure to have lots of storage under your work tables. You'll want vertical and horizontal. Have as much on wheels as possilble, the modular shop. Work flow shouldn't be a problem, you'll never be far from anything. Good luck!
Welcome aboard Leo! Man I don't know, my work space is 12x23 and it is very cramped. The space when I got here was 12x14, I have no earthly idea how the previous owners used it. I imagine because none of them had ever framed in a real workspace before. They stored the matcutter vertically when not in use. The table was only 3x6. Admittedly, I have always worked in shops that has as many tables as far as the eye could see so I was looking at it with a very spoiled eye.

After expanding I was able to get a table top in here 8x8 and I added a double mitre saw that needs clearance the whole length of the wall it is against. I'd give anything for another tabletop. I do eveyrthing on one table, join frames cut mats prep and fit. I can push the mat cutter out of the way when not in use. It is a pain when I am joining because it usually takes up quite a bit of the table. Plus, it is messy. I am lucky because my saw doesn't spew much dust but I would still prefer a separate room just for the saw and joining.

I don't know how much volume you intend on doing. My volume is relatively low and I am very cramped in a 12x23 space, Id be suffocating in anything smaller.

Good luck!
If the entrance of the little room is on the 6', then I would knock a hole to feed moulding through, and stick a chopper on one 8' wall, and wall mounted mat cutter on the other.

And/or keep looking for a larger space.

I did know a gal who had a very successful frame shop in Southern California that was just under 400 square feet... if you included the bathroom...
which you had to because that was where the little magical door to the outside was to slide the moulding into the chopper.

I stopped in to see her once when she was just finishing up a 250 frame order.... the car was full, the van was full, the gallery was full... but you could still use the bathroom. :D