Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to what makes the best height for a workbench. It all depends on your particular body height and the particular kind of work you plan to do there. Later I’ll cover some of the specifics on just how to find that perfect distance between the workbench top and the floor, but first let’s take a look at why the height of your bench is so important to begin with.
Make it Easy on your Back
Moving around in your shop is a great way stay healthy. Lifting, stretching, and reaching around for tools keeps our bodies flexible and well toned. The bad news is that when we stand at a workbench for hours on end, our muscles tend to stay in one place. Not so much of a problem really, if we keep a relatively good posture while we work. However, if our bench top is a little low (or a little high), our good posture goes straight out the window. The consequence is almost always a case of lower back pain. Here’s how to find the ideal height for your workbench – before you starting building.
Workbench Height to Body Height
As general rule, the height of a bench should be parallel with the bottom of your shirt cuff. This provides very manageable surface height for most of the jobs you’ll probably do there.
Adjust Height for the Job
The shirt cuff rule-of-thumb works great for jobs you’ll take to a bench, but if there’s a particular kind of work you do more often than others – you’re probably best to tweak that height one way or the other. Here are a couple of examples:
Wood Carving / Sanding
With some jobs, I like to use the weight of my upper body to help do the work. Carving and sanding wood are good examples, where I’d prefer to have the height of my bench be somewhat lower than my shirt cuff. Even as little as 6 inches lower can make a big difference with this type of work.
Repairs / Assembly
With some jobs, I’d prefer to have my bench top a little higher. I’m thinking mostly about jobs like fixing a weed eater in the garage, or putting together a gas grill. Work like this means I need to have things at least a little closer to eye level – even if we’re only talking about 6 inches above my cuff line. This prevents me from unknowingly crouching over my work, and putting that little extra bit of stress on my lower back (which is bad).
What About the Workbench I Already Have?
Of course, the best time to think about workbench height is before you start building one. But what about the bench that is already sitting in the garage or basement? Here are a few solutions for making an existing workbench better fit both for both your body height and the type of work you want to do there.
For Benches that are Too Low
If it turns out my existing work bench is too low (the most common problem), sometimes I’ll just piggy-back another work surface to the top – which simply brings my work a little higher on the bench. I’ve used everything from wood boxes, scrap boards, and plywood to do this. Keep in mind that sometimes it only takes a few inches to bring your work to a more comfortable level. You might also think about bumping up the height by simply raising the entire bench off the floor a few inches. You’ll need something fairly sturdy to shove under the legs, though – like solid wood scraps (that won’t slide around), or even concrete patio blocks.
For Benches that are Too High
In the unlikely case that my bench is too high, the quickest solution is to just find something (sturdy) to stand on. You might be surprised how much difference even a simple floor mat can make in changing your stance at the bench. For a more permanent solution, I you might think about trimming a few inches off each leg, bringing the entire bench down to where you want it.