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How to Build a Fabulous Garage Gym

A home gym is perfect if you have ever skipped working out because of bad weather or because you just didn’t want to fight the after-work crowds on the treadmills.

After all, wouldn’t it be easier and give you more free time to have your own home gym in the garage? No more OPS (Other People’s Sweat) and no more excuses. It’s time to work out!

We wanted a home gym but didn’t have the space, and we don’t have a basement, so we toyed with the idea of using our garage. It doesn’t have heat but we live in a warm climate, and we also figured out how to divert some of the hot air from our electric clothes dryer. Work out and get your laundry done, hhhmmm. How efficient and energy saving! Bet you can’t do that at your gym.

Today, we love our garage gym. What a time-saver, not having to drive to the gym, find parking, change and shower on the run, drag kids along and pay for them to be watched in the kid area, etc. Most gyms don’t allow kids under 14 to work out, and if they are old enough, there’s the extra membership expense.

The Making of a Garage Gym

I’m sorry that I didn’t take before photos but many of you have or know someone that has an ugly, dirty, cluttered garage. That’s what ours looked like.

The open plywood shelving was 10 years old, the walls and floor were dirty, the DIY expoxy floor paint was worn off, and the lighting was poor. To top it off, the inside of the garage door was three colors of grunge with black, sticky, rubber insulation pieces hanging down like garland from every seam in the door.

Not exactly the ideal setting for a garage gym!

We had to rip everything out and start over, get organized with cabinets, and get rid of a lot of things we weren’t using before we could build our garage gym. We had a lot to fit in. Stuff we were storing, garage gym equipment, our freezer, lawnmower, and ladders. We also wanted to set aside space for a media section in the room. After a lot of work, our garage gym was up and running and we’ve been enjoying it ever since.

equipment in garage gym

Here are my garage gym ideas, and what you need to do to create a functional space, one that will be the envy of the neighborhood:

Garage layout and plan. Where are the storage cabinets going and how many do you need? Examine several garage storage ideas and research costs. After ripping out the old shelving, we installed several custom cabinets we brought with us from another home and added a prefab laminate countertop with the backsplash cut off.

Consider entertainment needs. Where is the TV going and how will it connect to the cable provider? Or will you just be using it for gaming or watching DVD’s? What kind of music system can you set up? Maybe you have an iPod docking station or stereo you can use.

Think of utilities. Do you need more electrical outlets to accommodate TV, music, treadmills, and other items that need power? Does the room need additional lighting? Get electrical work done first, with your cabinet locations in mind, so you know where the outlets need to be.

Our electrical contractor was able to run Cat 5 cable off the main modem and through the floor above. He wall-mounted the TV with an outlet and surge protector behind it. Since we only had one outlet on the other side of the room, he installed two additional outlets above and below a countertop, and installed additional lighting.

Check out equipment. You need to have an idea of the size of garage gym equipment so you can plan. How many pieces of equipment can you fit and which ones make the most sense in terms of what your family will actually use? Where will they be placed? What other things have to be accounted for? A freezer or space for lawnmower and ladders?

Before you buy anything, mark the position of each piece on the floor with blue painters’ tape to make sure there is enough room to move around. The equipment is the last thing to go into the room, so don’t have it delivered to your garage gym until the room is ready.

Paint first. Paint the room from the top down. Use a light color that coordinates with your floor and cabinets. And since these spaces can already feel cold, use a warm shade rather than a cool shade.

Don’t forget to paint stem walls because it makes the whole job seem more finished. Do you have an ugly garage door? Paint the inside of the door and the wall behind it the same color and they will blend right into each other. We used old paint and mixed a bunch of cans together (cost $0) and, unlike in other areas of the house, I painted right over the dirt!

Choose your flooring. What kind of floor does the room have now? There are many types of garage floor coverings you can install. By far the most fabulous and green tip I can give you is to install a recycled rubber floor just like health clubs do.

Rubber garage flooring is insulating, absorbs sound and impact, is easy to clean, looks great, and is not slippery. Plus, you can drive on it, which makes it great for garages. This is important if you ever sell your home and the next owner doesn’t want a garage gym. The cost of 3/8” recycled rubber sports flooring is about $3 per square foot, plus $1 to $3 per sq. ft. for installation. You can keep the cost down by installing it yourself. (See photo below)

glassless mirrors in a garage gym that we installed ourselves

Hang mirrors. Glassless mirrors are a great option because they have an optical quality that far exceeds traditional mirrors, plus they're safer, incredibly light and easy to install. You might think that a garage gym or basement with no windows is going to be depressing, but remember that a lot of health clubs and even home media rooms don’t have windows, and the lack of windows is actually an advantage for wall space. Mirrors will help with your workouts, make the room appear larger by reflecting light, and they feel like windows. Think about the kind of mirrors you want, where they will go, and what size works best.

Set up your equipment. Your last step is to get your exercise equipment delivered, put it together if necessary, and arrange everything in the space according to your plan. Then sit back and admire your garage gym, or hop on that treadmill!

It’s exciting to finally see your vision become a reality. Now our kids can exercise and stretch with us, and because we incorporated a Wii console, a laptop with HDMI hookup to the TV, and a comfy loveseat, this garage gym has become the social center of the family.

The boys are even dubbing our garage gym the “man cave” because they can work out while listening to their favorite music videos. That doesn’t stop the girls from turning it into their private dance or yoga studio when it’s their turn. And it’s nice to have all the noise and activity away from the main living areas.

You'll find a lot more garage gym ideas as well as top picks for equipment under cool garages and we'll keep adding more, so please visit often and share us with your friends.