Home gyms are a lot like real estate. Before you even start thinking about amenities, there’s one really important thing to consider: location, location, location. Should you put your gym in the basement, garage, or elsewhere?
Beyond ensuring that you have enough space, there are a variety of factors to consider. These include accessibility, overhead clearance, floor strength and durability, sound isolation, climate control, etc.
Why build a basement gym?
Obviously, the basement gym option is restricted to those who have a basement. If you don’t, sorry. But if you do… You should consider it. Note that I’m mainly thinking here of unfinished basement space.
The main advantages of a basement gym include temp control (cool in summers, reasonably warm in winters) and a strong, durable concrete floor. It will also be tucked away in an area that might otherwise be underutilized, and sound is less likely to travel into your main living spaces.
The two biggest disadvantages of a basement gym are accessibility and overhead clearance. It can be a pain to get stuff in/out of your basement, though you really only need to do this once. And you might be limited in the sorts of overhead work that you can do if your basement has low ceilings.
But if you have a basement with enough headroom, I definitely recommend this option. It’s the one we chose, and we’ve never regretted it.
Why build a garage gym?
As for the garage… The main benefits of a garage gym are accessibility and (like basements) a nicely durable concrete floor. It’s easy to get equipment in/out and that floor can take a ton of abuse. Moreover, the garage usually provides ample headroom and keeps gym noise out of your house.
On the downside, your garage won’t provide much (if anything) in terms of temperature control. Thus, depending on where you live, it could be blazing hot in the summer and/or freezing cold in the winter. Most garage floors also have a slight slope to ensure proper drainage. It’s pretty subtle, but some people prefer to life on a perfectly flat surface.
Note: If you build a weightlifting platform, you can shim it to produce a level lifting surface on a sloped floor. Yes, it takes a bit of extra work, but it’s definitely possible.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of setting up a gym in your garage is that you’ll lose a covered parking space, and might have to park in the driveway or on the street. That being said, a wall-mounted, foldable rack like this one can minimize this problem at the cost of a bit of convenience.
Other home gym options
Of course, your basement and garage aren’t your only options. You can also put your gym on the back patio, or just about anywhere in your house. An outdoor gym lacks climate control and is exposed to the elements but, depending on where you live, it might work for you.
An in-between option would be to put your gym in an outbuilding of some sort, like a large shed. Depending on the flooring situation (ideally, it would be on a concrete slab), this option would be much like a garage gym.
As for building your gym elsewhere in the house, the main concerns are overhead clearance, durability of your floor coverings, and structural integrity. Gym equipment isn’t exactly light, and you don’t want to damage your flooring, wind up with sagging floor boards (or worse), etc.
Another disadvantage of lifting in your living space is noise. The grunts, groans, and clanging will be hard to contain and might bother others. Then again, you’ll have air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter, so… You make the call. Just don’t drop your weights through the floor. 🙂