I built what some people refer to as a “man cave.” My space is simple and cheap, but comfortable and somewhat secluded. Here's how I did it.
About 13 years ago, I had a two-story, two-car, detached garage built. We still park cars in the bays, but the second story had become a catch-all storage area.
It seems a law of nature: empty spaces eventually become filled. Maybe it’s a law of human nature that that empty space in your dwelling will not remain empty. The upstairs of the garage had everything my kids didn’t need anymore when they graduated from college.
For years, I talked about having a small space of my very own where I could put the stuff I like, relax and get away, play guitar, nap, or whatever pleases me. In this space, my rules, and only my rules, apply. It is what some men and women call a “man cave.” It is simple and cheap but comfortable and somewhat secluded. It is a 10 x 14-foot area in the second story of my garage that was previously filled with “junk.”
I talk a lot about projects I’d like to complete. I talked for many years about building a sauna before I finally did it. My twin sons took notice of my talk about a man cave and surprised me when they were home last Christmas by insulating a large part of the garage's second story. Having done this I could not disappoint them by leaving the project incomplete so between December and June, I finished it.
How to Turn Unfinished Space Into a Man Cave
- Put up insulation, if there isn't any.
- Add walls to isolate your space.
- Finish the ceiling.
- Rewire the room.
- Consider flooring.
- Finishing touches (drywall, trim, baseboards, storage, etc.)
- Furnishing your man cave.
Each of these steps is described fully below and illustrated with lots of photos from my project.
Most of the insulation in the walls was done by my sons putting in some late hours while I was sleeping before Christmas. They used R13 Kraft-faced rolls. What remained was floor and ceiling insulation. I completed the floor while the boys were home to help, using R30 Kraft-faced fiberglass batts. After they left I completed the ceiling area with the same, although I ran out and used some R13 in places. I covered the area of R13 in the ceiling with an old foam egg crate bed padding. Couldn’t hurt I thought and I was trying to minimized investment.
The end of the second story needed a wall to close of the man cave area. I purchased 2x4 framing and began construction of the wall. The second story has foot-knee walls with a 10/12 pitched roofline, so constructing the wall was straightforward but not exceedingly simple. This wall was insulated with R12 Kraft-faced fiberglass rolls. I left an opening for a door, double doors actually. I doubled the 2x4 framing at each side and at the top of the opening. My wife had purchased a set of double French interior doors about 15 years ago at a garage sale for $10. She intended to use them as exterior doors to our house in a spot that had no door. That meant I would have to cut a big hole in the side of our house and replace the doors a few years down the road when they rotted. I was not going to do that, so they sat in a shed (now our sauna) ever since. The door opening was sized for the French doors. When she found out I used them, well let’s just say she was not happy.
I wanted a rustic feel and didn’t want to wrestle with drywall to get it stuck to the ceiling. I used tongue and groove pine “car-siding”. As with all my projects I have little or no help so I have to improvise or modify things so that they are manageable by myself. Each piece of car siding was 8 inches wide and 10 feet long, with a dummy groove down the center to make the eight-inch panels look like two 4 inch panels. The ceiling has three sections due to the shape of the roof trusses, it has two sloping side ceilings and a flat center ceiling had to take care starting the first piece so that the last piece in the section did not end up too far off. Where the sections met was a small gap where the angle of the ceiling changes, I covered it with a homemade trim piece in which I routed a v-channel down the center. The ceiling was left unstained and unfinished. It has a light pine aroma. I used this same type of pine car siding for the ceiling in my sauna. The only issue is that in spots some hot sap will drip when the sauna heats up, I think it is all sapped out by now.
This area had a 36 inch fluorescent light fixture suspended from the ceiling I had to remove this and reinstall it after the ceiling panels were done. This light comes on with the switch for all the second-floor lighting. I may add a floor lamp to the man cave furnishings. I also move two outlets into the room from an adjacent wall. Other than that there was nothing else to be done.
Since this room is on the second story that meant I had to carry the drywall sheets up a fairly long flight of stairs. This prompted me to use the lighter 3/8” drywall, which I know is not preferred by most drywall experts, but improvisation and modification helped me here. I am not good at finishing. I tried to use liberal amounts of mud (leftover, donated by my neighbor) on the joints, but still in the end the seams were visible if you looked for them. It’s my cave, my character. After sanding came painting. I decided on a shade of Kelley green to go along with the rustic wood décor. To the Dutch Boy Duraclean paint, I added a Zinsser Rol-a-Tex fine sand texture to help cover up the drywall finishing deficiencies. Most of the pain was applied with a ¾ roller and touched up here and there with a brush. I think it worked fairly well.
I found a clearance sale at Lumber liquidators on Caramel Maple Laminate Flooring for $0.49/sq. ft. Never having installed laminate flooring before, I found it more difficult than I thought. I first install a thin cheap foam underlayment and taped the seams with duct tape. I began laying the rows of laminate flooring and tried to rig a tool to tap the short joints together once the long joints were mated to the adjacent row. Didn’t work to well. I found that joining all the pieces used for a whole row first and taping them to together in a more convenient area worked best. I then could tap the long joints together with a piece of scrap 1x4. After a 3 – 6 hours spread over several days the flooring was done.
I opted to use rough sawn pine for the window and door trim, and 1X6 standard grade pine boards for the ceiling trim. I also used a lot of salvaged pine, which explains the many different hues. I stained the window and ceiling trim with a mixture of leftover Min-Wax stain and the door trip with a different mixture of leftovers. The rough sawn pine and standard grade pine is hard to find in a flat, straight, non-warped board. I picked through piles at the big box stores until I found a useable board. For the floor trim, I used some leftover ½” OSB, stained, and with unstained scrap wood trim pieces top and bottom. Much of the trim required angles to be cut and even with a compound miter power saw I was off a little. I covered the crappy joinery at the ceiling with little wood stalactite looking thingys.
Behind the knee walls was some unused space so I turned a few of them into cabinets. The doors are from old cedar paneling that came out of our living room when we did some remodeling. I painted them with the un-textured Dutch Boy paint. The hinges I found in a big coffee can full of junk on my workbench. The latch is simply a piece of cedar screwed into a spacer between the doors.
An old leather chair, an old cloth upholstered chair, an old couch, an old coffee table, all of which were in the junk pile I moved to make room for the cave. European style Whitetail antler mounts, my hand-made guitars, my Epiphone electric guitar and amp, a horse hair blanket and a pillow for naps.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on June 13, 2017: