The “How To” of Home Gyms

Home Gym

A number of the houses I have designed have included home gyms. There are a number of considerations to keep in mind when designing a home gym.

First and foremost would be sound. I think it’s best to place the home gym on the lowest floor of the house to reduce the noise transmission from the exercise equipment. If this room can have a concrete slab floor, as you might have in a basement space, that would be best of all. Treadmills, stationary bikes, and other exercise equipment such as that produce droning vibrations that can be transmitted through a wood framed floor/ceiling assembly.

If a room with a concrete floor is not an available option and the home gym will have a wood framed floor, sound deadening mats can be placed beneath the equipment to reduce vibration. If the gym is in new construction or a remodeling where the floor system is accessible, then placing sound deadening insulation in the floor is a good idea. The walls and ceiling of the exercise room should be sound insulated as well. This can be done with fiberglass sound deadening batts, sound deadening drywall, or a sound deadening board installed between the drywall and the studs.  One relatively new product that can be placed in the floor wall or ceiling systems to reduce sound is what’s called “mass loaded vinyl.”  This is a thick, flexible, rubberlike sheet that can be installed on the studs behind the drywall.

 If a home gym is being created in an attic space, the strength of the floor construction needs to be evaluated to make sure it’s adequate for supporting heavy exercise equipment and weight machines. Some additional bracing might be required. I’ve utilized the attic space above garages for exercise rooms a number of times. Because these rooms are above the garage, the sound issue is less critical than it would be an attic space above bedrooms and living rooms. One way to make better use of the space such as an attic is to use the low headroom areas to the sides for dumbbell racks, storage of loose weights, other storage, or rolling up exercise and yoga mats. One other advantage attics can sometimes have is that they might be quite high in the middle. This would give more headroom for any tall equipment that might be needed. Home gyms do not necessarily have to have windows. This is really a personal preference or is often determined based upon which rooms are available. Many home gyms are created in windowless basements. In these cases, the choice of colors and finishes is important to make the room inviting to use. Spa-like finishes, such as tile and stone combined with mirrors can create a very appealing atmosphere and the windows will never be missed.

 One other consideration in designing a home gym is the fact that this room will be a source of heat and humidity that comes from the people who are exercising. You might want to keep the gym a bit cooler than the rest of the house. If possible, it’s a good idea to have the home gym on a separate heating and air-conditioning system or at least be controlled as a separate zone off of the main system. This way the home gym would be controlled by its own thermostat and wouldn’t affect the temperature in the other rooms of the house. If the home gym can’t be placed on a separate HVAC system, some control can be achieved by adjusting dampers and registers on the duct work that leads to this room. A major mistake can be made if the thermostat that controls the entire HVAC system of the house is located in the home gym. If this happens, the temperatures in the other rooms of the house will be thrown off by the extra heat generated in the home gym. One way to keep a home gym comfortable for the people using it is to install a ceiling fan. This will stir the air and increase evaporation off of your skin keeping you cooler while you’re working out.

 I’ve found that one important consideration in the design of a home gym is to be sure there is one uninterrupted wall for the placement of full height mirrors. These are desirable for allowing you to check that you are using the proper form while exercising. Nearly every home gym needs a place for television. This can be mounted high on brackets in one corner of the room. But careful consideration is a must in determining where the television should be relative to the placement of the equipment.

 The choice of floor surfaces is important too. Because gym floors can be susceptible to perspiration drips, something that’s easily cleaned or simply wipes up is a good idea. Sheet vinyl, tile, or hardwood flooring with a polyurethane finish are all good options. But these hard surfaces reflect sound, so they will make the room echo more. Throw rugs or cushioned exercise mats can dampen the echo somewhat. There are low pile commercial type carpets available that can also be used in home gyms. One good choice among these would be carpet tiles. Their advantage is that it’s easy to replace one of them should it be damaged without having to replace the entire floor. Carpet tiles are more resilient than ceramic or porcelain tiles and will help control the sound, too.

Click on the comment bar to tell us your story.

I hope this information is helpful to you. You might want to get yourself a copy of my best-seller, Designing Your Perfect House. It is chockfull of valuable tips and advice that will save you many times the cost of the book on your house building or remodeling project. You might also like The Well-Centered Home: Simple Steps to Increase Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Happiness Where You Live. It will show you how to make your home a happy place.

Posted in
Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch


  1. […] » The “How To” of Home Gyms […]

    • Bill Hirsch | Architect Bill on August 19, 2009 at 1:11 pm

      I don’t know the answer to this one. Maybe a carpet store could help you out. My guess is that if the carpet is a lower pile, non-directional type the rugs wouldn’t be as inclined to creep.

  2. Rich M on October 9, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Excellent article. I wanted to comment a bit more on the selection of floor surfaces in home gyms.

    For most home and commercial gyms, rubber provides the widest range of benefits. Rubber has a high coefficient of friction in both dry and wet conditions, meaning it stays slip resistant even when users are sweating heavily during their workouts. Rubber’s natural resiliency provides much better sound deadening than vinyl, tile, and similar hard surfaces. Rubber’s natural resiliency also increases users’ comfort during floor exercises, cushioning knees and ankles from impact. Finally, rubber’s durability provides outstanding protection from damage from free weight and heavy strength equipment to concrete and expensive hardwood floors.

    Recycled rubber is manufactured from used tires, has a characteristic “used tire” smell, and is relatively inexpensive. It is very durable but is only available in limited color options- primarily black or black with color flecks. It is often an excellent choice for garage gyms where aesthetics may be less important than in the main living areas of the house. While the smell lessens somewhat over time, it is an inherent part of the flooring and will never fully go away.

    Virgin rubber flooring contains no recycled rubber and has none of the used tile smell some users find objectionable. Virgin rubber tiles are available in a broad range of colors, patterns, interlocks options- including some with hidden tongue-in-groove style interlocks- and are an excellent choice for mid to high-end home gyms. Virgin rubber provides easier cleanability than recycled rubber due to its closed cell construction.

    For clients seeking to do exercise routines that will include dance style movements- particularly side-to-side foot slide- the lower slip resistance of modular Vinyl Tiles is an excellent choice. While vinyl tiles are typically less resilient than rubber tiles, a rubber underlayment often may be used to provide increased sound deadening and cushioning

    Carpet Tiles provide good insulation value, sound control, and lower cost, but are not nearly as durable or easy to clean as harder surfaces. Additionally, fitness equipment manufacturers note that airborne fibers from the carpet will work their way into the inner workings or the equipment that may lessen the service life of the machines

Leave a Comment