how to build a man cave in the backyard

How to Build a Man Cave in the Backyard

Today’s man caves are a far cry from the conventional solitary mantuaries like deserted rooms, dingy basements, and damp garages. Nowadays, most guys prefer to locate their man caves in their backyards, where they offer privacy in a somewhat secluded area that’s separate from shared family space. But how exactly do you convert a backyard space into your dream man cave?

How do you build a man cave in the backyard? There are 2 approaches to building a man cave in the backyard. You can opt to convert an existing outbuilding or build a new one from scratch. The building must be protected from groundwater. Waterproofing the outside is essential as is damp proofing the inside. It may also need connected to utilities.

How to build a man cave in the backyard

An outdoor man cave provides a perfect place where you can enjoy your hobbies, rejuvenate your mind and body and kick-back with your buddies without disturbing your wife or kids.

There are many approaches to building a man cave in the backyard. You can opt to convert an existing outbuilding or build a new one from scratch. For example building a new man shed involves first preparing the ground and then laying a foundation to protect the shed from groundwater.

This may also apply to an existing shed that does not have such protection.

Waterproofing the outside is essential as is damp proofing the inside.

You may also want to connect utilities such as electricity and water.

If you don’t have the time to build a new shed, you can opt to buy a ready-made one though the required ground preparations will be the same. Once a new shed has been built or an existing on has been prepared for conversion, the next step is to decorate your new man cave accordingly.

This guide is designed to help you first build an outdoor man cave shed and then convert it into your dream man cave. I have already covered the subject of creating a man cave here but that post focused more on the conversion of an existing room or outbuilding. Here I will show you how to build a man cave in your backyard from scratch.

Before you embark on building a man cave, you will have to plan extensively in order to decide on whether to convert an existing building such as an old garage or shed or build a new man cave from raw materials.

Planning before you start any work will also help you avoid ending up with a frustrating, dull structure and help you avoid spending more than you had anticipated.

Preparations

Here are some guidelines for pre-planning your man cave.

If you need shed plans you can find the perfect sed type for your needs among these shed plans.

Select a purpose

Decide on the purpose of the man cave.

What activities do you intend to engage in while in your man cave?

This may seem like a obvious question that requires no consideration but having a clear idea of what your man cave is for is really important at this early stage. constructing a man cave in the backyardMany men build a new man cave only to discover it has not been optimally designed for the purpose they initially built it for.

Pre-planning at this early stage avoids mistakes and disappointment later down the line while simultaneously allowing you create a realistic budget for the project.

So, do you plan to simply relax and read a book in your man cave? If you do then maybe a small simplistic man cave with good lighting, a comfortable chair and a bookshelf is all you need.

Will you play video games, watch movies or listen to music in your man cave? If so, room for a large TV, sound system and comfortable furniture will be needed.

Do you intend to have buddies over for a beer to watch the game? Then you’ll need a bigger space, with more leg room and will probably want to add sound proofing so that you don’t bother your family and neighbors. You may even want to factor in the needed space for a man cave bar.

Even if you don’t have the budget for building a bar in the beginning consider building your man cave in a way that would allow for that upgrade in later years.

As you can see, knowing the exact purpose of your man cave before you begin the process of building it will help you make the correct preparations for creating the ultimate cave.

Decide on the type of building

If there is an existing structure in your backyard such as a shed, brick building or a garage, you may simply want to convert it into a man cave rather than building a new one.

converted garden man shedHowever, if that building is not suitable for the purpose you identified then you may have to tear it down and start fresh.

If it is suitable then make sure it is protected from groundwater via some form of foundation and move on directly to weatherproofing it.

Pick a suitable spot

If it is your intention to build your man cave from the ground up then first select the most suitable area in the backyard.

The most ideal location for a man cave shed is level ground that does not collect water. However, if your backyard gets a lot of water and you have no other choice but to build in an area that accumulates a lot of water simply compensate with the appropriate type of groundwater protection i.e. the building’s foundation (as covered below).

Optimize the design

Design the shed, barn or outbuilding to be optimum for the purpose of the man cave. There are many different types of shed designs that would suit a man cave perfectly. You should pick one that best suits your needs.

This means you must first ensure that you have enough available space in your backyard to build the man cave structure and also that the man cave itself will have enough room inside it to serve its intended purpose.

Don’t take any chances or shortcuts. Measure it!

Check permit requirements

Before you start digging up the ground or laying concrete foundation or setting up a wooden shed base check with your local authorities or ask the home owners association in your locality about building restrictions. Do you need a permit?

Most counties have specific building code requirements that must be followed. These requirements could be in connection to the type of foundations that are permitted, the location and the type of building allowed, as well as the size restrictions of the building you can erect in your specific neighborhood.

Set a budget

Once you have an idea of what type of man cave you want to build and how big it should be it’s time to determine how much the construction will cost.

man cave building budgetIt is best to set 2 separate budgets.

  • Set a budget for the actual physical construction of the man cave or the conversion of an existing outbuilding.
  • Set a separate budget for the man cave decor, furniture and equipment (like a TV, pool table etc)..

When you keep two separate budgets you are less likely to overspend. You are also much less likely to be left with insufficient funds when it comes time to populate your finished man cave with man cave stuff because you overspent during the construction phase.

Other considerations

It is also important that you consider the following aspects prior to construction:

  • Is there special equipment needed during the building process?
  • Is the total cost of your project within your budget?

To avoid conflicts consider involving your wife and kids in the project. As you intend to take over the backyard, a space that is commonly used as a family area or that usually serves as the kids’ playground, it may be wise to let them help with the decision making so they feel a part of the project.

Backyard man cave construction instructions

The type and size of building you need will depend greatly on the space available in the backyard, the purpose of the finished man cave, and of course, your budget.

Below is a step by step guide for constructing a new backyard man cave shed. Obviously I have refrained for giving exact measurements as each reader will no doubt be building a different sized man cave for different purposes.

The instructions here though can be applied to any type of backyard man cave build.

Step 1. Prepare the ground

Clear the site of all grass, shrubs, bushes, trees and dispose of them responsibly.

As much as possible try to level out the ground where your man cave will sit.

This will help you build a more solid and level foundation.

Step 2. Laying a foundation

Laying a proper foundation is essential. The foundation helps to not only strengthen the structure of your man cave and prevent it from sinking into the ground but it also prevents the wood from rotting due to contact with groundwater.

There are a few ways to lay a foundation for a backyard man cave.

concrete slab foundation with sill plates
concrete slab with seal plates

The one you choose will probably depend on the frost level of the area in which you reside and the amount of rain you get.

In areas where there is little or no freeze, and little rain, like Las Vegas, Nevada or Phoenix, Arizona, a shallow foundation is usually more than sufficient.

A concrete slab with seal plates on top is ideal as a shallow foundation.

The other alternative is masonry blocks that are laid on stone gravel. The timber beams frame that form part of the floor are then set on top of the stone blocks.

gravel and concrete blocks foundation
Masonry blocks laid on gravel

If you happen to reside in an area where the ground constantly freezes, or get regular rainfall you will need to install a much more robust frost and water proof foundation.

The most common type of foundation in such an area is the post and pier foundation that features poles that have brackets fixed on their tops and then installed on gravel.

To install a post and pier foundation, follow the steps below:

  • Dig out the holes after carefully measuring out the proper distances according to your shed size.
  • Pour gravel into the holes and ensure that it is properly compacted.
  • Pour the right concrete mix into the holes and leave it to cure.
  • Set the post above the footing and ensure that all the posts are squared.
  • Add concrete around the sides of the poles and fill around the post with soil.
  • Set the level of the height of the floor of the shed and mark, repeating this on all the posts.
  • Cut the poles to the specific height and attach brackets on the top of the posts.
  • Add the runners on top of the poles.
  • Build the frame and attach each side of the frame to the runners using the screws.
  • Set timber panels on the frame to form the floor of your shed.
post and pier foundation
Post and pier foundation

Be aware that the footers must be set below the frost line to avoid movement when there are freezing temperatures.

The foundation that that you have just laid will protect the building from groundwater.

Ensuring that the man cave is above ground level is that first and all important step towards a protecting the building from damp and rot.

Remember to also add the damp proof membrane during installation of the foundation.

Another simple way to protect the shed from groundwater involves planting some flowers and bush plants around the shed.

They will not only absorb the extra run off water but also keep the underground moisture in check.

Step 3. Erecting the shed

Once you have the foundation and floor in place, the next step will be to build the shed itself.

Below is a step by step guide on the procedure to follow;

  • First, build the frames that will support the walls.
  • Next, fix the corner posts at each of the four corners to stiffen the timber wall frames. 100 mm+ thick posts are highly recommended.
  • Next, fix the preferred wall material (for example plywood panels or solid wood), and the oriented strand board. Don’t forget to leave openings for the windows and doors.
  • Once the walls are in place, install the roof structure, which is composed of wall plates, purlins, ceiling joists and the trusses and then fix the roof plywood.
  • Fix the door frame and the door.

Step 4. Waterproofing the outside walls and the roof

Dress the walls and the roof using a polythene to protect the shed from moisture from the air and ground water that, otherwise, would cause the walls and roof to rot.

After the polythene is in place, fix the walling and the roofing material.

Ensure that the walls and roof are free of dust or moisture before you apply a seal.

For appropriate paint to use see the section below Waterproof the Building.

Step 5. Insulation and soundproofing

Adding sound proofing material to the inside of the walls at the same time you add insulation is a really good idea.

If you intend to be playing loud music or will most likely get rowdy with your buddies in your man cave then a simple layer of soundproofing will mean you don’t irritated family members and neighbors. Nothing is more of a buzzkill than someone knocking on your man cave door in the middle of great night demanding that you reduce the volume.

Don’t forget to soundproof the door and windows!

Soundproofing is an easy job to complete and fairly inexpensive.

You can get insulation and soundproofing material separately but a great way to save on money is to get fiberglass insulation which acts as both an insulator and as a barrier to sound.

Fiberglass insulation and soundproofing material like like this type works really well in both sheds and garages and so is perfect for a man cave. Although this type of material is usually marketed for garage doors or for vehicle floors it works great as insulation and soundproofing in the walls of an outbuilding.

If you live in a part of the country that gets especially cold winters then you may want to add an extra layer of insulation such as batt insulation or lose fill.

You will also want to insure the door and windows are insulated as these are the areas where heat escaped most readily.

Here is a quick video showing you how easy it is to do.

Step 6. Drywall Installation

Putting up drywalls is extremely easy.

Below is a detailed video showing how to do it. However, if you need more in-depth instructions go here.

Step 7. Protecting the man cave from mold

Mold is formed as a result of wet and damp conditions inside a building. Because your man cave is fully waterproofed keeping condensation down to a minimum is key to having a mold free shed.

To get rid of the damp air, install vents and windows that cane be opened to let fresh air circulate. This will not only improve air circulation but it will also help with the lighting.

Make sure you properly seal the spaces along the windows to ensure that you keep the moisture out completely.

This also helps with insulation, keeping heat in on those cold winter days.

The above advice is equally applicable to the door which should also be sealed. You can review the video above under the section Insulation and soundproofing for detailed instructions on how to seal windows and doors.

It is also advisable that you avoid keeping wet and damp items in the man cave as this will result in more condensation leading to the formation of mold.

Step 8. Connecting the building to utilities

Regardless of the purpose of your man cave, it is almost certain you will need electricity. Although you can get by with gas lamps and heaters if you intend to use your man cave to entertain buddies and watch games then you’ll need electrical connections.

You may also want a water connection and internet services. Though these are by no means a necessity.

It is advisable that you involve the services of qualified and certified professionals to ensure that the connections are up to the required standards.

You can usually get an outbuilding connected up to the electrical grid for about $500 or less and it is a fairly mundane and straightforward job for an electrician. Shop around for the bets rates and be sure to get at least 3 different quotes though. Whatever you do, don’t try to do it yourself!

Plumbing may be a bit trickier and a bit more expensive as it involves laying pipes and installing water outlets and perhaps also a sink.

Step 9. Climate control

You may also want to have HVAC installed to ensure the temperature in your man cave is always optimal regardless of the weather outside.

If you do go down this path be aware that trying to install it yourself is actually illegal. So no DIY projects on this one!

You can of course go the cheaper route by installing electric fans and heaters and you can pick them up fairly cheaply online with a simple search on Amazon for cheap electric fans and heaters.

Preparing an existing outbuilding

The approach to preparing an existing outbuilding, such as a shed, a barn, brick building or separate garage is similar to the construction of a new one but usually much cheaper.

Check for ground clearance

Firstly you must ensure the existing building has sufficient ground clearance or a good solid foundation that protects it from groundwater.

9 times out of 10 this will be the case but sometimes a shed is erected with no thought for groundwater protection and this may be the case if the shed was there before you moved in. So, always check.

If the shed has no groundwater protection you will need to have it lifted and a new foundation placed underneath it.

shed ground clearance
Shed built on timber frames on concrete blocks over gravel

Waterproof the building

Be sure to add a new layer of waterproof paint to the outside walls. Clean the walls before you begin.

A fairly cheap outdoor waterproof paint is all you need to complete this job. I use the economically priced fence paint though you can use the even cheaper, but equally as waterproof, patio and floor latex paint.

Also check that the felt, or other waterproof material on the roof is still secure and keeping water out.

If need be, replace the roof covering with new felt. This is a lot easier to do than you might imagine. I have given detailed instructions on how to do this here.

Protect the inside from mold

Just as you need to do with a newly erected building so too you need to mold proof the inside of an existing one.

Clean the inside walls and ceiling thoroughly before applying anti-mold paint.

You should use a latex primer anti-mold paint which is slightly more expensive that normal waterproof paint but it will kill any existing mold and stop new growths from forming so it is well worth the small amount of extra money.

If you require more detailed instructions on the conversion of an existing outbuilding read my article How to Turn Your Shed into a Man Cave in 10 easy Steps.

Typical costs associated with building a man cave in the backyard

Below are some costs associated with typical backyard man cave projects.

Contractor build

If you don’t have the time to build the shed yourself, go for a contractor.

Most contractors charge anything between $500 to $5000 for a standard shed build.

DIY

However, building your own man cave is not a difficult task if you are in any way DIY minded. You will also be able to build the shed to your exact specifications.

A pre-made shed kit is also a viable option and will reduce the time needed to finish the build substantially. However, a pre-made shed, or shed kit, is not customized to meet your specific needs in the same way as one you build yourself.

DIY Shed

Here is a breakdown of the potential costs associated with building a shed capable of housing a man cave.

  • Materials: You will need a list of materials detailing the quantity and prices of each of the items needed for the construction. Some of the most common materials needed are; cement, ballast, black membrane, timber, roof joists, insulation materials, doors, windows, rubber shield, ecotherm, smart ply, silver foil, wiring, distribution box, sockets, lights, switch, red wood cider, roof cover materials, screws, glue, plasterboard, plywood, seal, etc. The materials you need will depend on the type of shed you plan to build.
  • Concrete for the foundation and floor: The average price is $75 per cubic yard. Other forms of foundation are much cheaper though.
  • Walls: Pressure treated lumber posts, beams, rafters and joists cost an average of $6.50 per square foot.
  • Roofing: Roofing averages between $12 – $15 for a 2 ft x 16 ft length.
  • Siding: OSB siding costs around $2 – $4 per sq ft. Plywood costs about $2.75 – $6.50 per sq ft.
  • Door: A typical door will cost approximately $150 – $200.
  • Windows: $60 – $400 each.
  • Composite Trim: $2.50 – $5 per square foot.
  • Tools: these include things like an air compressor, air hose, brad nail gun, jigsaw, sawhorses, circular saw, drill, clamps, hammer, chalk line, hearing and eye protection.

Buying all the necessary tools can be expensive costing anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 or more.

A much better way to get your hands on such tools is to either borrow them or simply rent them. It usually costs a few hundred dollars per wee. If you don’t stop too often during your build a week should be more than enough to complete you man cave building.

Obviously these costs do not include weatherproofing paint and utility connections which you must also factor into your budget. These are covered below.

Conversion of existing outbuilding

If you opt to convert an existing outbuilding then things get a lot cheaper.

The only costs associated with an existing building conversion are:

  • Weatherproofing outside: From $30 per gallon for a waterproof patio and floor latex paint to $50 per gallon for higher quality waterproof fence paint.
  • Protection from mold inside: A good latex primer anti-mold paint will cost about $50 per gallon.
  • Possible new roofing: Roofing averages between $12 – $15 for a 2 ft x 16 ft length.
  • Utilities Installation Cost: Approximately $500 for electrical work and $50 – $150 per hour for plumbing (the final cost will depend on the amount of work that needs to be done).
  • Décor Cost: Your theme will be the key determining factor when it comes to man cave décor ranging from artwork, to furniture, to color. Different themes require different types of décor. You should note that the same decor costs apply no matter where you build your man cave.

waterproof shedBare in mind that the above costs must be added to the costs of a DIY build or a build completed by a contractor.

It is important to note that the materials you pick and their associated costs will vary depending on your personals design and preferences.

Some stores sell ready-made sheds, which will save you a lot of stress. Some even provide delivery and construction services.

Man cave décor

A good man cave is all about the details. Without the right décor, your man cave might end up looking like a dull and boring garden shed.

The décor you choose depends on the theme of your man cave, as well as your personal preferences and tastes.

You also need to consider the purpose of your man cave as this will guide you in picking the right décor.

Some of the main items to consider while decorating your man shed are:

  • Furniture: The furniture you put in your man cave must be first practical and comfortable and second should be topical; make sure it fits with your man cave theme. There are a ton of themed furniture ideas from hammocks for a nautical themed cave to football and baseball chairs for a sports themed cave.
  • Tech: A big TV, a good sound system, and smart lighting are just some of the technologies that should consider for your mantuary.
  • Memorabilia: Sports, music, arcade and antique memorabilia items are among the most popular for man caves. We have listed many of the best here.

Cool man shed ideas

Building a a new shed from the ground up, or converting an existing outbuilding into a livable space, is one thing but making it into a man cave that will serve your intended purpose is another thing all together.

That is why you need initially chose the purpose of your man cave before you began building work. However, this is not the only aesthetic choice you need to make.

Now it is time to pick a theme for your man shed. Picking the right theme guides you in the process of decorating your mantuary.

If you are stuck at this stage, below are some of the most popular themes that might be interesting to you. However, also be sure to check out the 7 Top Man Cave Themes to see what is most popular today.

Sports man cave theme

Almost every man loves sports and there is no better way of enjoying sports than in your man cave.

Whether it be football, basketball, baseball or hockey your man cave can be designed to reflect that sport.

There are some great furniture ideas for sports man caves such as these this football shaped chair that comes with its own smaller football shaped ottoman or the baseball glove shaped chair and ottoman.

baseball man shedBut just designing your man cave after your favorite sport isn’t the only way to liven up the space. You can also play sports in it. Well, sports of a kind.

Place a pool table, a dartboard, a poker table, or foosball table beside a well stocked man cave bar so you have some games to play after watching the game on your big screen man cave TV.

You can actually get some really neat gaming tables that have multiple uses such as the 3-in-1 foosball/pool/ slide hockey combo. These types of tables not only fantastic for swapping between games easily but they are also great space-savers but also.

This dining table for example converts into a 7 foot pool table and table tennis table and comes with two full length benches. Perfect for boozy nights indoors or outdoors.

Man cave bar theme

Do you enjoy discussing topics over a glass of beer with your buddies?

Well then, a bar man cave may be a great fit for you.

Even if you don’t have the budget, or space, to build a fully functional home bar in your man cave, or outside it in a smaller shed, you can simply add a fridge stocked with beers and have a whisky decanter, stylish skull glasses, with specialized unique wine dispensers beside some chairs and table instead.

backyard man cave bar themeAdd a kegerator or beer tap appliance and as long as you have access to electricity you’ll have a pretty functional bar without the expense or hassle of building one!

Take the experience a notch higher by installing a large screen TV and a good music system.

If your budget will not stretch to any type of bar equipment that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the atmosphere of a bar. You can still decorate your man cave in bar fashion using neon man cave bar signs and Jack Daniels stools and table.

Hunters’ rustic man cave theme

Another great man cave theme is the rustic hunter’s cabin.

Customize your man cave to include arrows, bows, hunting rifles, hunting art, and rustic decor.

The rustic theme is very popular with guys who build backyard man caves because a shed already looks rustic and so decorating it is much cheaper compared to other themes.

You can add a myriad of old hunting items and signs outside your rustic man cave to give it that hunter/trapper feel.

outside a rustic man cave

The study/library theme

To convert your man shed into a customized library, you will need a bookshelf, your favorite reads, and a study chair or table.

You will also need good lighting.

You will also need some form of climate control to ensure you have a comfortable experience.

I again recommended you read the 7 Top Designs for the Ultimate Man Cave so you get a better understanding of how to theme your man cave.

Man shed stuff

Even with right theme in place, a man shed is not complete until it is stocked with the right items and decor.

Your theme can only materialize when you have the right decor and equipment in place.

As a man cave should be unique to you it is only you who will know exactly what type of things should be in it. But, if you need some inspiration be sure to check out my article 100 Man Cave Gift Ideas for some truly unique and interesting items for you new man shed cave.

But don’t stop at the inside of your cave. As you are building your man cave in the backyard you should consider adding some outdoor items to the area around your man cave to make your space even more special and functional.

Cool outdoor man cave addons

While choosing ideas for the outside of your man shed it is your personal tastes and preferences that matter the most and they should always be considered first. No matter how crazy or irrational it may look to others, a unique man cave is always better than one copied from someone else (unless the copied one also reflects your personality and interests).

You may opt to make an entire area into a man cave i.e. setting up an additional area just outside the man cave for BBQs or socializing or by simply extending the theme of the man cave with additional outdoor decor.

Ranging from outdoor BBQs to lounge areas, to drinking bars, here are some ideas that may come in handy as you organize the space outside your man cave.

Backyard bar shed

Bar themes are quite popular with men building outdoor man caves, and for obvious reasons.

bar shedIf you intend to be drinking outdoors, then outdoor tables and chairs with a fire pit will come in handy.

Some people even build bar sheds to compliment, or even replace, their backyard man cave.

If you don’t have enough space available in your actual man cave to build a bar then consider buying, or building, a small shed and annexing it onto your man cave. Inside create a simple bar with an forward opening hatch to serve your buddies.

You can add a kegerator like this one or a draft beer appliance for beer on tap and simple aluminum bar optics to have a fully working bar without the needs for pumps.

Add some cool skull shaped decanters and glasses and your bar will not only be functional but will look great.

Backyard sports

Do you have a sports themed man cave? Why not extend that theme outdoors with large scale games like 10 pin bowling?

large backyard man cave chess setAll you need is a sidewalk, 10 bottles, a simple ball, and two 10 feet 2’ x 4 ‘timber to serves as bumpers.

Other manly sports to consider include a basketball hoop or mini putting green or even large scale chess set.

Man Cave BBQs

Traditionally a barbecue is for family and friends. But you can add a grill to the outside of your man cave for summer BBQs.

Adding an outdoor barbecue to your man cave area with seats and a table can help you create an truly awesome space to socialize.

You can easily find these items in local stores or in online stores such eBay. Amazon has some great deals on barbecue grills.

Drive-thru

Watching a movie or music with your pals in the backyard is twice as entertaining as indoor TV watching.

TV mounted on outside wall of man caveHowever, to set up such a lounge, you will need some comfortable sofas, a high quality TV screen with a protective chamber, and a table.

You may also need some type of awning for cover from rain.

It is also possible to set up a large TV or projector on the outside wall of your man cave for a truly awesome drive-in movie effect.

Land ahoy!

You don’t need a ship like Jack Sparrow’s Black Pearl to continue your man cave’s nautical theme into the garden.

sunken ship Halloween decor suits nautical man caveSimple pirate Halloween decor is more than enough to spice up the outside of your man cave and make it shipshape for your ship mates.

These type of decorations are incredibly fun and make for great summer nights socializing just outside your man cave.

These Caribbean pirate captain Hook skull solar-powered patio lanterns create a truly nautical feel while illuminating a dark backyard.

Get artistic

Add some art or sculptors to your backyard shed and convert it into a personalized art shop.

From paintings to simple signs, an art shop is a true reflection of how much you really value art.

Of course you can also add vintage signs or personalized man cave signs to the outside to give it that extra eye-popping appeal.

Man cave shed gift ideas

If you know someone who has just built their own man cave shed and want to know what gifts you could get them check out my article 100 Unique Man Cave Gift Ideas for a wide range of fantastic man cave items.