One of the most important, but often overlooked, components of a good home gym is the floor. Whether you’re building a gym inside a house or apartment, or out in the garage, you want flooring that will:
- Protect the underlying floor in your property from damage.
- Protect your gym equipment from damage.
- Reduce noise – either from dropped weights, or cardio machinery such as treadmills or elliptical trainers.
It’s also important to create a smooth, flat surface to work out on so that you don’t risk tripping or slipping while you are carrying heavy weights. On top of this, the right kind of flooring in your home gym will add to that intangible feeling of having a nice work-out space – if your home gym is a comfortable environment, you’ll be more motivated to spend time in there. So a good floor covering will make it feel like a real gym, instead of just a room with some fitness equipment in it.
Think about the last commercial gym you visited. You might not have paid much attention to the floor, but most of them have a good, thick rubber covering. This provides protection from noise and damage, but also gives you a good non-slip surface which is important for your safety. Again, you don’t want to risk any kind of slip or trip while you are lifting heavy weights or just exercising vigorously.
The good news is that you can easily install the same kind of rubber flooring in your own home gym, without having to spend a lot of money.
Foam rubber tiling home gym mats
The best solution for a home gym is to get some interlocking high density foam rubber mats, which are available from most DIY stores or Amazon. These will allow you to easily cover a floor area of any size without costing the earth – but do be careful to buy good quality mats. You want to make sure they are of a good thickness (at least half an inch or 6mm, preferably thicker), made from non-toxic rubber, and also that they are well made and durable.
Beware of very cheap floor mats, they might be made of poor quality material that will not withstand a lot of wear and tear. You should avoid a type of foam rubber called EVA, as this is too soft for home gyms and won’t offer the same protection as tough, heavy rubber. If you’re buying online, be sure to check out reviews from other customers before making a purchase.
So, let’s say you’re building a home gym in a spare room in your house, or in a garage. Your existing floor surface might be concrete, wooden floor boards or any number of other things. Before you lay down the rubber mats, I recommend putting down a layer of plywood boards to go underneath them.
This is useful for several reasons. First of all, if the underlying floor surface is at all uneven, the slightest bumps and dips will be exaggerated as the rubber mats settle into them over time. A plywood base will provide a completely flat surface for your mats. It also helps spread the weight of your fitness equipment, improving the life of the mats and further protecting the base surface. You’ll also get additional noise reduction and insulation, so it’s well worth doing – and plywood is not expensive.
Where possible, secure the plywood base to the existing floor by nailing it in place. Then, lay out the rubber mats on the floor to make sure everything fits perfectly. DO NOT cut the mats or glue them in place until you are absolutely certain that you’ve got them laid out correctly. Remember the old handyman’s rule – measure twice, cut once.
Once you have the mats laid out exactly how you want them, and you’re sure they all fit properly, you can make any necessary cuts to fit them into corners or other awkward areas. You should use a utility knife to cut rubber mats, but be careful and always cut away from your body – I remember screwing up and slicing through my thumbnail down to the bone doing this a few years ago!
It’s a good idea to glue the mats in place, because you’ll be subjecting them to a lot of pressure and they’re likely to start moving around over time. You can buy specialist rubber flooring adhesive for this.
Rubber flooring rolls for larger rooms
If you have a larger area to cover, or just don’t like the idea of using interlocking mats, you can buy rolls of rubber floor matting. Again, these come in varying thicknesses, but it’s best to pick one that’s at least half an inch thick, and you should still put down a plywood sub-surface wherever possible.
It can be a little trickier to to cut these rolls to fit around awkard spots, because they are bigger and more cumbersome, so be careful when laying them out. You can also glue these rolls to the floor, but it’s not really so necessary because they won’t move around as much as smaller mats. However, you should use double-sided carpeting/flooring tape along the edges, wherever the rolls sit next to each or a wall, to stop the edges from curling up and presenting a trip-hazard.
Exercise mats for small homes
But what it you you’re short on space and need to clear away your fitness equipment when it’s not in use? Putting down fixed rubber flooring isn’t the best solution.
For those situations I recommend a large exercise mat, like the one shown here. It measures 8 by 6 feet, so it’s large enough for most people, and you can fit an Olympic weight lifting bar on it for deadlifts.
The mat has a textured, grippy surface to help reduce the risk of slipping. While it’s thick enough to protect your floor and reduce noise, it can still be rolled up for storage.