The man cave, that dedicated space that a man can visit to enjoy a favourite hobby, somewhere to escape it all or just to relax and chill. Every man dreams of having this own man cave and many women dream of getting rid of him into one!
But on a serious note, creating a dedicated space for whatever you want is something many of us have dreamed about after the chaos of the pandemic time. And there’s no reason why you can’t build a man cave in the garden with a few simple tips and a little know-how. Let’s get started.
Do you need permission?
Now you’ll definitely want permission from the rest of the family to start the man cave and avoid a headache later, but what we mean here is more about any permission from a local authority, landlord or housing association.
If you own the property and aren’t in a listed building or conservation area, chances are you’ll be fine to add a building under Permitted Development Rights. But always check this and ensure you don’t need to contact the planning department.
If you rent the property, you might need to contact your landlord depending on the terms of your tenancy to see if you are okay to carry out your plans. It never hurts to get this confirmation in writing in case there are issues down the road.
Where to build a man cave
Before you start diving into what’s needed and how to decorate it, let’s take a moment to consider where to build your man cave, because the location will play a part in everything you do afterwards.
For lots of us, the back garden is a good bet, especially in one of the bottom corners. You might need to do a little preparation first such as trimming trees and bushes and lifting any grass so you can create a strong foundation.
Also, look at the fence behind it and see if you need to make repairs or even replace panels - you don’t want it collapsing on your man cave when the first storm hits.
Make sure you consider where the water goes when picking a location. Most gardens will have a direction of drainage and you don’t want your man cave to be sitting there. Or if you need to use that spot, make sure you raise it off the ground to handle the problem.
Decide on the purpose of the man cave
The other big decision may already be made but it is worth thinking about before you start work - what activities do you want to do in your man cave?
For example, if you want to have mains electric to it and add a TV on a wall, you need to make sure that you are using strong enough materials to withstand this. You’ll also want something like Celotex or Kingspan Insulation so that the space is warm enough to use in winter and doesn’t get cold and mouldy.
If you want a place to store some stuff and maybe sit with a beer and a book or listen to your iPad then you might still want insulation and strong structural elements but not quite as heavy-duty as something supporting a TV or other expensive equipment.
The basics of creating a man cave
Once you have prepared the site and have a clear idea of what you want from your man cave, you are ready to start the process of constructing it. Exactly what steps are needed will depend on what type of structure you are building but there are a few stages that all projects go through.
Stage 1 - The Foundation
The first thing you need once the groundwork is done is to create a foundation for your building. A few approaches are depending on the water levels and the type of soil you have but the basic idea would be to layout concrete blocks to mark the outline of the building and at intervals in the middle.
Then add some weed membrane around the blocks to stop weeds from growing through. A layer of something like railways sleepers is then popular to create the foundation to add the building. Make sure these are all level and have been treated so they won’t rot.
Stage 2 - The Subframe
The subframe may be something that comes automatically with the building, depending on what it is. If not, you may want to use something like subframe timber beams at 4 x 2 inches to create the lower framework of the building. Treating or painting these to preserve them should be done before laying them in place.
Next, add any floor insulation that you plan to use. Typically insulation boards around 100mm thick are ideal for this and they come in sheets that make them easy to cut down to size. Use aluminium insulation tape to bind them together.
You can then add the floor of the building, ensuring that it is strong and level.
Stage 3 - The Walls
Once you have the floor in place on the subframe, you are ready to start thinking about the walls. There are a few approaches to creating the framework for these but most people like to build them first them attach them to the subframe. Plus on smaller sites, this is usually easier as there’s not enough room to build.
Once the wood battens for the framework is in place, you can start adding the actual wall materials. Treated timber cladding is a prime example of a great option for man cave walls as it is strong and weatherproof.
You can also add a breathable membrane between the framework and the cladding if needed for extra insulation. Drywall can then be used on the inside of the walls if you want to create a better look for the inside of the man cave.
With the basic frame and walls in place, you are ready to add any windows and the door to the structure. You may also want to add some kind of ventilation so that fresh air can circulate and there’s less chance of dampness in the area. This can be added around windows or near the junction of the roof and the walls.
Step 4 - The Roof
The final main step to take is to add the roof. Most of the time, a flat roof or one with a slight slope is chosen as this is easier to work with and maintain. Larger structures can have different roof types but things like roof tiles are generally not needed for smaller structures.
Rubber EPDM is a great finishing layer for a flat or gently sloping roof and it is easy to finish it with a length of plastic and screws. This will also create a lip where guttering can be attached to direct the rain into a specific place.
Finishing areas to consider
Once the basic structure is in place, you might think it is job done but there are a few finishing areas to consider.
For starters, if you add guttering, you want to deal with where the runoff will go. You don’t want it to pool in the garden and if there’s not a drain nearby, you might want to think about something like a water butt. This collects the rainwater and can be used for the garden but also controls where the water goes.
Another consideration is the area around the man cave. Decking is a popular option to create a walkway area and any steps needed to reach the door. Paving slabs are another cost effective option that needs very little upkeep.
If you want electricity to the man cave, you’ll want a professional electrician to handle the task. They can usually set up a cable from the house that allows you to have all the power you need. Make sure they are registered and provide you with paperwork to show the work was done professionally.
Lastly, you might want to think about heat and cooling for the extremes of the year if you want to use it all year round. Many units are electric powered but always remember there might be a limit on how much power the shed has depended on how the electricity is set up. Or chat with your electrician about what works best.