How to pick flooring for a home gym in a GARAGE

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Many of us have made our garages home to the gym which is great – it keeps your house free for family life AND means your are typically lifting on the hardest floor in the building – the CONCRETE SLAB

Making sure we get the best flooring for our home gyms in our garages is important as we really need to protect that slab from cracking. Luckily it is very easy to find a solution.

How to pick flooring for a home gym in a GARAGE!

At a glance…

  • 18mm 1m square crumbed rubber tiles are usually the best flooring for home gyms built in a garage
  • Check out what we like right here
  • Heavier lifters might benefit from a cheap plywood lifting platform base under their rubber flooring
  • Conversely lighter users can get away with much cheaper EVA foam tiles
  • Here are some cool EVA tiles as an example of what might work in a cardio or yoga studio
  • Overall rubber tiles are our recommendation as it’s better to be TOO PROTECTED rather than NOT PROTECTED ENOUGH and the heavier weight helps keep them in place in a garage environment

What flooring should I get for a home gym?

Here’s my 18mm rubber floored garage gym: Click the image to check out similar tiles

I like the 18mm rubber tiles laid in my garage – the above is a nice picture of them! They are sitting on top of a 36mm thick plywood lifting platform which I made myself quite easily. For someone who likes lifting weights in their garage this set up is VERY hard to beat!

What’s the best flooring for a garage gym?

One of the benefits of dedicated gym flooring compared to the likes of horse stall mats or other repurposed coverings is that they are designed to take the abuse faced in a gym (for example powerlifters dropping deadlifts – properly designed flooring will work to reduce vibrations, noise and mitigate the damage to the floor under it) and their features lend themselves to that application – for example the crumbed rubber tiles are generally anti-slip compared to generic harder plastic options which can feel a bit slippery (when sumo deadlifting, for example).

Are there implications for building a home gym in a garage vs a spare room inside?

When building a gym in a garage the main difference vs a typical house build is that the underlying floor is usually a poured concrete slab. This is a huge benefit as it is solid compared to a ‘floating floor’ found inside the living accommodation of many house builds. The floating floor is – as the name suggests – wooden joists and floorboards raised up above the concrete base which is not ideal for powerlifting or heavy use. 

The downside is that concrete offers absolutely NO absorption – so noise, vibration and anything else will just reverberate around your house and you risk cracking, crumbling or otherwise damaging the underlying slab. Worry not, however! By laying appropriate flooring you can take advantage of that solid base and simultaneously protect the concrete from the harshest of treatments.

Does a home gym NEED rubber flooring?

I think the best flooring for a garage gym for MOST people is 18mm thick, 1m x 1m sized crumbed rubber floor tiles. This is for a few reasons:

  • Easy installation – simply drop them in place yourself
  • Won’t move – the larger 1m square compared to the more common 50cm units means the tiles are 4x heavier at around 18kg each. This stops them moving around in day to day use.
  • Robust – I prefer the large, heavy tiles to the smaller interlocking ones as I’ve had experience of the interlocking tabs breaking or not fitting flush. the hassle free 1m squares are just easier to live with in my experience.
  • Anti-slip – crumbed rubber will offer traction when trying to get leg drive on bench or brace for a Sumo pull!
  • Lower noise – 18mm rubber should dampen most noises and vibrations compared to harder PVC options
  • Insulating – having 18mm of rubber on the floor has the side effect of insulating the space
  • Looks good – similar appearance to a commercial weight room

For the avoidance of doubt then – if you lift weights in a garage gym, go for a rubber floor.

What are the alternatives to rubber flooring?

To be clear I think rubber is the best option for most people – BUT you might want to consider the other alternatives out there to be sure it’s right for you:

  • EVA Foam – these are usually found as interlocking tiles that can be bought quite cheaply and therefore can work really well under stationary cardio equipment such as treadmills or rowing machines. The downside is that they are spongey underfoot so not ideal for serious weightlifting.
  • Hard plastic tiles – these are very durable BUT don’t offer as much shock absorption as rubber so will transmit a lot more force through to your concrete base.
  • Astro turf – if you do a load of sled pulls you might want a section of Astro turf. In reality for most home gyms there simply isn’t the length to make a worthwhile turd section, but it sure looks cool! The downside is that it is more expensive and less multi-purpose than typical rubber tiles.
  • Carpet or vinyl – When working out inside in a spare room for example we can usually “make do” with the flooring, but if building a dedicated gym in a garage I wouldn’t CHOOSE carpet or vinyl over the other options as they are slippier under foot and don’t offer any meaningful shock absorption to protect the concrete floor beneath.

What are the WORST flooring options?

Anything that is too thin will not work well in a garage. Following the above commentary basically anything that is too thin will NOT spread the impact of activity and will not protect your concrete base as a result. So I would say thin rolls of 5mm foam flooring for example are – in my opinion – a poor use of money as they offer nothing beyond a bit of aesthetics. 

Foam EVA tiles are not suitable in my experience for heavy weightlifting as they are too soft underfoot and again don’t spread the impact of weightlifting appropriately, but they can work well for those more interested in studio or cardio work so I won’t rule them out as completely useless 🙂

Here’s a pretty cool astroturf set up courtesy of Bulldog Gear - fake grass suits larger spaces better!
Here’s a pretty cool astroturf set up courtesy of Bulldog Gear – fake grass suits larger spaces better!

Why you should RECONSIDER EVA foam flooring in a garage gym

EVA foam tiles are readily available and CHEAP. This makes them seriously tempting – particularly if you have a large garage to floor.

BUT you should make sure you are comfortable with the compromises that foam flooring offers before you pull the trigger on these – re-doing a floor is an absolute PAIN as you have to empty your garage completely. It is better in this case to BUY ONCE, CRY ONCE!

The considerations are as follows:

  • Spongey underfoot – the softer compound means the tiles will move under your weight. This can be a pain if squatting or deadlifting when you are looking for complete stability.
  • Less shock absorbent – the softer material doesn’t dissipate shock across the floor as well as heavier duty rubber or wood
  • Can rip / dilapidate – given the less durable nature of the tile they are more prone to ripping and marking in use
  • Water absorbent – sweat or drink spills will seep in to the foam compared to waterproof rubber or vinyl

Of course there are some upsides also – being incredibly cheap is one. If you are mainly cardio focused these work well under treadmills, but for weightlifters I would step up the durability personally.

How thick should a garage gym floor be?

This depends what your plans are for working out – if you are interested in strength training and doing floor work such as deadlifts or rows you will want heavier duty flooring, but if it’s for a treadmill or yoga you will get away with a lighter touch.

Personally I would aim for 18mm flooring as the middle ground with it stepping up in thickness for those serious about weight lifting (I use 2x layers of 18mm plywood as a base with 18mm rubber tiles on top, bringing total thickness to 24mm) and stepping down for those with lighter than average requirements.

I would rather have my floor TOO protected rather not protected ENOUGH!

Is there a need for a false floor or plywood lifting platform?

As I mentioned above I have a 26mm plywood false floor under my rubber flooring to protect the concrete slab. The false floor acts as a distributor for force – when a deadlift is dropped instead of hitting a few square centimetres of concrete each side lands on a 1m square tile which then absorbs some impact before passing on any residual force to my plywood weight lifting platform platform base which is around 3m x 3m. So all of a sudden the area receiving the load has gone from a few square centimetres to 9 square METERS!

A false floor is therefore a cheap way to protect your floor if you are lifting heavy weights, but might be overkill for those not interested in heavy work.

What is the best way to secure gym flooring in place?

This varies depending what style of flooring you choose to go for. In my recommendation for most people (1m square heavy duty crumbed rubber tiles) the individual pieces are around 18kg in weight so don’t need fastened down. Many come with fasteners, but for me I think this is unnecessary in most cases.

If you go for a foam or EVA flooring then they are often interlocking tiles – so they secure in place by using the panel edges to lock in place.

Finally gym flooring which rolls out may need glued down or weighted for a period of time to ensure it’s flat.

How to calculate how much flooring I need?

I worked out the are I needed in square meters by drawing a plan of the gym space I was trying to cover. Working in 1m x 1m squares (as I had settled on using 1m square crumbed rubber tiles) I worked out how many COMPLETE tiles I needed. That is quite straight forward when sketched out in front of you.

The more complex part is working out how many tiles you need if you are cutting them around other shapes. In my space I ended up with a thin edge c.3cm thick but 3m long as well as more intricate parts around an existing cabinet and step. By Measuring these bits out accurately and mapping it to my sketch it was pretty easy to work out that I could get the 3cm strips from the end of one of the tiles that had to be cut around the cabinet, and that a couple of small bits around the step could come from the same off-cut.

Overall the technique to work out how much flooring to order is to take your time to MEASURE the space you are flooring then draw it out on paper.

Note that spare tiles can be used for extra deadlift padding, as low level ‘blocks’ when doing block pulls or even stood on to allow your to do deficit work from the floor. So having an extra tile is NOT the end of the world.

Conclusion

So for most people an 18mm crumbed rubber tile floor will work wonders for insulating, protecting and improving the looks of their garage gym. You might get away with he far cheaper (and more colourful) EVA foam tiles if you are a light user, or alternatively you may benefit from a much thicker wooden base if you are more powerlifting focused. Ultimately your training style will shape your flooring requirements.

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