Build your “man cave” in a garage, a basement, a corner of the yard, or any other piece of unclaimed real estate in your house. Get inspired by these DIY spaces.
As a DIYer, you've worked hard to make your home a civilized place. But you also need a space to shift evolution into reverse, devolve a little and get in touch with your inner Neanderthal. A man cave can be a bar, a workshop, a place to watch sports, a game room or all of the above. With these tips and ideas from our readers, your cave can evolve into whatever you want it to be.
"The Stanek Tiki Club is open to members only, but anyone can become a member."
Rob and Eileen Stanek used to do a lot of island hopping (before kids), so Rob decided to bring some of the Caribbean to their backyard, and the Stanek Tiki Club was born. The thatched roof looks tropical, but there’s a standard roof underneath: 2x4 framing, plywood sheathing and a layer of roofing felt. The woven thatch sections are simply stapled to the sheathing. In Rob’s rainy climate, the thatch lasts about two years and costs about $400 to replace. If you’d like your own tiki hut, start with some online browsing. Search for “thatch rolls” to see a variety of options.
Brian Gartrell's basement is part pool hall, part sports bar and part Muhammad Ali shrine. Brian met Ali a few times through a mutual friend, and the walls are decorated with cards, photos, even a pair of autographed boxing trunks from the all-time greatest boxer.
We think the coolest element in this man cave is the galvanized steel wainscot. Brian covered the studs with drywall above and 1/2-in. plywood below. Then he covered the plywood with corrugated, galvanized steel to create high-style, low-maintenance wainscoting. The steel was inexpensive, about $1 per linear foot (special ordered and precut at a home center). And because both the steel and the plywood behind it are screwed on, Brian can open the walls to run cables—a handy feature, since the cave has three TVs and a sound system.
Aside from brickwork, Bill's cave includes a full bar, a workshop, a weight room and a bathroom, so the rest of the house isn't really necessary.
Bill Bensing is a home brewer who wanted to give his basement the feel of an old-world brewery. That meant brick walls and an archway, all made from thin brick.
It was much like a tile project. He stuck the 1/2-in.-thick bricks to a bed of thin-set, then filled the joints with mortar using a grout bag. At about $7 per sq. ft., thin brick costs about twice as much as regular brick, but it’s a lot easier to work with, and nobody can tell the difference.
Bats and baseball memorabilia decorate this shrine to the local baseball team.
Jack Begg spent years planning and pondering before he finally built his baseball-themed man cave. And all that thinking led to some ingenious ideas: He ordered a load of unfinished wood bats online and cut them in half lengthwise for the chair rail and decorative columns on the bar. Uncut bats form the stair railings (not shown). Jack also found the carpet online. The individual carpet “tiles” are lightly glued down and easy to replace if one gets damaged or stained. With a little online browsing (search for “sports team carpet tile”), you can find the logo of any pro team and many colleges. But team spirit isn’t cheap: Expect to spend about $40 per sq. yd. Jack’s wife, Lisa, painstakingly painted the walls to match the pinstriped uniforms of their favorite team. Hard to guess which team that might be.
A fridge is nice for preserving food, but in just an hour, you can turn it into something really useful: a magical beer machine!
How it works
A bottle of CO2 pressurizes the keg. So when you open the tap, beer flows out and life is good. The regulator lets you adjust the pressure and tells you when the bottle needs a refill.
Start with the keg
The size of the keg determines the size of the fridge you’ll need. The most common kegs (8 and 16 gallons) are about 16 in. in diameter and 14 or 23 in. tall. You might also find slimmer kegs with diameters of 9 to 12 in. and heights about 12 in. Expect to spend at least $45 to $90 for an 8-gallon keg. But don’t worry about money; good beer is priceless.
If you can get skinny kegs, you can use a mini fridge. But typical 8- or 16-gallon kegs require a full-size fridge. In most fridges, the back wall juts in at the bottom, so you can’t set the keg on the fridge floor. It has to go on the bottom shelf, which just isn’t strong enough. A slab of melamine (plastic-coated particleboard) works well to support it.
Complete kits start at about $150. Depending on the kit you choose, you’ll have to drill a hole in the fridge door, side or top. Boring the hole with a hole saw and then making the plumbing connections can be done in just a few minutes.
Where to get it
Tons of kegerator kits are available online. We bought ours from beveragefactory.com. Our kit included the CO2 cylinder (many kits don’t). Filling costs about $20 at an industrial gas supplier or a welding supplier.
No need to make your own! Companies like Haier (haieramerica.com) make ready-to-use kegerators complete with taps and built-in drip trays. Elmira (elmirastoveworks.com) offers a 1950s retro kegerator fridge that includes everything but the keg.
Some man caves are workshops, some are bars, and some places are for sports and socializing. Gary Bickler's garage is all those things. And more.
"Sitting in a hot tub and watching a Twins game—it's awesome."
It began as a “beer can museum.” After 20 years in storage, Gary’s 3,000 collectible cans were finally on display. Over time, the museum morphed into other things: It’s a relaxing spa, an exercise gym, a home theater (two big-screen TVs), a heated indoor playground for the grandkids, and above all, a gathering spot for friends and family. Somehow, Gary even finds space for the usual garage functions like DIY projects and parking cars.