Our DIY man cave project was a long time coming. Hubs spent over 2 years renovating our basement in his spare time. Being that our basement is small, we split up the basement between three functions: a craft studio, laundry room and a mancave. However, I took the majority of the space for my studio. Not very magnanimous of me given that he built every single bit of it himself – single handedly (with the exception of pouring a new basement floor).
Building our DIY Man Cave
Other than levelling the basement floor with Levelrock, he did EVERY SINGLE BIT! He did the framing, electrical….
He installed potlights:
Since Hub used this manual lift to put up the drywall, the drywall went pretty quick. Not only does it go fast, it will save your back if you ever do drywall so don’t do it without a lift!
And if you’re like us and take care of your equipment, you can purchase it new and then resell it for almost as much as you paid – not too shabby!
Hubs did all the mudding to a ‘level 5’ finish. In all honesty, I wanted to hire out the finish work to give him a break. But he’s such a perfectionist and knew that no one would complete it to his standard.
In the end, he was right. After checking it out, I can attest that once the walls were sanded and primed, they were as smooth as a baby’s bottom! In fact, even the best contractor couldn’t have done better!
Flooring for DIY Man Cave
After the walls were done, he started on the floor. In order to acclimate all the wood, he used the mancave as a staging area.
With all the wood in the mancave, he completed the laundry room and studio first. Here you can see the flooring extending from those rooms into the mancave. We choose an engineered fumed oak hardwood; perfect for a basement because it can withstand some dampness and won’t warp. Because of the potential for moisture from the slab, the blue dimpled membrane underneath protects the flooring and keeps it warm underfoot.
Before the install, Hubs cut 1/2″ deep MDF wedges to put against the wall, providing an expansion gap. Then he applied some glue into the groove of each board and then tapped them into the tongue side of the boards with a mallet and special block tool.
Every few rows, the boards get taped together with blue tape to prevent shifting until it’s done.
He then used whatever heavy objects we could find to weigh the hardwood down while it dried; even my antique iron collection got pulled into service (against the far wall).
Finally, the last step of construction was how to install baseboards to cover the expansion gaps against the walls. Again he staged everything in the mancave, covering up the walls and floors with cardboard first to protect them from the dust.
The baseboard was cut initially to length with the chop saw but then hubs used a coping saw to get tight joints in the corners. The baseboard went in without to much trouble in every room except the mancave: on the long wall, there was a sizable gap between the floor and baseboard:
To fix the gap, he scribed along the bottom of the baseboard to transfer the curve of the floor, then sanded it off with a belt sander. Because of that little glitch, it took a little extra time, but now you can’t tell there was ever a gap.
Media Centre for the DIY Man Cave
When the basement was nearing completion, Hubs designed an Ikea entertainment centre (Besta) for the TV. The boxes sat in our hallway until he was ready to install.
With the help of a laser level mounted on the opposite wall, he assembled the media centre in the mancave and installed it.
Here you can see the beam of light along the top that the laser level produces. He filled that space in with glass display cabinets, which you’ll see in the reveal later. Coupled with using a regular level, he was able get all the components level and plumb.
DIY Man Cave Before and Afters
Although it’s a small space, to fully appreciate the completed mancave, I’m providing before and after pictures of each view.
To start with, this is the electrical panel:
When we added an additional pony panel plus WiFi, the electrical panel doubled in size.
Man Cave Decor
All in all, the electrical panel placement is the one thing that didn’t get planned very well; it’s off centre to the sofa (more about how to hide an electrical panel here).
Hubs built a frame around the panel to hold a still yet to be determined picture to hide the electrical (the one shown is temporary). Once he makes up his mind, we’ll put up some additional pictures on the wall to balance the frame.
In choosing decor for the man cave, we got creative with upcycling. For storage, Hubs got an old filing cabinet from his brother and resprayed it.
He chose a beautiful celedon green to match an ikea light fixture he bought for his desk area. See here for more about the retro filing cabinet makeover.
For the desk, he’s using the hoosier table from our wedding (more about our vintage-themed wedding in upcycled wedding decor).
When he’s not busy renovating, he collects stamps as a hobby so the desk will come in handy for that.
Lastly, for the other side of the couch, he built himself a pipe side table to hold a remote control caddy worthy of the mancave. With that in place, he can now chillax and have his remotes at his fingertips; no one deserves a little R&R more than him after all the work his put into our basement!
Here’s a view from the mancave looking at the entry to my craft studio.
The TV wall of the man cave shares a wall with my craft room but the insulation in the wall helps keep each room quiet.
Here’s a view of the TV wall….
…and the same view with the finished media centre. The tower on the right side adds ample closed storage.
The upper glass cabinets are great for display. Right now they are housing an old punch clock and sewing machine, but these will likely get rotated with other interesting finds as time goes on.
Here a picture showing the full the width of the DIY man cave in its original dark and dank state:
Now it’s bright and welcoming!
The La-Z-boy is just beckoning for my husband to be a Lazy Boy too!
For now, we’ll call our unfinished basement man cave complete! As with all our projects, we’ll live with it for a while before we decide if it needs further accessorization. For now, it’s pared down and perfect for kicking back in!
Can a Man Cave Add Value?
We added over 700 square feet of usable space to our small home by renovating the basement. In light of that, our finished basement will add about a 70% return on investment if we ever sell our home. However, you just can’t put a dollar value on the enjoyment factor a finished basement space can add. Now Hubs has a space to relax and pursue some of his hobbies. To us, that’s priceless.
Over the next few months, we’ll share how-to’s for finishing details such as how to achieve a level 5 drywall finish, how to install baseboards and our engineered hardwood floor basement installation. However, if there’s one piece of valuable learning, it’s that a loose lay vinyl plank flooring installation is a far better choice than wood!
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Basement Water Leak
As soon as he was done, I really believed that Hubs would l be taking a LOOOOOONG break from any major renovations for a quite a while, but it was not meant to be. Unfortunately, soon after our basement makeover was done, my craft studio sprang a leak due to unforeseen circumstances.
As you can see below, everything had to be moved into the mancave so hubs could complete the repairs! What a mess! I’m going to leave you with this disturbing shot of what it looked like all spring and summer. But rest assured that we’re back on track again and I’ll have a very informative post on what to do when there’s a water leak in your finished basement.
It could have been much worse. All I’ll say for now is that we planned for just about every eventuality but one! Okay, I’ll say two things: it’s a good thing we used that dimpled membrane under our hardwood floors :). You can read more about our water leak repair part 1 and how we fixed it if you’re curious. We also wrote a guide on mold prevention after a water leak part 2.