Horse Stall Mats – Which Side Up?


Horse Stall Mats - Which Side Up

Horse Stall Mats are the best, most cost-efficient flooring option for a garage gym. Horse Stall Mats are 3/4 inch thick, 4 x 6 foot rubber mats that are way cheaper than commercial gym flooring and just as good a job in a garage gym. I picked up my horse stall mats from Tractor Supply Company for about $45 a piece.

When you pick up your horse stall mats and get them back to your garage, you’re probably going to have some questions about your mats immediately. I’m going to try to answer a few of those questions for you right now.

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Which Side Up

Diamond Pattern Side - Horse Stall Mats
Diamond Pattern Side

As you’re pulling the mats out of the truck and into the garage, it may occur to you that you’re not quite sure which side of the mat goes up. This is normal. I stared at mine and debated for about ten minutes. My mats came with a diamond pattern on one side and super thin “channels” (not sure if that’s the best description, look at the pic) on the other.

“Channel” Side

I do a lot of Olympic lifting so my biggest concern was which side was going to be the best side to be shifting my feet and dropping a bar. Was the diamond pattern too pronounced to where I could catch my foot on one when I shift my feet? How would the bar react when it was dropped on these diamond “bubbles”?

On the flip side the channels seemed to make a smoother surface, but would those channels break down over time?

Sooo… Which Side Up?

I’ve given you a bunch of questions, but you came here for answers not questions, so here ya go. I went with the diamond pattern up and I still think that’s the way to go. The diamond bubbles aren’t nearly as pronounced once you get all the mats laid out onto the floor as they seem while you’re handling them.

The bar will jump a bit early on when it’s dropped, but if you lift in the same area those bubbles will become worn and it doesn’t stay an issue for very long.

That then puts the channels on the bottom. The channels act as a means of airflow under the mat. This will help keep water from accumulating under your mats and will help ward off any kind mold and other funk from growing under the mats. This is important if you have a typical concrete garage floor, but is even MORE important if you have your mats sitting on top of any kind of wood.

Is One Side Better To Keep Them In Place?

Horse Stall Mats will “walk” around on you a little here and there when weights are dropped on them and will require some occasional straightening out.

Will one side or the other stick to the floor better? The answer is no. In addition to my garage gym, I’ve worked in and know a lot of friends who own their own facilities. Yes, even most of those guys go with horse stall mats for their gyms and have tried both sides and it didn’t make a difference.

If the mats moving around become a big issue for you (it’s not something that really bothers me personally) then you can put some double sided carpet tapeOpens in a new tab. underneath. It still may not keep everything perfectly in place, but it will make a noticeable difference.

Which Side Is Easier For Cleaning?

This one is easy. Diamond pattern up is by far the easier side to clean. If the channels are up they do a tremendous job of catching each and every particle of dust and dirt. They then do a great job of holding in each of those particles. Sweeping is almost impossible. You’re going to want a leaf blower and it’s still going to be a pain in the rear in my opinion.

You may have some other questions about using horse stall mats for your garage gym. If you’ve never really dealt with gym flooring in general, you’re probably definitely asking yourself…

Are The Mats Always Going To Smell Like This?

Horse Stall Mats can smell, well, awful when you first get them. I had to drive back from Tractor Supply with the windows down because the smell was pretty overwhelming.

The good news is the smell will not stick around forever. Usually after a week or two the smell reduces to a minimum. Rubber gym flooring is always going to have a particular smell to it, but it’s the normal gym floor smell that is true of any gym you’ll walk into.

My quick recommendation is to let your garage air out as much as possible over the first few days. If you can leave your garage doors open during the first few days (or even better, take them outside) it will help expedite the smell issue. I also mopped my mats every couple days over the first two weeks which seemed to help as well.

Horse Stall Mats are Heavy

Just adding this here as an FYI. Horse Stall Mats are pretty heavy and really awkward to carry. Getting them into your truck or car and then getting them into your garage may be a two person job. I had someone help me get them into the car, but took them out myself and it was a legit workout getting them out and into place.

That was with 8 mats total. The more mats you have the more you may want to talk someone into lending a hand.

What About Button Top Horse Stall Mats?

While my mats came with a diamond pattern on one side, some mats come with a “button” pattern. Typically on these button top mats the opposite side is smooth and flat. If you have button top mats I’d recommend going with the buttons down.

Two reasons why: First, the obvious reason of being able to lift and move on the flat surface. The buttons on the bottom also allow for some airflow under the mat, similar to the channels on the diamond pattern mats.

Final Thoughts

I recommend going with the diamond side up on your horse stall mats. It looks better in my opinion and once you get them broken in a bit, they perform better as well. Having said that, if you happen to go with other side for whatever reason, you should be just fine.

Don’t freak out, they won’t always smell so bad and finally get someone to help you get them in place unless you just enjoy the challenge of moving heavy things. Who doesn’t, right?

Enjoy your new garage gym floor!

Ryan H

My name is Ryan Horton and I've spent the last 18 years as a Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coach and am currently the Director of Sports Science with Georgia Tech Football. I've always set up workout areas at home everywhere we've lived, but now I have a garage and I'm going all out.

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