Picking out flooring for your garage gym is a big decision because it’s literally the foundation for your gym. Laying down a gym floor is what takes a collection of lifting equipment sitting in your garage to a full fledged gym. It’s also a big decision because, for many of us, this is often the first real investment into your at home workout setup.
Putting some dumbbells or medicine balls here or there in your garage is one thing, but dropping a couple hundred dollars (or more) on a floor is a different level of commitment. Laying down floor is essentially the equivalent of your gym ‘marking it’s territory’. Sure you can still technically drive your car up onto your garage gym flooring, but the floor itself defines the space of your garage gym.
So what kind of flooring should you get for your garage gym? This is going to depend a bit on what type of lifting/working out you do. Someone who Deadlifts heavy weight is going to have different flooring needs than someone predominantly doing bodyweight workouts.
There are two different types of commercial gym flooring, tile and rolled, and a third that we’ll discuss later. Before we get into each, let’s discuss what aspects of gym flooring should go into your decision making process.
How Thick Should Garage Gym Flooring Be?
To protect your garage floor against the wear and tear of dropping weights you want a certain level of thickness. Standard gym flooring comes in a variety of thicknesses. The most common thickness you’re going to come across when you’re shopping for flooring ranges from 8mm (equates to just under 3/8 of an inch) all the way up to 3/4 of an inch.
You can also find even thicker floor, but anything more than 3/4″ is really unnecessary. If you need thicker than that, say for a lot of Olympic lifting, invest in a platform.
So how thick do you need? Part of that depends on what you’ll be doing in your garage gym. If you’re going to be doing Olympic Lifting and/or CrossFit workouts than you want to opt for something thicker to guard against the daily dropping of bumpers and dumbbells. You may even want a full-fledged platform to work on as well.
If you’re going to be doing less intense work like light lifting and maybe even some yoga than you may not need as much thickness.
Regardless of what you’re doing, I think 8mm is really the thinnest that you’ll want. Anything less than that is not going to give your garage floor very much protection and very well could end up getting tore up and worn through pretty quick.
Keep in mind that gyms that use 8mm flooring generally install a layer of padding underneath the mat itself. That’s not really an extra step that you probably want to do for your garage, nor do you really need to if you get flooring with enough thickness.
Thickness isn’t just about protecting your floor. A thicker floor will also generally help to deaden the sound of weight being dropped on it. I don’t think I need to explain why this could be really important if you have people inside the house that may not want to hear your power cleans being dropped every 30 seconds. Especially, if those people are very tiny and take naps in the afternoon.
Rolls or Tiles?
The two most popular types of commercial gym flooring come in either tiles or rolls. Let’s take a minute to examine each type along with the pros and cons of each. I’ll also make a couple recommendations of each type of flooring.
Garage Gym – Tile Floor
Tiles are a very popular option for home gyms, commercial gyms and even some college weight rooms. The most obvious advantage to getting tiles is by working with smaller pieces it’s much easier to arrange your floor to fit your space without having to do a bunch of cutting. This also leads to less wasted floor as well.
There’s another area where tiles are better than rolled mats. Most tile flooring is designed to interlock. This helps eliminate seams opening up between pieces. As we’ll discuss in a second, flooring pieces that are not interlocked or glued down have a tendency to “walk” away from each other and open up seams exposing the floor underneath.
Most of the time this leads to more of an aesthetic issue than a functional issue. It still ends up a being a pain because pushing them back together can be much easier said than done when racks, platforms and/or weights are sitting on the floor.
Finally, if you end up with an issue in one specific spot on your floor, tiles are typically easier to take out and replace.
There’s two tile options that we recommend if you decide to go the tile route:
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Puzzle Exercise Mats
You can find these Puzzle Mat type floorings online or at your local big box sporting goods stores. You can recognize this flooring because they come in small interlockable pieces (like a puzzle).
This is a great low cost option for low impact workouts. If you’re doing yoga, bodyweight workouts and maybe using some light dumbbell then they can be a good choice. We have a separate exercise room in our house (I know that seems a bit extreme) that houses an elliptical and my wife uses it for exercise videos and yoga.
We have the elliptical sitting on puzzle mat flooring and it works great for that purpose. As a garage gym floor it will protect your floor from light dumbbells and keep you from having to workout on a cold concrete floor.
However, if you’re going to be lifting heavy weight, dropping bars, Olympic lifting, etc. these are NOT a good option. One, the tiles are not dense enough. The “cushion” in the pad is going to absorb force and will be detrimental to your lifts. Second, they are not designed for 250lb cleans or 400lb deadlifts dropped on them and will wear and tear pretty quickly if you put them through those type of lifts.
Rogue Gym Mats
Need something more heavy duty than the Puzzle Mat? Look no further than Rogue’s Gym Mats. These 4 x 6 foot, 3/4 inch thick behemoths weigh in at about 100 pounds a piece. Once you get these mats in place, they will take almost any kind of beating you could possibly dish out to them. I’ve worked out on these mats before and you couldn’t ask for much more for a garage gym.
There are a couple drawbacks though. Rogue sells these mats in bundles of 25. This will cover roughly 600 square feet which might be more than you need. I have a two car garage that is barely over 400 square feet. Even with the bundle, the price still comes out to about $70 a piece.
So while these are seriously heavy duty mats, they’re not cheap and you might have to get more than you really need.
If you’re outfitting a really large garage and don’t mind dipping into your wallet a bit, these Rogue Gym Mats are a great option.
These are two great options, but are either the option that we recommend the highest? They’re not. Our pick is further down.
Garage Gym – Rolled Mats
Rolled Mats are called such because they come in long rolls up to 50 feet a piece. One of the advantages to rolls over tiles is cost. When you compare equal quality floor, rolls are usually always more cost effective. (Having said that, as you’ll find out in a second, I don’t really recommend any of the budget rolled mat floors.)
Almost any large scale gym you go into, including colleges and universities, is going to have rolled mat flooring installed.
There’s only one type of rolled gym flooring that I will recommend and that’s PLAE. The last two college weight rooms that I’ve worked in has had PLAE installed. In my opinion it’s the absolute top of the line when it comes to weight room flooring. The design, look, performance and the customer service sets them apart from everyone else, not to mention PLAE has a 15 year warranty on their flooring.
The PLAE Achieve line comes in 35′ x 4′ rolls (13mm) and 25′ x 4′ (18mm). They also come in three different levels depending upon how intricate you want the coloring of your floor to be. The Level 1 is black and Level 2 and 3 gets more complex with it’s color schemes. I do want to note though that Level 2 and 3 has a minimum order of 1200 square feet.
So unless you’re outfitting a four car garage, you’re going to need to go with the black. It also comes in three different thicknesses, 13mm, 18mm and 1 inch.
This quality isn’t going to come cheap though. Each roll of the Level 1 18mm runs over $700 (at the time of this writing) and will cover 100 square feet. Make no mistake, if cost was not a concern, I would have 18mm PLAE floor in my garage this very moment.
So is Rolled Flooring what I recommend highest? Still no. My top recommendation is next…
Best Garage Gym Flooring – Horse Stall Mats
Wait, horse stall mats? I thought we were talking about gym flooring? Why on Earth would I want to put mats designed for horses in my garage?
Because they’re cheap and do just as good (or better) a job as all the floors we’ve mentioned above!
So why do I save Horse Stall Mats for last? Is it to get you to read the whole article similarly to why grocery stores put the milk in the back of the store? No, I promise that’s not the case. It’s so you can see that, yes, I’m aware of all the “higher end” flooring options out there and, yes, I’m still recommending you to put horse stall mats in your garage gym.
Look, I get it. If you’re taking enough pride into your garage gym that you’re researching the best kind of flooring to get for it then you don’t want things to be cheap, poor quality and look like crap. But, if budget, even if it’s a decent budget, is any kind of concern then dumping a bunch of money into the floor isn’t the best place to put it. Save that money for a great barbell, bumpers or even a rack.
You’d probably be surprised at many small gyms and sports performance facilities use horse stall mats for their gym floor.
Horse Stall Mats come in 3/4 inch thickness and usually come in mats that are 4 x 6 feet each. The thickness is as good or better than most flooring designed for a garage gym and the mat size gives you a good amount of flexibility to get the mats to fit your space. Here is the kicker. You can pick up these mats for about $40 a piece. No other flooring option is even close.
Are horse stall mats perfect? Of course not. They will move around on you a little bit, but this has never been a big issue for me. I may tap my mats back into place every couple months.
Most horse stall mats come with some type of design on them intended to give horses more traction than a smooth flat surface. This can cause the bar to jump around a little bit when dropped on the floor (until the “design” is beaten into submission from hundreds of dropped snatches and cleans).
Finally, they’re going to stink when you first get them, but that can be fixed pretty easily.
These issues, however, are minor inconveniences that are well worth the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars that horse stall mats are going to save you.
I went with Horse Stall Mats for my garage gym and am completely satisfied with my decision. Other than having to occasionally fix a seam, I’ve not had any issues with my floor. Like I said earlier, if cost was not a factor, I’d have PLAE flooring. But it is and I’d rather invest my money into a top of the line bar and bumpers.
At the end of the day, go with the floor that best fits your needs and your budget. Then enjoy that first lift on your new garage gym floor!