It’s All About The Base
Hey there, welcome to my kingdom. Let me start by introducing myself and then I will talk about why I believe every man should have his own man cave. First things first, I’m Lee and I am married with two great teenage kids. Now, this alone should tell you why a man cave is essential (he says jokingly – well sort of).
A man cave often refers to a specific room or basement in the house, a converted garage, or a building within the garden that has been transformed into a kingdom of manliness. It is where we can escape the everyday stuff to become kings of our own space and enjoy our hobbies or have fun with our buddies – and believe it or not, these friends can include women, even the wife!
Now of course the rules of the man cave will depend on the owner, likewise, so will the decor and what it is used for. My man cave will be a place to have a beer, shoot some pool, play some darts and maybe a bit of gaming. I will also hold a few cards nights, get togethers and if people are lucky, I may let them have a go on the karaoke machine!
This isn’t my first rodeo, this is actually my second attempt at a man cave. The first attempt was when I converted the dining room. It didn’t have a bar and ended up more of a games room. This was pre-kids. It had a sofa, a large screen TV and surround sound system and a couple of games consoles – yes they had consoles back then (think Sega PGA Golf). However, when the kids arrived, the room was soon taken over with toys and storage and before I knew it, the man cave room was gone.
This was not the end. The man cave force has remained strong, it just went in to hibernation whilst the kids were growing up and they required the space. It’s time to awaken the man cave king and reclaim my conquered lands.
The man cave will not be a room in the house. It’s going to be a separate building at the end of the garden. I will build it myself – well when I say myself, I mean myself and skilled builders where required…
I shall build a moat so it can not be easily conquered and taken over like before – Ok there will not be a moat, but it will be at the end of the garden and it will not be used for storage – that is the first rule!
My new man cave is going to be built from concrete blocks and like all things strong and manly, this would require strong foundations. There are several ways you can do this such as deep concrete footings, however I chose to build the foundations using a concrete slab, reinforced with steel mesh and a damp proof layer.
To do this would require a large rectangle hole to be dug. Now, you could do this by hand, but it would take a long time, so I chose to call in some friends with a digger. Once the hole was dug, we built a frame around the edge to hold the concrete, added the damp proof, mesh and finally the concrete.
Below is a picture of the completed base. I will update this section with more progress pics for each stage of the build.
I will also update Man Cave Kings with ideas for kitting out a man cave and if fellow-man cave owners want to, pictures of other man caves in a gallery area…
Welcome to the Jungle
At the same time as the man cave foundation base was set, we were also extending our home. What I should have done is built the extension and the man cave at the same time but that would have been too sensible!
That’s a nice store area
What I did instead was use the concrete base as a store area for building materials, tools, garden furniture and what ever else was in the way. To make matters worse, I left it alone for 18 months. At the time, the house was more important, but during those 18 months, the garden became an overgrown jungle and you could barely see the base In fact, looking at the image below you can’t see it!
I am a Bricklayer – Well sort of.
Oh, and I also forgot to mention that during this time I built my first wall and step – what would take a bricklayer possibly a couple of hours, took me a couple of days. This was a good lesson for me. I originally intended to build the structure myself, but based on the time it took me to build the wall I decided that when it was ready, I would employ a bricklayer and provide the labour work – mixing sand and cement and lugging muck and blocks.
The house was nearly complete so now I could allocate time to get the man cave build back on track. The first step was to clear out all the rubbish and cut back hedges. At the back of the base was a dead hedge row and a lot of weeds. Again, I could have done this by hand but I had a better idea. It was time to call back my mate with a digger. I call him Farmer Phil. Why I hear you ask? Because his name is Phil and he owns a farm! Which is perfect by the way, because Phil takes the hedges and any old trees back to his farm where he burns it or cuts wood for firewood.
Below is a picture of Phil in action.
Once all the dead hedgerow was cleared, I had a considerable amount of space around the back and to the sides of the concrete base. This is good in one way as I can either put slabs down or a concrete path and use this for storage. It did mean I would have to pay for a new fence along my boundary at the top and to the side of the base. If I had planned this better, I could have built the man cave to the borders and used the walls as the boundary divider instead of a fence – we live and learn.
Once the area was clear (This became a recurring theme – clear, mess it up, clear) it was time to erect the fence. To be fair, I quite enjoyed this. This is how I did it based on observing others in the past.
- Run a straight line from your start point (A) to your finishing point (B).
- Ensure the ground is reasonably flat between points A & B – even if there is a slope and your fence will step up or down at certain points.
- Dig a narrow hole for the concrete fence post to sit in. My posts were 9ft tall, my panels were 6ft tall and I had a mixture of 6 inch and 12 inch concrete gravel boards for the panels to sit on. This meant the narrow hole need to be 2ft or 2 1/2 ft deep depending on the gravel board. The reason the hole is narrow is to ensure a strong tight-fitting. The wider the hole, the more concrete you require and the more ground you disturb which as I understand it, mean there is more chance of movement.
- After the first hole was dug, in went the first concrete post. Once level, quick drying cement and water was added to secure the post.
- I then placed the gravel board in position following the straight line. By Placing the gravel board in position I now knew exactly where the next concrete post hole needed to be dug.
- After the next hole was dug, I placed the gravel board back in to position and placed the fence panel on the board and between the first posts panel slots. With the fence panel in place I pushed the second concrete post into position and added the quick drying concrete. All the time ensuring the posts and gravel boards were level and that I was following the string line.
Now I am sure there is a quicker / better way of doing this but this is what worked for me doing it on my own – the panels and posts can become heavy after a while, especially if you find a particularly stubborn bit of rock where you are digging your holes!
Oh and there was the small task of using a wheelbarrow to shift 12 tonnes of type 1 chippings from the front of the house, to the back garden to level the area between my new wall, the concrete base and the new fence. This was so it would be ready to patio the area. I can’t remember how many wheelbarrows it was, but it was a lot and took most of a day. I then borrowed a friends whacker plate – you can hire these from most hardware stores to tamp down the chippings.
Below is the finished fence – the base is still being used as a storage area! …
Just Another Brick in the Wall
Well, a block really, but that doesn’t sound as good! The next stage was to start to build the walls on the man cave. But before I could begin I had to carry 600 blocks from the front of the house to the back of the house.
It was time for old trusty to come back out – that’s the wheel barrow by the way. Trusty was damaged goods. He only had one support arm over the wheel, the other had snapped a long time ago and after carting 12 tonnes of type 1 stone, Trusty was beginning to feel his age.
Because of this I could only manage 7 blocks stacked on trusty without causing balance issues or the wheel rubbing against the barrow. That equates to 87 trips of about 170 feet, not all of it over even ground. Old trusty was a hard-working barrow, but found this hard going and sadly this would be his final outing sand it was time for him to retire.
The blocks then had to be stacked around the base so the bricklayer could quickly access them when laying the blocks.
What – you thought I was going to lay the blocks? Well, that was the original plan, but the wall took me too long and I didn’t have the spare time to take weeks to do it. So my job was chief mixer, using Betsy, the mixer with only one mixing arm and of course and block lumping foreman. In other words, the laborer.
Unfortunately, the weather was against us so it was a wet, messy job that lasted 2 1/2 days. Below you can see Betsy and the two arms of old trusty.
Once the blocks were laid it was time for the roof joists. I haven’t done this before, but watched a few videos, consulted my carpentry expert mates and set to work. Spacing 5 meter 7″ x 2″ timbers 400mm’s apart onto a wall plate that had been fixed down with sand and cement, screws and finally wall plate straps.
I also fixed a 7″ x 2″ noggin between each joist for additional strength and to stop bowing. Below you can see some of my handy work…
You can see on the above picture that the joists are over hanging the blocks by about 36″. The reason for the over-hang is to add a bit of character to the building so that it doesn’t look like a plain box and to allow for spot lights to sit under the soffit The overhang and face of the timbers will be clad in Larch that will age and color over time.
In the previous post, I had just fitted the joists. Once the joists were on it was time to sheet the roof with stirling board and clad the joists. The stirling board came in 2.4 metre by 1.2m lengths and from memory, I needed 12 boards. They were delivered to the front of the house, so I had to carry them down the side of the house and the length of the garden to the man cave, one at a time. My tip is to get a mate to help if you find yourself in this scenario. Carrying them on your own when its windy is no fun.
To be honest, I thought laying the stirling board would be an easy job, however my roof joists were not perfectly square and the board needed trimming in one or two places.
The cladding was easier but took more time. I chose to use larch for the cladding because it’s hard-wearing, changes color over time and was reasonably priced. The Larch arrived in long 3.6 metre lengths. I decided I wanted the larch on the face of the joists to be attached vertically so each piece had to be individually measured and cut to size using my dads chop saw. Each piece was then fixed with Gorilla Glue and a nail gun. I borrowed a mates aluminium tower for fixing the front and left hand side used a step-ladder for the right hand side due to the limited space. You can see both in the picture above.
The underside of the joists on the overhang was simpler to fit because I attached the larch horizontally.
Now it was time for the roof covering. Although I helped with this job, I needed a specialist, due to the roof being covered by armourplan reinforced single ply. They don’t let just anyone buy armourplan so it was time to call in some friends – the midnight roofers! That’s not really their name but we completed the roof after work in the winter when the dark nights drew in very early.
First goes on the aluminium edging and then the Armourplan. I chose dark grey for the edging as this matched the color of my bifold doors on the house leading to the garden and the man cave. The Armourplan comes in sheets and are ‘welded’ together to form a waterproof bond. The armourplan is similar to rubber and is welded together with a heat gun.
The next phase would be installing windows and doors to make the man cave water tight…
Batten Down the Hatches
Rain, rain go away….
Apologies for the poor image…it was raining!
It was now the rainy season and time to push forward to get the man cave watertight. With the help of my ‘midnight roofers’ buddies, the roof was finished so all we had to do was fit the windows and patio doors and the man cave would be………you guessed it – watertight.
This is where I saved money. Instead of buying ‘new’ I contacted a local window and door company and asked if they had any ‘returns’ due to wrong measurements being taken or windows prepared for jobs that had subsequently been cancelled. Luckily, they had 2 windows that were roughly the size I was after. Before we built the shell, I purchased the windows and built the openings to the acquired window sizes. This saved me several hundred $$$ and £££s, depending on where you live.
Unfortunately, the door and window company did not have any patio doors. Not one to give up easily, we built the door opening to a universal size. I then went searching on local trade-it sites for a second-hand set. I found a seller the other side of town that was selling a set doors with measurements near enough the same as my man cave opening. I now need a van to collect the doors. Luckily, I have a friend who is a Stonemason, so one Sunday morning we set off early to collect the patio doors.
We Need a Bigger Boat, I Mean Van
My friend always owned ‘long wheel base’ vans, but had recently switched to a ‘short wheel base’ version. When we arrived, I soon realised the van was not high or long enough. A school boy error on my part for not measuring the van before we left.
The two doors could be laid flat on top of each other, but the frame had to be transported on a 60 degree (give or take) angle. The van’s rear doors would not shut due to the doors and the frame protruding from the rear. Unfortunately, we did not bring any rope secure the doors – another school boy error. Luckily, my friend had some old wire in a bucket. We wrapped the wire over the van door handles and hoped it would be secure enough to get the patio doors home.
We took it slow and steady and managed to get the patio doors home without incident.
This also saved me hundreds of $$$ and £££s but cost me time and an owed favor or two for my friend. I am not 100% happy with the used patio doors and will replace them with new, at some point in the future. Also, one of the windows came with leaded glass, which I don’t like, so I will also replace the glass sometime in the future.
The original plan was for me to ‘have a go’ at fitting the doors and windows myself. I can’t say I enjoy DIY but I will give most things ago. On this occasion, I was talked into getting the doors fitted by a professional. The reason, being that they were used and would probably require quite a bit of ‘tinkering’ to get them to fit. Cue – my midnight roofer friends – Dave’ brother was a window fitter and offered to fit the doors at a reasonable price
The man cave was now watertight and we could start the internal work – next stage, wiring and insulation…