Leveling the Garage Floor for Gym

Who knew that garage floors are built with slope?  This girl sure didn’t! If I had, I would have asked my builder to level the floor, and install a drain in the center (assuming, of course, that garage floors are sloped due to drainage).  But, we weren’t privy to this knowledge before construction, so now we have a garage floor with approximately 1″ of slope per 4′.  Or, 1/4″ of slope per 1′.  This doesn’t seem like much.  In fact, it’s barely perceptible with the naked eye.  HOWEVER, doing movements like back squats, box jumps, double-unders, or wall balls, and this imperceptible difference becomes all-consuming.

So, it became obvious fairly quickly that we needed to level out the garage (aka, gym) floor.  After spending about $2k on some badass Crossfit equipment, the last thing we wanted was to bastardize our WODs with a sloped floor.  The need was obvious.  The how was not. After a few dozen or so conversations with my very handy boss and others at work, I had ideas ranging from pouring cement to building a platform by ripping 2×4’s.  The cement idea was enticing due to it’s supposed simplicity, and the platform idea was enticing because it would require me to buy a table saw.  *insert big, cheesy grin here*  However, once I put more thought into the concrete solution, the permanence of it wasn’t very appealing.  Not to mention that cement doesn’t level itself.  BUT WAIT!  There is something similar that does level itself… the aptly named Self-Leveling Compound used to level floors prior to laying tile.  Angled WineKinda like the wine in this glass will “find” level despite the slope of the glass, self-leveling compound will “find” level in the area that it’s poured.  Hmm… although still a permanent solution, it’s definitely the easiest option we had.  So, I pulled myself together, grabbed the car keys, and headed to Lowes to buy materials.  I bought 4 bags of self-leveling compound and enough 2×4’s to build the frame.  Just when I got back home, Susan decided to wake up.  As I excitedly explained to her that I’d found the solution for our gym floor problem, I could see that she wasn’t pleased.  Like, at all.  After about 5-6 hours of debate, she convinced me that the platform solution was the preferred method because it’s not permanent.  She’s very persistent.  And, I was going to get a table saw out of the deal.  So….. we decided that we’d go back to Lowes the following morning to return my original purchases and buy lumber to build the platform.

The next morning arrived, we loaded up in the trusty Murano, and headed back to Lowes.  We were walking back to the lumber section when we passed a display of shims.  I stopped in my tracks.  “Babe!”  I yelled to Susan who was marching purposefully towards the 2x4s.  “Look at these… these could work!”  I didn’t even need to explain myself.  She was right there with me.  We loaded up our arms with shims, and redirected our course to the plywood aisle.  There, we loaded up a cart with progressively thicker pieces of plywood.

1/4″, 15/32″, 1/2″, & 23/32″

Through sheer luck, and maybe a little divine intervention, we had a solution that only cost $80 (compared to the $300+ solution with the self-leveling compound).  Plus, the plywood and shims solution is not permanent.  It’s not even attached to the ground!  It’s simply held in place by the 100# rubber gym mats.  So, at this point, you’re probably wondering exactly how we did this.  It couldn’t have been easier.  Seriously.

We had Lowes cut the 4×8′ sheets of plywood down to 2×4′ strips.  That saved us some cutting and the inconvenience of all the sawdust that cutting generates.  (Have I mentioned that I don’t get my table saw after all?!?!)  But I do get a level gym floor, so I’m not complaining too much.
When we got back home, we simply started laying the 2×4 strips of plywood onto the garage floor.  Just as the slope of the garage floor gradually increases, we laid the plywood in order of thickness.

Garage Floor Graphic.001

I tried to illustrate what we did in a graphic, because we didn’t take the best pictures of this project.  (Note to self: take more and better pictures of your projects!)  Ugh… anyway, hopefully this graphic helps.  We played around with the placement of the shims a lot, trying to achieve the best level that we could.  If you look at the picture below, I think we got it pretty darn close!  🙂  Obviously, you’ll want to test level and play with the placement of the shims prior to putting the gym mats on top.  Unless, of course, you’re considering this your workout for the day, and then by all means, haul those 100# mats all over the place!  A minimum 4′ level is necessary to accurately test level in a space like this.

Check it out!  You can see the slight raise between the section of flooring that we leveled, and the rest of the floor.  We might level off one more 4′ section, because as you can see in the picture, there isn’t much room to back up from the rack once you grab the weight.

Completed Gym

Pretty badass garage gym, eh?  Yeah, we thought so too.

25 thoughts on “Leveling the Garage Floor for Gym

  1. This could be my solution! I have a garage that has a center drain and the floor tapers towards it. I was wondering what kind off plywood you used (smooth, particle, pressure treated, pine, maple, etc). I was also wondering what kind of mat you used and where you got it. Did you only shim the edges of the plywood; if so, does it have any bounce our curve in the middle? One more thing… I see you posted this over a year ago. How are they holding up? Sorry for the dumb questions but I don’t wanna screw it up too bad. Thank you very much for posting this and helping me out!

    1. Great questions! We used the regular particle board plywood (the cheap stuff). The rubber gym mats were purchased from MDUSA. Rogue sells them, too. They aren’t cheap, but definitely worth the investment.
      For the first 2 sections (the ones described in this blog), I did only use the shims at the edges of the plywood. However, after I wrote this, we decided to extend it a 3rd section. That section required some shims in the middle to offset the ‘soft spots.’ It’s really the type of thing where you have to play around to find the best placements for the shims. The last thing I’ll mention is that we did attach a 1×2″ board to the final edge (where the flat sections end and the rest of the driveway start). This helps to hold everything in place, and not slide around and cause gapping when doing things like burpees. I’ll try to find a picture to include.
      Good luck! Hope you can get a nice, level surface to workout on.

  2. I planned on edging it with wood and maybe rubber just to give it a uniform look and prevent moisture and debris from getting underneath. I’m putting a full rack on the plywood. Shouldn’t have to worry too much about it shifting unless I tend to bail out of a lot of lifts. I hope I can do some lifts on the side of my rack with some bumper plates ( future investment). I guess if it shifted I would just re-shim. Yes that’s a word now. I almost thought of making a platform but that would take a ton of tweaking, and if one section shifted the wholebplatform would. Doesn’t sound like fun.

    1. Seems like you would have to glue whatever kind of material you used for it, unless you only put a board on the thickest outside 23/32″ board

  3. How did you obtain your measurement on the slope? I have a two car garage with a slope and I really want to make it as a gym.

    1. Hello! 1″ per 4′ is pretty standard for garages. But if you’d like to measure exactly, a long level is the easiest method. Lay a 4′ (or longer) level on the ground and just lift one end of the level until the bubble centers. Then, measure the distance between the bottom of the level and the ground.
      You can also use string and a string level. Just tape the string to the floor at your back wall, and run the string to the front of your garage. Hold the string so the string level shows level (this will take a 2nd person), and then measure the distance between the floor and the string.
      Hope one of these methods work for you!

  4. What type of shims (size?/wooden?) did you guys buy? Looking to level out the platform in my garage in the next week

  5. Your post speaks to me on so many levels lol! Wife and I started a Crossfit garage gym and I had entertained all the ideas you mentioned. Eventually settled on building a leveled lifting platform. I’m not the greatest handy man so had a buddy come over and help me build it (aka he built I learned). It’s very nice, but really breaks up the space in the garage. How have the wood shims held up with dropping the weights? Thinking about disassembling my platform & using the particle board to make a leveled false floor with wood shims throughout the garage. However, I’m Worried it won’t be strong enough when weight is dropped.

    1. Hi there! Well, our floor has held up well, but I suspect you’re lifting (and dropping!) far more weight than me! Lol
      But over 3+ years of use, we haven’t had any shifting or displacement of shims.
      I wonder if some gorilla glue on the shims would help to hold them in place even more?
      Good luck with your decision!

      1. Thanks for the reply!! That’s awesome it’s held up so long. Not sure about the weight lol. I was actually more curious when you dropped your weight if any has busted through the particle board? Side story (which is why I ask). First morning after “we” made leveled lifting platform 1.0, I did a snatch and once dropped it went straight through both pieces of plywood under the stall matts. There was a small tear shed. Lifting platform 2.0 included more reinforced timber at the “drop” sights.

  6. Oh wow! No, nothing like that ever happened for us. It sounds like the difference is the spacing between the original garage floor and your platform. More space = more opportunity for bust-through? Our “platform” really isn’t a platform… it’s just progressively thicker plywood with some very small shims. So, there’s essentially zero space or gaping between the wood and the garage floor (i.e., really nothing to ‘bust through’).
    Plus, I still think you’re using significantly more weight than we are. LOL 🙂

  7. I had a similar situation as you guys and did something very similar but with lumber, which isn’t an ideal solution (spacing between lumber is 2′)

    Due to living in the Pacific NW (well technically Victoria BC) I opted to put down a layer of Dricore subflooring to allow any water that leaks into the garage to flow to the drain. With that said I’m pulling the platform apart to install a folding power rack and was looking for ideas when I came across your post.

    I like your plywood approach, and was wondering what your thoughts would be on cutting the various thicknesses of plywood into 1′ x 1′ squares and then screwing them together to stop them from slipping. For example, I could get to 0.875″ (nominal) by screwing together a square of 1/2″ and a square of 3/8″.

    Essentially the the layering would be: 1) concrete floor, 2) dricore, 3) “wedge” of increasing thickness made of 1’x1′ squares plus shims, 4) 1 “layer” of 3/4″ plywood, and 5) 3/4″ interlocking “horse stall mats”.

    Great post and I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on my plan.

    1. Yes! I think your plan would definitely help to prevent the slippage problem. It would also make it easier to achieve a perfectly level floor. It’s more work, but will definitely be worth it in the long run! I would consider using some construction adhesive to help hold the shims in place, also, since those had some slippage issues for me.
      Good luck!

      1. Hey Erin,

        It worked like a hot damn (what ever that means). I ultimately ended up screwing the shims in place as glue would be a nightmare to get just right (it was an iterative process to get the shim placement “dialed in”)

      2. That’s excellent to hear! So happy your plan worked. 🙂 And yes, dialing in the shims placement was definitely challenging!
        Thanks for sharing!

  8. thanks for this post. I installed my rack and then found out i have a slope in my garage. :). Will try this out and see if i can achieve what i need. Based on the measurements you i beleive i have a 1 degree slope so 1/4″ every foot.

    Was curious curious what if i just stack 1/4″ panels every 1′. I could then glue the panels as well and since horse stall mats will go over them it could work.

    I do plan on putting horse stall mats on top of these so it should hold and can also glue them togeter i guess.

    1. It’s crazy how that little 1/4″ of slope will drive you crazy while working out, isn’t it?? Yes, I think using the 1/4″ panels and building up as you go to maintain level would work well. Especially if you use some glue and put the stall mats on top. Should work great! Good luck!

      1. haha ya my issue was that I mounted the wall rack level which then caused it to have issues since floor had a slope 😂. I had no idea that garages were sloped lol.

        I actually ended up going with your solution as I don’t have a saw and not sure Home Depot would have done that many cuts. I did ended up stacking some of the panels anyways. Will be glueing them together. Not perfect level but ah least the rack can be mounted on the wall. Thanks again for this write-up 👍🏽.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: