Backyard Gym Shed: 5 dynamic things to consider

gym shed exercise with dog

Backyard Gym Shed: what you need to know

The Quick Guide To Creating A Gym Shed In Your Backyard

5min read
by Olesia Chikunova, ADU Specialist.

A home gym is a go-to solution to motivate, reach and upkeep your fitness and training goals. It ensures you can tailor your gear to your specific needs while being available whenever you need it.

Despite the benefits of having one, creating a gym in your San Francisco Bay Area home isn’t always feasible or financially sensible. When $1,200 is the average cost per square foot for a San Francisco real estate, space is a luxury.

backyard studio gym for two

Why would you use precious space in your house to accommodate exercise equipment? Why would you transform a garage for workout space? Your backyard is the ideal space to build a gym shed unique to your needs.

You can leverage the unused grassy space in your backyard to set up a fully functioning and aesthetic gym shed.

Here’s a quick guide on creating a backyard gym shed.

Can I Build a Gym Shed in my Backyard?

Doubling up: guest room and gym

Yes, you can build a gym shed in your backyard. The difficulty and duration of the build will depend on the complexity of your gym.

Although building a gym shed in your backyard is possible, you can’t build any ol’ wooden structure that resembles a garden or tool shed. First, it won’t be safe, and second, it likely won’t be legal.

Sheds larger than 120 square feet or with electrical lights and outlets need a local permit to build. Backyard gym shed is not your regular storage shed. If you want an air-conditioned space or room to clean up after getting sweaty, electrical and plumbing permits are also necessary.

Hire a company that specializes in building gym sheds and similar detached units. Navigating the permitting process will be quicker and cheaper. The vendor of the gym shed will handle the work for you.

Backyard fitness studio

Should I Build a Gym Shed Now?

There’s no time like the present for building a home gym. If you’re contemplating building a backyard gym shed, it’s best not to wait to start. Your motivation and commitment can waiver. You may find yourself distracted by other projects. By the time you decide to pursue the project, building materials, labor, and permitting costs will be far higher than they are now. (And yes, we also thought they could not go any higher, yet here we are.) So, while you’re still considering whether to build your backyard gym shed, assess these benefits.

Kickstart New Year Fitness Goals

Definitely pursue building a home gym shed if “now” is the second half of the year. Typically, builders revise their costs at the beginning of the year. Meaning if you wait a few short months, you could be spending thousands more than you would otherwise. The builders also live with raging inflation.

Furthermore, when building in the second half of the year, you’re preparing for your new year fitness goals.

Reduce Setbacks and Obstacles

Home gyms are often used more than gym memberships because of the inconvenience of going to a gym. Think of commuting, followed by finding and paying for parking as a close second. Then, you have to wait for the most popular machines and endure the sensation of feeling the equipment’s heat. Ever thought of ,those germs and sweat from the previous person still on the equipment?

A home gym solves this. You can decide to exercise before heading to work or when you return, on weekends, twice a day, or whenever it suits you. You never have to concern yourself with opening, peak, or closing hours and factor in a commute.

An $11 smoothie or $7 press juice won’t tempt you every time you go to the gym.

Train Whenever and with Whomever

Training with friends is an known excellent motivator. Wait times coupled with the limited space means training with friends isn’t doable at most gyms. With a backyard gym that changes. You can invite friends to train whenever -without feeling as though they’re invading your space.

Does a Backyard Gym Shed Increase Property Value?

A well-built home gym adds a premium to your property value. Depending on how you permitted it, this value may even appreciate over time.

If it had been permitted as an accessory structure with no plumbing, a future owner can use the space as an office or keep the setup for their gym.

However, an appraiser will most likely add only whatever you spent to the property value. So please keep the invoices from your contractor and make sure they refer to “shed home gym”.

If you had it permitted as an accessory dwelling unit, this is a completely different story for an appraiser. A well-built backyard gym shed adds premium square footage to your livable space.

If used as an accessory dwelling unit, the shed may generate income. A studio apartment with more than 150 square feet of space can fetch upwards of $1,000. Depending on the location of your home, that figure could increase to $1,400 a month.

Rental and property prices are again increasing in San Francisco Bay Area. If you decide to sell the property, a gym shed can make your home more appealing to a potential buyer.


Weightlifting exercise in gym

How Big Should a Detached Backyard Gym Shed Be?

Your exercise routine and your finance options drive the size of your gym.

Your own personal gym can be as small as 120 or 180 square feet if your workout plan includes hand weights and a yoga mat. If you need a lot of equipment, you will need plenty of room to ensure comfort of use and easy access.

As a quick guide, at least 7′ x 8′ space is required for the free weights setup with dumbbells and a bench, more if you are taller than an average person. You do not want to bump your head or your knees on the nearest walls. Weight bench may require up to 70 square feet of space. Do not forget to consider the ceiling height.

Large cardio equipment such as treadmills and rowing machines, as well as a lifting platform, will comfortably fit in 300 square feet.

Do you plan to train alone or with a personal trainer or a friend or family members? If the latter, much more floor space is required.

Will your home gym shed have a bathroom? Will you mind trekking across the garden after every gym session?

Then there’s the type of workout equipment you want in your backyard gym shed as you have to take into account the space you need between your machinery.


Your gym needs outlets too.

The Cost of Building a Detached Home Gym Shed

A home gym shed costs about $300 to $500 a square foot to build. Anything less than this ballpark figure may mean you’re getting substandard workmanship. Or you could end up spending a fortune on extra costs and fees, not included in the initial quote.

Furthermore, $300 to $500 is the base cost, you can expect to pay a bit more for features that aren’t in the standard build.

To build an aesthetic 180-square-foot detached backyard gym shed in San Jose, expect to pay $89,000. That figure includes plumbing — for an ensuite bathroom — and electrical. The build is complete in two months, and plans are available. Step by step process allows you to start the project without paying the entire five-figure sum upfront. Beware of permitting timeline though. This is the least predictable part of the process.

What to Consider When Building a Backyard Gym Shed?

Now, it’s time to turn your attention to building the shed. The design and layout will determine its lifespan and function. Since the design is flexible, you’ll need to begin by envisioning your space, specifically, the type of home gym studio you want.

The Types of Home Gym Studios

To truly get use out of your home gym, you should build it around the kind of workouts you intend to do. Of course, these may change, but your workouts will determine:

  1. Power outlet placement
  2. Square footage and ceiling height
  3. Flooring
  4. Design
  5. Window placement and lighting


Please, discuss the activity with the builder before commencing the project. It guarantees your backyard gym shed is a safe thoughtfully built space.

Yoga Studio

If you’re using the space as your home yoga studio, you’ll only need to account for a yoga mat in your space equation. If you’re using the standard 68-inch long and 24-inch wide yoga mat, calculating the amount of space you need to feel comfortable is straightforward.

Part of your calculation should be how many other people will join the class and whether you’ll be leading a class.

If you’re leading a class, your calculation will require space for your mat in the first row, followed by two to three rows of mats for attendees.

Concrete slab is not required for this type of workout shed. Good lighting is, as ideally you want morning sun rays for your morning sun salutations.

Workout Space

With strength or weight training, bodybuilding, or weight loss training, your workout space has many moving parts.

You’ll need at least 6 ft or more space for stretching or resistance training (with resistance bands). You could also need cardio equipment like a treadmill, rowing machine, or exercise bike.

You will likely need power outlets for any equipment requiring electricity to function.

Knowing where you’ll put every piece of equipment will help when positioning power outlets.

Power racks, leg presses, squat racks, or any combination of these, require suitable flooring and foundation for their weight.

Consider the racks for your heavy weights when determining flooring and space. You’ll need a dumbbell and barbell rack and an optional kettlebell rack.

This equipment adds to the weight you’re placing on the floor, so discuss with your builder the option of a concrete floor.

Spinning or Cycling

If you want to use your gym shed for spinning or cycling, you’ll need to calculate space for an exercise bike or stationary bike. If you’re only using this piece of equipment, consider utilizing the rest of the area for something else — like a home office, a den, or a games room.

Golf Simulator

Most golf simulators require you to have a space of at least 12 ft long, 10 ft wide, and 9 ft high. For efficient practice, you want an area of about 22 ft long and 15 ft wide. In this space, you’ll place your tracking system, a screen enclosure or net, a projector, and a hitting strip or putting green.

Ballet/Dance Studio

A ballet or dance studio would typically require that you have floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a stretching dance barre, natural and artificial light, traditional wooden floors, and soundproofing.

You’ll also need shelving or closet space to store any extra equipment or your dancing attire.


Why telling your favorite sport to the builder is important?

Hint: Floors & Framing

The shed floors are linked to the type of activity you’ll be doing. You have the choice of a concrete or wood-framed floor. If you forego assessing your flooring — and, more importantly, framing — needs, what you can use the space for is limited.

Beyond the frame, you’ll also need to consider if, for example, you want built-in heavy-duty rubber floor tiles or laminate or wood flooring.

The latter enables the room to be used for anything else in the future but could affect the aesthetic and function of your workout space, especially if you’re doing strength training.

Concrete is paramount for strength training, as laminate or wood flooring can crack and break under the force and weight of your routine.

If you plan to use any wall mount equipment, blocking between the studs is critical.

Gym Shed Floor

What else to Consider When Building a Backyard Gym Shed?

Noise. Space. Ventilation.

Distance From Your Home

Ideally, you want your backyard gym shed to have plenty of natural light while maintaining privacy. The distance from your home will determine how much sunlight the backyard shed receives throughout the day. Will your house cast a shadow on the space? Too many grown trees? You can improve natural lighting by introducing skylights or light wells. The option of French Doors is an interesting solution to maintain the indoor-outdoor flow in the Californian climate.

But distance also tells us if soundproofing is necessary to avoid disturbing those in the main house or neighbors as you work out.

Who Will Be Using the Gym Shed

If you never intend to invite others into the space, your home gym calculations will be straightforward. Do you think you may invite a few friends, an instructor, or a personal trainer into the space? The gym shed’s dimensions should enable others to move freely.

Duration of Exercise

Do you intend to use the space for hours on end? Or to host clients yourself? In this case, you’ll want a far more durable frame than someone who only uses the space for one to two hours a day.

Your equipment will likely be heavier and larger if you’re using commercial-grade pieces. Air conditioning or at least a good vent will be beneficial.

Will Your Shed Reflect Design of the Main Home?

When building a backyard home gym, it should complement your primary residence. A cohesive design is essential to maintaining the appeal of your home. Plus, your Planning Department will have some opinions too.

Not every gym shed builder will take into account your home’s exterior as they typically use standard builds.

But even a standard build can receive a few aesthetic upgrades that make it complementary to your home. A well-designed gym shed adds aesthetic appeal to the backyard.

Think about what you’re currently using your backyard for, then calculate the cost of landscaping and upkeep. All that expense goes toward it being used now and then for a grill. Instead, you can transform it into a functional, year-round asset that helps you achieve your goals. It also saves $ on cost of a gym membership and adds value to your property. This should be enough to convince you — you need a dedicated space for your own personal gym.

Three ways to add space for your gym

tiny home studio

Tiny Home, Small ADU

Looking for a newly built detached solution with a bathroom and kitchenette? This type of projects start from $158,000.

Learn more
home office

Modern Shed

If all you need is an extra room for your fitness studio only, then a simple 120 sf backyard structure may work. Starting at $48,000.

Learn More
accessory structure

Accessory Structure

There are jurisdictions that allow accessory structures with plumbing fixtures. Permits required. Starting at $56,000.

Learn More

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