I’ve been going over to my next door neighbor’s house for years now to watch the Sacramento Kings play. I know there have been some rough seasons as of late, but my neighbor and I are diehards, so much so that we tend to make a little noise regardless of whether our guys are winning or losing. The problem is that my neighbor’s wife and kids aren’t nearly as big of sports fans as we are. They don’t exactly like all the cheering, groaning, and high-fiving. When the season ended this year, we started to think about finding ourselves a new place to watch the games.
Now, my household has heard us hooting and hollering from next door, and they didn’t want any part of all it. So, we decided to convert his outdoor shed into a so-called “man cave.” Basically, we needed to build a comfortable place where a couple of excited local boys could be Sacramento Proud in peace. My neighbor didn’t know where to start, but in my years as an HVAC technician, I’d been involved with quite a few similar conversion efforts. I told him that I’d seen plenty of cool man cave ideas, including converting old workshops into living spaces, but if he went that route he needed to be well aware of how to insulate a backyard shed. Otherwise, we might as well just watch the games outside.
When converting your outdoor shed into a man cave, or a family area where you and the kids will be regularly hanging out, insulation is key. Otherwise the high temperatures of our Northern California summers and the cool and rainy Mediterranean climate winters can make the interior of your newly converted space a bit miserable. Insulation ensures that a repurposed outdoor shed can be easily heated and cooled, so you can go back there and make all the noise you want without disturbing your family—or getting heatstroke.
Cool Man Cave Ideas 101: How to Insulate a Backyard Shed Basics
In my time as an HVAC professional, I’ve learned there are some inalienable truths to turning an outdoor shed into a cool man cave:
- Don’t skimp on seating, pillows, or the size of the TV.
- Decorate with cool sports, car, etc. posters you aren’t allowed to tack up in your house.
- Wooden sheds are far easier to convert into living spaces than aluminum ones.
- You must invest in high-quality insulation.
You can have a heater or an air conditioner installed, but it won’t be very effective because whatever air it generates will pass right through the walls, leaving you with a well-appointed, but not very comfortable, home away from home.
Let’s focus on that last one for a minute. Just think about it: You could have all the sports, beer, and buddies in the world at your side, but if it’s 100 degrees inside (or below 70) you won’t want to spend even a few minutes in your new man cave.
This is a conversion project, meaning you’re working with a shed that was likely only ever intended to hold a few tools, maybe some old sports equipment, and your lawnmower. It was made to hold outdoor equipment that is inherently resilient to extreme temperatures. Chances are the walls are wood and only wood, entirely devoid of insulation. What this means is that the air outside, whether it be hot or cold, can pass easily into and out of your shed. In other words, you can have a heater or an air conditioner installed, but it won’t be very effective because whatever air it generates will pass right through the walls, leaving you with a well-appointed, but not very comfortable, home away from home.
Installing the Perfect Insulation for a Backyard Shed
The point of my neighbor’s man cave is to insulate his family from our rowdy Kings cheering, but, just as important is the actual insulation that’s going to protect us sports fans from the elements. Here are some things to note when deciding how to insulate a backyard shed for watching a game with buddies:
- What should I insulate? The walls and roof of your shed turned man cave will definitely need insulation, and the floor might as well depending on the construction of your shed. If you have a wooden shed built on top of a concrete slab, insulation is unnecessary. But, if you have a wooden floor because the shed is elevated slightly to avoid flooding, you’ll need to consider fitting the floor with insulation, too, or air will leak out through the floorboards.
- How does the window impact insulation? A lot of outdoor sheds I deal with also have windows built into their walls. You’ll have to consider these, too, as windows are a prime culprit for energy inefficiency in any structure, and investing in double pane windows, for example, can improve insulation and make heating and cooling far easier.
- Does my shed need to be airtight? When all facets of a structure have been properly insulated, it forms an envelope that holds conditioned air in. This is what your ultimate goal is when insulating your new man cave. Even if you think your shed is in good shape, things like common storm damage to the thermal seal may surprise you. It’s best to have an insulation expert take a look and make sure your insulation is done properly.
Cooling Man Cave Insulation Options
Another important list that would-be cave dwellers like my neighbor need to consider is the different types of insulation:
- Loose insulation: Loose insulation is made of cellulose, and it’s a pretty old technology. You occasionally see it used these days, but I don’t recommend it for any new jobs.
- Fiberglass batting: This is one of the best ways to insulate against weather, because it’s affordable, easy to install, simple to work with, and effective. It’s also reasonably waterproof, which will be a necessity for you if the Sacramento area has another rainy winter like the one that just ended.
- Foam insulation: Foam insulation, also called spray-in insulation, is ideal for filling in nooks and crannies when a room has hard to reach spaces. This one’s a bit more expensive, but this insulation makes a strong case for its own value. It does an incredible job limiting gaps and filling in voids around joist bays, as well as breaks near electrical boxes, wiring, plumbing vents, or blocking.
Whichever insulation you choose, I think it’s important to remember ventilation in a small space like a converted shed. A 2-inch gap, for example, has to be left above the top of the insulation on the roof. You also have to have ventilators at the eaves. If this sounds tricky, it’s because it is. That’s why I suggest hiring a professional to execute the installation process.
I’ve seen my fair share of these types of conversion projects over the years. A man cave can be many things: a sports bar, a place to shoot some pool, or even just a quiet space to unwind. One thing it has to be, however, is comfortable—and that starts with ensuring it stays the right temperature.
Make sure you get the insulation right when converting your outdoor shed into a man cave. Call the professionals at Bell Brothers today for all your insulation needs.
Image courtesy Unsplash user Khara Woods