A survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that 47% of home buyers say having an exercise room in their home is desirable or even essential. The pandemic certainly increased homeowners’ desire for a dedicated exercise room, as many people’s access to their usual fitness options were cut off during lockdowns. However, Rose Quint, assistant vice president of survey research for NAHB, noted that the increase is part of a longer-term trend that started in the early 2000s.
In fact, the share of buyers who wanted an exercise room increased by six percentage points between 2003 and 2007, and between 2015 and 2018. It jumped another seven points in 2020, NAHB found.
Quint notes that this desire holds across multiple demographics, too.
“While ‘only’ 47% of buyers overall want an exercise room, cross-sectional analysis shows that a majority of buyers in certain demographic groups are interested in this room: Millennials (61%), Gen Xers (62%), and buyers paying half a million dollars or more for their home (67%),” she wrote in a blog post announcing the results.
Although a lot of what makes a room an “exercise room” will fall on buyers’ shoulders, there are some design and construction aspects that builders should consider to give buyers more flexibility in designing these spaces.
Reinforced floors or walls. A few dumbbells and a yoga mat won’t create any issues for homeowners, but if they want to build a more elaborate home gym, with weight machines, treadmills or a chin-up bar, there may need to be some infrastructure in place first. Eric Hanson, founder and president of at Anchor Engineering, noted that spinning weight in popular exercise machines like Pelotons or ellipticals can cause vibrations that can be felt in other rooms if the floor framing isn’t confined to that room.
“Solid blocking, sometimes pretty significant solid blocking, to support wall-mounted equipment may even need to be engineered,” Hanson said, and equipment that rests on relatively small feet may cause sagging in the subfloor. Builders “might want to consider going to 1 1/8-inch floor sheathing for fitness rooms so that they don’t have to worry about blocking as much.”
[Related: Homeowners prioritize privacy, even outside]
Flooring. Durable, slip-resistant or easy-to-clean flooring can help make a flex room more suitable for exercise. Cork or rubber flooring helps absorb shock and noise, and vinyl flooring can be a good choice for lower impact areas.
Acoustics. Weights and treadmills can be loud. In addition to situating a room away from bedrooms or an office space where someone is trying to have a Zoom call, sound baffles can help reduce unwanted noise.
Danielle Andrus was previously the managing editor for Colorado Builder, and is currently Editor for the Journal of Financial Planning.