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Picture of DIY Man Cave (For Middle/High Schoolers)

I'm going to show you how to build a simple man cave. This Instructable will show you how to build an AWESOME hangout that is easy, relatively fast, and most importantly... COST EFFICIENT. This tutorial will fit most teenagers' budgets, and doesn't take a lot of work. So let's get started!

 
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Step 1: Preparation

Alright, to be honest, this is the hardest part. It's not necessarily required, but it may be helpful for some viewers. Feel free to skip it, though.

When preparing to build a man cave, the first thing you should think about is why. Why do you want to build it? Will you actually use it? What do you plan to do there? It would suck to build an awesome man cave, but never be able to hang out there.

The second thing you should think about is who. Who do you plan to invite into your man cave? It's probably not a good idea to invite your craziest friends, who will just trash the place. Trust me, I've learned from experience. Cleaning up after people is something you'll have to get used to, but to a certain extent, it's just plain obnoxious. Make sure everyone who is invited contributes somehow.

The third detail is where. You're obviously going to need a good place for it. Here's a good way to go about it: Take a look at your group of friends. Who doesn't have annoying siblings? Whose parents are the most lay-back? Who has at least some privacy in their house? Who has the most freedom? And of course, who has the BIGGEST room available? These are all good qualities in a host for your man cave.

The next thing you should know is what. What do you plan to add to your man cave? A mini-fridge? Lava lamps? A TV? Trophy heads? Find out before-hand some things that you think would be cool to add, but make sure everyone else thinks it's worth looking for.

Lastly, you need to know how. In order for this to work, everyone needs to pitch in. And trust me, ALL of your friends will have at least SOMETHING worth adding. Also tell people what to keep an eye out for, in case they see a good deal on an accessory you want. Garbage picking is also an option, or you could ask for items or money for Christmas or birthdays.

NOTE: Make sure you get a parents' permission. Not all parents are okay with leaving the renovating to their teenage son and his friends.

Step 2: Furniture

Furniture is the tricky part. You'll have to make sure that all of your furniture fits into the room. For example, if you're building it in a bedroom and not a basement, you're going to have to make a decision between a futon or two recliners, since you obviously can't have both. And the last thing you want is to garbage pick a couch and lug it all the way down your street, just to find out that it doesn't even fit through the door.

Probably the biggest mistake you can make on furniture (in this scenario, at least) is paying for it. Furniture is a surprisingly easy thing to find, and a lot of times, you can get your hands on it without spending a dime. It's a heck of a lot easier to find a free trampoline chair than free fountain speakers, so only spend money when there's no other alternative! Even just taking stuff that's already in your house and moving it into the room.

Also keep in mind that you may need more than yourself, your short friend, and his little sister to move a futon up two flights of stairs. The more people you have to help move furniture, the better.

A key phrase when building a low-budget man cave is that one man's trash is another man's treasure. If you're an 80-year-old man, you're not going to want a bunk bed. But if you're a teenager building a hangout with limited space, a bunk bed is just what you need.

NOTE: You may want to look into getting bean bag chairs. They're not super expensive, they're comfortable, and they don't take up a lot of space.

Step 3: Lighting

This is where it starts to get fun. There are so many different things you can do with lighting. You want to create a small amount of abnormal or irregular light (such as colored lights), but you should have regular lights, too. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here are some ideas.

Black Lights (Ultraviolet Lights)

Ever wondered how Laser Tag places and bowling alleys make your socks glow? The answer is black lights. I don't know any of the science behind it, but for whatever reason, black lights make cotton glow. You can also write on your hand with a highlighter, and although you can't see it in normal light, a black light will make the highlighter ink glow (This is how the stamps work at Chuck E. Cheese). It's also good for if everyone wants to go to sleep, but still wants a low light. Just don't have too many of them... you can get skin cancer. Black lights are available at most department stores, such as Home Depot.

Color-Changing Bulbs

Color-changing lights are pretty self-explanatory. There are higher and lower quality ones, but they all serve the same purpose. Just go with whatever is available to you. Be careful when using them; Don't leave them on at all times like other lights in the room, because they usually tend to have a shorter runtime. Plus, they're a bit pricey to replace. Color-changing lights are also available at places like Home Depot.

Lasers

Now, I'm not sure how you'd do this, because we haven't, but lasers would be an awesome addition to a man cave. They don't need to move or flash, just having them in a stationary position would be cool. But make sure you don't get ones that are too powerful. They have laser pointers that are strong enough to burn through a balloon (or the first layer of your skin).

Creative Lighting Ideas

There are lots of other ways to create good light other than light bulbs. Christmas lights are a good idea, which you can drape along the ceiling. Lava lamps, disco balls, & glass tesla balls are another good idea. We actually got a light-up globe from one of our friends, which sounds lame, but ended up being a good addition. There are all sorts of things to choose from.

DO NOT get strobe lights. Strobe lights are fun at a party, but not in a hangout. When you're trying to relax and have a conversation, they're distracting and obnoxious.

NOTE: Make sure that you have someplace to plug all these lights into. If you add up all the lights, the TV, a fan, phone chargers, etc, that adds up to a lot. Make sure to get an adapter.

Step 4: Wall Decor

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Wall Décor is a bit of a pain, but it's worth it in the end. It's is possibly the most important element as far as decorations. The choices are utterly limitless. Here are a few ideas.

Taxidermies

In movies and TV shows, every great hangout has at least one. Whether it's a deer head, a full-body fox, or even a chipmunk riding a rattlesnake, taxidermies are just a cool thing to have. If you don't hunt or know somebody who does, then it's going to be very hard and/or expensive to get one. But you can probably purchase them online on Ebay and other online markets.

Signs

Signs are an easy and cheap way to fill an empty wall. Some are available for purchase, such as "Beware of Dog" signs or different animal crossing signs. Funny signs are a great thing to have, too. Another option is street signs. No, I'm not telling you to go out and unscrew a street sign off its post. That's a terrible idea. But depending on the laws in your state, you can take and keep signs if they are damaged or torn out of the ground. Just make sure that some part of it is actually broken... for example if it's been pulled out of the ground just from the wind but not bent, then the city can just put it back in the ground. But if the pole rusted and broke in half, that's a different story.

License Plates

An easy thing to do is a license plate collection. Everybody has or has had at least one license plate that they no longer use. So basically, the more people you know, the more you can get. A good thing about license plates is that once they're no longer being used, people see no reason to keep them, making it easy to ask for them. One thing to be careful about is theft. If somebody stole any of those license plates, they could put them on the back of their car and frame someone else for a crime. Take this into consideration when starting your collection.

Posters

Posters are one of those so-so items that not everybody thinks are cool. The worst part is when somebody buys a poster of something that they and nobody else in your group of friends is interested in. For example, say one of your friends has an obsession with Harry Potter and spends 50 bucks buying a poster with a dragon on it, and gets upset when nobody else wanted it and they can't return it. Even if you find something that everyone is interested in, you may lose interest in that later on. So we've sort of abandoned the idea of posters.

Graffiti/Wall Art

Graffiti looks really cool when it's done correctly. Definitely DON'T just get out a can of spray paint and try to do it yourself. Screw up, and you've ruined everything. If you're not experienced, you should definitely find someone who is before taking a risk like that. Like if your cousin is an art student, you could ask them. Also pick a word that fits well and is appropriate. It would suck to have to carefully crop every picture you post on social media because there are big, bold letters that spell out the F-bomb across an entire wall.

If you want an image painted on the wall, it's the same thing as posters; choose something generic. Something nobody will think is dorky, no matter how old. Also don't pick something that will look extremely creepy when you turn off the lights. Basically anything that has eyes or is smiling will look creepy. Even if you're planning on pulling all-nighters, if it's somebody's bedroom, they're still going to have to sleep there on school nights.

NOTE: Make sure you have a reliable and efficient way to hang wall decorations. Having a giant moose head fall and smash your fish tank or TV is not very fun.

Step 5: Entertainment

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Entertainment is something people often neglect when building a man cave. Here's a basic rule: THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING TO DO. Especially if you have a big group of people, nobody is going to want to sit there for an hour at a time doing nothing but sitting around and talking. Either people will leave and go do something else, or they'll get stir-crazy and trash the place (both have happened to us in the past). You (and your parents) want absolutely no part of a room full of noisy teenage dudes who are hyped up and have nothing to do.

Here's a good game plan: Spend most of the day doing activities to get everyone tired out. Going to the movies, etc. Then, when you're all going back to the host's house, stop and get some chips, dip, pop, etc. By the time you get back, everyone will want to just sit down, chill out, and eat. That's when you can put on some music and play video games until everyone basically just crashes.

Step 6: Other Accessories

There are lots of other good accessories you can add to your man cave that I didn't put in the other categories. Here are a few. I listed them from cheapest and most practical to most expensive and least practical.

  • Bottle Lamp - Just looks cool.
  • Neon sign - Just looks cool.
  • Dog Bed - Your friends will probably use it more than your dog.
  • Trampoline chair - If you don't know what it is, just look it up.
  • Mini-fridge - Great because you don't have to go downstairs in the middle of the night for food or drinks.
  • Coffee table - Good thing to have between the TV and the couch.
  • Hammock - Hey, they're comfortable.
  • Bunk bed that's also a futon - Yes, they exist. And they're friggin awesome.
  • Slot Machine/Arcade Game - Extremely expensive, but if you have a chance to get one, take it.
  • Gumball Machine/Mini Vending Machine - Good way to force your friends into paying you back.
  • Water Bed - Everybody wishes they had one.
  • Pool Table/Ping Pong Table/Air Hockey Table/Foosball Table/Stick Hockey - Expensive and takes up a lot of space, but it's good for basement man caves.

Step 7: Things you didn't know you needed

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Now that you've got the difficult stuff done, this is the next step. These are the things that everybody completely forgets about until they've finished their man cave, and continue forgetting to add them. Get this done, and you're all set.

Trash Can

It sucks to not have a trash can. In fact, most of your friends will be too lazy to walk down the hallway to the bathroom to throw away their wrappers, and just throw it on the ground and kick it under the bed. This is why a trash can is very important, and saves you a lot of work.

Tissue Box

Chances are you're going to be hanging out there over the summer, and summer means allergies. One of our friends has the worst summer allergies I've ever seen, and will go through a whole box of tissues in one night. This is another reason it's important to have a trash can.

Clock/Alarm

Now, we all have that one friend who has to go to church the next morning after partying on a Saturday night. This is where an alarm clock comes in handy. You can tell how late it is even if everybody's phones are out of battery, and you have an alarm to wake up whoever has to leave early.

Window

Now, this part shouldn't be too hard. Unless you're in a basement, it can get very hot and muggy in there, regardless of whether or not the AC is on. An open window will help cool the room, and give you some fresh air. And we're lucky, because we can climb out the window and onto the roof at night, and look at the sky, which is awesome.

Closet or Storage Space

This may not apply to everyone, but you may need a place to store extra equipment. Brooms, vacuums, and feather dusters should always be within reach. Also, if you have anything that needs to be fixed or needs a bulb replaced, you can put that there, too. In our case, we have lots of supplies for the animals we keep; Extra filters, fish food, litter, etc. Decide for yourself whether or not you'll need it.

Fan

Depending on what climate you live in, at least one fan is essential. Especially if you're like us, where the air conditioning works in every room EXCEPT the one we built our man cave in. And a window isn't always enough, especially if it's really humid. We got lucky, because we garbage-picked two fully functioning tower fans. Like I've said before, one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Fly Swatter

I think you can assume why this is important.

Step 8: Pets (Optional)

Okay, now this isn't always something that applies to everyone (or their budgets), but pets are a lot of fun. Here's some animals that would be great to have. But make sure to do your research!

Ferret

Unlike what your parents tell you, ferrets are anything but wild pests. Ferrets were bred from a relative of the weasel known as the European Polecat, and are DOMESTIC-- not wild. In fact, one of the reasons they were domesticated was for pest CONTROL, much like cats, who are skilled hunters. Ferrets are just as easy as a hamster or guinea pig, and are a lot more fun, since they're playful like puppies. However, they are in the weasel family, so they carry a musk gland, just like their wild cousins, one of which is the skunk. Of course, ferret musk is nothing compared to skunk spray, but you may have to get an air freshener.

Parakeet

One, two-- even three? Have however many you can afford, the common Budgerigar, or "Budgie" will get along just fine with any of its own kind. Usually priced around $20 each, parakeets are popular pets. But be careful; they are delicate and can be noisy or sometimes messy.

Turtle

Turtles are great pets. The most common species for sale are the Red Eared Slider, Painted Turtle, and Mississippi Map Turtle. If none of these are appealing to you, look at native species in your state. Most states have at least a dozen turtle species that you can catch in your own backyard, and they'll adjust easily to a captive environment!

Fish

Fish have a reputation of being boring pets. NOT true. Remember that little inch-long goldfish you had as a kid? That was the cheapest and lamest fish on the market; a Comet Goldfish, or otherwise known as a feeder fish. That's right, a fish so cheap and so worthless, it's bred specifically to be fed to other animals. There are tons of awesome fish out there, you just have to look for them! Or you can catch common wild fish, like bass, perch, bluegill, etc.

NOTE: Wild reptiles, fish, and amphibians won't normally eat pellets or flakes. Worms, bloodworms, krill, shrimp, or feeder fish are what you should try.

Step 9: Maintaining your Man Cave

Now, you're finished. Go ahead and lay back, and admire the work you've done. Wasn't as hard as it sounded, right? However, now that it's complete, you're going to have to start maintaining your man cave. It can be a bit of a chore, but if you want your man cave to last, it's essential.

As with any gathering, being the host means having to clean up after everybody. Now, a single gum wrapper, an accidental Hawaiian Punch spill, or a couple of pop cans isn't a big deal. But there are a few things that you shouldn't put up with or allow. In fact, if it's to a certain extent, you may have to resort to expulsion from the man cave.

  • Leaving all their garbage or clothes on the ground
  • Spilling all their food or drinks on stuff
  • Leaving their food out and not finishing it
  • Breaking things
  • Refusing to help clean up
  • Not contributing in any other way

These are all signs that you're being used. I'm not saying you have to stop being friends with them or anything like that. But sometimes, people just need to be put in their place, you know?

Another thing you should take into account is how your parents feel. Obviously, it was really cool of them to let you build this place to begin with, and even more so that they're putting up with your friends. Don't abuse this privilege, and make sure to thank them!