Do not expect a long montage of pictures for this. I’ll admit I failed almost completely here, and did not get very many as it was being constructed. So you will have to enjoy the small set that I have here:
As you can see a few design changes were already incorporated. Instead of the large wooden cross beams that I had in my drawings, we were able to instead use two large pedestals. This allowed two things. The first a much easy way of hiding all the cables from the floor up to the table, and the second, provide a some hidden storage space with drawers.
We have a table design, check. We are building out the basement, check. We know what will go where… uhm. Well yes. Obviously in parallel to the basement being rebuilt we had to know fairly clearly of what would be in the basement and where. This had to include where electrical outlets would be, where lights would illuminate the awesome planned games, and where everyone would actually be sitting. And maybe some entertainment in case we needed to watch some Anime at 100db.
Much like the design of the floor plans themselves, we went through a lot of different iterations of the layout as well. We had settled on one main configuration until the slight mis-step with the lack of two steps on the stairs changed everything for us. This is what we had originally:
As you can see, we have our gaming table, a nice little office, a couch area with a monster TV for our cat girl needs. But, with some of the space change, especially a doorway moving, we needed something new.
It was a difficult decision, but one that had to be made somewhat quickly since it impacted a lot of the infrastructure installations. We ended up with the third choice which then influenced all of our other decisions. Such as shelving:
And now we are settled on the build, the layout, and the furniture. So, where the hell is my table?
Once we bought our final house and my wife and I started discussing the details of the decor and design that we would have, she made an interesting proposal to me. I would be allowed to do anything I want underground as long as she held sway above ground. I mean, really? What an awesome deal! Of course renovating a house built in 1950 required a lot of decisions all the way around, but free reign in my own space? BWAHAHAHAHAAH!
Yes. Besides rubbing my hands together and cackling like a B-Movie villain, I was ready for this task. I had a 1100 sq ft unfinished basement that I could do anything I wanted to. I confirmed my wife’s commitment to this, and praised her continuously for her foresight to let me go on this endeavor.
Once I started working on the design I realized there were many problems to solve. And since this was under the house my options might be severely limited. Here are the original images of the basement.
The floor plan was basically this when we started:
While an interesting space it had a lot of problems for the future Cave of Awesomeness and Gaming. The first thing that was needed was to rearrange everything into different spaces that made better use of the space. We went through a lot of different designs before coming up with something that was close to what we wanted.
With the last design we seemed to have a winner in many ways. One of the primary issues with the basement was the 7′ ceilings. I was given two choices, one was to raise the house, which probably would not have flown well in the historical neighborhood I am in, or to dig down. Dig down? Hmmm, underground lair… BWAHAHAHAHAAH!
Yes, digging down. I did not really understand what that would entail until the work actually began. To gain two feet of space means they had to dig down four feet, and build a giant french drain under the entire basement floor to handle the ground water that would be seeping up. Then there was the need to reinforce the basement walls. In the end we ended up with 17″ thick concrete walls, a 16″ thick concrete floor, and two sump tanks, one of which is three feet wide and seven feet deep. Two steel beams cross the ceiling holding the entire house up off the basement allowing us to not need any pillars in any of the rooms. We could hide them all in the walls.
Yes, if you ignore the wooden house above me, I do have a bunker. Minus the roof that is… so close.
After removing 600,000 lbs of material in the basement they were able to start building it all back.
In retrospect, this was a huge job. And yes, they did start all the digging manually. There was not sufficient room for an excavator, yet. They needed to selectively remove sections of the floor, rebuild it, then add in the new wall to the old wall so that the house could be supported. Then remove the rest of the floor. We also discovered a horrifying fact. With the age of the house, the sewage pipes were all made of iron. Old rusty iron. Old rusty iron pipes that were stuffed full… Yes, full. In fact the iron pipes were so soft they could be crushed and ripped apart with your bare hands. Well, assuming you did not mind your hands full of shit.
By finding this issue, we saved ourselves from a catastrophe in the next few years when they would have exploded all of the new man cave.
The next stage was to start putting the pieces in.
And now that we had some reinforcement we were able to finally breach the outside wall and bring in real heavy gear.
And more walls go up
And with our only true egress point sealed again the only way in and out of the basement was via a ladder. Here you can see laying out conduit for floor power where the table will go eventually. Because the entire floor will be concrete this was our only chance to put in the conduit and plan for any future cabling that might be needed. This also locked us into position for where the table would have to go.
And now closing it all up.
And the sump tanks. One small one for the private toilet. Private, it’s mine damn you! And one for all the house french drains. Both have a dual pump system. The one on the big tank is so powerful that when it is on, it blows water for three feet into the street from the outtake pipe. Do not stand near it when it goes.
It was time to start putting the stairs back in and walls and such. When we found one small issue. An issue of two steps. It seems we mis-measured the distance of how far the treads will go, and the stairs would intrude into the base area more than we had originally counted for. We had to go back to the drawings and revise them on the fly since everything was on schedule. We ended up with this modified plan.
Basically we moved the entry to the office to under the stairs and closed up the space at the bottom of the stairs. This did cause a couple weeks of stress until we worked it all out. In the end, this design worked out much better, but now introduced new desires that could not be filled. There was now a natural wet bar area that we were not able to put a sink into. Sigh.
Because we had the very thick concrete walls, we decided to go with steel frame for all the outside walls and wood for the interior ones. This allowed the steel frames to be mounted straight to the concrete walls. For insulation we put in three inches of dense spray foam sealing up the perimeter as tightly as possible.
And lastly all the mechanical and plumbing was installed, followed by drywall. Of all the construction on the house, this was the most extensive and time consuming. While all the construction for the whole house took nine months, the basement was four months of that work.
I was pretty excited to jump in and start drawing up something. I quickly realized several things.
I am not an artist
I am a poor draftsman
I suck at drawing
I can use a ruler and measuring tape somewhat competently.
And to make sure, I am not an artist
Yes, I quickly went from many pieces of mangled graph paper to a basic graphics drawing program. No, I did not spend the money for AutoCAD. While useful, I knew that I really only needed a rough drawing for the planned table since I was commissioning someone else to build it for me. My competence is in other areas than woodworking. I needed fairly accurate measurements, but even those would change over time as the design would update during the build to deal with real world physics as well as the actual size of the room it would be placed within.
I started with something simple:
The first design was really to start figuring out the features and basic size of what I wanted. I wanted something that was bar height so that my group could sit or stand at the table. It was important to future proof by providing a deep well in the middle of the table to either hold 3D terrain features or better yet, a television for virtual table top play. Deciding on which size TV would go in it controlled many of the future measurement decisions.
From there, there would be a need for drawers and storage and a fine tuning of where the total design was going. It was also at this point that it was decided to go with a 65″ TV in the future. Putting a little extra space on all the sides, this is what I went with:
Admitted there were a very large number of revisions between each of the images that are shown, but these do represent the major revision points. Continuing to think about the details, it was also clear that power would be needed not only for the eventual TV, but for all the players, as everyone has a multitude of electronics for gaming but just because.
And finally, the almost completed design. Trying to be complete with all the design pieces all on one piece of paper. This was the final drawn design that was created.
Admitted, there were still a lot of assumptions on my part and the design itself. I was concerned that there would not be sufficient stability of the table considering what would be the tremendous weight of the top. It seems I overthought this too much and there was a much more simple solution once we started building this beast.
The dream of many gamers is that moment when you have enough space, cash on hand, and a burning desire to put it all in together into the perfect gaming space. Especially getting the table to end all tables to work for the next 40 years of gaming. I, like many middle-aged somewhat affluent gaming enthusiasts, decided that splurging on the ultimate gaming space was much better than some sex kitten half my age and a suicidal crotch rocket. Even better, I even had my wife’s permission!
I now had several items I needed to research as well design a space to hold my ultimate man-cave. I decided to start on the table part first since at the time, the house part did not really exist. There were a very large amount of DYI tables as well as several commercial ones that even made me drool and whoop for absolutely no reason at all.
First were a bunch of the DYI ones:
This lead me to the ultimate expression of a commercial version of a gaming table. Topping up over $15,000 the Sultan Gaming table and it’s brethern were awesome to behold:
By Loki’s twisted teet! Of course it was going to require me to rob a small bank and wait 18 months to receive that monstrous piece of cherry heaven. The company making them is completely out of business because they could not keep up with demand. I never knew that there were that many gamers with that much money burning a hole in their pocket. Maybe I should get out more and start convincing them that I need that money.
Then there was this wonderful DYI model which took a lot of the nice features of the Sultan table and even provided a model:
I think I now had enough information to get started.
I have been playing role-playing-games since the mid-70’s. I cannot actually remember all the different games I have played at this point. I did have an almost 20 year break between my heavy gaming days and just a few years ago. A lot of my alternate, IE, not D&D based books and such are all gone, but I still remember most of them fondly.
I have been in the computer industry for far too long and maybe one day my wife will let me retire. I did build myself a man cave after all.