Studio Build Out Costs & Projections

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Whenever you’re looking at your first studio location or you’re looking to open a new location it’s important to have a solid projection of what everything is going to cost going into it. The reason is that you’ll want to know what your budget should be set at and if the breakeven is going to be worth it. Sometimes, 2 different spaces can vary widely and it’s best to take into account all your one-time and fixed costs before committing to a space. In this post I have laid out for you the top soft and hard costs to calculate before you make the jump:

Choosing a first-time or new location can be both exciting and a little daunting…

Especially since you’re about to lay down a huge investment in time, money, and energy.

That’s why it’s crucial you do your homework before committing to a new space that will require you to complete a build-out, outfit the space, and sign a lease that you’re locked into (see previous post on lease negotiations).

Today, I’d like to share with you some of my experiences with the hard and soft costs associated with opening a studio and what you can expect. Plus, I’ll hopefully be able to provide you with some real world tips that may just save you 10’s of thousands of dollars… like it has for dozens of my coaching clients who were opening new and multiple location studios/gyms.

Okay, so here we go!

(Keep in mind that all costs are estimate values and they are based on my current 497 sq/ft fitness floor and about 200 ft in changing room, bathroom, consultation/trainer office, and my office.)

I had to build out my studio fast since I had just left my consulting work and my landlord wasn’t giving me much time to work there rent free before I had my first month’s rent due. Because I had a tight deadline I ended up getting everything done in about 4-5 weeks when it really should have taken 12!

Hard Costs:

Hard costs involve anything that are actual construction costs (e.g. plumbing, framing, trim). They are also typically upfront, one time only charges. Of course you can finance the costs with a bank loan or on credit cards (if accepted)  if you don’t want to pay out the cash up front.

I paid for all of my build out costs every few weeks when a bill was due from a contractor because I couldn’t get a bank loan and for the most part contractors don’t take credit cards…

So, I needed to know ahead of time what all my hard costs would be to make sure I had the money to build out my space.

Keep in mind that some spaces are delivered as a “shell” (no walls, etc.) and you have the ability to easily construct a space. With my location, however, it was an old massage studio and had walls and sinks everywhere. I had to have the whole place demolished… and since I’m on the 4th floor it wasn’t easy to get great prices due to the workers having to climb 4 flights of stairs each trip with equipment and supplies….

But, you just do what you can and control what you can control.

Also, after I got quotes from the electrician, construction contractors, painters, and plumber, I asked them if they could give me a discount if I paid in cash. Every single one of them knocked off 10-20% of the original quote (I didn’t have time to shop prices around).

That’s a huge savings!

Plus, it doesn’t cost you anything to go to the bank and take out the money in cash instead of writing a check…

Okay, so here’s what I had to have done in my studio (hard costs) and what you may have to deal with as well:

1. Took down most walls except for 1 office
2. Built out changing room
3. Built out trainer’s office/consultation room with glass window
4. Changed out solid doors to glass ones (so that clients don’t feel trapped during consultations – this is important!)
5. Laid down additional sub floors/plywood for sound deadening
6. Laid down rubber commercial grade professional rubber flooring on fitness floor
7. Put down Pergo laminate flooring in offices and changing room
8. Had 21 recessed lights added in (there was no lighting before…)
9. Put in 1 set of track lighting over 3 Keiser wall mounted units
10. Had 4 electrical outlets put in
11. Had cable wire outlets put in for phone and internet
12. Painted walls, ceiling, doors, trim… everything
13. Had shelves built in to hold small equipment pieces and another set for our client’s bags (cubby holes)
14. Had locks changed out

Actual Hard Costs:

  • The construction basically added up to 14K
  • The electrical cost was about 5K
  • The plumbing was 1.5K
  • The painting (done by friends and family) cost about $500
  • The flooring cost exactly 10K
  • I would say the total hard costs were around 25K

Your costs would vary greatly depending on the amount of construction (or demo) you would need to do. I know some CPTs who don’t have to do a thing except put in flooring since they are given an empty space in a warehouse to move right into. This would, of course, save you about 10K unless you had a larger space and need more flooring…

On the flip side, your build out costs may be more if you have a larger area to work on or more involved electrical or plumbing (like a shower, sinks, etc.). I do not have a shower and I did not have to change my bathroom in anyway.

Soft Costs:

Soft costs are everything else besides the contractor work  (furniture, equipment, overhead, etc.)

These are what the majority of my soft costs involved:

1. 3 Keiser wall-mounted column units + air compressor
2. 3 Free Motion single cable towers
3. All other squat racks and functional equipment
4. 2 desks
5. 2 filing cabinets
6. Posters, plants, art, books, etc
7. Compact refrigerator
8. Water cooler
9. Waiting room chairs
10. Mini tables to hold magazines and radio
11. iPod, AM/FM Tivoli Radio
12. 2 Computers for trainers office and my office
13. Printer
14. Office supplies
15. Wireless phones (2 phones – 1 set for both offices)
16. Bookshelves
17. Whiteboard, corkboard, A-frame

(I will be providing a full equipment list in about a month or so detailing EVERY piece of equipment I have in my studio, what I use for bootcamps, etc.)

All of the equipment combined was about 30K, but to be honest about 12K was just from the Keiser units (the Free Motion are only about 4K total), but I love training on the Keiser units and I knew it would help differentiate and sell our studio. There are some things you just have to have and will spend the money and the Keisers were my big purchase – it’s paid off… trainers love working with them and out clients are always disappointed when another gym they’re training at doesn’t have them to train on.

I’ve heard of CPTs outfitting a whole space for about 5-8K, but that means you’ll have to stick with all functional equipment and squat racks, and no cable based machines which tend to be pricier. You could always add them, though, later on after you start bringing in some clients and cash… then again some clients may not join if they don’t see what they like – it’s a double edged sword you need to think about.

I’ve worked with health clubs that gave me a budget of $150K to spend and other small studios who could only afford 5K. The moral of the story is that you can get the job done as long as you match your budget to the right space.

As for me, I focused solely on location and waited like a hawk stalking his prey for a space to open up in the neighborhood I wanted. Then, I figured out what I could spend out of pocket and how much money I had on my credit cards. And, whatever I didn’t have to pay for by check or cash, I put on a 1 year 0% credit card (Platinum Business Card by American Express and a 0% Advanta Business Card – Capital One is good too) that I didn’t have to pay back for 12 months.

(I did wait on some additional kettlebells and some smaller pieces of functional equipment until about 6 months after opening…)

Since I don’t like carrying debt and I had sold out of sessions at my studio in 6 months and was now profitable I just paid back my credit cards before the 12 month mark (keeping some money always in reserve so that I could sleep at night…)

So, as I said earlier although there are hundreds of ways to outfit a studio and many different ways to train clients there are certain costs that are unavoidable – which is fine as long as you account for them ahead of time and plan them into your budget.

Another thing to keep in mind when doing your build out is the timing of your ordering:

1. I ordered all the equipment that would take 4-6 weeks to ship right when I signed the lease.

2. I waited until 1-2 weeks out to order the Power Systems and Perform Better equipment since it gets there fast – I did make sure to have them price it 4 weeks out and to see what was on back order.

3. The construction should be done first (demo + build out)

4. The plumbing should be done next in most cases…

5. The electrical can go in once the finished walls and ceilings are going up – usually at the same time since they need to work around the studs and framework

6. After the floors are in and the walls are up and the build out is complete you can have them put the rubber flooring down

7. After everything is complete, then you can paint (However, I like to paint right after the plywood subfloors have been put down, but before the rubber flooring goes in since I don’t have to lay down drop cloths or care about spilling paint – if you’re doing the painting yourself.)

8. Now it’s time to move in all your furniture and equipment

9. Add some decorative touches and stock the office and bathroom supplies

10. For finishing touches I would letter your windows and main door with your company name, hours, contact website, phone number, and logo.

11. Put the A Frame outside and start bringing in business!

Alright, so hopefully all of the actual timelines, costs, and projections I listed above will serve as a helpful checklist for when you go to open your first or new studio. It will also be useful if you are thinking about making any changes or even expanding your current location.

If you have any specific questions please leave them in the S3 Member comment section below and I will continue to update this post to make sure you have everything you need.

I hope this added some insight into how I built out and outfitted my studio!


Comment on this Content

  • I just did a consult for a brand new studio opening up that will be teaching both small group sessions and some 1-on-1.

    Here are the major equipment options I had them center their studio around (it also includes product dimensions since their space is only 900sq/ft):

    York Bench:
    Length 57 1/4″ Width 22 1/4″ Height 19″

    LifeFitness Dual Cable Column
    Size (L x W x H) 68.5″ x 70″ x 83″ (174.5cm x 178cm x 210cm)

    Keiser Performance Trainers (The other reason these are great is because they are all mounted and take up no space)
    Height: 87″ / 2210 mm
    Width: 24″ / 610 mm
    Length: 12″ / 305 mm
    Weight: 120 lbs / 54 kg
    Resistance Range: 0 – 80 lbs / 0 – 36 kg
    Cable Length : 108″ / 2743 mm

    Free Motion Single Cable Column (for group training)
    Length: 35″ (89 cm)
    Width: 43″ (109 cm)
    Height: 91″ (231 cm)
    Weight: 380lbs (172 kgs)

    The RK6 50″ 4 tier dumbbell rack by Cap Barbell

    Unit Size: 55″ L x 24″ W x 42″ H

    Neoprene Dumbbell Rack

    Black. 28″ L x 23″ W x 501/2″ H

    Bomb Proof – Half Squat Rack ($998)

    44″ L x 64″ W x 83″ H

    Studio Premium Kettlebell Rack ($339.95)

    31″L x 23″D x 33″H

    Schwinn Airdyne Bike
    50″L x 22.5″W x 48″H (127 x 57 x 122 cm)
    SKU: 3550012
    Model Number: CR016

    All of the other pieces are small and can be arranged where room allows for.

    Just keep in mind that the smaller space for the 1-on-1 training will need a cable machine, but could share most other equipment with the small group training.

    Hope this helps with spacing and for anyone thinking about doing a re-design or build out!

    • Linda Black

      Hi Steven,

      Outfitting my gym floor with rubber matting is proven to be interesting. My studio is 1100 sq. ft with the office/consultation area 200 sq. ft. So, I ned approx. 900 sq ft of rubber matting. What price should I be expecting because the quotes I am getting are around $6,000. Your thoughts would be appreciated and again if you know of any gym flooring vendors in Toronto, Canada for your Smart Studio Clients, please let me know!

    • I highly recommend going with a local small business for flooring. Not a big brand name company with a middle man. Go with a local guy that will get you the best price and GUARANTEE your flooring if a tile should pop up after a year or two (they are glued down).

      I always do a yellow pages or local business online search for flooring companies and then go to their website to see if they do rubber flooring installs regularly – I don’t want to be their first client ; )

      I paid about $7,000 (not including my offices) for 1/2 commercial grade beige colored rubber flooring. It looks prettier than black and since it has specks of other colors in it the dirt, etc. doesn’t show up as much – this is important!

      Hope this helps!

  • Cary Gordan

    Hey Stephen,

    I have an 1100 sq/ft studio which i build prior to buying your system. I wanted to maximize floor space, with a washroom (no shower), and a change room. I didn’t however build a office and I feel maybe i should for consultation and office work. Should I now add one, which would mean losing one piece of equipment, and space.


    • Hi Cary,

      Without speaking to you specifically or seeing your space I would always advise against losing floor space which is the only area you can make money on. Unless you have an area of your studio that just makes sense for a consultation room I wouldn’t necessarily add one now.

      However, here are the cons of not having one:

      * No privacy during consult
      * No private space for CPTs to call and schedule client sessions
      * No room for a computer for CPTs to email clients
      * No break room for CPTs just to sit down, eat lunch, and rest while surfing the web between clients

      Those are just a few of the cons and in the end you’ll have to weigh both the ability to have more client space versus a private room for consults.

      Lastly, keep in mind that our offices are only about 50-80sq/ft so they don’t take up a ton of space…

  • Terry Ford

    Stephen – out of curiosity, what are your monthly rental costs for your studio? Do you have common fees to deal with as well (snow removal, landscaping etc that the landlord might do)

    Getting into commercial space typically cost $12 + per square foot + another $8 + for common fees. Tends to be a very expensive proposition to get started.

    Your input would be appreciated.


    • Hi Terry,

      Although I don’t give out my exact rent I do pay over $40 a sq/ft. Keep in mind I have a studio in the city and it’s going to cost more.

      There are pros and cons to having a more desirable location and I placed a bet that being in a high traffic residential area would yield more clients even if I paid more per square foot. It worked out…

      What I can tell you is that if you find a small manageable space between $500-$1000 sq/ft $12 + extras will be a good investment since it’s under $2,000 a month.

      I believe if you can keep your rent and fixed overhead under $3-$4,000 a month you’re doing really well.

      Hope that helps!

  • Frank Nunez

    This is great stuff, especially the part of paying cash for a discount to builders. Our studio is kind of unique, but tell me if you ever heard of this before.
    We built our studio on the 32nd floor of a building in the middle of Chicago, without the help of elevator access. We carried it all up the stairs ourselves, my wife and i, in exchange for a killer rent deal.The space is over 20,000 square feet and our monthly rent is less than $700 per month. We created sponsorship deals to net us over $250,000 worth of equipment that we didn’t pay to get. We have changing rooms and bathrooms but not showers on our floor. We basically had to build out everything ourselves in exchange for the deal on the space. And this space was unprintable for over 25 years till we got it.
    I believe that buying your license can help us create a personal training studio that can bring in $10 million a year. Might sound crazy to some, but people said dragging all our stuff up the stairs and getting most of it for free was crazy. Love your stuff Stephen and we’ll keep you updated.

    • Hi Frank, that’s a great story!

      I have no doubt that if you can see yourself hitting $10,000,000 a year then you’ll be able to achieve it.

      Your story takes me back to when I had curbside delivery only and had to carry every single dumbbell, plate, kettlbell, squat rack, etc. up to my studio by myself since it was just “this guy” in the beginning (talk about needing the WILL to succeed). I must have carried 5 tons of weight in a single day up 4 stories – and that’s not to say I’m Hercules… just to relay the point that there was NO other way that my equipment was getting up to the 4th floor so obviously that left just me to get it there.

      Bottom line: If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way (and the will) to get it done… even if it almost kills you in the process ; )

    • Thomas Furious Patterson

      @Frank Nunzez, Awesome reply! I’m about to open a new studio. Any help in sharing how to get our equipment sponsorship would be amazing!

    • I’m going through the whole process all over again right now and will send you all the updated contact information for my connections soon!

  • David McIlhenney

    Ill look out for it.

  • David McIlhenney

    I didn’t know exactly where to ask this question, but this seems to be as good a place as any.

    Why did you name your business after yourself? I feel a drawback would be that clients would want to only work with you, based on that name. Obviously you don’t have that problem, but how did you get over that obstacle? Also, wouldn’t a business name that does not incorporate your name be more valuable if you ever wanted to franchise or sell your business? I’m just asking because I am not tied down to any particular name and am trying to decide what to do. I have few good Ideas but I feel I want to make the right decision before I incorporate. I am leaning toward following your lead and naming my business after myself but am still unsure.
    Thank You

    • Hi David,

      This is an excellent question and there are pros and cons to both.

      I will write an entire post on this topic in depth… I don’t believe a short answer would do it justice and this is something I’ve done entire 30-60 minute coaching calls on (it’s that important)!

      Look for this under the “Resources” or “Business Tool Box” category within the next couple of weeks (I have 3 posts ahead of this one to get to you and the other S3 Members).