Game rooms add fun, value to houses

Many homeowners see investment potential in turning their dens into play pens.
By Kay Bell
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Not so long ago, we were happy to while away hours playing ping-pong or shooting pool in an unfinished basement or partially cleared garage. That was before HDTV, video games and Texas Hold 'Em.
To meet today's leisure needs, many homeowners are adding or converting existing space into a game room. Spend a weekend touring new developments, and in almost every model home you'll find a bonus or game room.
But you don't have to buy new to get a great game room.
Brochures for resale properties tempt buyers with details on the extra room where you can enjoy all types of entertainment.
"People's time is just too tight," says Robert Ernst, vice president of FBN Construction Co. in Boston. "They find the rooms offer a great space where you can have your friends over, have fun and not feel like they're abandoning the family."
That's not the only reason that additions are popular. Just as important is the value that remodeling can add.
"With home values going up, people feel it is a better investment to have their money in their homes than in the stock market," Ernst says.
The appeal of residential game rooms isn't anything new for Bob Jones Jr., president of American Sale, a recreational furnishings business with eight locations in the Chicago area.
"Actually I would say that it was probably in the late '80s when we really started to see the trend towards creating a game room in people's homes," Jones says.
One thing, however, has changed. In the mid-1980s, Jones says customers primarily were looking for billiards tables to anchor their game rooms.
Games for today's rooms have evolved into a more-commercial type of arcade entertainment. Then there's the popularity of poker, which has prompted some homeowners to want a Las Vegas feel in their game rooms.
Planning your game room is key, says Tim Carter, creator of the Ask the Builder Web site.
The biggest mistake, Carter says, is that homeowners try to turn a too-small area into a game room. He suggests mapping out the game tables and other items you want in the room and then making sure there's plenty of clearance on all sides.
Then there are plumbing, lighting and other electrical needs.
Some who remodel install plumbing in the new game room for a more convenient powder room or wet bar.
Also consider the effect of lighting. It's natural to want to focus fixtures on a main game, be it a pool table or your weekly poker setup. But you don't want lighting that produces glare problems for players of other games, Carter says.
That connects back to the room's electrical needs.
Electric games use a significant amount of current, "and in the average room, it might not be sufficient," Carter says. "For old-fashioned arcade games, the total amperage draws are huge."

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