How to Build a Bowling Lane in Your Basement

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For decades now, bowling has been a favorite pastime for college students and families alike. The game itself takes a considerable amount of skill to master, but it’s fun to play on an amateur level all the same. Plus, there are few other recreational activities that can bring a smile to your face like nailing a strike.

However, bowling has one noteworthy drawback – it requires you to go to a bowling alley to play. That may not be a big hassle if you live near one. But they continue to dry up in most localities, causing bowling enthusiasts to rethink where and when they’ll play.

Surprisingly, more and more of these folks are turning to in-home bowling alleys to satisfy their fix. Many of these folks make a DIY project out of this, and you can, too.

This guide will take you through the steps needed to build your very own bowling alley in your basement. It will also present several optional additions you can take onto this project, as well as some common building errors that you must watch out for.

How to Build a Bowling Lane in Your Basement

How to Build a DIY Bowling Lane

First, let’s start with the actual building process.

Step 1: Gather Materials

To begin with, you’ll need to gather the appropriate materials for building a basic bowling alley in your basement. This should be done after measuring your basement and ensuring that you have enough lateral and vertical space to allow for such an installation.

After that is done, you should purchase or obtain the following materials:

  • Around 8 sheets of good-quality plywood
  • Around 14 full-length 2x4s
  • LED lights
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Laminate flooring (optional)
  • Piece of carpet
  • Screws
  • Pins
  • Mini bowling balls
  • Bowling alley wax

Note that the materials list above is only geared toward building a basic bowling alley. Those who want to create a ball return or pin-setting system will need to obtain extra materials.

Step 2: Cut Wood

With these materials all gathered together, you’ll want to obtain access to a table saw as well as a chop saw. After donning proper PPE for using these devices (eye protection, ear protection, and tight-fitting clothing), you’ll need to start making all of the necessary cuts for your alley.

This will include slicing up your various pieces of wood stock to create your lane, gutters, and pin housing.

The video below can give you a better idea of the size and shape that each of those wood pieces should come out to after cutting. Be sure to keep your various cut pieces well-organized during this step.

Also, before moving on to assembly, you should decide on what you will use for your lane’s surface. If you’d prefer an authentic gameplay experience, then you’ll need to smooth down your plywood surface a lot. Otherwise, some wood-grain laminate flooring will do the job just fine.

Step 3: Assemble Lane and Gutters

Once your cuts are made, you’re ready to begin the assembly process. Using your numerous screws, you’ll want to start by putting together your lane and gutters. Your gutters, in particular, should be large enough to carry your chosen size of a mini bowling ball.

With that in mind, you should measure its size based upon those dimensions.

Meanwhile, while assembling the lane, be sure to do so after ensuring the entire surface is perfectly level. Any small groove or bump at the plywood’s joints can cause your pitched bowling ball to hop or jump undesirably.

You may even choose to sand down these grooves once you have the entire length together.

If you are using laminate as your bowling surface, it can also be affixed at this time.

Step 4: Assemble Pin Station and Pin Setter (Optional)

With your lane and gutters assembled, you’ll need to move onto your pin housing. This structure should be large enough to allow pins to move around, but not so large that it becomes bulky.

Ideally, it should also feature a raised back that is padded with a piece of carpet (to deaden noise) while still remaining accessible for manual pin resetting.

It is also possible to set up a pin resetting system with some PVC pipe, string, pulleys, and more plywood. The video earlier in this article can show you one potential implementation of this optional system.

Step 5: Apply Wax and Test

If you choose to maintain a natural wood surface on your lane, then you’ll want to finish up by applying an even layer of bowling alley wax. The wax’s canister should specify the technique used for this delicate application process.

Once that wax has “dried,” then you should test out your lane.

If you notice any issues after a few rounds, then take some time to modify your design based upon your room’s unique topography.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Building a bowling alley in your own basement comes with its own risks.

For example, some DIYers who take on this task forget one of the most important steps – measuring. As they often find out too late in the building process, not every basement has enough length to house a full-sized bowling alley.

This may mean that you’ll need to adjust your blueprints accordingly to scale down your alley’s overall length.

Also, far too many DIYers forget to size their alley, gutters, and housing based upon the size of bowling equipment they intend to use. Mini-balls and pins are readily available and are recommended for this job.

However, if you want the full bowling experience, a full-size ball and pin set can be obtained. Just keep in mind that these items can become bulky and difficult to store, not to mention be expensive.


By now, you should be able to hear the sound of a ball striking pins in your own basement. At the very least, you should be able to imagine the same once you complete your in-home bowling alley DIY project.

This project is material and time-intensive, no doubt.

But the reward at the end – your very own bowling alley – is hard to pass up on.