Installing a residential bowling lane is not easy. Even the handiest of do-it-yourself enthusiasts are going to need to call in professionals when it comes to specialised equipment like pinspotters and ball returners. In fact, before you can even think about installation you will need to make sure you have the space and money for such a project. However, if a bowling lane is for you can take steps to prepare your home for the project and decisions you can make ahead of time to expedite the process.
Check over your budget. Bowling at an alley may be an inexpensive night out, but installing a lane in your own home is a pricey endeavour. The cost of one complete lane, including everything from electronic scoring equipment to bowling shoes, averages around £29,250.
Consider cutting some corners. Purchasing used equipment such as pins, pinspotters and furniture and keeping score the old fashioned way -- by hand -- can save thousands.
Find a professional. Installing a residential bowling lane is a reasonably complex project. Unless you're experienced in construction, this is not a do-it-yourself task. Companies that specialise in residential lane installation, like Florida-based United Bowling, will also assist in planning, arrange for on-site consultation, and provide new and used equipment.
Check your local building codes. Like all advanced construction projects, installing a residential lane may require proper building permits. Even when using a contractor, code compliance is the responsibility of the homeowner.
Survey the area. A bowling lane requires a lot of space. If you want your lane to be regulation length (63 feet) you will need at least 85 feet plus the size of the desired seating area to make room for the lane, an approach platform and a rear service maintenance area. Additionally a lane must be at least 6 feet, 3 inches in width, wider if you desire a walkway alongside the lane.
Measure the ceiling. A height of at least 8 feet is required, but at least 10 feet is recommended. When measuring, take into consideration what type of slab you will be installing.
Pick a slab. A finished lane will be installed 16 inches above a concrete slab, atop a wooden frame. The most common foundation is a recessed slab: a large, 16-inch deep rectangular pit which allows the finished lane surface to be flush with the surrounding foundation. A stringer slab requires less work and is cheaper, but results in the lane being 6.5 inches higher than the surrounding foundation, requiring a step up to the approach area. The easiest and cheapest is a flat slab, which is not recessed at all and simply sits 16 inches above the surrounding foundation.
Consider your lighting options. Fluorescent bulbs are most common, but standard light bulbs will suffice if you can install enough to keep the entire lane adequately lit.
Choose between a masking unit and a curtain wall. Without either of these units, the unsightly pinsetting machine will be in full view. A masking unit is a metal frame, often with a mural or graphics, which lifts up to allow access to the rear area for maintenance. If you have more room, a curtain wall, made of studs and drywall, permanently encloses the pinsetting machine in its own room, reducing the noise level of the pinspotter and pins crashing, and providing an ideal mounting location for a television or electronic scorer.
Make sure you have enough power. The total power required for one bowling lane is 40 amps. This includes power to the pinspotter, foul detector, ball lift and standard outlets for cleaning equipment like a vacuum.
Select between wood and synthetic. Obviously, natural maple and pine wood bowling lanes are more aesthetically pleasing and provide authenticity. They are also more expensive, and resurfacing is required every few years depending on use. Now standard on most installations, synthetic lanes, made of 7/16-inch laminate panels, need to be cleaned and oiled regularly like real wood, but can last upwards of 20 years.