Basement (Underpinned) Rec/Media Room Build - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 115 Old 03-16-2010, 09:51 PM - Thread Starter
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My wife and I bought an old house in 2007 and we spent the first few years renovating the main floor and 2nd floor bedrooms. During this time, my beloved 2-channel and home theater system sat in my basement storage as the basement height was too low (6'-6'4") for the space to be much use as a rec room. Having no main floor family room, I basically had to give up listening to my music and watching movies on my 5.1 system for 2 years (!!!).

Finally, we're getting around to underpinning the basement and the project started last month. We should be getting a net height of 8'6" after the reno is done, and while I won't have a dedicated home theater or 2-channel listening room, I will have a decent amount of space to use for watching movies and listening to my music. So, like some of you, the basement is a "mixed use" facility, which means I'll have one side of the room totally "open" and therefore not great in terms of sound, as seen in the layout below:



Just for interest, here are a few photos showing the digging:

Before Construction


Excavating


More excavating & underpinning


Now, I've been lurking for some time and I have a lot of questions which I'm not sure if I should post on the specific forums dealing with projectors, screens, speakers etc....well, maybe that's the more efficient way to get my answers.

What do you guys think of the space? It might have made more sense to put the TV/projector screen on the short wall, but WAF and all, it goes on the long wall so that the "play area" for kids can flow into the TV/movie watching area. Also, I've yet to look into acoustic treatment for the walls with bass traps and diffusers etc. and, honestly, I'm not sure if my wife will go for it. In fact, she wants the floor to be polished concrete, which can't be good sound-wise, but because we have a young baby, the basement will have lots of area rugs, so whether it's polished concrete or hardwood or tiles, I suppose it doesn't matter as long as area rugs are used - correct me if I'm wrong though!

Anyways, hope to post more as the renovation goes along. In the meantime, I'm going to ask my specific questions in the other forums - thanks for reading!

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post #2 of 115 Old 03-16-2010, 10:09 PM
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holy crap! And I thought digging up the concrete for my bathroom plumbing was a big deal. Man that looks like A lot of work, but I'm sure its gonna be well worth it. Good luck with the build

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post #3 of 115 Old 03-17-2010, 05:45 AM
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That looks more like an archeological dig than a basement...


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post #4 of 115 Old 03-17-2010, 06:27 AM
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Now this is a construction thread. I keep hearing Mike Holmes say, take it down, do it right!!! Keep those pictures coming.

I like this place!!!
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post #5 of 115 Old 03-17-2010, 07:34 AM
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Wow, what a project! People ask all the time what will it take to lower my basement so this thread could be very helpful to those thinking about it.

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post #6 of 115 Old 03-17-2010, 08:15 AM
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yes, this is what I have been looking for. Holy Bleep that must have been a lot of digging. Did you do that all by hand or bring in a dingo. I have some similar ideas for my basement, but don't even know where to start with the floor.
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post #7 of 115 Old 03-17-2010, 08:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamis View Post

That looks more like an archeological dig than a basement...

That is what I thought too! Man what a project. Is this a DIY or do you have "professional" help. I would be scared to death to start digging in my basement like that. What an undertaking.

As for the room layout, it looks good. Is it ideal no, but for what you are going to be doing it should work really well and should provide years of enjoyment.

Good luck.

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post #8 of 115 Old 03-17-2010, 11:52 AM
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WOW!! what an undertaking and process >> I'm Subscribed.

So in the 3rd photo - I think I am seeing vertical steel beams being installed alongside the original foundation walls?

Curious were the original footings extended or "added to" any way?

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post #9 of 115 Old 03-17-2010, 09:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the comments! I'm definitely not doing this on my own especially as I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm pretty hopeless when it comes to being handy around the house. So I've got a contractor overseeing this reno, a structural engineer to design the underpinning and complete the permit drawings in order to get the permits from the city. We're talking about the foundation of the house, so I don't think this is a DIY project for most people.

Day 1 - Breaking up the concrete floor


This is a highly labor-intensive job especially as we're going from 6'4" in height to about 8'6". Of course they'll have to dig deeper than that to accomodate the new concrete slab as well as an insulation layer and another 4" of granular. All the digging is done by hand with the help of a jackhammer. The dirt is loaded onto wheel barrels, carried to the conveyor belt, which shuttles it out the window to the driveway.

Day 2 - Conveyor belt



If you're really interested in the nitty-gritty, they have to excavate in sections around the perimeter of the basement so that the house doesn't collapse! That's why they have the "1-2-3" numbers sprayed on the wall - they dig all the section 1's, pour the new concrete footings, wait 24 hours for the concrete to dry, then apply the concrete grout to fill in the gap. This sequence takes 5 days, then they move on to section 2 and then finally 3. Each of the section is 3'4" in length. The first week was spent demo'ing the whole room, breaking up the concrete floor, removing drywall, insulation etc. Depending on soil strength and the make-up of your walls, they might have to do a 5-stage underpin design, which means it's a sequence of 5 sections instead of 3!

So we're in week 4 and they will have all three sections completed by Friday. Then they'll get ready to pour the new floor and locate the drains for the toilet, sink, etc. We had a lot of rain over the weekend so it's pretty muddy down there right now. Luckily, the weather has been warm, because they had to disconnect my boiler. They were originally going to suspend it to the ceiling, but the boiler is heavy. They did suspend the hot water tank, which is electric, so that makes it easier.

Interior area being dug out (4' in width left around the perimeter)


The steel angles you see from the photo in my first post are required because we went for a height higher than 8'. So the steel angles are there to prevent the walls from buckling inwards.

I'll post more in the coming days but, yeah, it's a HUGE job and one wonders whether it would've been easier to just buy another house with a higher ceiling basement instead of going through all of this! Oh well, there's no going back now! And now that the underpinning is almost done, I have to get ready to make some decisions related to the home theater soon because they'll be moving onto the finishing stage of the reno.

I'm not getting a lot of responses to my questions in the other forums, so perhaps I'll ask some of them here in case you can shed some light:

1) What size of screen should I get? If I watch a mix of HD sports, blu-ray, lay PS3 games, is 16:9 the way to go or is 2.35:1 more suitable? I've never owned a projector/screen before so anything bigger than my 50" plasma will seem HUGE I'm planning to get the Panasonic AE4000 projector.
2) Should I bother with 7.1 for the size of the home theater area? Or is 5.1 sufficient given that it's not a huge area. I can't put the surround speakers on stands and one side of the room is open so mounting surrounds on the walls won't work. So my idea is to mount Mirage Nanosat's or similarly small speakers on the ceiling - good idea? I think they'll sound better than in-ceiling speakers, right?
3) I'm still debating soundproofing, but I've got too many potential areas where sound can leak through so the recommended solution of dd + gg +hat channels will be compromised. Besides, I don't want to lose any more square footage so I'd only be able to soundproof the ceiling. I may just go with Ted White's suggestion of attaching hat channel directly to the joists and then hang 2 layers of drywall off that. I don't think I'll bother with green glue. What do you think?

Original post (and how far down they had to dig!)

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post #10 of 115 Old 03-18-2010, 05:28 AM
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HOLY SMOKES!!! In the words of Junior Johnson, the chicken is dedicated, the pig is committed! You sir are the pig! I am very impressed with your build. I know it is impolite to ask, but i have to. HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST??? I would love to do this time my lack of basement, is it charged by how deep you go? or just a flat rate as to how long it takes for them to do this? what state do you live in? And would it have been easier (and cheaper) to move into another house?

Sorry for all those questions, my mind is just blown away right now! Your crazy! I like it... but your crazy!

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post #11 of 115 Old 03-18-2010, 06:33 AM
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I'm mesmerized looking at the pictures and thinking about the process. Keep the details coming. This thread is a must read for anyone contemplating lowering their basement floor.

A lot of people will want to know what does a project like this costs.

On your question about projectors and screen size the best advice is to buy your projector and shine it on the wall. Experiment with different size images and determine what works best for your family. The most common mistake when going from a TV to a projector is selecting a too small of a screen. I made this mistake. There is no rush to buy a screen. With the Panny you really should strongly consider the 2.35:1 format screen.

One other planning detail. On the floor plan you show seating centered on the existing support pole. You may want to offset the theater a bit so that the pole doesn't interfere with potential projector mounting locations.



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post #12 of 115 Old 03-18-2010, 07:48 AM
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I would also be interested in knowing how much this costs. If you want to pm me thats fine.
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post #13 of 115 Old 03-18-2010, 11:24 AM
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I would like to know cost aslo, did they quote you on a sq ft charge or a sq ft excavated 3feet at a cost or ?
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post #14 of 115 Old 03-18-2010, 08:19 PM - Thread Starter
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On your question about projectors and screen size the best advice is to buy your projector and shine it on the wall. Experiment with different size images and determine what works best for your family. The most common mistake when going from a TV to a projector is selecting a too small of a screen. I made this mistake. There is no rush to buy a screen. With the Panny you really should strongly consider the 2.35:1 format screen.

One other planning detail. On the floor plan you show seating centered on the existing support pole. You may want to offset the theater a bit so that the pole doesn't interfere with potential projector mounting locations.

Can you elaborate on why a 2.35:1 format screen makes more sense for my situation? Am I totally off target in thinking that with a 2.35:1 screen, 16:9 HDTV shows and PS3 games will not fill the screen and will be smaller. But when watching hi-def movies filmed in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, I get the biggest picture possible on the screen? If I get a 16:9 format screen, the opposite is true and therefore, the trade-off is what's more important to me - watching 2.35:1 aspect ratio movies on the biggest size possible at the slight detriment of HDTV/PS3 games or watching HDTV/playing PS3 games on the biggest size possible at the slight detriment to widescreen movies?

That pole actually will move so that it is to one side of the window and not centered on it, as it's shown now. On this issue, I'm debating about moving the TV/screen to the short wall and basically shifting everything by 90 degrees. That way, I can sit a little back farther from the TV/screen. My only concern would be that the right main speaker would be located in a corner. I'm still stuck with on-wall surround speakers though.

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post #15 of 115 Old 03-18-2010, 08:50 PM - Thread Starter
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From a dollars and cents perspective, you would never undertake a basement underpinning reno because 1) it's expensive 2) when you resell the house, most prospective buyers (unless they're an AVS member ) won't value a full height basement so you might be lucky to get 50-60% of the money you put into it. We're planning to stay in this house for a while, so even though it might not make much sense financially to do this, we're planning to get a lot of enjoyment out of the extra living space so this is worth doing for us!

Now I'm from Toronto, so I don't know if contractor margins and construction costs are similar to where most of you guys are. Pricing for underpinning a basement falls in the $40k-$50k range for an average size home. They'll cost it out based on linear feet of the room. Also, I think most base it on getting you a net 8 ft high ceiling. Obviously, depending on how the engineer has designed the underpin (soil strength, condition of existing foundation, local building code, etc.), there'll be additional costs. As I mentioned, because we went for 8'6", which is the height of the main floor and 2nd floor, they had to dig a little more and insert the steel angles and so that was an incremental cost. The cost is almost all labor - the sequencing of the excavating, concrete pouring and grouting must be followed, so there are no short cuts. And, as you can imagine, it is HARD WORK - the crew working on this job only consists of 3 people!

Anyways, back to the picture show:

Week 2: Jack posts are up and Section 1 concrete blocks poured


Close-up of concrete and bracing for it


After concrete grout has been applied


One of the Section 3's opened up


Stairs suspended to joists and plumbing stack re-routed


View from the stairs

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post #16 of 115 Old 03-18-2010, 10:07 PM
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This is really cool, I'll be following this thread closely. I have an old farm house with around 6'-6.5' ceilings in the basement. I've been guessing around 40-50k for something like this, and it sounds like that's pretty close. I do have some friends that claim they can help, but it would be a scary undertaking for me. Are you going to be living there the whole time? That's my concern, do I have to move out for 2-6 months during contruction. Anyhow, good luck with the build.
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post #17 of 115 Old 03-19-2010, 06:23 AM
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The more pictures I see the more this project grabs my attention. This is a very interesting project. I'm am very surprised that there is only three people working on this. I would have guessed at least six to eight.

If you can get 50 t0 60 percent back I would think that is not too bad, I would not have guessed you would have gotten half you money back. I don't get too wound up on remodel returns. I do things to my home to make it more my home, and more enjoyable for me to live in it. So if the expense of digging out your basement makes the home more enjoyable or livable for you and your family that is what is important, not what you might get back in resale value. Especially if you are going to live there for a long time. I know there are those that make improvements just for that purpose and that is fine, but it is an apples and oranges comparison. Continued progress and good luck with the project.

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post #18 of 115 Old 03-19-2010, 08:38 AM - Thread Starter
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This is really cool, I'll be following this thread closely. I have an old farm house with around 6'-6.5' ceilings in the basement. I've been guessing around 40-50k for something like this, and it sounds like that's pretty close. I do have some friends that claim they can help, but it would be a scary undertaking for me. Are you going to be living there the whole time? That's my concern, do I have to move out for 2-6 months during contruction. Anyhow, good luck with the build.

Underpinning takes about 6 weeks and it's no problem to live in the house while it's going on if you can put up with the noise and dust. It's actually a "good" reno from the point of view that the construction zone is totally separate from the living quarters.

The noise isn't too bad at all except for the first week when they were jackhammering the old floor. We have a separate side entrance to the basement so the workers just come and go while my wife and baby are upstairs. Some dust still manages to seep through to the main floor and 2nd floor even though we don't have ducts (we use boiler and radiators for heating).

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The more pictures I see the more this project grabs my attention. This is a very interesting project. I'm am very surprised that there is only three people working on this. I would have guessed at least six to eight.

If you can get 50 t0 60 percent back I would think that is not too bad, I would not have guessed you would have gotten half you money back. I don't get too wound up on remodel returns. I do things to my home to make it more my home, and more enjoyable for me to live in it. So if the expense of digging out your basement makes the home more enjoyable or livable for you and your family that is what is important, not what you might get back in resale value. Especially if you are going to live there for a long time. I know there are those that make improvements just for that purpose and that is fine, but it is an apples and oranges comparison. Continued progress and good luck with the project.

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Because you have to follow the specific sequencing in the digging, having more people on the job won't speed up the process in any way. But I agree, 2-3 people working in excavating all that dirt in a dimly lit room and walking around in knee-high boots because of the sticky, muddy soil conditions is not my idea of fun!

I complete agree with you on trying to remodel based on returns. If I were flipping the house, this would be a stupid decision, but we love the house and we hope to stay here for a while, so my family and I will certainly get a lot of value out of this over the coming years. I think if the ceiling was 7' instead of 6'2"-6'4", it would be a much more difficult decision on whether to undertake this reno. But with a beam already running down the length of the room, my head cannot clear it and I'm about 6' in height. Of course, the other option would've been to move and find a house with a taller basement, but moving brings a lot of other considerations and headaches to consider. And now that you mention it, maybe 40%-50% return for a basement reno is more realistic rather than the 50-60% I stated.

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post #19 of 115 Old 03-19-2010, 08:41 AM
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Are they digging from the outside at all or just blind pouring the new footer walls up agaist the excavated dirt?

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post #20 of 115 Old 03-19-2010, 08:55 AM
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Wow.....all I can say is WOW. Based upon the work you have already done, the theater is going to be the small part of the job.
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post #21 of 115 Old 03-19-2010, 07:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Are they digging from the outside at all or just blind pouring the new footer walls up agaist the excavated dirt?

All the digging occurs on the inside, which is why they can, and probably prefer, to work in the winter when work is slow.

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post #22 of 115 Old 03-19-2010, 07:51 PM - Thread Starter
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A few more photos for tonight...all these photos are reminding me of the time i visited Palm Springs and driving along the freeway - everything is brown. And brown remains constant wherever we drove to All the photos are kinda looking the same now.

We had quite a bit of rain last weekend and A LOT of water came through. Walking, never mind working, in this muddy soil is almost like having a lot of gum always stuck to the soles of your shoes.


Suspension of hot water tank to joists


Another shot of the stairs and the make-shift ladder to go down


Concrete poured for the last section

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post #23 of 115 Old 03-19-2010, 10:02 PM
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Where is the water coming from?


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post #24 of 115 Old 03-22-2010, 08:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post

Where is the water coming from?

Well, we had 3 consecutive days of rain and not just the light stuff. Also, only one of the three underpin sections had concrete poured so I imagine there wasn't much preventing the water from coming in. We had the engineer come by and he didn't think it was out of the ordinary and that once we have the platon on the walls, the weeping tile and sump pump installed, that should take care of the water coming in.

The contractor is, in fact, putting in the weeping tile this week, then installing the radiant floor heating pipes and pouring the new floor later this week. I'll post some pics tonight.

In the meantime, I'm trying to prepare for some wiring and cabling. For my surrounds/side speakers, which I plan to mount off the ceiling, is it recommended that I run speaker cables in the ceiling inside a conduit? I'm either going to have Roxul Safe N Sound or just the R19 pink stuff in the ceiling. Can I just ran the cables without using a conduit or is this some kind of a code issue? Same with the projector - do I need a conduit for the HDMI cable? And is a "conduit" just a PVC pipe you get at the plumbing section of Home Depot? Should I also use banana post binding post wall plates for the surrounds?

What do you guys do for electrical outlets for the projector and motorized screen? Do you install outlets in the ceiling?

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post #25 of 115 Old 03-22-2010, 09:04 AM
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Back to your questions on projectors and screen format. If you go with the Panny it's lens zoom and positioning memory feature makes it a snap (and now I think automatic) to zoom out for a letter boxed movie and fill a 2:35:1 screen. But yes than the 16:9 image is limited by the hight of the screen. It really boils down to an analysis of what your viewing habits will be and which screen format best addresses your needs.

I have a 16:9 screen that is OK for TV and gaming but pitifully small for movies. I plan to replace it with a screen the same height but wider at 2.35:1.


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post #26 of 115 Old 03-22-2010, 12:01 PM
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First of all, let me say... WOW, what an undertaking!!! I hope you and your family really, really enjoy the extra space you are carving out.

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Can you elaborate on why a 2.35:1 format screen makes more sense for my situation? Am I totally off target in thinking that with a 2.35:1 screen, 16:9 HDTV shows and PS3 games will not fill the screen and will be smaller. But when watching hi-def movies filmed in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, I get the biggest picture possible on the screen? If I get a 16:9 format screen, the opposite is true and therefore, the trade-off is what's more important to me - watching 2.35:1 aspect ratio movies on the biggest size possible at the slight detriment of HDTV/PS3 games or watching HDTV/playing PS3 games on the biggest size possible at the slight detriment to widescreen movies?

Maybe I can help a little bit here. Basically, let's say you went with a 92" diagonal screen with a 16:9 ratio... That means the screen would be 45" tall and 80" wide. When you watch HDTV/PS3 games, all of that screen is full. When you watch most movies, which are primarily recorded in 2.35:1 ratio, the screen is full, but there are black bars on the top and bottom which make your effective size much smaller. So, in effect, you have the same width, but not the same height.

Now, if you take the same HDTV/PS3 picture, and project it onto a 2.35:1 ratio screen of the same height as the 16:9 screen, your screen would still be 45" tall, but now 107" wide (116" diagonal). The size of your HDTV/PS3 image is the exact same as before, but you now have areas on the sides of the screen that aren't filled up. These aren't black bars, they are just areas of your screen that don't have an image being projected on it. Now... when you want to watch a movie in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, you can simply zoom the picture until the width of the image matches your screen width, and thereby have a "full" image on your screen both in terms of height and width for movie watching. The black bars that were there for movies on the 16:9 image are still there, but outside the screen area.

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That pole actually will move so that it is to one side of the window and not centered on it, as it's shown now. On this issue, I'm debating about moving the TV/screen to the short wall and basically shifting everything by 90 degrees. That way, I can sit a little back farther from the TV/screen. My only concern would be that the right main speaker would be located in a corner. I'm still stuck with on-wall surround speakers though.

Depending on your screen size, you will want to sit about 1.5 times the screen width of 16:9 screen dimensions. So using the same example as above, your screen would be 80" wide, so you would want to sit 120" (10 feet) from the screen. The distance from the screen would not differ if you used a 2.35:1 screen instead.

Do you plan to watch tv, movies, and play games with the lights off or on? If you want some lights on for say TV and games, but like it dark for movies, then I wouldn't recommend much bigger than 92" diagonal for 16:9 material... and the same screen height for a 2.35:1 screen. That's about all the light output the Panny can support.
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post #27 of 115 Old 03-22-2010, 08:09 PM
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Like all the others who posted before me...WOW!!! Thanks for taking the process pics they look great! One of the most interesting threads on here - hope your HT is just as interesting!!

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post #28 of 115 Old 03-22-2010, 08:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Todd_zilla View Post

First of all, let me say... WOW, what an undertaking!!! I hope you and your family really, really enjoy the extra space you are carving out.



Maybe I can help a little bit here. Basically, let's say you went with a 92" diagonal screen with a 16:9 ratio... That means the screen would be 45" tall and 80" wide. When you watch HDTV/PS3 games, all of that screen is full. When you watch most movies, which are primarily recorded in 2.35:1 ratio, the screen is full, but there are black bars on the top and bottom which make your effective size much smaller. So, in effect, you have the same width, but not the same height.

Now, if you take the same HDTV/PS3 picture, and project it onto a 2.35:1 ratio screen of the same height as the 16:9 screen, your screen would still be 45" tall, but now 107" wide (116" diagonal). The size of your HDTV/PS3 image is the exact same as before, but you now have areas on the sides of the screen that aren't filled up. These aren't black bars, they are just areas of your screen that don't have an image being projected on it. Now... when you want to watch a movie in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, you can simply zoom the picture until the width of the image matches your screen width, and thereby have a "full" image on your screen both in terms of height and width for movie watching. The black bars that were there for movies on the 16:9 image are still there, but outside the screen area.



Depending on your screen size, you will want to sit about 1.5 times the screen width of 16:9 screen dimensions. So using the same example as above, your screen would be 80" wide, so you would want to sit 120" (10 feet) from the screen. The distance from the screen would not differ if you used a 2.35:1 screen instead.

Do you plan to watch tv, movies, and play games with the lights off or on? If you want some lights on for say TV and games, but like it dark for movies, then I wouldn't recommend much bigger than 92" diagonal for 16:9 material... and the same screen height for a 2.35:1 screen. That's about all the light output the Panny can support.

Thanks for the detailed explanation - I get it now! Seems obvious now that I think about it, but nothing like an example or two to clear it up. I seem to get the impression, however, that most action type movies are in 2.35:1, but a lot of non-action type movies are 1.85:1. So if I weigh HDTV, PS3 and 1.85:1 movies....aren't 2.35:1 movies a rather low percentage of what most people watch?

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post #29 of 115 Old 03-22-2010, 09:03 PM - Thread Starter
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We're at week 5 now and these photos will catch you up on where the renovation is as of today. Despite the construction zone being on a separate level of the house, renovation definitely introduces a lot of inconveniences and puts a strain on the normal day-to-day things that we all take for granted. So I echo some of the comments you guys have posted - I also hope all the expense and headaches of living through a renovation, especially one as big in scope as this, will be worth it in the end!

Installing drains


Sewage Ejector Box


Week 5 -Gravel for flooring is in, conveyor belt removed and no more mud!



Home theater area (boiler suspended to joists)

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post #30 of 115 Old 03-23-2010, 10:02 AM
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What happens to the sewer lines? Do they stay where they are or do they get dropped too (with some sort of ejector pump r something)? Thinking of doing this same thing to half of my basement but wondered what would happen to the sewer lines. Looks quite impressive. Good luck with the rest of the build.

EDIT: OK, didn't see that post you snuck in there an hour ago. Awesome.
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