Being in Houston, and with the theater on the 2nd floor, A/C was definitely a concern. When the house was built, the upstairs A/C unit was sized to accommodate the additional room. But that doesn't mean it would cool a closed room loaded with wall-to-wall people. I had planned on zoning the 2nd floor during construction, but after discussing the costs involved, I decided to delay that until the theater would actually be built. The
cost to zone the system later wouldn't be much different that it would during home construction, so it was a good candidate to defer.
But now, 18 months later, very obvious that the zoning would be needed. We divided the 2nd floor into three zones: game room area, the theater, and the 2 bedrooms on the other side of the house. Each zone is controlled with an electric damper and it's own thermostat.
The theater itself gets 4 vents in the ceiling, spaced away from the seating, a return, all connected using flexible ductwork (which is standard construction practice in Houston, anyway). The return for the zone is in the ceiling of the entry hallway. I was concerned as they planned to "sister" the return to the game room return nearby - thinking this was too close and would allow sound to easily transmit in or out of the theater.
The HVAC guys wanted it that way explaining it would work better, as opposed to running a separate return line back to the unit in the attic. After discussion, and assurances that it wouldn't ruin all the sound isolation (and a willingness to change it if it did), we went ahead with that plan. After construction was complete, I'd find that the HVAC guys were correct, as I don't hear sound enter or exit the room via those returns.
MISTAKE: I probably should have looked into different grills for the theater - as the 'normal' grills do produce some air noise when the system is running. But honestly, it's not objectionable, and is mostly audible in the back row. And in Houston, no one is going to complain about the A/C being on...
The other HVAC issue to contend with is cooling the rack. There's not a huge amount of equipment in my rack, but I certainly didn't want to dump *more* heat into the room, and certainly wanted future capacity in case I went amp crazy in the future. I installed a Cool Components Ceiling Vent System in my A/V closet, which uses the HVAC return to vent the space.
As that works well, I decided to do the same thing above the rack, again
using the HVAC return for exhaust:
Cool Components has since released a (replacement?) product which uses an in-line blower instead of the fan array in the grill. If I was doing this today, I'd use that model certainly for the A/V closet, as it runs 24/7. The rack fan power is switched on with the rest of the equipment.
MISTAKE: The ceiling of rack niche is just above the top of the rack. Luckily I realized in time that as the rack has a mostly solid top, I needed to raise the vent grill several inches to allow airflow. I should have just had the rack ceiling framed at room-ceiling height behind the wall.
The most important step of any build at this point is to document everything behind the walls and ceiling just prior to insulation and drywall. This is true for theater and home construction. I took ~500 pictures of the house in this condition, and still have a few areas that I didn't get enough images for 100% coverage. I was focusing on the wiring and missed some of the framing details in areas where there is no ductwork or wiring.
In hindsight, I didn't need to focus on the wiring - I knew where every wire was - it was the plumbing, framing, HVAC - stuff that I didn't know intimately - that I should have focused on.
Next up, insulation and drywall (finally!)...
Estimate when I started (I think this came from the builder, not directly from the sub) was $1k per zone added. Reality was close to that. Looking at the amount of work they did in the attic, yeah, it's non-trivial.
If you liked your a/c guy, a referral would be nice as well (though I'm on the opposite side of town from you in Pearland).
Don't know if they go to Pearland, but they probably do. Would highly recommend them: Airchampion. They did all the HVAC in my house, I was impressed so I hired them to do some fixup work at my previous house to answer the buyer's inspection report. (They didn't like the ductwork laying in the attic, which is now "out of style" ) Airchampion's guy hung it all up in both attics. Only took about 2 hours - I wanted him to stop! - 'cause it was looking really nice and expensive. They only charged what they had quoted, though, so the buyer got a good deal...
Insulation and Drywall
With all the electrical work done (I hope), it's time to get the pro's back in for the serious labor. A "go" to the builder in late October giving myself a deadline of November 1st to be ready for them. Insulation work in the room (blown insulation in the attic would happen later), followed by drywall work immediately after. This is where the pace really picked up. Something about pro's knowing what they're doing and all that...
Fiberglass insulation for the walls and soffit, and blown-in above the ceiling. Amazing how different the room looks with the insulation in place.
8am the following day, the drywall delivery crew is here, and by 9:30, the material has all be moved through the house, up the stairs and staged in the theater.
The drywall crew is here waiting, and the first layer goes on before I can even get an "in progress" photo. With ~8 guys in the room, it's best for me to just keep out of the way. Within about 90 minutes, first layer is on. I do a quick walk through to point out some of the electrical box cut-outs that were missed, and a few of the rope light feeds that didn't get pulled through.
The Green Glue (at least, some of it in this photo) arrives...
I was concerned about turning over the Green Glue process to the builder and the contractor, not really being sure how familiar they all were with the stuff or its installation.
TIP: The Green Glue Company has installation instruction PDF's on their website, in both English and Spanish. Print out copies...
I poked my head in a few times, encouraging them to use a lot. They were doing it correctly, if perhaps not quite 2 tubes per sheet. Another tip - have rags, water, and GoofOff! ready for the crew. At the speed the pro's hang, the Glue gets everywhere (mostly on them). This layer of course goes slower, but by the time I get a camera into the room again around 2:30pm, they've started mudding and taping.
LESSON: I suspect that there are many seams in the room that are not overlapped - I discussed that with the contractor prior to installation, and he understood that (not a new concept for him). But in practice, given the positions of the sheets as you can see in the photo, I think it's likey they weren't staggered in all cases. I should have gotten in there more during the first layer, when it would have been much easier to argue for cutting the sheets differently. In hindsight - save the 'easy fit' pattern for the 2nd layer, as you've already got the Green Glue to contend with.
One of the problems of deploying all the sound isolation stuff in new construction (as opposed to any sort of retrofit) is that you really don't know how much of a difference it makes. Sure, in here now it sounds quiet, but does all that extra mass, Green Glue and $$$ matter? Great post here by cybrsage with a simple knock test:
Reading that post, I immediately ran up to the theater, and did the test for myself on an uninsulated wall, then an insulated one, then inside the theater (DD/GG). Wow. Ok, I feel much better about that, now!
Next up, woodwork and speaker placement...
Thanks again for taking the time to put this together. I know it's after the fact, but it's extremely helpful. After a false start on my build, I'm about ready to jump back in and hope to make some serious progress over the next month or two.
I'll have to get some close ups from the top... But, sure, will do.
The depth, which is the "important" part, was 24" at rough-in, about 23 1/4" at finish - which was just enough to get the 20" rack in and allow for the cable arms to fold properly. 2" less would have been a problem.
As I said earlier, if I did it over, the rack nook would have been built as a cabinet with wood sides instead of drywall. I picked a 32U rack height (you can get the AXS in any rack height), based on about a 50% initial load. And that kept the vertical space somewhat in proportion with the room (not a floor-to-ceiling rack opening).
For figuring all the dimensions, use the Middle Atlantic A&E specs on their website.
I also chose to use the 24" extension service track, which means the rack only comes 4" past the wall when fully extended. So if I have to really get behind the rack (to fish cables), the rack will have to come out completely. I knew that limitation, but was concerned that if I used the 48" tracks I might hit the bar, seats or something else. In practice, I access the rack mostly from the sides anyway, so it's not a big deal. But I don't mind having to reach into the rack, use a mirror, or other minor inconveniences... Certainly understand that any pro would have wanted the 4' extension - time is money.
Woodwork and Surround Speaker Placement
Something I forgot to mention in the previous "chapter" was the pre-install speaker frames I used for the 6 surround speaker locations. They were the cardboard-and-metal-ring universal frames from EZ Bracket. I had used their round ones throughout the house during home construction, and they worked great. It appears they've been purchased by Sanus Systems, as their direct, on-line store is no longer working... And I'm not sure if the square/rectagular bracket is being made any more.
I was reminded about this as since at this point the finish carpentry contractor was building the columns, and they were taking measurements off the walls for the speaker cutouts. It was funny when I saw this, as they were being precise (5 3/16" on one, 5 1/4" on another) given the actual cutouts. I made things much easier for them by just telling them the actual dimensions and locations... The columns are done in a block panel, with some egg-and-dart molding above and crown molding on top that follows around the room.
Here's a close up shot of the rear columns:
(And a reminder that if I did it over, these columns would have just been built inside the room instead of being framed and drywalled)
So I placed the surrounds about 1-1.5' above seated listening height, and staggered the doubled side channels up 12" to match the riser height. I chose to use the larger Definitive BPZ/A dipole for the rear surrounds, and four of the small BP/A dipoles for the side channels.
One of the biggest "A-ha!" moments during the entire build process concerned the height of the bar table. I had originally planned this to be bar-height, with some nice bar stools. But since the rear row is already on a riser, I figured out that a counter-height bar table would also work. This meant that I could use regular chairs for the back row, instead of barstools. I would later find that getting comfortable, suitable chairs is just as difficult as finding comfortable barstools. My backup plan was to find some simple wood chairs from a restaurant/bar supply company.
The bar table was built on-site by the carpenters, using a set of 2"x12" and moldings to finish the edges. At their suggestion, we chamfered the corners which made for a better look and removed the corners that would have probably poked me everytime I walked by. The columns for the table are the same ones I selected for the railing in the game room. There are 4 of them, which is probably overkill, but I can stand or walk on the table top without fear.
LESSON: Those riser plans are useful, not just for figuring riser height. I didn't really use a riser plan, since the risers were already in place, and I knew 12" height meant I wouldn't have any eye line issues. Had I used one when planning the bar table and chair selection, I would have seen an issue that could have been a problem. The recliners only need a few inches from the wall to recline, but as my middle riser is a bit shallow, I've got the chair flush with the rear riser. This means that the chair reclines a few inches behind the riser. It just clears the bar table, and they actually touch the table columns such that I've pulled them 1/2" away from the riser to avoid (further) wear damage to the chair backs.
The trim for the coffered ceiling trays was also built on-site, constructed as a set of frames, using 1"x3" trim, another vertical piece to form an "L" to hide the rope light, and moldings on both edges to finish them off. Looking at them today, I'm not sure how the carpenters attached the frames to the ceiling, as there's no visible nail holes, and no brackets on the inside. Very likely the nails are covered with the outer trim molding.
Here's a close-up shot (taken today, so it's already stained and painted, obviously) of the ceiling tray from below:
And another shot looking down from above the ceiling tray, you can see the channel left for the rope light:
(hopefully those give Spaceman some ideas!)
Next up, colors, paint, and stain...
Color, Stain, Paint and Carpet
With that workword done, colors and paint selection was next. I have a lot of deep browns and reds in the surrounding game room area, and I didn't like the idea of a true "batcave" black/grey theater - and for whatever reason, I don't like black leather furniture, either. Discussing with my interior designer, we came up with a monochromatic look with a dark red/brown palette. She brought in some color choices and we went from there. The stain color is the same used in the game room (and the rest of the house, for that matter). For the ceiling treatment, she suggested a metallic paint to reflect the rope lights more and produce a warm glow. Carpet and fabrics would come later, but follow the same color theme.
You know there's a lot of woodwork when the painter comes in, ready to work, takes a look around, and says, "I'm going to need more stain."
Here's a shot of the woodwork, just after staining:
And the columns on the left side (door hasn't been replaced yet):
And with the wall color still wet on the walls:
Later, the metallic paint goes on the ceiling:
which makes a big difference as compared to the 'before paint' shot above:
Originally the door to the attic (promoted from the half-door it was initially) was intended to be painted the wall color - to just have it blend into the wall and not call attention to itself. So it's a "paint grade" door, not "stain grade", and the included trim is paint-grade as well. Talking to the painter about what do to with the door, he really disagreed with my plan. He thought the painted door wouldn't look right with all the stained wood around it (the other door and the media shelf). He said he could paint it to match the stain, and it would look good. I really doubted this, but he assured me and said if I didn't like it, he'd come back and paint it solid. So here's the picture of the attic door:
(his guys even faux painted the back - now that's "complete") I had a discussion with my builder, asking "why am I paying for stain grade lumber when the painter can do this???"
Just a few days later, the carpet gets installed. In preparation, I had done some reading and talk to folks about carpet underlayments. Once again, the theater is over the garage, so more concerned about sound coming in. With not a lot of time to decide, I ordered and had installed the QuietRock 250 pad. Which is really dang heavy stuff! It's more cushioned than a simple rubber pad, although I still wouldn't call it "soft". In hindsight, not really sure I needed to spend the money here (about $600 more), but at least, if anything, it's "overkill" for my needs.
(I'm checking on the name/color of the carpet, hopefully I'll be able to edit it in later)
Next up, Lighting and Electrical trim-out...
No ladder required. It's a very sturdy bar...
I'm not a wood worker, so I'll need to do a little research to see if I can find the right trim to pull off a similar look on the ceiling. The 1x3 "L"-shape should be easy. I'll need to study your pic a little closer to see how they trimmed it out.
It's made from a combination of off-the-shelf trim pieces, I would expect they're all available at Home Depot. I'm not sure if the vertical (inside) section is two pieces (molding with a half round) or one.
Yep, 1/2" incandescent rope, and no, just doubled up where I had a bit extra. You can't really tell where the extra is, so I didn't worry about it. 1000bulbs suggested that if overlap is noticeable, you can wrap it with electrical tape.
So far I've had three 2' sections quit working and one section is intermittent. Have not contacted the vendor yet.
Sorry to go slightly OT, but what's your experience with the reliability of your rope light? I bought 150' of 5/8" from 1000bulbs, and installed about 100' in my soffits.
So far I've had three 2' sections quit working and one section is intermittent. Have not contacted the vendor yet.
Too early I think for me to say... Only 9 months in, no issues yet. It would be interesting to see if there's a reliability difference between vendors.
I never thought about that with rope-lighting, but its a good point, what happens when something dies. You will need to gain access to replace it (and not just the section, but the whole run of rope lights.
So note to self, when running rope-lights make sure they can be replaced in case of failure.
Thanks - and that's why I'm giving her lots of credit in the posts - it sounds more manly than "I looked at color swatches for hours and hours and hours!"
So note to self, when running rope-lights make sure they can be replaced in case of failure.
Yes, that can be a definite DIY trap - pro's (should) know how to build/install for maintenance and service. I'll get to this in the next post, but you'll see that my rack installation probably isn't what the pro's would have done, as it takes more time to service than if I had done it "by the book".
Lighting and Electrical Trim-out
The recessed cans get their typical trim kits, with black reflectors and white trim. I painted the trim to match the ceiling and walls.
I purchased my rope from 1000bulbs.com, which was 1/3 the price the local guys quoted.
TIP: Unroll your rope light, wire it up, (it can get too hot if powered on the roll) and turn it on for 5 or 10 minutes before trying to put it into position. The heat will soften up the rope, making it much easier to get around corners and seat flat. (can't take credit for this tip, either - it came from 1000bulbs.com)
At this point, I've temporarily wired in some simple light switches, but I wanted to see the room with actual lighting!
The only real "fixture" to pick out for the room was the sconce lamps. I had picked out a number of Kichler fixtures in the rest of the house - so I started with their catalog at the lighting store to see if there was something there I could use. The problem with the catalogs, of course, is the colors. There's so many definitions of "antique bronze"! A lot of these fixtures have a yellow tone (brass-like). So when I found a fixture (Kichler, again) with the color as "old bronze" - I lucked out. I had that finish on another Kichler fixture, which helped to make the sight-unseen decision much easier.
Here's the sconce lamp, and a good close-up of the carpet:
Electrical trim-out finishes with brown or black wallplates and keystones. Brown for the electrical outlets surrounded by stained woodwork, and black for anything on the painted wall. One other little hard-to-find item is also now installed - a Honeywell thermostat in *black*. It actually came with 3 "designer" color plates, and was the only one I found in black...
As I said earlier, if I did it again, I probably would have gone with an 8-zone GrafikEye. Although with RadioRa2, I may just expand the system with some "hidden" Ra2 dimmers in the attic space (a real benefit of having that panel where I can get to it!). And to repeat earlier comments - getting all that romex into a 4-gang box is a real challenge!
LESSON/MISTAKE: With all the recessed lights on, it's still not bright enough in the room to read comfortably from the seating locations. Not an issue for theater use, but I ran into it many times with instruction manuals! I can crank up the sconces, but the direct glare from those at full power doesn't help the situation.
IF I DID IT OVER: I probably would have added 3" recessed can lights in the soffit above the seating locations, which of course would also have helped force me to the 8-zone GrafikEye.
Here's the GrafikEye (and the matching black thermostat!) from the entrance (photo taken recently):
Both the GrafikEye and the SeeTouch wallstation controls are 5-button models, which allow for button-access to 4 scenes plus 'off'. So it's time to plan out the scenes I'll use. The goal was to have a sequence of scenes to allow guests to adjust to the lower light level of a darkened cinema. For sports viewing, image brightness is never a problem (really no "dark" scenes in live sports), and I wanted a higher ambient light level since there's more coming and going - for beer...
I struggled to come up with a word for the first scene - "Entry", "Welcome", ick... Then my human factors background reminded me of what should have been the obvious answer: "On". Also makes it obvious to anyone else looking at the control panel how to turn the lights on and off.
My scenes as mapped on the buttons (I may create some more scenes accessed by IR/iRule only):
- On - All zones on at maximum desired (100% on cans and rope, 20% sconces).
- Pre-Show - Screen Wall off, side cans 30%, rear cans 30%, rope 85%, sconces 10%
- Cinema - Screen Wall off, side cans 20%, rear cans 30%, rope 40%, sconces 10%
- Sports Bar - Screen Wall off, side cans 30%, rear cans 50%, rope 70%, sconces 15%
The step lights are on 50% in most cases, but as I'll change this around soon, I expect they'll be on 100%, as they're only 15W and don't cast light up on the screen anyway.
LESSON: Lutron includes a certificate with the GE and the SeeTouch wall stations for free custom-engraved buttons. They suggest waiting for a while after installation before ordering them, so you (the client) figure out what the "correct" scenes are. I almost ordered them immediately, being "very sure" what my scenes would be called. Bzzzzt! Now, 9 months later, I still haven't ordered them, but my confidence level is approaching 100%.
So when I turn the projector on, I move from 'On' to 'Pre-Show', which stays through the opening cartoon and obligatory THX trailer. Then I switch to 'Cinema', which by that time doesn't seem that dark. I'll likely adjust this down further, as it's still more than bright enough in the room to navigate around the furniture (especially with the step lights on).
At some point I'll add another scene or two, controlled only from iRule, for "post-show/credits", raising the rope light level and perhaps the rear cans - but keeping the side cans low to not wash out the typically-black credit crawl.
Up next, Rack Installation...
One upside to taking months (or years!) to build the theater is that it gives you time to find good deals. In my case, that was certainly true with the rack components. Racks are not a single "item", they are systems build to your needs out of a long list of component choices. And once you figure out those choices, and collect up the part numbers, setting up an automatic eBay search is a great way to go fishing! Pro's frequently have leftover parts from jobs for a number of reasons - and a lot of them don't keep the stuff hoping they'll use it in a future job. Instead, they end up on the usual outlets on the web...
Visiting the Middle Atlantic booth at CEDIA should be on every AVS'ers to do list. Seeing the rack options in person is useful, especially for pull-out or swivel racks so you can understand all the mechanics. There's a reason why everyone recommends Middle Atlantic - the stuff is rock solid, and their service is top notch.
I had planned during home construction to use a pull-out rack (the Middle Atlantic AXS-20 rack), based on the location and the amount of space I had. We raised the rack opening off the ground about 18" and left 18" above it, to center it on the wall. That gave me 32U of rack space, which was more than enough - the racked equipment is only for the theater, other A/V gear for the house is in another closet location.
The rack planning (done before fixing the rack height) broke down like this:
- 2U Middle Atlantic LED Bar/Power Strip
- 2U Blank Panel
- 5U Pre-pro - Integra DHC40.2
- 2U Blank (Reserve for DirecTV)
- 2U BD Player - Oppo Digital BP93
- 2U Blank Panel
- 2U Xbox 360 slim
- 2U Vent Panel
- 5U Emotiva UPA7 Amp
- 1U Blank Panel
- 2U Panamax Power Conditioner
- 4U Rack Drawer
- 2U Vent Panel
As there was ample space left over after populating the planned equipment, I consumed some space with a 4U rack drawer. I'm glad I did that as it holds the remotes, some tools, and even the xbox controllers sitting in their charger. The downside of the rack flexibility is that the cost of all those pieces add up! I didn't account for the cost of the AXS tracks and Service Stand, which add quite a bit to the rack total. But some good luck over the course of 6-9 months got me a lot of good deals on the gear. Still don't like to admit that the rack goodies cost more than most (non-AVS'ers) systems...
So with all the pieces on hand, it was time to put it all together. I was concerned that the 48" service track wouldn't clear my bar table, so I had decided on the 24" track instead. This meant that the 20" deep rack would only come out a few inches from the wall. The Middle Atlantic guys didn't recommend this - I got a joking "good luck with that" chuckle from them in person about that. It turned out the 48" track would clear the bar, but with it extended, I would have to walk around the room to get from one side to the other.
The bigger issue I ran into was the total depth of the rack with the cable trays and my amplifier shelf. The rack shelf for the Emotiva amp is 21" deep (this is a 20" rack). This doesn't mean it won't fit - the last inch of the shelf just protrudes from the back of the rack frame. But it does mean that it could interfere with the cable management tray when the rack is stowed. Which turns out it would. Since the cable tray is 24" long to match the service track, when folded it's about 12" high. So the amp shelf has to be positioned above that point. Normally you want the big, heavy, heat-producing amps at the bottom.
As you can see from the list above, I moved the amp up such that the protruding shelf clears the top of the cable tray. Rack space under the amp is consumed with the drawer and the power conditioner, with all the components above. This worked out fine, as the upper part of the rack is easier to reach anwyay - there's nothing below waist-level that needs touching after installation.
Here's a shot of the rack assembled, extended on the service track and stand, with the power infrastructure in place:
LESSON: A few things learned while assembling the components. I purchased the rack-mount version of the Global Cache GC-100 (18R), and have it mounted on the rear rails (facing rear). I also purchased a half-depth shelf I planned on mounting on the rear rail as well, to hold the little gigabit Ethernet switch and anything else. Turns out both were unnecessary. While I used the GC-100's mount, I ended up just using Velcro pads to attach the Ethernet switch to the bottom of one of the other rack shelves, facing the side of the rack. Much easier to access with the lights facing one side, and the connections on the other. Same would have worked for the GC - just either these things on top of a component (one without top venting), or Velcro them to the underside of a shelf. Once the rack is closed up, no one sees this stuff anyway.
Side view of rack while pulled out:
The last part of the rack installation was ordering the custom faceplates for each of the "real" components. Shopping around for these will save you money! Before my build, I was not a fan of the custom faceplates because of the cost, and the repeating costs when you change out anything. But now, I really like the look - and I also learned that the faceplates can be swapped/replaced without buying new shelves (so the potential cost for "upgrading" components isn't as bad as I thought). I will continue to minimize this cost, however, by burying pieces that don't require user interaction behind the scenes. One of the other benefits of a dedicated rack AC circuit is that it's easy to "power cycle the rack" if the need arises.
View of the completed rack showing the service track and stand:
Here's the final rack installation (updated with the MA trim strips installed, and the Emotiva trim in black):
Next up, Acoustic Panels...
Could you post another picture from the front of that DVD display case/nook you have at your entrance. I really like that little addition, and I'd love to get a front view pic for my "inspiration files".
Sure - I probably should have put that view in the original "after" batch:
No kids (that I know of)... Which is usually the explanation for *having* the toys! But my friends are always welcome to bring their kids along - for some reason they like playing at my house.
haha sorry to scare you. Thought you mentioned kids earlier. Rock on!
I really like your rack, it is inspiring me all sorts of ideas which unfortunately will cost us more on the HT build, thank you Jeff
As part of the design and color selection, I had obtained samples of the Guilford-of-Maine fabrics and having seen the "Acoustic Suede" at an installation, I really liked that look. Perhaps its the commercial / cubicle look and feel of the GOM fabric patterns that sent me in that direction. If I was starting today I'd also consider the fabrics from TK-Living.
My builder had suggested and drawn up a plan using exposed (stained) wood framed acoustic panels. I decided against that as I thought there was (1) already a lot of exposed wood and (2) worried about light reflection from the frames. In the end, I think that concern was justified, and I'm glad I went with the wrapped panels. Having seen GPowers' thread (which, again, was the inspiration for the look of the theater to begin with), I thought about making my own panels as well. But without the tools and any real woodworking experience, I was concerned about the quality of the results (unlike a lot of my other work, this would be really visible!).
As GPowers has said recently, the fabric-track systems are probably a much better route today than the wood frames as well. I looked at this as well - thinking of doing the full-wall coverage. But getting some ballpark cost figures on the fabric track, plus fabric and fiberglass, plus time/effort/pain/suffering - I also started pricing manufactured panels (non-DIY ).
And once again, roaming the show floor at CEDIA helped a lot. As I was getting close to this point around CEDIA-time, I took my thoughts to the vendors' booths. The guys at Acoustical Solutions (Aaron Duncan) were very helpful, took a look a the plans, offered some advice, and sent me samples of both the fabrics and the edge finishes. After some comparison shopping, that's who I went with:
Here's the final plans:
I put more panels on the walls than (probably) necessary for acoustic treatment, as it seems most advice is to treat at reflection points and up to ear level (for cost). So the upper panels are more for looks than acoustics, although they obviously contribute to absorption. All of the panels are 1" thick with chemically hardened edges. Hard to see in the plans, but there are two bass traps (5' high, 2" thick) in the rear corners. I decided on a beveled edge, which I thought looked the least like a commercial (non-residential) project.
For mounting, I really wanted to avoid an adhesive, out of fear of the wall damage that would occur when I screwed up and had to move the panels around (or just mis-measured and got them in the wrong place). So that led to impaling clips, which also (rightfully) scared me because of the risk of me damaging the panels or fabric during installation. Aaron recommended the Z-clip solution, which is simply a two-piece bracket that mates as you hang the panel over it (like a picture hook). After a few missteps with my laser level (hint - just measure the walls at three points, put the laser across that line and be done!), hanging the panels only took a few hours. Again, this is one of those tasks that would be done in 1/3 the time if you have someone to help instead of doing it alone.
The one area I didn't treat - and don't think I need to (but would like feedback) - is the front wall. I did leave space behind the curtains such that more panels could be installed behind them, although getting additional bass traps in the corners would take some juggling.
After putting the panels up, the sound difference in the room is easy to hear. While the basic slap-echo reverb had disappeared when the carpet, the room was obviously still fairly live. There were some points in the rear of the room with terrible reflections, and these all went away with the panels in place.
Next up, Seating...