Soffit Height Advice Needed - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 08-08-2012, 07:27 PM - Thread Starter
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The door to my theater is at riser height, which is 15-1/2". This is set by the height of the stair landing outside the room. My room as 9' ceilings, but once I lose the 15-1/2" for my riser, and then another few inches for clips+channel+DD+GG, I'm down to 7-1/2" between the top of my door opening (not including any trim) and my ceiling. What's the least amount of space I can get away with between the top of my door and my soffit? What's the lowest soffit that would feel "comfortable" when on my riser?

Also, I'd wanted to put can lights in the soffit, but I'm worried that with the soffit being so low (when you're on the riser) that they won't work well. Any thoughts on how high the lights need to be to have a wide enough beam to be useful?

I posted this in my build thread, but sometimes questions like this get overlooked there.

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post #2 of 27 Old 08-08-2012, 07:47 PM
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I'm currently fitting recessed can lights in a 5 inch tall soffit, the can is actually 4 inches tall. It takes a GU10 flood bulb and I'm planing one 35 watt every 4 ft or so. It is basically the same light I used at the Bacon Race except they wisely mounted the connection off to the side instead of the top of the can. You need to order a 3.875 hole saw to make it a quick job. For some reason the picture and description on the Lowe's Web site is misleading.

IMG_8394.jpg

As for the door to the soffit as long as you have an inch or two you can fasten modified piece of molding at the top for case molding.

here is one example from Kirk's work.

finisheddoor.jpg
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post #3 of 27 Old 08-08-2012, 07:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J_P_A View Post

The door to my theater is at riser height, which is 15-1/2". This is set by the height of the stair landing outside the room. My room as 9' ceilings, but once I lose the 15-1/2" for my riser, and then another few inches for clips+channel+DD+GG, I'm down to 7-1/2" between the top of my door opening (not including any trim) and my ceiling. What's the least amount of space I can get away with between the top of my door and my soffit? What's the lowest soffit that would feel "comfortable" when on my riser?
Also, I'd wanted to put can lights in the soffit, but I'm worried that with the soffit being so low (when you're on the riser) that they won't work well. Any thoughts on how high the lights need to be to have a wide enough beam to be useful?
I posted this in my build thread, but sometimes questions like this get overlooked there.

Unless code says otherwise, I think you could bring it down as low as the top of the door casing and still have it feel ok. Assuming your door is at 6'-8", your bottom of soffit would be around 6'-10 1/2" with standard casing. That doesn't leave you much room though.
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post #4 of 27 Old 08-08-2012, 07:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Good call on the light, BIG! That's been one of the real head scratchers here. I've even been thinking of some edge lit LED panels, but I've got a feeling they're more expensive than I'd be willing to pay.

I would like to be able to get my ductwork into the soffit as well. But it's looking more and more like that may not happen. I'd really like to get an 8" supply in one side and an 8" return in the other. Kinda hard to make that fit into a 7-1/2" soffit, though smile.gif

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post #5 of 27 Old 08-08-2012, 09:35 PM
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You might want to consider puck lights in your soffit. I used 20 watt xenons and have been very happy with them. The low profile should allow you to run some ducting as well.

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post #6 of 27 Old 08-08-2012, 09:37 PM
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The minimum suggested height of a soffit is 8" if you want HVAC supplies to run through it. It is also, not the best place to put accent lighting. The soffit can and often does serve many useful purposes. Lighting only gets in the way of the that (especially at that height) and can also lead to vibrational issues depending on what else is attached to the soffit. However, the one exception, at least in my book, is at the front of the room for the proscenium accent lighting. Hope this helps! smile.gif

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post #7 of 27 Old 08-09-2012, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by J_P_A View Post

I would like to be able to get my ductwork into the soffit as well. But it's looking more and more like that may not happen. I'd really like to get an 8" supply in one side and an 8" return in the other. Kinda hard to make that fit into a 7-1/2" soffit, though smile.gif
You could line the soffit and use as a rectangular duct giving you slower air movement than 8" round....eg: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1383183/235-build/60_60#post_21950547
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post #8 of 27 Old 08-09-2012, 10:44 AM - Thread Starter
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So, if I only use the soffits as ducts, and possibly as a wire chase, I assume my other lighting options would be sconces on the walls and/or can lights in the ceiling with backer boxes? I really hate to put any holes in my soundproofing, but I can't really get away with no lights in the room smile.gif

Also, any thoughts on possibly lowering the riser? I don't think I can do it outside the theater due to code requirements for step heights. My riser is currently planned to be at the same height as the bottom landing of my stairs going to my basement. However, lowering the riser in the theater might be an option if I can figure out an elegant way to make the transition.

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post #9 of 27 Old 08-09-2012, 12:58 PM
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Why not build your soffit out of a layer of 3/4" OSB and 5/8" drywall. Then cut a hole in the drywall and recess puck lights inside. That leaves the whole soffit for ductwork.

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post #10 of 27 Old 08-09-2012, 01:47 PM - Thread Starter
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235 and aaustin, I think you guys are on the right track using the soffit for a duct. I'm planning to talk to Ted at the Soundproofing Company to see if he has any reservations about that approach. I could also make the soffit wider, and divide it internally. Maybe make it 16" wide, and divide it into two 8" wide sections. That would leave the inside portion for lights and the perimeter portion for ductwork.

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post #11 of 27 Old 08-09-2012, 04:54 PM
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If you look at the Bacon Race build the soffit serves dual duty, parts are used for HVAC duct duty and parts are bass traps. In addition the Bottom board was cantilevered out into the room and a light tray created that had a bunch of the Lowe's 4 inch cans and a rope light. those are the only light sources in the room.
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post #12 of 27 Old 08-09-2012, 06:06 PM
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Big's post brings up the point (obliquely) that I was going to make; if you want to divide the soffit space into light and HVAC, I would recommend light away from the wall, HVAC near it, to get more light out into the room.
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post #13 of 27 Old 08-09-2012, 08:56 PM - Thread Starter
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This is sounding more and more like the right way to go. Looking at my trusty duct sizing chart, it looks like I can get away with an 8"x6" rectangular duct and get the same flow as an 8" round duct. So I could cheat a bit, and go with maybe a 9" or 10"x6" section of the soffit built as a duct and get lower velocities.

FIELDDUCTSIZINGCHART-1.jpg

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post #14 of 27 Old 08-09-2012, 08:59 PM
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Personally, I like the lights a little bit closer to the wall so that you get a nice "wall wash" effect with an arch of light shining on the wall. I installed a few cans in the ceiling because I was worried the soffit lights wouldn't provide enough light but the only time I use them is when I'm vacuuming. My puck lights are only about 8.5" from the wall.

Also, just thinking out loud here, but are you going to run into any problems from a soundproofing perspective going with the square duct tight in the soffit? I thought that the whole point of a soffit muffler was to have insulation all around your duct so that sound can dissipate into it before it can get out of the room. It seems like your proposed plan won't have any room for insulation.

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post #15 of 27 Old 08-10-2012, 05:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aaustin View Post

..........
Also, just thinking out loud here, but are you going to run into any problems from a soundproofing perspective going with the square duct tight in the soffit? I thought that the whole point of a soffit muffler was to have insulation all around your duct so that sound can dissipate into it before it can get out of the room. It seems like your proposed plan won't have any room for insulation.

I was thinking of using duct liner to insulate the inside of the soffit areas that would act as a duct. I'm not sure what thickness is required, so I may have to adjust the width of the soffit to get the right cross-sectional area. So I suppose I'm consider a room length soffit muffler smile.gif

However, thinking about it now, if the duct liner is 2" thick, that's going to use up 4" of height. That doesn't leave much space.

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post #16 of 27 Old 08-10-2012, 09:57 AM
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Best thing to do is to determine the frequency of the noise of the duct. That is, any turbulence that occurs withing the duct will create an offending frequency at a certain dB. Using rectangular ducts will often create more turbulence than circular ducts due to differences in friction and shear associated with the shape. In my opinion, you are lining up to way over engineer this. Think about this, why would you need 2" thick insulation and why would it need to be on all four sides? In a room that has all six sides that are reflective, you often treat only 3. Treating opposing sides is the answer here. In addition, circular ducting can also come already insulated...and it isn"t two inches thick. Remember, if you build the soffit correctly, the sound still has to travel through the constructive material, which will further attenuate it.

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post #17 of 27 Old 08-10-2012, 10:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J_P_A View Post

I was thinking of using duct liner to insulate the inside of the soffit areas that would act as a duct. I'm not sure what thickness is required, so I may have to adjust the width of the soffit to get the right cross-sectional area. So I suppose I'm consider a room length soffit muffler smile.gif
However, thinking about it now, if the duct liner is 2" thick, that's going to use up 4" of height. That doesn't leave much space.

I would line the bottom of your soffit and both sides with 1" and then focus more on trying to get some 90 degree bends. The bends made from the dense soffits will help address the more challenging LF issues in part by reflecting the LF back from where it came. You could also add some flex duct outside the envelope as secondary protection for both absorption and decoupling (my post above points to sketchup that takes this approach).
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post #18 of 27 Old 08-10-2012, 08:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post

I'm currently fitting recessed can lights in a 5 inch tall soffit, the can is actually 4 inches tall. It takes a GU10 flood bulb and I'm planing one 35 watt every 4 ft or so. It is basically the same light I used at the Bacon Race except they wisely mounted the connection off to the side instead of the top of the can. You need to order a 3.875 hole saw to make it a quick job. For some reason the picture and description on the Lowe's Web site is misleading.
IMG_8394.jpg
As for the door to the soffit as long as you have an inch or two you can fasten modified piece of molding at the top for case molding.
here is one example from Kirk's work.
finisheddoor.jpg

I realize that insulation cannot touch the can. Instructions say to keep insulation at leat 3" away. Is it even safe to insulate the soffit with a halogen can?
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post #19 of 27 Old 08-10-2012, 09:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SierraMikeBravo View Post

Best thing to do is to determine the frequency of the noise of the duct. That is, any turbulence that occurs withing the duct will create an offending frequency at a certain dB. Using rectangular ducts will often create more turbulence than circular ducts due to differences in friction and shear associated with the shape. In my opinion, you are lining up to way over engineer this. Think about this, why would you need 2" thick insulation and why would it need to be on all four sides? In a room that has all six sides that are reflective, you often treat only 3. Treating opposing sides is the answer here. In addition, circular ducting can also come already insulated...and it isn"t two inches thick. Remember, if you build the soffit correctly, the sound still has to travel through the constructive material, which will further attenuate it.

Good points! I suppose the chances of a significant amount of sound traveling perfectly longitudinally down the soffit is pretty slim. Insulating opposing walls of the soffit has the benefit of freeing up space in there as well.

The main reason for over engineering is lack of knowledge. I don't have any data points to know how much insulation is enough, and I'd rather damp all the potential turbulence related frequencies than have to take it apart to address a few frequencies once it's functional. However, I can't have my cake and eat it, too. I can either over engineer and give up valuable real estate, or try to address a specific problem...... There's just never an easy answer smile.gif
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I would line the bottom of your soffit and both sides with 1" and then focus more on trying to get some 90 degree bends. The bends made from the dense soffits will help address the more challenging LF issues in part by reflecting the LF back from where it came. You could also add some flex duct outside the envelope as secondary protection for both absorption and decoupling (my post above points to sketchup that takes this approach).

I've spent a good bit of time on your thread looking at your soffit plan since you posted that link. Your soffit and duct plan is well thought out, and it's certainly got my gears turning as far as options. One of the reasons I'm trying to use the soffits it get my exhaust back to the front of the theater. The room on the opposite side of the wall in front of the screen is unfinished storage, and I would be free to add dead vents/mufflers as I see fit. Unfortunately, there aren't many placed to do that at the back of the theater.

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post #20 of 27 Old 08-10-2012, 09:51 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm trying not to get too focused on one solution, so I've spent a little time trying to come up with other alternatives. Here are a couple of renders showing where I'd planned for the HVAC supply and a crossover supply from another room to enter the theater. An immediate problem I should have already noticed is this layout will block me from running my exhaust to the front of the room. I could still use the soffits to run my supplies, but it would be a short trip in the soffit, and I'm concerned there wouldn't be enough length to properly attenuate the sound. So, I'm revisiting an idea I'd shelved from a few weeks back. I'm considering running my exhaust down through my riser, and putting a powered fan outside the theater.

VentsFraming.jpg

VentsNoCeiling.jpg

Another option for running the supplies is to route them around the front of the theater, and enter the room behind the screen wall. I call build the soffit above the stage to match the stage, which would allow it to be much deeper. Because the space in front of the theater is unfinished storage, I can build dead vents for each supply. The down side is that is LONG run of flex. Any ideas on how long the maximum would be?

DuctOptions1.jpg

I'll probably double post this in my build thread just to keep it updated. Hopefully the mods won't get too upset redface.gif

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post #21 of 27 Old 08-12-2012, 08:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SierraMikeBravo View Post

The minimum suggested height of a soffit is 8" if you want HVAC supplies to run through it. It is also, not the best place to put accent lighting. The soffit can and often does serve many useful purposes. Lighting only gets in the way of the that (especially at that height) and can also lead to vibrational issues depending on what else is attached to the soffit. However, the one exception, at least in my book, is at the front of the room for the proscenium accent lighting. Hope this helps! smile.gif

Great post!
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Think about this, why would you need 2" thick insulation and why would it need to be on all four sides?

Just a thought, but one reason would be to simply increase the cubic volume of insulation per lineal foot. More insulation increases the efficiency as a muffler, as the sound waves have to wade though more resistance per lineal foot. Less insulation per foot means a longer uninterrupted length of soffit.
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Remember, if you build the soffit correctly, the sound still has to travel through the constructive material, which will further attenuate it.

That's for sure true if the construction materials are damped.

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post #22 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 03:25 PM - Thread Starter
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It's looking more and more like this will be the winner for my supply and return layout.

VentsNoCeiling.jpg

I may swap which of the two supplies has the longer run. As shown, the HVAC supply would only be about 4' long from the 10" trunk to the room opening, and the crossover would be around 35' long. If I swap them, then the HVAC supply will be ~24' long and the crossover will be around ~15' long.

I'll need to run this by Ted, but I'm considering a joist muffler for both and a short section of soffit/duct. Just to prevent a direct opening from the room to the joist muffler. I'll try to get a drawing up for everyone to critique smile.gif

Also, can anyone offer any suggestions on the maximum height difference I could get away with between the floor inside and outside my entry door? I thought I might be able to pick up a little headroom there, but I don't want to create a trip hazard.

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post #23 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
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Also, can anyone offer any suggestions on the maximum height difference I could get away with between the floor inside and outside my entry door? I thought I might be able to pick up a little headroom there, but I don't want to create a trip hazard.
This ehow article suggests 1/8" and explains there is probably a building code rule applicable. That doesn't mean a step couldn't be integrated, IMO. This seems relevant too. How much floor change is potentially available?
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post #24 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 04:04 PM - Thread Starter
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My landing is at 15-1/2". So that's where my door has to be. Every other step in the house is ~7-1/2", so I'm concerned that making one step down at 4" might be a tripping hazard.

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post #25 of 27 Old 08-19-2012, 08:17 PM - Thread Starter
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And another soffit related question.

How far away from the ceiling do the rope lights need to be? Now that I'm finally coming to the realization that my soffit is going to be pretty shallow, I'm looking at the other things it will affect.

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post #26 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 01:01 AM
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post #27 of 27 Old 08-20-2012, 05:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, that's going to be quite a bit more space than I will have. I'm thinking more like 6" to 6-1/2" from the ceiling to the bottom of the soffit. That would give me an inch or so above my door to the soffit bottom.

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