Design help - low ceiling basement theater - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 10-02-2012, 10:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Hey everyone,

I recently moved into a new house and it's always been a dream of mine to have a home theater / hangout area. The only problem is the low ceilings. From basement floor to the bottom of the joists above is 7ft, 2in. However, there are a lot of sofitts for the forced-air furnace supplies and returns. This brings the ceiling down about another foot in certain spots, making it 6ft, 2in. There is an existing drop ceiling with acoustical tiles.

The house was built in 1978. There is a steel I-beam spanning the width of the house (aprox 30ft), with 2 supports evenly spaced in the middle. We have a block wall foundation with a 1-inch drainage gap where the basement walls meet the floor. There is no sump pump or drain, from what I understand this gap will collect any water seeping in from the walls and it will evaporate. I have not noticed any water seepage or spots on the walls. The basement is already finished with drywall, partition walls and a mismatch of flooring.

I've attached some pictures and Sketchup designs that I've worked on the past couple days. I am no expert, and some things may not be entirely to scale but it should be pretty close. I designed an "ideal future state" but I'm looking for anyone willing to help me design the room or lend some advice on relocating HVAC and / or columns. I would consider changing the proposed layout too if someone has better ideas. Of course I would prefer free advice but I am also willing to pay if the price is reasonable.

The one thing I am not considering at this juncture is digging the basement down. I know some people have done it successfully but that is going to be the absolute last option if nothing else will work. And even then, I will be very hard pressed to convince the wifey on that.

My wish list;

Soundproofed walls and ceiling

Dedicated HT area with riser
  • 6-8 reclining seats and/or couch
  • DIY 100+ inch acoustically transparent screen w/ front projector
  • 7.1 or 7.2 surround sound

Bar area
  • L-shaped or corner bar
  • Cabinetry
  • 4-6 bar stools
  • Sink

Half bathroom
  • Upflush Toilet
  • Sink

Thanks in advance!

Click here for Sketchup files

With HVAC / plumbing


Without HVAC / plumbing


Ideal future state

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post #2 of 19 Old 10-03-2012, 01:38 PM
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1. Are you saying that there are 2 steel support posts evenly spaced underneath the I beam? If so, it would seem you need a structural engineer to advise you in relocating the posts and or reinforcing the I beam in some other manner.

2. What is the thing right behind where your proposed screen is located? Is it a fireplace or something?

3. Did I miss where your HVAC fan and hot water heater and all that good stuff are located? Wherever they are they will need to be kept outside of the sound envelope.

4. Do you have to have the bathroom and the bar area? Is the plumbing already in those locations?

5. What is the little room in the left hand bottom corner?

6. Is anything underneath the stairwell right now?

If the structural issues were taken care of I think you could benefit from the avs pro theater layout service. It might still be offered at a sale price. Not sure though. I think it would help you in how to utilize that space for the best experience. Since the service is for finished areas you would have to know where the walls are going to go before asking for the service. And that may be dictated by your structural concerns anyway.

I have an I beam that I am going to frame around in order to lose the minimum ht. There will be a 1/4 to 1/2 inch gap and then 2 layers of 5/8 drywall with gg between. Just normal soffit framing around it (but nothing under it).

You can also use 2x4's to span across your ceiling joists to place the isolation clips into in order to save an inch or so of ceiling ht. There is a diagram of this on thesoundproofingcompany website.

My theater also backs up against a stairwell wall and you will want to decouple your walls from it somehow. And the door going to the stairwell also.

The little room that is on the left side of the proposed screen will most likely interfere with proper placement of your left channel. I would say lose that room and use the space underneath the stairwell for your equipment closet. Get it outside the room anyway.

You will probably get reflections off of things in the bar area and it may be distracting being in the front of the room like that. I think you might want to consider rearranging what goes where. And the I beam/2 supports situation may limit what you can do. Any pictures?

If your budget allows then I would consider the layout service and getting thesoundproofingcompany involved right away. Don't buy anything yet. My projector is currently collecting dust becoming outdated:mad:

You might consider putting your screen on the wall opposite the bar area so the bar is in the back of the theater. Then get rid of that little room in the corner. Center the seating in the middle of that space. The bathroom in the back would make the room a bit too short and interfere with surround speaker placement so you could get rid of it or stuff it under the stairwell somehow. Lots of tradeoffs. Then maybe put up another wall along the stairwell to completely decouple it.

If you are willing to maybe give up a few things and get creative then you seem to have the space to do a double wall sound isolation scheme. You still need to clip and channel, double drywall with gg on your ceiling though.

I am not very knowledgeable but thought I would respond anyway.
Lots to think about down there.
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post #3 of 19 Old 10-03-2012, 05:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply. Lots of great questions, I do have some answers but other things I hadn't really thought about. I realize my initial designs are contingent upon rerouting / removing some of the HVAC and structural components. Nothing is set in stone yet, I'm just trying to get some things on paper because I like to visualize it.

I've tried to reply to everything below in blue, and attached some better pictures for clarification.
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Originally Posted by jedimastergrant View Post

1. Are you saying that there are 2 steel support posts evenly spaced underneath the I beam? If so, it would seem you need a structural engineer to advise you in relocating the posts and or reinforcing the I beam in some other manner. Correct. This is the first step in my project before I pay for a design service or begin any construction.
2. What is the thing right behind where your proposed screen is located? Is it a fireplace or something? There is a block wall footing for the chimney and fireplace above. It's faced in brick currently.
3. Did I miss where your HVAC fan and hot water heater and all that good stuff are located? Wherever they are they will need to be kept outside of the sound envelope. The utilities (hot water heater and furnace) are in the southwest corner room.
4. Do you have to have the bathroom and the bar area? Is the plumbing already in those locations? There is no plumbing in the basement currently, but the main drain is located in the northeast corner so it was the only place that made sense to put a bathroom without having to run more pipe / sofitt.
5. What is the little room in the left hand bottom corner? Utilities.
6. Is anything underneath the stairwell right now? Just some shelving and storage space. This was where I planned to put my equipment rack, assuming I can easily wire everything to the HT area.

You can also use 2x4's to span across your ceiling joists to place the isolation clips into in order to save an inch or so of ceiling ht. There is a diagram of this on thesoundproofingcompany website. I was planning on adding mass to the bottom of the subfloor above (ie. strips of drywall) and then insulation to dampen the foot noise from above. I've seen some other folks have done this with good success. My plan is to keep the drop ceiling but replace the white acoustical tiles with barn siding or something similarly dense. I think clips + drywall would likely shrink the ceiling even more.

My theater also backs up against a stairwell wall and you will want to decouple your walls from it somehow. And the door going to the stairwell also. I hadn't really thought about that too much. Would it be just as good to strip the wall to studs and use clips for decoupling? Or do I need to install additional staggered studs?

The little room that is on the left side of the proposed screen will most likely interfere with proper placement of your left channel. I would say lose that room and use the space underneath the stairwell for your equipment closet. Get it outside the room anyway. Not sure I'm willing to incur the cost of moving the furnace and hot water heater. I hadn't thought about how that wall would reflect sound from the left channel. Another kink!

You will probably get reflections off of things in the bar area and it may be distracting being in the front of the room like that. I think you might want to consider rearranging what goes where. And the I beam/2 supports situation may limit what you can do. Any pictures? That drawing was a tentative layout, I'm considering all options at this point so moving the screen and/or bar is certainly an option.

Current basement with HVAC / plumbing colored


Current basement no HVAC colored


Future HT basement v2

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post #4 of 19 Old 10-03-2012, 06:27 PM
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Ok, so I would try to keep the utilities where they are too to save money.

Ceiling:

If you want to do sound proofing then you are going to have to decouple the ceiling one way or another. I think the best way to do it in your situation might be clips and channel. Yes, you would lose some ht and that is a very precious commodity.

I am also considering adding mass to my ceiling (in addition to the clips and channel) just as you describe. But, the main purpose is to decrease foot fall noise. It will not act as effective sound proofing for you if what I have learned on this forum is true. It is just something extra to do if you have hardwood floors above and a heavy traffic way. Go ahead and do it. But it is not a substitute for decoupling the ceiling from what I understand.

At any rate if you want full sound proofing you need to decouple all walls. You might have already looked but thesoundproofingcompany is the resource I used.

The poles may be an issue. How much distance between the poles and the north wall? You might have a narrow theater, but you could put the theater there. Put the bathroom along the south side then.

And about the left speaker thing. I meant that the small room could end up (depending on seating distance) exactly where you would want to place your left speaker in order to achieve around a 22-30 degree angle for optimal sound staging just like in the THX and Dolby and DTS diagrams that you see frequently.
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post #5 of 19 Old 10-04-2012, 11:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jedimastergrant View Post

At any rate if you want full sound proofing you need to decouple all walls. You might have already looked but thesoundproofingcompany is the resource I used.

The existing walls along the outside of the basement are already decoupled from the foundation. There is a 4-6" gap between the block walls and the framed walls. I'm more worried about the ceiling to be honest, especially since the height is such an issue. What if I kept the drop ceiling? It doesn't contact the floor joists above, and I would seal all the air gaps with caulk / GG and insulation when I add mass anyway. So it would look like this;

Subfloor
GG
5/8 drywall
GG
5/8 drywall
Insulation
Drop ceiling w/ wood or barn siding

Of course the drop ceiling is about 3 inches below the floor joists already, so if I went with a double layer of 5/8 instead I might actually gain a little headroom. I just cringe at the thought of removing all these ceiling tracks.
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The poles may be an issue. How much distance between the poles and the north wall?

From south wall to posts is 12'8" and from north wall to posts is 10'7". Which is a little confusing, I would have thought the beam was placed at the center of the house but that's not the case. I measured it 3 times just to be sure.

Assuming the posts cannot be moved the south side usable space dimensions (without obstructing anyone's view) would be roughly 7'3" wide (due to stairs and utility room) x 20'4" long, and the north side usable space dimensions would be 10'7" wide x 22'8" long.

I've drawn up another plan using the north side as the HT room without moving any posts or structural components. I would still need to move some HVAC and plumbing though. The measurements don't look quite right, but they're within a few inches.

Thoughts?

Design v4, without moving support posts


Decoupled exterior walls


Ceiling height.

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post #6 of 19 Old 10-04-2012, 11:32 AM
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You can use DC04 clips in such a way to mount the channel parallel to the joists and lose only a little over 1.5" of headroom, in which case you are actually GAINING headroom AND doing a far superior job of sound isolation over using the drop ceiling.

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post #7 of 19 Old 10-04-2012, 11:34 AM
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post #8 of 19 Old 10-04-2012, 11:36 AM
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^^^^ Yes! Ted comes through again! I forgot about that method. I wish I had known about it when I did mine. Much simpler than the mounting blocks to the side of the joist that I used. And those clips are cheaper, too!

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post #9 of 19 Old 10-05-2012, 08:14 AM - Thread Starter
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post #10 of 19 Old 10-05-2012, 10:14 AM
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And that's a deal, because long-winded me would have taken 2000 words to explain it.

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post #11 of 19 Old 10-05-2012, 08:07 PM
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That is great that your walls are already decoupled. I would take the advice of the previous 2 posters and decouple the ceiling with that technique (that is what I was trying to describe before). I am thinking of doing the same thing to my ceiling.

The v4 looks good but it would be nice if someone who really know their stuff (not me) could give you some advice. It might be difficult to have only 10'7'' in width because you need to get the angles right between your R and L and listening positions. You might need to bring the speakers out into the room to get the angles a little more favorable and also put your first row of seating pretty close and go with a smaller screen. Well, at least that is at least one way to go about it.

Ideally, you are able to somehow move those support posts and you get a larger room. I would REALLY look into this.

It might be better to look at putting the screen on the south wall. Your first and second row seating would be centered between the support posts. Not sure if it would work but it gives you a lot more space to work with so you can put your front speakers in the right place in relation to your listening position. In regards to the audio......it is my (crude) understanding that this is very very important. I would go to great lengths to get this right.

Liking the south wall idea more and more to get you some more space.
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post #12 of 19 Old 10-05-2012, 08:40 PM
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I moved my support poles back in the day. Replaced an 8" tall steel I beam with a 12" tall one to handle the span.

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post #13 of 19 Old 10-06-2012, 05:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
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I moved my support poles back in the day. Replaced an 8" tall steel I beam with a 12" tall one to handle the span.

That sounds expensive. How long was the span? My beam is 8" and the span would be close to 28'.
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It might be difficult to have only 10'7'' in width because you need to get the angles right between your R and L and listening positions.

Someone suggested in a PM that I widen the room, and hide the posts in columns. This sould give me almost 2 more feet, making the room about 12'6" wide. I will sketch it up and post a new pic soon.

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post #14 of 19 Old 10-06-2012, 06:25 AM
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Wouldn't that be more like an extra 4-6" of width? (One set of columns on one side)
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post #15 of 19 Old 10-06-2012, 07:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Wouldn't that be more like an extra 4-6" of width? (One set of columns on one side)

Yes, that's right. My drawing must have gotten out of scale and it's showing different dimensions.

I just hand measured it and it would be about 11'3" wide with the columns in the room.

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post #16 of 19 Old 10-07-2012, 07:07 PM
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Design 4 looks like a major $ saver - and an easier space to build an treat. Ted's details are A+.
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post #17 of 19 Old 10-08-2012, 06:56 AM
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I vote for design 4 as well, a bit narrow but a good plan.

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post #18 of 19 Old 12-05-2012, 11:01 AM
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Any progress?
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post #19 of 19 Old 08-15-2013, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted White View Post


This was linked from another post in a different topic (how's that for six degress of kevin bacon?)

question - can I also run HVAC, electrical and signal wires through those joist cavities and then still mount the ceiling underneath it?
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