New Basement theater - wood panelling and small windows - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 05-22-2013, 12:24 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm wondering if someone can help me here. I'm in the midst of planning a new theater in the house that I just purchased. I'm at the planning stage right now. I had a projector previously and really want to get back to that in my new house. I have a few questions that I'm hoping people can offer some help/suggestions on. A few things regarding the space:

It's in the basement and the basement area is L shaped. The dimensions are approximately 11.5' wide by 13.5', and the length could be extended up to an additional 12' if needed. The ceiling height is unfortunately a little low at about 83" to the bottom of the joists, and the previous owner put in the beginnings of a drop ceiling which would drop the ceiling by approximately 3-4 inches.

My goal here is to have a front projection system and at least a 100" screen, preferably 109" if possible. I know that would mean that the screen would be closer to the ground but I've posted here before and a number of people indicated that this shouldn't be a problem.

My initial questions right now are:
1. The room has (fake) wood panelling on the walls. I've attached a picture that hopefully gives an idea. There is insulation between this and the studs. For the new theater, would you remove the panelling and start fresh with drywall and acoustic treatments, or do something directly on top of the wood panelling?
2. There are three windows along the long side of the room. They are not large at all. I've attached a picture to help with this as well. I don't see any need for these windows, and they would need replacing anyway due to decay. Is it difficult/costly to cover up windows rather than just replacing them?
3. As you may have noticed, I have just started this process and have lots of questions. How would i go about obtaining a designer or someone to assist with making decisions for this? For a design, do you have any approximation on what that would cost? I'm assuming (correct me if I'm wrong) that I would be better going with a home theater store rather than a basement remodeller. I'm in the greater detroit area.

Thank you for any suggestions/help.


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post #2 of 15 Old 05-22-2013, 05:39 PM
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Everyone deserves a theater but a few things to keep in mind. In my county for a room to be legal it must have a minimum of an 84 inch ceiling height and finishing a basement requires an emergency egress window if it is not a walk out basement. None of those windows would qualify. What does it mean to build a room not in code compliance? You would not be able to represent it as finished space for appraisal or resale purposes.There may be some insurance and liability issues. But it happens every day, build your space and enjoy it. I would rip off the paneling because I seriously doubt the skills of someone who would waste 3 inches for a ceiling in that room and I want to know what is hidden that needs fixing. Like bad wiring.

It is pretty easy to cover windows and I do it all the time.


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post #3 of 15 Old 05-22-2013, 07:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks BigmouthinDC for your reply (and your edit). Although I'm not happy to hear it, it's good that I'm hearing it now. I'm not at home now but when I am i'll remeasure the ceiling height. However, it's unfortunate if i can't have this done properly b/c of 1 to 1.5 inches (if I drywalled the ceiling).

I'm just checking regarding doing this still if it doesn't meet minimum code, as this will be my first renovation. Is this a type of renovation then, if i'm under 84", that could get me in trouble with the city/county/state if they inspected the house or saw work being done? I'm assuming that:

permits are not possible as the ceiling height in and of itself would not allow any work to be done to make this a habitable space, and;
if i have someone do/help with the work, then it would need to be done without the city/county/state knowledge.

I look at this as my house, and i'm a single guy who just wants his own home theater but doesn't also want to cause any trouble. it would be a shame to lose this due to basically 1 inch. I would do an egress window if that was the only thing, but of course lowering the floor is cost prohibitive.

Thanks again for your help.
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post #4 of 15 Old 05-22-2013, 08:09 PM
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Basements are finished all the time without permits. How serious your county takes it is unknown, Just watch your rear view mirror when you bring supplies home from Home Depot.

i"m currently doing a project in a county where the code says, "permits are not required for basement game rooms" .

My personal feeling is it is your house and if you want to fix up a room to watch a movie go for it, however you have to think about involving others in your fun and the legal exposure.


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post #5 of 15 Old 05-22-2013, 08:37 PM
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I say go for it Pulper!!
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post #6 of 15 Old 05-22-2013, 09:55 PM
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pulper:

BIG has given you some good suggestions. He has actually said more than you realize but needs to put it between the lines because he is a contractor and could have some liability for his advice. I grew up in the Detroit area. My dad was an electrician before he passed away and I helped him on several jobs. In most cases they aren't too picky in the Detroit area unless you intend to sleep full time in your basement. The biggest problem you will have is a jealous neighbor tattling to city hall. Be careful what you put out at the curb for trash pickup as that tips the neighbors off to what you are doing and you never know what is going to set a neighbor off. Also, some cities in Michigan pay a bounty to trash collectors to report any building materials found in the trash. Most of the suburbs are pretty lenient with what they will allow a home owner to do on their own without permits. I am in Fenton now and just recently had the Menard's truck pull up in my driveway and unload lumber and supplies into my garage. I had no problems with my neighbors or the city. In fact several of my neighbors volunteered to help me carry the stuff down into my basement. You just need to strike up a friendship with your new neighbors. BTW, on most older construction in Michigan a 7 to 7 1/2 foot basement ceiling was pretty standard. My condo/townhouse was built in 1983 and my basement ceiling is 7 1/2 feet at the bottom of the first floor, floor joists. When you consider the steel support beam and the HAVAC ducts I have places where it is only 6 feet at best. Joke here but I am going to invent the first goose neck overhead projector mount to get around beams and HAVAC ducts, and become rich and famous.


*******You don't say exactly where in the Detroit area you are so just a tip. I am sure you are aware that most of the Detroit area has one giant salt mine under it. A lot of it is abandoned now but some of it is still operational. I actually grew up in Allen Park. You could go down in my parent's basement and when the salt mine's train would run underground everything would vibrate. My Dad was always fighting foundation and underground sewer problems because of that. You might want to check your basement walls for any signs of cracking and check that any underground floor drains you have are clear before you spend time and money on your basement. Not trying to scare you but it would be a real mess if you discover those problems after you have drywall up and a floor down. If you have any of those problems fix them first. The reason I added this tip is the paneling is making me nervous. A lot of people used paneling to finish off basements or garages in Michigan instead of drywall because drywall cracks when there is movement..
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post #7 of 15 Old 05-23-2013, 03:27 AM
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Learn something new everyday. smile.gif

http://www.avsforum.com/t/996973/small-theater-build-threads/270 would be a good primer for small builds.

There's been a few nice budget builds that kept panelled walls, on the AVS Forum. . I'm with Big though, I would want to know what's hidden behind the panelling and know if there's any issues.

The panelling could be pulled and reinstalled. It needn't even be the final finish as you could do panelled fabric walls on top of the panelling.

I would enquire about local codes regarding ceiling height. Codes vary, here it is 75% of a room's floor's square footage must have a minimum of 7' of height. At the very least, you would know
exactly where you stand. The height might be an issue if you want two rows of seating, but if you are good with one row of seating, the height isn't a huge issue.

A good floor plan with measurements, doors, and windows, with all obstacles labelled, could get you lots of feedback. I would also suggest you show the whole basement as doors can be moved
to clean up traffic flow or fix issues.
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post #8 of 15 Old 05-23-2013, 04:02 AM
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I'm kind of in the same boat as the OP. I have a 24 x 14.5 space I'm renovating into our HT room. We purchased our house in '08 and the windows are around the same size as the OP's. My other issue is that the current ceiling is 6'.79" with drywall. Code says the minimum height requirement has to be 6'6" so I'm not sure if I am going to be able to DD the ceiling when that part of the project starts.

An option I am looking into is building a "plug" for the window that can be removed for emergency egress which could work for compliance.
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post #9 of 15 Old 05-23-2013, 04:19 AM
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Assuming the OP's basement doesn't have a way of getting out in an emergency. Those windows look a little small for most US adults. The first project activity should be to install a fire alarm connected to one on the first floor along the escape route at the top of the stairs. Then you can work away on your theater space with the knowledge you and your friends won't be trapped in an Easy Bake Oven.

I've never used one but i think they make alarms that communicate wireless.
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post #10 of 15 Old 05-23-2013, 08:07 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi everyone – thanks for all your suggestions! I really appreciate them.
To answer a question here, I am in Dearborn MI.
I hear what people are saying about the paneling so I think removing it makes the most sense. I would then be able to start fresh with good insulation.
My main problem with not being able to go the permit route is that I would have asked for help from one of the hifi companies regarding design and possibly the build. Being single and not the most handy person and in a new town, that was what I was thinking would be the best route. However now that route doesn’t seem to be possible as any reputable company, I’m assuming, would do the work so that it would pass inspection.
Macfan – I think that I’m pretty safe with the sewer system as it was just dealt with. However I do have some galvanized pipe for plumbing (not all but some) which I’m thinking should be replaced first. Also, my water heater is older so that might be going too. Having just moved in not too long ago during the winter, I haven’t had much opportunity to make friends of all my neighbors so who knows how they would react with work being done.
Tedd – thanks for the link – I will be looking at that more today. Regarding the code, I looked into the Michigan residential code and it indicates the following:
R305.1 MIN. CEILING HEIGHT. Habitable rooms, hallways, corridors, bathrooms, toilet rooms, laundry rooms, and basements shall have a ceiling height of not less than 7’. The required height shall be measured from the finish floor to the lowest projection from the ceiling.
EXCEPTIONS:
1. Beams and girders spaced not less than 4’ on center may project not more than 6” below the required ceiling height.
2. Ceilings in basements without habitable spaces may project to within 6’-8” of the finished floor, and beams, girders, ducts or other obstructions may project to within 6’-4” of the finished floor.
3. Not more than 50% of the required floor area of a room or space is permitted to have a sloped ceiling less than 7’ in height with no portion of the required floor area less than 5’ in height.
4. Bathrooms shall have a minimum ceiling height of 6’-8” over the fixture and at the front clearance area for fixtures as shown in Figure R307.2. A shower or tub equipped with a shower head shall have a minimum ceiling height of 6’-8” above a minimum area 30” by 30” at the showerhead.

I’m assuming that this trumps anything that my county or city has regarding minimum heights (unless they would say the minimum is higher) so although I couldn’t find it, I’m assuming it’s safe to say that the minimum height is at least 7’. Correct me if you think I’m wrong. As I said above, I’ll have to remeasure to make sure that my original measurements are not off, when I return. The MRC also indicates that if the basement is used for living, it needs an egress window or another form of direct access to the outside. Regarding the windows that I have, they are way too small for anyone but a child. Regarding the drop ceiling, perhaps the previous owners started this project and then realized that it didn’t meet code if they finished it. Who knows.

I’ll look into putting up a plan later this weekend regarding the basement. Thanks for your help. If you have any other thoughts, I’d love to hear them. I really miss my 120” screen that I had before.
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post #11 of 15 Old 05-23-2013, 01:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post

Assuming the OP's basement doesn't have a way of getting out in an emergency. Those windows look a little small for most US adults. The first project activity should be to install a fire alarm connected to one on the first floor along the escape route at the top of the stairs. Then you can work away on your theater space with the knowledge you and your friends won't be trapped in an Easy Bake Oven.

I've never used one but i think they make alarms that communicate wireless.

You can search for Kidde interconnected alarms on Amazon. They have wireless or wired.
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post #12 of 15 Old 05-29-2013, 10:02 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello - I have come up with my floor plan. Hopefully this makes sense as I'm not very good in sketchup. I am hoping that some people will look at this plan and provide some ideas. I would be very grateful.

A few points regarding the plan:
The bottom of each window sill is about 64" from the ground. The window dimensions are approximately 16" x 31".
The wall on the right side is finished, but if i close it up on sketchup then you lose a lot of my plan. That wall would be probably better for the projection screen as it is wider and that area of the basement has more room. however, that is where the water supply comes from and also where there are two drains. i'm thinking therefore it would be more expensive to deal with.
the ceiling height is not consistent throughout the basement (not huge amount of inconsistency but about an inch), but in the area of the room where i am thinking of putting the projection screen, the height from floor to bottom of the joists is about 83.5". Therefore, with drywall and carpeting/pad, i'm assuming it would be more like a little under 82" once done.

Let me know if you have any questions or need clarification. I appreciate any help. Thank you.

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post #13 of 15 Old 05-29-2013, 11:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulper View Post


I’m assuming that this trumps anything that my county or city has regarding minimum heights (unless they would say the minimum is higher

Actually when it comes to building codes you follow the money. He who pays the inspector makes the rules. If the county pays the inspector they typically make the rules and there have been pocket areas where they implement some rules catering to certain political interests. For instance there are some counties where it is not legal for a homeowner to perform any electrical work, not even replacing a switch. Of course there is a strong local union of electrical workers who support this provision and see no reason to change it.

Often county codes will be the same as state or national (there are even international codes) and they will say so. What you often find however is that counties may adopt a certain version of the code and be slow to adopt a newer version so while Michigan may have 2013 codes in place, The county may follow and inspect to 2011 code.


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post #14 of 15 Old 06-01-2013, 06:13 PM
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So just what is the drop section of ceiling in the second picture, hiding?

Can this obstruction be tucked up, or reworked?

A couple of thoughts:

pulper - 2.jpg 59k .jpg file

pulper - 3.jpg 60k .jpg file

The door could be framed as a single door with gasket, and the walls be done in speaker cloth.
(The front window and door would essentially disappear.) The panelled walls would be hidden.
Drywall the ceiling, recycle the suspended ceiling for the storage room. Drywall the walls beyond the
blacked out alcove. Wire in screen spots and over seating spots and add a couple of scones on the
back wall.
Attached Images
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File Type: jpg pulper - 3.jpg (59.5 KB, 7 views)
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post #15 of 15 Old 06-04-2013, 04:17 AM
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