Did you ever "weigh" your theater? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 34 Old 06-25-2013, 10:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Hello there!

Long time lurker; first time poster to the dedicated theater section. While consumer electronics is my day job, I'm routinely amazed by the talent, ingenuity, and overall borderline insane devotion to craft that repeatedly appears in this corner of the Internet.

And with the formalities out of the way...on to my question:

I have a split-level house, built in 1983. I bought the house in foreclosure from a hoarder about 4 years ago, so after removing the god-awful testament to capitalism gone mad from the garage, rebuilding the lower level, teaching myself to install a 125' retaining wall, and remodeling the upstairs...it's time for a dedicated theater space.

There is an attached 2-car garage, the main area of which roughly measures 23' wide by 27'' deep. As cramming a "movie area" into a bedroom was never really an option for my tendency to overdo home improvement projects, the options are to build out...or build up. I don't want to lose the driveway or yard area by expanding outward (not to mention the associated issues with electrical, setbacks, etc.), so I'm looking to engineer a second story above the existing garage.

The garage has 8' 2x4 walls, all of which I double-studded last summer. I know second (and often third) stories are built over 2x4 walls all the time, but the weight requirements of a dedicated, properly isolated theater are far beyond standard living space. I will more than likely need to get a structural engineer involved to vett some of my ideas (footings for an independantly supported 2nd floor is my first thought), but that's where the title of my post (finally) comes into play.

I find myself in a situaiton where in order to build a second story to house the theater, I need to plan out exactly what that theater and associated construction would weigh, in order to have the engineer design or approve what would be needed to support the second story...well, you see where I'm going here.

Some extensive design and planning work is in my future, but I thought I'd start by reaching out to the community and seeing if anyone had undertaken a similar adventure. The floor plan of the existing garage is below (the top right buildout houses a fireplace); please let me know if any further details would be helpful.

Thanks in advance for any insights!

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post #2 of 34 Old 06-25-2013, 11:04 AM
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What are you thinking will be so heavy? Was the garage built with a second story in mind? If you think of a standard living room you would have a couch or two, maybe a chair, tv, various tables and such and throw in 5-8 adults that can be pretty heavy. I would think if a bonus room over a garage can hold a slate 9' table and a room full of people a theater should be within reason,
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post #3 of 34 Old 06-25-2013, 11:23 AM
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I agree with wraunch's post, and I think you're headed in the right direction. You're talking about the safety of your family, so consult a structural engineer and don't mess with this one yourself.

A lot of this of course depends on the level of (in)sanity you're considering with this buildout...are you thinking about multiple layers of drywall etc? Do you want to put a bunch of sand in a stage on the second floor? I'm certainly no engineer, but I'm sure they have calculations for all the types of load you're considering. If you're talking about adding on to your house, this is a serious project - you would likely be well served to contact some of the pros here (i.e. Erskine Group) - I would bet they could handle these calculations or could at least point your engineer in the right direction.

Good luck!

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http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1289590
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post #4 of 34 Old 06-25-2013, 11:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wraunch View Post

What are you thinking will be so heavy? Was the garage built with a second story in mind? If you think of a standard living room you would have a couch or two, maybe a chair, tv, various tables and such and throw in 5-8 adults that can be pretty heavy. I would think if a bonus room over a garage can hold a slate 9' table and a room full of people a theater should be within reason,
I am looking to go ridiculous. Not because I can...but because I'd hate to skimp somewhere because the weight restrictions of a largely standard wall construction type prohibited something more advantageous.

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Originally Posted by AirBenji View Post

I agree with wraunch's post, and I think you're headed in the right direction. You're talking about the safety of your family, so consult a structural engineer and don't mess with this one yourself.

A lot of this of course depends on the level of (in)sanity you're considering with this buildout...are you thinking about multiple layers of drywall etc? Do you want to put a bunch of sand in a stage on the second floor? I'm certainly no engineer, but I'm sure they have calculations for all the types of load you're considering. If you're talking about adding on to your house, this is a serious project - you would likely be well served to contact some of the pros here (i.e. Erskine Group) - I would bet they could handle these calculations or could at least point your engineer in the right direction.

Good luck!
My thought process is I would need to design (and by "design" I mean "determine all the parts of the room and system"), add the weight of people, multiply times a safety factor, and ask the engineer how many Legos it would take to support that safety. Or steel. Whatever; I'm not picky.

I want to do a proper room within a room, sand filled stage, double drywall, etc., and not have to worry about hitting a weight restriction. If it becomes too much to be reasonable supported I'll go back to "building out" versus "building up", but that's not the first choice.

That's a good call on contacting Erskine. I know his group has tiers that are better suited towards DIYers, and a proper design combined with a materials list is basically the weight calculation. Perhaps I'll need to harass them sooner rather than later...
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post #5 of 34 Old 06-25-2013, 12:43 PM
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I'm doing a second floor build and never thought twice about the weight
wraunch likes this.

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post #6 of 34 Old 06-25-2013, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

I'm doing a second floor build and never thought twice about the weight
That's fine given two caveats, IMO (IANAL or engineer). First you not fill a stage with sand, and second, the building already be designed to have second floor occupancy - which the OP's building is not.
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post #7 of 34 Old 06-26-2013, 05:24 AM
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True^

I'm skipping sand. It's new construction with intended and proper support.

You think no sand is a problem ?

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post #8 of 34 Old 06-26-2013, 05:44 AM
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Yes. It is a problem...BUT far, far less a problem than subjecting the structure to a static load it wasn't designed to support.

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post #9 of 34 Old 06-26-2013, 07:09 AM
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Alternatives ?

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post #10 of 34 Old 06-26-2013, 09:43 AM
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The sand does a few things in a stage.

First, it prevents air in the cavities of the structure from resonating and making noise (like a drum).

Second, it damps the sub's vibrational energy within the stage and associated structure (framing and foundation), inhibiting or limiting the transmission of that energy outside of the room.

I think the third reason has to do with providing an inert massive platform for it, but I have trouble with the logic on that one. This benefit hinges on the sand-filled structure being much more massive than the sub, as I understand it - like an order of magnitude more massive.

The alternative is accomplishing only purpose number one, by filling the structural cavities with fiberglass insulation (or similar).
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post #11 of 34 Old 06-26-2013, 10:18 AM
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So filling my stage with insulation is all I need to do ?

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post #12 of 34 Old 06-26-2013, 10:20 AM
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post #13 of 34 Old 06-26-2013, 09:15 PM
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Tony,

My theatre is also above a double garage and is of similar dimensions to yours. As the theatre was planned in the house build I was able to specify an additional floor load for this part of the house. Here in Oz typical residential floor loading is 1.5kPa = 150kg/m2 = 35psf. For the theatre I doubled this load to 70psf. Note that this is the floor live load and is in addition to the dead load (or actual weight) of the floor / walls / ceiling / roof etc. You won't find a structural engineer wanting to add up the weight of your theatre ... it's much more likely that they'll use standard loads for the basic structure and then add an increased floor live load as I did.

If you're concerned about the existing structure, then one of the simplest ways to reinforce it for the additional load will be to add steel columns into the depth of the stud walls, steel beams spanning between these columns and then standard timber floor joists. Apart from the perimeter support I have one steel beam running under the middle of the theatre floor, splitting the joist span in two. To give you an idea of steel sizes, I would expect the columns to be about 4" square tube and the beams to be about 12" deep. Probably six columns required (one in each corner plus mid way along the longest walls, with beams around the perimeter and one across the middle. This could give you a completely self supporting upper floor. The existing walls can probably be used to provide lateral bracing.

As the others have said, you MUST get all this checked properly, but hopefully I've been able to give you an idea as to what may be required.

Cheers,
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post #14 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 04:07 AM
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I'm not OP but thanks for intelligent and helpful reply ^

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post #15 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 04:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HopefulFred View Post

Yes - That's all you can do. smile.gif

No, he can also use weight matched soft feet below speakers/subs - so there's no vibrations to talk about that would need killing.

Under construction: the Larch theater
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post #16 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 04:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightlord View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by HopefulFred View Post

Yes - That's all you can do. smile.gif

No, he can also use weight matched soft feet below speakers/subs - so there's no vibrations to talk about that would need killing.


Explain ?

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post #17 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 06:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

Explain ?

Putting the speakers on feet with a very low resonance frequency will reduce the coupling to the floor significantly. It may be counter-intuitive that a speaker you can wobble with your hand would be less prone to vibrate than if you try to couple it had with spikes, but it works. Speakers will move some, yes, but it's governed by Newton so the movement of the cabinet is as many times less than the cabinet is heavier than the speaker element's moving mass = close to nothing.

If done correctly, you may need different soft feet for front and back of speakers if the weight distribution isn't even. The movement allowed should be horizontal, not induce wobbling.

Under construction: the Larch theater
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post #18 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 06:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter M View Post

Tony,

My theatre is also above a double garage and is of similar dimensions to yours. As the theatre was planned in the house build I was able to specify an additional floor load for this part of the house. Here in Oz typical residential floor loading is 1.5kPa = 150kg/m2 = 35psf. For the theatre I doubled this load to 70psf. Note that this is the floor live load and is in addition to the dead load (or actual weight) of the floor / walls / ceiling / roof etc. You won't find a structural engineer wanting to add up the weight of your theatre ... it's much more likely that they'll use standard loads for the basic structure and then add an increased floor live load as I did.

If you're concerned about the existing structure, then one of the simplest ways to reinforce it for the additional load will be to add steel columns into the depth of the stud walls, steel beams spanning between these columns and then standard timber floor joists. Apart from the perimeter support I have one steel beam running under the middle of the theatre floor, splitting the joist span in two. To give you an idea of steel sizes, I would expect the columns to be about 4" square tube and the beams to be about 12" deep. Probably six columns required (one in each corner plus mid way along the longest walls, with beams around the perimeter and one across the middle. This could give you a completely self supporting upper floor. The existing walls can probably be used to provide lateral bracing.

As the others have said, you MUST get all this checked properly, but hopefully I've been able to give you an idea as to what may be required.

Cheers,
Hello Peter-I was thinking the exact same thing. This would not only transfer the vast majority of the weight off the existing walls, but if done properly, could even further isolate the seconrd floor's mass (and therefore ideally the associated audio shenanigans) from the rest of the house. My two alterations would be to explore using open web joists versus solid joists to facilitate running electrical in the garage below, and using columns in the garage in front of the stud wall, rather than inside the wall itself, so as to facilitate cross beams being placed level with the existing wall height:

Overhead, looking down


Facing the garage


I would need to figure on pouring additional footings, but that wouldn't be too hard. I think my next step is to get a bit more serious about fleshing out a room design, and start assigning some numbers.
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post #19 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 08:43 AM
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Wouldn't be nice if that was the only aspect of Newtonian physics. With a subwoofer the moving mass is generally far greater than the cabinet mass. Equally to the point is the (F)orce generated from the (M)ass and (A)cceleration.

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post #20 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 08:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Erskine View Post

Wouldn't be nice if that was the only aspect of Newtonian physics. With a subwoofer the moving mass is generally far greater than the cabinet mass. Equally to the point is the (F)orce generated from the (M)ass and (A)cceleration.

Recommended weight difference 1000x. For subwoofers I've found that higher than 800x is difficult. Have tested mine with the seismometer on the iPhone and they don't move much at all. Probaby vibrate 50 times more on spikes or directly on the floor.

You should be looking at the third law. The force is equal, so if the mass is 1000x more, the acceleration on the cabinet is 1000x less. And you probably have some losses in the soft foot too.

Classic experiment, suspend a heavy weight in a spring/coil and then jank up and down faster in frequency than the resonance of the system and you'll find the weight stays still even though you excert a lot of force on the coil. Do the same below resonance and the weight will follow you close to exactly. So, the feet of a speaker should have the lowest possible resonance frequency and that is NOT the case with spikes.

My 230 pound speakers can be easily rocked on the soft feet by the push of a finger (extreme LF) but at 100dB of music they are rock solid. The resonance point of the system would be in the 4-5Hz area.

Under construction: the Larch theater
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post #21 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 12:16 PM
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so do I design the soft feet ? Or do I buy them ?

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post #22 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 12:36 PM
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If you can do the first, open a business over there, it seems to be painfully lacking. I only know of one place that offers weight matched soft feet and that's Sonic Design here in Sweden. http://www.sonicdesign.se/default.htm

(I have no financial interest in them, I'm just a quite happy customer. )

Under construction: the Larch theater
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post #23 of 34 Old 06-27-2013, 08:14 PM
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Tony,

Based on the drawing in your first post I was thinking along the lines of -



But of course there are numerous different ways to do it. I'm very keen to see what you end up doing !

Cheers,
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post #24 of 34 Old 07-04-2013, 10:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter M View Post

But of course there are numerous different ways to do it. I'm very keen to see what you end up doing !

Cheers,
I've finally gotten through your build thread (nicely done, by the way!); your over-the-garage supports look very similar to what was in my head.

Using some napkin math, the "heavy" components of the room (2x 5/8" drywall for floors and ceilings, sand stage, studs/joists/trusses, roofing, flooring, etc.) came out to about 45 pounds per square foot. Adding in the electronics, HVAC, electrical, seating, paint, doors, trim, etc., will probably push dead load closer to 50-60 PSF. Leaps and bounds beyond what a traditional dead load rating calls for, to be sure.

I have reached out to some local engineering firms, but no responses yet. Unless someone with the degree and background comes back with a rather surprising set of calculations around what a reinforced 2x4 garage can support, I think some new footings and supports are in my immediate future. If anyone has any recommendations for a PE that works out of the Twin Cities area in Minnesota, please feel free to PM me.

Thanks to all for the insights!
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post #25 of 34 Old 07-04-2013, 05:05 PM
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Are you doing sand in your stage ?

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post #26 of 34 Old 07-05-2013, 05:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

Are you doing sand in your stage ?
That's going to be a tricky one...the benefits of a sand-filled stage make total sense from an isolation standpoint, especially given the non-foundational floor upon which I'll be building. Adding that mass for the fronts and at least one subwoofer feels like a good use of materials.

Since I don't have a design yet, I aimed high and just assumed a Giant Stage From Hell for the napkin math, using 23' wide by 6' deep by 8" tall. According to the calculator at http://hollistonsand.com/sand-weight-volume-calculator/, such a structure would hold 8,710 pounds of sand. If that weight could be spread over the entire 735 square feet of the theater, that only adds another 11-12 pounds per square foot of dead load. However...that much weight would actually only be contained within a 138 square foot area (23 x 6), meaning the psf dead load in that area would be just over 63 psf...before speakers, screen, treatments, lumber, etc.

While I wouldn't need (or even want) a stage that extends the entire width of the outer room, it is oddly comforting to know the upper limits. Once I can get an engineer plugged into this, it may just be a matter of saying "tell me what needs to happen to handle 100 pounds per square foot", and spend the extra money up front to provide a rock solid platform.

Of course, such requirements may just as easily force me to re-examine my "building up" versus "building out" approach. If pouring a new garage slab ends up being cheaper or otherwise preferable to supporting 6-10 tons in the air, that's just another reason to get an engineer involved. No takers yet, but I'm hopeful it's just due to the holiday week.
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post #27 of 34 Old 07-05-2013, 06:44 AM
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I'll be curious to see what your results are. I am going through the same stuff myself.

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post #28 of 34 Old 07-05-2013, 11:16 AM
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+1

Hire a structural engineer holding a PE license in your state. There are PE's that do work in residential and are priced for that market. Then you will get the report as part of the fee and will know for sure. Plus that report is a handy thing to have in your property document collection if anyone else ever questions your theater build.

Also you will no doubt need a PE stamped design to pull a permit anyway. This is an addition, not a remodel. And you are adding square footage so be prepared for a property tax review, that will be automatically triggered by the permit application.

You have to get a permit at least for the basic space construction. What you propose is far beyond some basement HT remodel project.

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post #29 of 34 Old 07-06-2013, 12:30 PM
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Permits here, permits there.... thought you lived in the land of the free? Can't you do as you please with your own place?

Under construction: the Larch theater
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post #30 of 34 Old 07-06-2013, 02:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightlord View Post

Permits here, permits there.... thought you lived in the land of the free? Can't you do as you please with your own place?

Depends where you live and which town has what rules. It is different in different places.

I've rarely taken taken permits. Almost never actually. I've done a lot of home improvement projects.

I changed my home's electric service from old fuse to circuit breaker and did not take permit. Totally not legal. I should have needed to hire a licensed electrician who then would pull a permit to do it.

I also tore down main inside support wall in the middle of my home on one side to create open floor plan; I replaced the wall with a self engineered beam without a permit or engineer. I just guessed ... Lol. Four 2x12 the thick way must hold across for second floor bedroom that's 14 feet right ??? Lol. I guess I guessed right because my house is as stable as ever ten years later. I am not sure the engineering behind it but in the real world it holds up well and there is no bounce on the second floor.

I think it depends on your location where you live and also very much each person's personality type. Some people feel compelled to follow the rules. Others don't mind breaking them. Personally I don't mind breaking them when it's easier, and I don't mind following them when it's also easy. The only time I break the rules is when it's easier to break them than follow them. I have not desire to actually break any rules- I just hate the red tape you must deal with to do simple stuff.

It's been ten years since I did both the beam and the electric service and it's never been a problem. No one can even enter my house to check legally without a warrant in USA. It's not really a big deal.

The permits and codes are designed for public safety and to ensure quality work. The inspector makes sure its done properly. It's not corrupt like many countries and a actually a legit process designed with public safety at its core. It's simple to get a permit and if you do the work to "code" you won't have any issues. The code exists for a reason- to set a quality standard of work.

No one wants a crappy contractor to do crappy work. That's why contractors need licenses and permits are required. A professional for hire needs to follow the rules. But a home owner can usually do anything they want and it's pretty hard to stop them. Of course you wouldn't want to do it wrong - which again is why there is permits, codes and inspectors. But it is hard to see people doing stuff inside their home. But on new construction or external stuff it's easier to see.

In my case I had help from my dad and his handy man friend and both had installed electric before. I helped my dad upgrade his circuit breaker panel back when I was a teen. It was done according to code too, so there is no problem down road. If I wanted to sell my home or someone inspected it they would find nothing wrong. Just because I didn't hire an electrician doesn't mean it was done wrong. But it could have been- which is why the rules exist to prevent that from happening. These days there is many codes for plumbing, construction and electric. It's advisable that anyone tackling any project make sure they at least follow the rules and do the work according to local building codes. Not doing so is inviting trouble. There is basically no reason to do it wrong IMO anyways. If you ever wanted to sell your home it's advisable to do it properly. If you don't want to sell it and you want to live in it- would you want to live in a house that was not safe or done right ? I would not.

It's silly to avoid doing it right, but its a hassle sometimes to follow the rules. It's easier to just do it right while ignoring the rules I'd guess. But that's not something you would find a professional willing to do. A pro needs a license and needs to follow the rules - and it is checked up on with a local inspector and a permit process. The permits are more a thing for builder's. Home owners rarely worry about that- (at least in my area ). I am guessing many theaters on AVS have been built without taking a permit. I would not bother taking out a permit for a basement theater build wink.gif

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"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
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