In a perpetual state of 99.999% Done.....
This will be my second HT, but first attempt at a truly 'dedicated HT' - my first setup in our previous home was an X1 in a hushbox shooting onto a 4:3 "poorly finished" drywall screen in the basement. Nothing fancy at all, no room treatments, risers, stages....basically a darkly painted room with a projector and a ratty couch. NOTE: for anyone considering building HT with the option of removing it upon resale - you shouldn't have to....my 1973 middle-of-the-road house sold only after 5 days in a slow February market. First showings were within 4 hours! The realtors went nuts over the concept - I threw in Finding Nemo and buggered off for their appointments, none of which were less than an hour per showing. At the end of the day, I sold for about $14K over the neighborhood average. I kept the audio, but threw in the projector (and the drywall screen too, as they made sure to 'write it into the offer'). I was stunned, to say the least......
I was transferred to another city, and so the new house hunt began. Talk about WAF, but one of the criteria insisted upon by both of us was that the new place had to be able to accommodate a dedicated HT. Strangely enough, HT became one of our family institutions and we could not see living without one ever again! We ruled out a rather lovely updated home instead to go for a 'fixer upper' because it had the most workable floor plan. I love that woman - gave up spiral staircases and a fancy kitchen just for HT
Buildout a modest dedicated HT in the basement, with as much DIY as I can pull of with the least amount of expense.........(sounds familiar, right?). Can lights, sconces, risers, stage, equipment rack of sorts, and definitely some forms of room treatment!
About the DIYer:
Computer geek, happily married dad to two wonderful boys. No trades experience, but willing to tackle just about anything....
Basement of a 1967 four-level split in an area called Tanner Ridge (Bud - I followed your thread closely from the beginning, and remembered your naming schema! ). Room dimensions 13X20, with a ceiling height of around 90 inches. The room in its original state began as a quasi rec room, with beat-up old drop ceiling, 70's wood paneling that had been primered, tattered blue carpet, two windows and a lovely concrete block chimney jutting into the finished space. It was a room without a purpose.....
As some of the audio I had already, I will be trying hard to keep everything in or around the $5000 mark. I'm a paycheque to paycheque kinda guy, and my overdraft can be like a Wimbledon game sometimes...
Salvaged from the old place was a Sony STR-DE 925 AVR, Panny RP56 DVD, Paradigm CC270 center, Paradigm PW-1000 sub, a couple of SPL mains and some older Realistic Mach Ones (heading into retirement).
Newly purchased during construction so far has been an Optoma HD72 PJ, Paradigm ADP-170 surrounds, a Sony STR-DE 345 AVR to drive the 4 Bass Shakers that the Mrs insisted I pull the trigger on , and a Harmony 880 she got me for my Bday.
To get/wish list includes an IR solution (Buffalo or Microsmith), replace the SPL mains with Paradigm Phantoms or equivalent, Insteon or other economical PLC to replace my old X10, considering a BFD depending upon how the final room setup sounds, and likely build a HTPC after the dust settles.
I started demolition of the room in Mid-July this year, and have been progressing using the following formula:
HT = (work+overtime)Xweekend
. family commitments-mental health2
I will be posting some back-dated progress photos in the next few posts, in an attempt to 'catch up' to the current state (riser done, stage not....)
Any thoughts, advice, criticisms are welcomed! I've lurked around these parts for a number of years now, and cannot thank all AVSers for providing me with not only the motivation, but the knowledge to pull something like this off! I sincerely hope that my experiences will be able to 'put back' to the great community we have here!
Here is the patient - suffering from the advanced stages of 1970-itis:
and looking towards the back:
Work began by tearing down to the studs to see exactly what I had to work with. Challenges will be the chimney jutting into the space, the two windows, and figuring out what to do with the two closet areas....
A quick floorplan for reference:
The basement appears to have always been dry, so I had no moisture issues. Only one wall is not fully above ground. I was rather amazed that the insulation was just direct onto the concrete with 1 inch furring strips with panel overtop - I would've though some sort of vapour barrier would have been there. Luckily, HVAC routing was already nicely between the (now petrified) joists, but the electricals were nothing short of anemic for the room.....
The next mission was to kill off the two windows - I opted to cut 3/4 plywood inserts with black cloth to place into the cavities for this. I really, really cleaned them first, then used wood blocks to permanently secure them in place. I planned to frame out two new walls to eradicate the 'shelf' from the foundation and provide a flat clean surface to be able to place sconces and perhaps columns.
I chose to run PVC conduit the length of the room to 'futureproof' things as best as I could. I was leaning towards keeping the front wall as a DIY screen with a stage, with an option of perhaps going AT later down the road. I ran speaker wire x 2 to LCR, as well as a run of RG6 to each LR for line-level to the sub. I figure this way, I'll have more sub or speaker options as technology changes. One Cat5 was run to the centre in order to support IR.
This will be by far the best insulated, most solid room in the whole house once this is over!
While thinking about wiring runs, I hatched the idea that it may be good to have line-level inputs near the front seating - for if the kids want to plug in their Xbox, my laptop or whatever. I ran 3 sets of RG6 plus two Cat5's to a box that will be just to the left of the front row. That way, if some new toy is introduced at a later date, it can be removable and avoid having to muck around in the equipment closet.
The equipment closet was destined to occupy the left side of the existing space, and I'm planning a DIY 19 inch rack solution for it. As for the other side closet, after much debate, I chose to keep it as storage - for those items like Christmas stuff and odds/ends that you only really look at once in a while. A louvered bifold door will occupy the right-hand side, and can be accessed by pulling the seating forward a small amount. This door will also provide access to the rear of the equipment closet by way of an access between the two spaces (it was either that, or dig a tunnel to get in from the back )
I built a soffit to contain the PJ as well as hide the small HVAC run that was unable to be moved. (Chin-Up Certified!). The soffit allowed me to move the PJ a bit forward and reduce the throw distance, as well as serve as a hushbox to reduce noise for the back row. The smaller opening to the left of the future bifold will be built into a shelving unit to hold DVDs and other items....
Four 4 inch IC cans overhead
seperate closet light/switch in both closets
3 gang in equipment closet
4 gang at bottom of stairs (for cans, stage, sconce and step lights)
pre-wire for stage lights (three 3 inch cans)
receptacles: one for sub, one for the riser, one for an exit sign to go near the of the stairwell, one near the front inputs, one on the opposite wall, one for the freezer on the other side of the HT wall
runs for four step lights (2 in stairwell / 2 in riser)
I had provided all of the materials, and I had never even asked about a quote, as I was only concerned with getting the work done the right way. The guy came over on three different occasions, and was nothing less than meticulous. Even took the time to teach me everything along the way! When I asked to square up, I braced myself........he said $250......I asked how many times he wanted the $250???? Stunned, I said "Uh, how 'bout $325?". In the end, he talked me down to an even three, and promised to come back to hitch up the stage cans when I'm ready.
I think I've found my first guest for when the HT is up and running! I can't say more than enough about this fellow - truly professional!
Anyway, the wires, insulation, and other goodies are now in:
And it is time for me to learn how to drywall! I've repaired small areas before, but never anything of this magnitude before...
I had the drywall delivered, and had anticipated being able to manhandle most of the sheets.....
Thank god there is a rental place just down the street that happened to have a lift! Another financial bonus that week - I rented it on a late Saturday afternoon of a long weekend - the rental guy said that I would have to bring it back on Tuesday morning........but he would only charge me for a day! Wooohooo! More time for me, seeing as I was gonna tackle this without the benefit of any helpers......
I know, I know....I just didn't really have any other place to put the beater couch, so I made due.....
Yeah, yeah, I know.....yes that is the HD72 hanging all shrouded in my soffit...I couldn't resist!!! I was weak!! I needed a gentle boost after the drywall episode!
But what is a PJ without featuring the famous MonkeyMan Mount?
It was a PITA trying to track down M3 screws long enough, but well worth it in the end. Total cost under $25 including the Lexan!
The octopus of wires had grown - in additon to the LCR, I ran dual speaker wires to the surrounds, riser, and back if I migrate to 7.1 later. RG6 out to the riser as well, as a 'just in case'. My plan is to hit up the boxes with Leviton QuickPort wallplates to keep all of it tidy.
As for the screen, I spent an inordinate amount of time up close and personal with the drywall there - a couple of skim coats, sanding and touch ups with the worklamp 1/4 inch away in order to get it flaaaaattttt.
True Love: WAF authorizing the painting of any large surface in your home flat black
Boy, what seemed quite roomy certainly shrunk in size once that black paint went up!
I also learned never to touch it after it dries
With some surgery and automotive header paint, I was able to whip these up to snuff:
I threw some 60W Reveal bulbs in them to whiten up the light, and overall I have to say they go well with the anticipated decor. I felt good that they came in under $200!
The step lights were next to go in - I had found some LED line voltage ones online for $14 each. They give off a crisp white light
As the HT lies between the living space and the laundry room, I felt that LED would be better suited - I could leave them on 24/7 for a minimum of cost, and ensure no one face-plants going up/down the stairs!
For those who may be wondering, the paint color for the room is a very dark green - sort of what you would find in an Irish Pub. I had the same color in my last wanna-be HT, and I had found it perfect - Once the lights go dim, it appears almost flat black and the walls virtually disappear. Seems to hide marks well, and the bonus was that now only I know where my mudding/taping mistakes are!
I can't wait to ditch that carpet!!
Anyway, 'nuff for now - I'll try to put some more up over the weekend!
I still have to touch up a bit around the front row input cover (where I went too far with the Dremel), but overall I'm happy with the results.
I fired up the PJ, and began to finalize the screen size so I can start to plan out the stage/proscenium:
At the end of the day, considering the throw distance, it works out to a sceen of approximately 138" diagonal 16x9. The final room dimensions came out to 12.5x20x7.9 feet - this ends up leaving me about 17 or so inches on each side of the screen for speaker/sub placement. More flat black to address the front wall:
Looking at the stage area, I am limited as to how deep I can go by a door to the laundry room about 32 inches from the front wall. I've been debating whether to go with a curved design, or some sort of combination of straight angles. In order to enclose the sub (18 inches deep) and provide at least enough room for the rear ports (3 inches), I will be left with a 'shadowbox' for the screen of nearly 21 inches. The center is destined to be mounted above the screen, as I have about 12-14 inches to play with. I will also be adding the 3 3 inch can lights likely behind it for screen wash. The stage floor can come up maximum to about 10 inches with layers. This would leave me with roughly 3 to 4 inches to build a 'border' around the screen wrapped in blackout cloth to give the area a more finished look.
Does anyone think that a 21 or so inch shadowbox borders on the excessive side? I plan to build up the sides and top with framing covered in some sort of black GOM-esque AT material. I would think if I went curved, it would be a pain to house the center channel up top. Alternately, I suppose I could frame up another drywall screen forward of the current one to reduce the shadowbox and maybe bring things more into balance.
Any thoughts or advice on this point would be greatly welcomed!
I'm still not sure if that 21 inch depth for the shadowbox will look right. Work on the stage is at a standstill for now until I can settle on a final plan.
However, work continues on all of the other little things that need to be done! (And boy, there are many )
As it turned out, we stumbled across a 50% off sale at a local box store and ended up with two black leather sofas for under $1K. Funniest part was when the salesman launched into the whole 'extended warranty' routine - I aksed him if that would still be valid if after ten minutes getting them into my door I ripped off the bottom to install the Bass Shakers........ .
He haggled with his supervisor, but there was no way they would honor the warranty if I 'modified them'! No biggie to me, but the looks on their faces as I attempted to explain my plans was priceless!
Got them home, and then started the long drama of getting them into the theatre - apparently, the previous homeowner got a deal on 28" doors. Not so good with 30" furnishings! After several failed attempts at twisting, turning and such, I reverted back to my favorite tool - the sawzall!
I now had two sofas in place, and a 32" doorway to boot!
The Bass Shakers went in without a hitch:
I placed two per sofa direct onto the solid portion of the frames, vertically for now. I don't know if a horizontal mount may improve the experience - I may remount them later as I experiment. I ran the LFE demo and some other flicks to get a feel for them, and I can say that if balanced proper, they add a completely new dimension to the HT experience! A big thank you to those that have plowed the road ahead of me - I never would have thought of something like this on my own !
This is how it sits as of today. I still have yet to:
- Figure out the stage / run IR back to closet
- finish the step up to the riser
- finish off the closet interiors / add bifold / make DVD storage cabinet
- quickport the equipment closet & tidy cabling
run ventilation - Tstat and fan to dump the hot air through the staircase into adjacent foyer
- equipment rack - I've shelf-mounted everything using the standard double-tang brackets from inbehind for now. I plan to AutoCAD some 2,3 and 4U faceplates to match the components out of 1/8 aluminum. There's a shop down the road that will mill them out for me rather inexpensively
- dimming - Insteon? Lutron?
- trim - debating black or going with a darker wood stained trim for crown, stage and such
- spend quality time with REW and my new RS SPL Meter
- treatments - considering panels at first reflection points and such
Work has slowed down as a result of work commitments (and because now we are able to watch the odd movie here and there ). I'm hoping to forge ahead over the next few weeks and get the stage done so I can finally ditch the hideous blue carpet........
For those following, here are some stats:
Room - 12.5x19, ceiling at 90 inches
Riser - 68x112 in , 13.5 in high
First row - 12 feet
Second Row - 18 feet
Screen - 117x72 inches 13 inches from floor height
Constrcution, wiring & materials - ~$1600
Seating - $1100
PJ - $2200
Family Movie Night - PRICELESS!!
So I'm at about the $5K mark right now. Carpet obviously puts me over, as well as dimming and trim. I will try to finish off keeping it within ~$1500 or so! Haha!
The sconces came from Rona.ca (Canada), and were $32.98 each. They house a standard bulb base, so it leaves some options for changing bulb styles and colors. They are made by Catalina, and the SKU is 2165118. The base mount is silver/grey, with frosted glass and a chrome plate on the front.
The front chrome base is held on by two small bolts - very easy to take off. You can see the mount on the bottom of the chrome piece in the photos in the above post. The frosted glass insert attaches by way of two small nuts with rubber grommets, and I did find that you have to be careful, as they do not sometimes perfectly line up and you could risk tightening the plate against the glass directly. It was a cinch to remove and paint. I opted for 1500 degree header paint just to make sure nothing would singe if the bulbs were hot! I thought the chrome was cheesy looking and too reflective, so flat black was the color of choice. You could go with any color that suits your decor!
The other bonus was, that once assembled, they throw off a rather nice light pattern against the wall:
I threw in a set of Reveal bulbs -
and found that the light output is just that little bit more 'white' to really set them off from the standard yellowish incandescents.
If you run into any problems or questions let me know - be glad to assist!
The LED lights are from (I hope posting link/business names is okay):
They were very inexpensive at under $14 apiece, and I found that the build quality was excellent. I wasn't too happy with the $$$ UPS wanted for brokerage fees on such a little order, but when the guy in brown has your parcel of goodies and you want them, well.........
They are line voltage, although be aware that they do not have a neutral wire. The entire fixture is constructed of plastic. Didn't really need the on/off switch, although I thought the photosensor was a nice touch. There are two LED bulbs behind the louvred opening, and cast a typical bluish-white light spot x 2. As I was using them for the staircase, I found it beneficial to jury-rig one up beforehand on an extension cord, to figure out the light pattern/mounting distance combo that worked the best. I ended up placing them so that each bulb would hit a 'different stair' to cover more of the staircase area. I like that I can leave them on 24/7 and not have any heat buildup issues or use a ton of electricity
Between the four of them, they do a great job and we are able to traverse the staris to the laundry room even without turning on supplemental lighting. Guests so far have all commented positively as well.
It is very nice of you to write the detail log and I enjoy reading your posts. Keep going. I am building a HT in my basement, so your log helps me a lot on some aspects that I did not think of. Thanks a lot.
Following the techniques outlined many times by others, I opted to decouple for the areas where the subs/speakers will live and just run sand in the speaker platforms.
I managed to find dry play sand! It's been raining here for the past two weeks, but fortunately a local supplier keeps some in a heated covered area. I ended up buying 8 bags, but at the end of the day, only used about 3 1/2. I'll keep the remainder to level out my paving stone walkways come this spring.
The sand definitely gives the structure a good solid damping effect. I just had to kick it a couple times to give me a mental idea of how it might sound when being smacked around by the sub!
Tonight or tomorrrow I will lay down the 3/4 and 1/2 sheathing, and start on the framing. The rains worked in my favor, though - I picked up the 2x6 for the curved front, and it was nicely pre-soaked so it would bend far more easily!
One question I do have - after reading the various methods of decoupling the stage, I've read where some opted for acoustik mat or other materials to place beneath the structure. I went with 30lb roof felt (as I had lots left), and did not run a bead of caulk under the frame for isolation. I came to understand that the platform is to provide a stable solid point for the sub to 'push off' from - as opposed to something 'spongey' like carpet underneath that could vibrate and work against the sub. My floor is concrete, so I felt that having a good 'connection' between the floor and platform would provide the most stable base for the sub. Would I have achieved any great benefit from treating the platform base in another manner? My thoughts were that by isolating the structure, anything 'spongey' could provide more movement to the sub versus a solid contact to the floor would provide more stability (at the expense of less sound-proofing). Am I missing something crucial / should I re-work any of this before I move on? Sound isolation is not something critical to me, but sound fidelity is.
Your thoughts are appreciated!
The stage was the next project. I finished off the 3/4 and 1/2 plywood sheathing for the top, then began on the sides. I ensured that all of the column was freestanding on the stage base, as not to contact the walls or ceiling and thus transmit more sound energy. The 26 degree angle was fun, and the math made my head hurt !
The sub fit in just nicely, and left me about 4 or so inches in the back for the ports to fire. At the end of the day, I will end up with a shadowbox of approximately 24 inches or so. I was a little hesitant at first, but I think I'm gonna be okay.......
After cranking out the matching twin, next began the top portion. I left about a 1/8 inch gap all way around, again to leave it seperate from the other structures (mind you, I cinched it down tight to the joists above. The thing must've weighed near 50 lbs - I recruited my spouse and eldest to help hike it up to the ceiling while I attempted to screw into the joists. After 6 arms turning into a jelly-like consistency, I stepped backwards to see that the whole thing ended up about 3 inches askew.......
The Mrs. made an expression like ---> , and figured 'no one would notice'....but, as you all know, it's hard to hide a few eighths outage! After having the feeling in our arms return, we managed to get it to line up, and thank god, everything was LEVEL!
I did however discover that the few eights of an inch that the image was off was more pronounced in the company of a structure that was in fact level. A few twists of the mount wingnuts, and all was well in my universe once more
The Mrs did say however she is now able to 'see what I was taking about' as I described my vision........
The stage rear and side walls will be treated with insulation to reduce front wall reflections and hopefully minimize any boundary effects. The fronts will be covered in black AT cloth, likely attached to bevelled frames of various sizes. The edges around the screen will probably be bevelled 4" wide MDF wrapped in velvet. I think I may go black with the stage carpet as well. This week, I will mount the centre channel and the three can lights for the screen wash, round off the stage lip, paint the thing flat black and maybe then take a breather for a bit and watch some movies!
Other milestones to complete:
- finish equipment/storage closets
- entry door / closet door
- mouldings and trim
- equipment rack faceplates
- REW + requisite acoustic treatments
I'm sure my list is missing something, but I can see the end in sight now!
For fits and giggles, I found a couple of shots of HT Version 1.0 in my last house:
It's amazing - the last one took about three years, and never was finished! Lots of hatched plans that never came to fruition......I learned a ton from that exercise, and it is great to be able to now 'do it up right' with version 2.0. Guess I need to remind myself from time to time that it is coming along - these old reference photos serve as my inspiration!!
I still cannot get past the blue carpet each time I look at the current implementation . I've been searching for carpet in the grey tones, but go figure that there is apparently not a lot on the market for grey around here. Lots of light greys, but nothing towards the charcoal end of the spectrum. I thought about going all black on the carpet, but I think with a room this dark, someone will end up doing a lipstand! I am hoping there is a commercial grey carpet out there somewhere that has some pattern of dots or something to kind of 'break it up' a little and hide the inevitable spills and such. My last HT taught me that gold is not so good for flooring!
I'm still anguishing over mouldings - don't know whether to go black (KISS principle), or stain some oak or other hardwood to complement the green...mind you, mouldings are still a bit far off in the future for now.
In a way, I'm secretly hoping that another member here has photos up of something similar to my color scheme, so I can 'borrow' some more ideas!!
I'm sure glad I paid attention to when the electrician came! It was a bit of a chore working overhead, as I got a flu shot this morning - the big, hairy male nurse shot the thing like a lawn dart, and my shoulder was a little stiff! I'm just taking a short break, then back down to mount the centre channel and line it up. My thanks to whoever came up with the stage lights idea - definitely worth the extra effort.
I can tell, since the Mrs stopped by from work, looked at it, and made a face...not a bad one, but you ALL know it............. the one that comes in combination with a shaking of the head ever so slightly
I need to create an emoticon for that!
I'm building a theater in my basement that is of similar size (12.5'x24'x7'). I was a bit surprised at your screen size! Can people on the back sofa really see the bottom of the screen? I'm hoping to get away with a 126" diag (Carada) screen.
Click on my screen name to get the link to my theater construction progress pictrues if you like. I know...very slow progress. I am now really trying to speed things up. Glad I have not bought the projector yet.
Thanks Dan - actually all of my final measurements were based on a combination of limitations, and a desire for as big a screen as I could pull off...
I just popped up from hanging the centre channel, read your post, and so ran back down and took a couple of screenshots from the back row. I adjusted the gamma so you can better see the front row seats and kind of get a feel for the dimensions (sorry it's Cars again, but too lazy to change disks )
Here is a shot of 16x9 material:
and another with 1.85:
I took a tape measure, and sitting in the back puts me about 58" behind the front row occupant. I took the shots at eye level while slouching a little. With 16x9, if the Mrs sits in the front row (she's 6/1000ths short of six feet), I do lose some screen view, albeit rather minor. My 12 year old is about 5'8", and it just clears him - as long as he sits still
I've found that with film material, the letterboxing gives me more than enough 'headroom' so that the front row does not become an issue for me. I was concerned at first with the relatively height off of the floor - the stage is 2x6 with 1/2 & 3/4 plywood. In the photos, you can see about a three inch 'frame' around the 16x9 material, and the top of the stage rounds out to about 12 inches or so from the ceiling. Each column is a hair over 16 inches wide as well. The riser is 2x12 with the same toppings as the stage.
My rationales for the 'unusual' setup:
I would have gone a little higher on the riser, but I'm 6'5", and have spent many occasion schmacking my noggin on stuff! When I'm on the riser standing, I am about four inches from contact with the ceiling. This one is taken from the stage, while bracing the camera up against the framing ~12 inches from the ceiling:
I wanted to mount the PJ as far back as I could to incorporate it into a soffit-style structure, and keep it from being 'orphaned' in the middle of the room. My thoughts were to both reduce noise, and avoid reading all those posts about 'how to run HDMI/Power/iPod dock to my projector' . I had to run a soffit anyway to hide some HVAC stranded in the right rear corner. As the PJ was now 'maxed out' as far as throw length, I worked on the screen calculations and testing. My zoom ring is as 'small' as it can go, and I have very little tolerance left for focus adjustments. I knew I would be just over the 1.5 times seating rule, and somewhere near 46 degrees on the THX viewing angle stuff, but I do like to sit near the screen in a commercial theatre..... so a little extra real estate was fine by my tastes. The HD72 puts out a great picture, lots of light, and I cannot notice any 'screendoor' from the front row.
I knew I would not be able to stash the sub underneath the screen, due to the low height off the floor. So, I ended up planning out the columns to house the sub with very little wiggle room to the sides. I ultimately wanted three or four inches to create a black MDF frame around the image, so I based my tape measure off of the image dimensions and constructed the other stuff around it. Must be lucky - it seems to have worked out with a minimum of grief!
I was looking at your progress - panelling, flourescent lights, destruction....its all coming back to me! Ahhhh! Yes, it seems to take forever, doesn't it? I think you have a great room layout, and I'm envious of your entryway! Great work on the rack too. I'll be following along as we go.
Speaking of go, I better zzzzzzzzzzzz before I have to report to my 'non-HT' job.
I totally agree - my theory is, that the money can then be redirected into other equipment or projects! I'm still amazed at the price of a commercial mount...half the price of a spare bulb.....
I think that the 'wow factor' of these offers a good bang for the buck ratio. Perhaps I've gone mental, but now not only have I watched an entire movie without any audio hooked up, but can also claim to actually have sat and stared at a blank screen with three lights for about the same amount of time!