Almost 10 years ago I finished off two rooms in my basement, one as a study and one as a family room. I put Dow Wallmate up against the block, built a few walls, ran some electric, sheetrocked it, put in a drop ceiling and some wall-to-wall carpeting. The whole project took me about 4 months. In the family room I had a Sony 32” color TV and surround sound system. Two years I got the bug to build a dedicated home theater. Much to my wife’s surprise, I completely gutted the basement family room all the way back to the block walls, cement floor, and floor joists above.
It then took about 6 months to research, mostly on this forum, and design the entire theater myself using Visio. Attached is a multipage pdf document that shows the design. It then took about 18 more months to build the SpaceSaver theater. I did all the construction, with some help from my family, except for the drywall, carpet, and hooking up the mini-split. I am grateful for all the help I received on this project from members of this forum. There is a link at the bottom of this post with construction and finished theater photos.
There were four goals I had in mind when I started the design/build:
- Soundproof - OK you can never really make a room completely soundproof but I wanted to keep as much sound from traveling out of the theater room and keep sound from the rest of the house from traveling into the room.
- Sound quality - sound inside the room should be great
- Video quality - ditto for video quality
- Aesthetically pleasing - the room should look great when it is complete
Three walls of the space are block with an escape window in one of the walls. I put in the 4’x4’ slider window years ago and it opens to a large window well that satisfies local code for egress. The fourth side of room is right next to my study with a steel I-beam between the two spaces. I had walls built on either side of the I-beam, one for the study and one for my old family room. As the name of the theater implies, I wanted to squeeze out as much interior space as possible. I tore down the wall on the family room side and rebuilt the wall directly under the I-beam. This gained me about 3.5 inches of width in the room. There are several other spots I saved some space, these are described below.SOUNDPROOFING
I followed the trusted principles of isolation and mass. As I mentioned above, I had a wall built on one side on the I-beam and one below the I-beam. This means the wall separating my theater from my study ended up quite thick with each stick built wall isolated from the other one. On the other three walls I attached 2x4’s directly to the block using Tapcon screws. This saved 4” in length and 2” in width over building traditional stick built walls. I screwed RSIC-1 clips directly to the 2x4’s on the block walls as well as the stud wall built under the I-beam. I glued some short sections of 2x4’s to the I-beam in order to attach the RSIC clips. I attached RSIC-1 EXT04 clips to my ceiling joists. My joists are only 7’3” above my cement floor so to maximize space I attached short sections of 2x4’s to my studs and mounted the RSICs on these short blocks. This allowed the face of the furring channel that clips in the RSIC-1 EXT04 to sit just below my floor joists gaining me about a 7/8” in height in the finished room. The three block walls received 3/4” of extruded polystyrene insulation followed by fiberglas batts that were 3.5” thick. The floor joists were filled with 9.5” thick fiberglass insulation. The two walls that separated my theater from my study were filled with standard 3.5” thick fiberglas insulation. Once filled, there was still a 3” air gap between these walls. Once drywall furring channel was attached to the RSIC clips, two layers of 5/8” drywall was installed on all four walls and the ceiling. Between the drywall layers, Green Glue damping compound was used. Where sheets of drywall met in the corners of the room and between the walls and ceiling, sound caulk was used to fill the gap. Acoustic caulk was also used around any penetrations of electrical or low voltage wiring in the sheetrock. I wanted to minimize the number of penetrations through the drywall. I used 4” recessed light fixtures instead of the larger 6”. There were two electrical boxes in the stud wall but this was a double wall that provided great soundproofing. Electrical outlets were installed in each of the columns holding the speakers so the electric penetration through the drywall was only the size of 12 gauge Romex cable.
Six recessed light fixtures were installed in the ceiling. To keep sound from traveling through the openings in the drywall made by the fixtures, the can lights were completely enclosed in boxes. I built these boxes out of two layers of MDF attached with screws and glue. Between each layer of MDF, Green Glue was used. The boxes were hung from RSIC clips for isolation. Around the electric boxes in the stick built wall I used putty pads to fill the voids between the boxes and drywall.
Two 7” round sheet metal heat ducts run through the floor joists and provide heating and cooling to the master bedroom suite above. I coated both ducts with QuietCoat damping compound to minimize noise and vibration.
I hung a heavy (86 pound) solid core door on an exterior grade door jamb. The jamb itself had compression seals on three sides. To complete the seals on the door I installed a Zero International automatic door bottom.
Between the floor joists in the ceiling I hung two boxes. One box had two layers of 3/4” plywood that faced the floor and would provide a solid surface to hang the projector from. The other box was the termination point for a 2” run of PVC pipe that carries the HDMI and component cable runs for the projector. An electric box is also contained inside this box to provide electric to the projector. The equipment rack is outside the theater so the sound from the various electronics cannot be heard. This is particularly important for the XBox-360 which is quite loud.
The two PVC runs into the theater (one by the stage behind the screen wall and one to my projector location) were stuffed at both ends with cotton insulation.SOUND
The side walls and back wall were covered up to ear level with 1” thick Linacoustic. Above that polyester batting to the ceiling. Guilford of Maine fabric, Anchorage style, Mulberry color covered three walls. An 8” tall stage was constructed over Acoustikmat and filled with half a ton of sand. Two layers of 3/4” plywood with Green Glue in between the sheets finished off the stage. Behind the stage and on either side of the stage Linacoustic was installed floor to ceiling. The center channel speaker was installed directly behind the SMX acoustically transparent screen. Four surround speakers finished off the 7.1 surround sound system.VIDEO
A ceiling mounted Sanyo Z5 projector pointing at an 8’ wide, 4.5 feet tall, 110” diagonal SMX acoustically transparent screen. On all four sides of the screen, panels covered with Fidelio Black Velvet provide great contrast. The wall fabric is dark, the ceiling is painted black, and a black shade give complete light control. The projector was professionally calibrated when the theater was finished.AESTHETICS
I wanted all the speakers hidden to give a great finished look. The four surround speakers are inside of floor to ceiling columns made out of MDF. The columns are covered with black speaker cloth. Above the stage a screen wall was constructed to hold the screen. Panels on either side of the screen were covered with black speaker fabric to hide the left and right speakers as well as the subwoofer.OTHER DETAILS
- Heating and cooling - this was one of the most difficult aspects of the project. I invited three local HVAC firms to see if there was any way to use my existing furnace and central air conditioner for this space. All three contractors came to the same conclusion, it was impossible. The solution was a mini-split in an unconventional location. The mini-split is installed about 6” from the ceiling in the screen wall above the left speaker. I inset the unit into the screen wall a bit and painted it black. The Mitsubishi I choose was their smallest unit with an Inverter compressor that pumps out both heat and air conditioning. The unit on its lowest setting puts out only 22 decibels. This is the same sound level as my ceiling mounted Sanyo Z5. I installed Dricore on the floor below the carpet for comfort and warmth.
- Lutron Grafik Eye 4 zone lighting system. The six recessed light fixtures in the ceiling make up three separate lighting zones with the four wall sconces being the fourth zone. A two button lighting control at the door is wired to the Grafik Eye for convenience.
- Seating - 4 Berkline 078 powered recliners in black leather match. Additional low profile video rockers can be brought into the room for additional seating.
- Speakers - B&W Matrix 804 Left and Right, B&W HTM center channel, B&W SCM8 dipole surrounds, HSU VTF-2 sub
- Electronics - Denon AVR2307 surround receiver, Toshiba HD-XA2 HD-DVD player, XBox 360, Playstation 3, Panamax 5400EX power protection, Scientific Atlanta 8300HD digital video recorder
- Video - Sanyo Z5 LCD projector
- Other - cables from Monoprice and Blue Jeans cables
There were times during the 2 year design/construction of the SpaceSaver theater were I never thought it would be done and wondered if I bit off more than I could handle. Now that it is finished, I have to say it is great. All of my objectives were met. Right above the theater is my master bedroom suite. Even with an action movie playing, my wife can sleep without being disturbed. Likewise, when inside the room, no sound from the rest of the house travels into the room. The video and sound quality are fantastic. I knew the video would be an improvement over my old 32” TV since my new screen is much larger and I am projecting a lot of hi-def material. The jump in sound quality is what surprised me the most. The acoustic treatments made a big difference; dialog is clear and strong, the front sound stage seamless, and surrounds/sub never sounded better. The interior look of the theater is exactly what I was after with a pleasing color palette and all speakers hidden.
Photos of the construction and finished theater can be found HERE
Theater Plans.pdf 368.1708984375k . file