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Andy's Maple Ale Theatre - Page 3

post #61 of 173
I love the pics in your thread! I've been following along for a while, but haven't really had any constructive advice..... I guess that shouldn't stop me, though

Keep up the good work, and keep the pics coming!
post #62 of 173
Thread Starter 
Thanks !

As a result of Christmas parties and what-not I was asked to set up the Wii in the corner (where it will live eventually). So while I am working on all the ducting, of course the kids are slowly taking over:

And all the Christmas storage tubs are coming back down ! Arg !
post #63 of 173
Andy, subscribed! I love the pictures on your thread! Very well organized and I am looking forward to following it. I don't want to argue with DavidK442 but you can digitally manipulate my home theater pictures anytime you want. Your pictures inspired an awesome idea!!! I hope I can help you in return.
post #64 of 173
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by DavidK442 View Post

A little less digital manipulation of others' theater pictures and a little more construction on your own please.

Absolutely ! Back to drilling more Tapcons ...
post #65 of 173
Looks good Andy..

post #66 of 173
Thread Starter 
After a fair bit of planning my electrical systems I decided I need to add a subpanel. Not because I need extra amperage or breaker space, but mainly because of how crammed the space is around the current electrical panel. Even after all that wire clean-up that I did a while ago, it is still really crowded in that little corner where the main feed comes into the house. At least I can now frame around the window that is next to it. (roll eyes).

Due to time and effort I had an electrician come in and he did a good job quickly putting in a new subpanel in a more central location. I have lots of room to dress in the new circuits, and I can switch off the whole thing if I want. A side benefit is that I will probably save a bit on wire since I don't have to do all those long runs to the SW corner of the basement.

Isn't it lovely ?

(first little circuit included in the photo at no extra cost!)
post #67 of 173
Thread Starter 
(catch up post)

And here is the current version of the electrical plan. Just the power and lights, mind you. I have the data and audio on other sheets. Every time I print the plan I go downstairs and have to change or update something.

Already this image is considerably out of date.

I know it will change once some real lights get in.
post #68 of 173
Thread Starter 
First Circuit ! Woo ! First big branch circuit is done ! I was giggling like a little boy turning the wall-wash lights on and off.

This basement thing may actually happen. I can see it.

The weather was nice and crisp as well, so I had the basement windows open and was wire-stripping to great tunes and a nice breeze.

This circuit was also important as I was able to:
- finally get the hot water tank on a proper plug of its own and off of the extension cord
- connect the furnace condensate pump to a nearby plug of it's own.
- have another place to plug something in !!

The last point is most exciting. My basement has only ever had 3 plugs in the basement, and these were mostly used up by the 'frdge, security system, sump pump, and HWT. So for the past year while I was working on the flooring and framing I was constantly plugging-and-unplugging all my saws, dust vacs, compressors, drills because I only had 1 looong three outlet 12AWG extension cord to run everything.
post #69 of 173
Thread Starter 
Today we get to remove yet another dedicated extension cord from the basement: power to the rack. I was running this one from the sump pump.

Currently the rack only has an old receiver I bought at a garage sale so I can listen to music while I work (Essential ! ). There is also old computer plugged in that I use to play from my music collection. This will be a dedicated circuit for the rack and for the home audio system (more on that real soon).
post #70 of 173
Thread Starter 
Now that I have usable circuits in the basement, it's time to finish up a sub-project that I have been picking at while I was waiting for the sub panel to be installed (and while taking a break from electrical planning).

Before I close up the walls and ceiling I need to do all of the upstairs distributed audio stuff that I want to do. I looked at a lot of different systems, but all were going to cost a lot of money. (e.g. The Sonos system would have been real easy to install, and it has a nice slick interface, but I would be out over $2k just to get my basics).

My end solution was:
- a central line-level mixer to collect all the audio sources
- (very) basic amp to amplify
- speaker distribution box
- in-wall volume controls

For the line-level mixer, my local music store had the perfect unit for about 60 bucks: the ART Powermix III. It can combine up to 3 signals and I can independently control each signal level.

For the basic-basic amp, the Audiosource AMP100 (Tigerdirect, $100) gives me 2-channel 100W.

For the in-wall volume controls, well that is a slightly longer story. I grabbed 3 Leviton slider volume controls at the local HD, expecting the price to be in the 30-40$ range. When she rang them up they were over $100 apiece! Forget that. Time to go online again.

Monoprice to the rescue again ... almost. So I ordered a 3-pack from Monoprice and when they arrived I opened them up - and they were crappy. The plastic was cheap, and the slider was broken on 2 of the 3. I took them downstairs to my little testing bench and took the intact unit and tried it out:

Well, it worked okay but the slider was really hard to move and it still was cheap feeling. Contacted Monoprice and they were great: full refund of everything.

In the end I am using Nile rotary-style controls. For what I want to do I discovered that the control will always be indexed (click points when you change it, not smooth like a light dimmer) and a rotary control gives you more hand power and does not require you to anchor your hand. I'm thinking wife and kids here, but I like to be lazy too.
post #71 of 173
Originally Posted by andymo View Post

Absolutely ! Back to drilling more Tapcons ...

I never heard of tapcons until I started my build. They were an exciting new thing to do...for the first handful...

Lucky for me, my friend has this drill tool that has a tube that slides over the drill bit which is perfectly sized to drive the tapcon in after you are done drilling. Make it easier than having to swap bits.
post #72 of 173
Thread Starter 
That tube things sounds awesome. It drove me crazy constantly having to change bits back and forth. Particularly when I had to drill-drive twice or more because the hole wasn't deep enough.
post #73 of 173
Thread Starter 
Since the volume controls are upstairs, for each speaker run I end up having to:
- pull cable to under volume control
- fish up to volume control (and attache)
- fish back down to basement
- run cable to under speakers
- fish up to speakers

I also put some extra speaker pairs in parallel for future changes. I bought a label maker to put nice labels on the speaker ports to remind me that if I do both pairs at once I need to re-balance the volume controls to account for the 4 Ohm load (two 8 Ohms in parallel). I can do this because the Niles volume control does magnification and handles the impedance matching.

Here is the new volume control in the kitchen, expanded next to an existing light switch. Cutting the tile was fun.

(yes, I am going to replace the black screws )

And here is Audio Central in the basement:

I have a little speaker plugged in as a monitor, so I can hear what is going on upstairs.

Overall it works really well. I particularly love the volume control right next to the patio door. As I am carrying food/tools/beer out to the BBQ I can quickly turn the garden speakers up as I pass by, so I can groove out while cooking!
post #74 of 173
Thread Starter 
Today we get to remove yet another dedicated extension cord from the basement: power to the rack. Currently the rack only has an old receiver I bought at a garage sale so I can listen to music while I work (Essential !). There is also old computer plugged in that I use to play from my music collection.

This will be a dedicated circuit for the rack and for the home audio system. Not the longest run, but nice to remove another snaking extension cord!
post #75 of 173
Thread Starter 
I've decided to run a second subwoofer cable to stage, just in case. (I only have one sub and not sure if I will ever run two, but everyone else is doing it and doesn't hurt to have it in the walls now).

I had purchased a lot of stuff from Monoprice a while ago, including my 50ft sub cable. I don't think I have time to wait for another Monoprice order to cross the border so I did some poking around some of the small electronic-supply shops near my work. At one shop (that does a lot of satellite stuff) I asked the guy if he had longer sub cables and he suggested just using a run of coax ($4 for 50ft 3.5GHz ) with RCA adapters ($2) on each end. I was skeptical but for the price picked it up.

(RG6 coax, 75 Ohms, 65% copper braid, 5MHz-3.5GHz)

Once home I had some time to do a quick Google search here on AVS and sure enough there is a few threads dedicated to this. Apparently sub cables (and digital coax cables) are really 75 Ohm coaxial cables anyway (and standard stereo RCA are 50 Ohm). This will actually have better shielding too.

I'll test it out first (just because) but I will be running this as my second sub cable. Who knows, I may use it as my primary !
post #76 of 173
Thread Starter 
The addition of another dedicated circuit (by code) for the 'fridge marks a key point in the evolution of the project: removal of the last dedicated hi-grade extension cord. The basement can now support itself! Woo hoo !

Now dontcha just love my loomex distribution box ?

post #77 of 173
Thread Starter 

Recessed Lights


(or 'pot lights' as we Canucks call 'em)

I was surprised about how un-standardlized the various components of recessed lighting are, and how you really have to be mindful of what fixtures work with what enclosures and what trims and does it use a bulb that workd for you, etc. Evidence of my un-preparedness was revealed when I took a advantage of a sudden lighting sale at HD that *included* pot llights (lighting sales rarely do). I grabbed all sorts of stuff way before I was ready to do lighting and sure enough it all didn't go together. To make matters worse it was months ago and that is the ONE bill I can't find (but it did make it into the spreadsheet )

So if you are ever doing pot lights:
A - pick your trim first
B - see what kind of bulb it supports. Not all bulbs are available in all wattages, so if you want something more than 50W you may have to go back to A and change your trim choice.
C - check to see what installation boxes it fits into (that are available in your area!)
D - note that different trim+box combinations have certain wattage limitations. Check your combination and if the wattage is too low for you, go back to A.
E - if it's too bright, add a dimmer. If it's too dim, rip it all out/add more/move them around, and start again. (so being able to go with brighter bulbs adds flexibility and de-risks the design)

It's not too bad really, but I guess I wasn't expecting it and didn't focus enough (focusing on other things). Overall the lighting is coming along nicely!

Edited by andymo - 8/17/12 at 9:58am
post #78 of 173
Thread Starter 

Wire Art


Asides from all the little wire bits that get left on the floor, there are also lots of existing wiring that I am ripping out of the ceiling as I go along. (If I can, I reuse it)

After a while I noticed that the piles of wire and bits were kind of interesting, so I took a few quick snaps.

Okay - maybe I have been in the basement too long...

Edited by andymo - 6/11/12 at 12:31pm
post #79 of 173
You've made me nervous about my trim rings!
post #80 of 173
Thread Starter 
Even the bulbs have differences ! I'm really glad I'm installing the lighting before the drywall (well, mostly anyway) so I can learn and try it all out.

Case in point:

Pot light installation is done in the game room. I installed the first run of three 5" cans and it just didn't provide enough light.

So I un-wired and moved them over and installed a second line of three cans. At the same time, I split them across two different circuits in order to (a) spread the load and (b) offer a bit more 'zone' control. However the wife and I agreed that there was still too many shaded areas, especially since this is going to be a multi-purpose area of sorts.

So then I un-wired and moved all six cans so I could add a forth row. Better now.

Except ... something was wrong and the light was not spreading uniformly. Found out that the diffusion pattern on the bulbs was a bit different depending on the brand. Some spread the light nicely, others are more focused. Even within the same bulb shape and size, the results vary by brand. I guess we just get so used to a 60W light bulb being a 60W light bulb. Not anymore !

The two light zones was facilitated by my choice of using INSTEON dimmers. I am really pleased so far with these smart devices.

Things I like about my INSTEON devices so far:
  • Build quality seems good. It doesn't feel cheap, and the switch bounces not too light, not too heavy.
  • The 0.5s default ramp speed when simply turning it on/off has a nice touch.
  • I like the tiny LEDs next to the paddle. Initially i was going to disable them, but now I think they are great. Especially when there is a 4-gang of switches and you are leaving the room, you instantly know which ones to turn off.
  • Real simple master-slave configuring. In the game room I now have a separate control for the lights over the gaming tv, however it is a slave to the main light switch to this room.
Hopefully I will get more time to play with the INSTEON stuff in the near future.
post #81 of 173
Thread Starter 

INSTEON To The Rescue!


My INSTEON devices saved me on the stairs. By code we need a 3-way light on the stairs with a switch at the top and bottom.

Even though the house was built with an un-finished basement you would think that they would still put in the second switch at the bottom of the stairs - but no.

But surely, you say, they must have used 3 conductor cable to the top switch that is in a completely finished part of the house? Sadly, no. And the existing 14/2 is well anchored in there.

Smart devices to the rescue ! Replace the top switch and add a new one at the bottom of the stairs. Make each device a slave to the other - bam - three way circuit without nasty drilling and cable fishing.


Edited by andymo - 6/11/12 at 12:31pm
post #82 of 173
Thread Starter 
I really wanted to get the lighting in the alcove-thing installed pre-drywall because of the small space. However I need to use those little 3" cans you buy in 6packs at the big box stores and they are typically rework models. I managed to find some new-build brackets for them and, after some modifications, got all three in. I am pleased with the results!

(after the fact I did notice in another build thread that someone used a sheet of OSB to mount these little cans - would have been cheaper to do that I guess.)

I am no stranger to modifying install boxes and brackets because I had to chop and mod some boxes in the theatre area because of some narrow joist spaces (where boards overlap). I had a little one-man assembly-line going at one point.

I also moved the stone-wall wash lights back a bit. The stone that we are tending towards will be a bit thicker than I planned, so I want to keep the rock shadows reduced somewhat.

Now that I have the new lighting in all areas I can remove the rough-in simple bulb installs that came with the house. I was actually able to move some of them into the storage area - extra light without having to add to a new circuit or pull too much cable !
post #83 of 173
Thread Starter 

The distributed audio is working really well. So well that my wife wanted me to expand into the dining room. Good to do it now before the basement ceiling is closed!

I chose a spot on the wall in the dining room that was "good and hollow" and near the kitchen entrance. So I start to saw away and was half done when ...

Ducting. Arg. It's not as close as it looks in the photo, however the volume controls are deep so it is not going to work here.

Anyway, I chose a new location and started fishing the speaker cables up from the basement. As I was pulling up on the string something got snagged down below. I went downstairs, got on the ladder and realized I had to hold the cable up to get past a tricky bit. So I called out to my 10-year old up through the floor:

"Son - go to the Dining Room !"


       "Ok - now what?"


"See the string coming out of the hole in the wall? Pull on it."
(pause - no tug on the line)
"Are you pulling it?"




"Pull harder"


        "uh - okay"


(pause - still no tug on the line)
"Are you sure you are pulling the red & white string ?"


        "YES - I'm pulling it as fast as I can!"


(standing on a ladder, my head between joists, arm wrapped around hvac holding a speaker cable, it took me a moment to process that last comment)

"Are you pulling the string OUT of the wall ?"


        "No, I'm pulling it out of the bucket of string!"


Sure enough, when all was said and done and I went back upstairs there was a massive pile of pulling line next to the dispensing bucket. *sigh*. He meant well.


Edited by andymo - 6/11/12 at 12:33pm
post #84 of 173
Thread Starter 
Updated audio system diagram:

post #85 of 173
Hey, the lights in that alcove look great! That's going to be really nice when it's trimmed out.
post #86 of 173
Originally Posted by andymo View Post

"are you pulling the string out of the wall ?"
"no, i'm pulling it out of the bucket of string!" sure enough, when all was said and done and i went back upstairs there was a massive pile of pulling line next to the dispensing bucket. *sigh*. He meant well.


post #87 of 173
Thread Starter 
Thanks !
post #88 of 173
Thread Starter 
Unfortunately I have lost (read:misplaced) a bunch of photos on the build. Clear sign I have too much on the go right now. I'm also switching jobs at work, both boys have birthdays this month, Mother's Day... yada yada yada.

So here is a bunch of quick update notes to try and catch up:
  • Some brutal cable pulling. One long home run had a tight hole so I could only pull it 3" at a time.
  • Repurposed some of the existing rough wiring by re-directing it into the storage room to use for the gaming power block and extra light.
  • I have a work light at my bench !
  • Installed doors on the gaming cabinets.
  • Ran music/game room ceiling speaker wiring.
  • Running proper LAN cables to upstairs. Sure enough on the last one my steel fish tape got stuck in the wall/ceiling. Left it hanging there for 3 days until I finally gave up and cut it (hard to do!)
  • Hanging over a dozen stone veneer samples on the wall.
  • Solid core door arrived - installed on furnace room.
  • Fixed framing around furnace room door. :-P
  • Found used SONY receiver on Kijiji for $20 that I can use to drive the gaming speakers
  • based on conversation with drywaller, i extended the walls around the pocket doors to emcompass the jack posts
  • hey - now that I extended the walls, I have to add two new plugs to meet code!. Make work make work.
  • Mean while my wife is working on stuffing the insulation in parallel to all this stuff. Great to have a helping hand. Our electric knife will never be the same!
  • New bulkhead over kids gaming tv. Should have done that earlier - more room to run cable from the epanel.
  • Finally finished framing around the electrical panel. I made it match the smaller version of the IKEA cabinet doors on the game cupboards.
more to come. Hopefully with more words !
post #89 of 173
Thread Starter 
The LED strip lights I ordered for the stair runners came in the mail! Of course I had to drop what I was doing and plug pieces in.

I ended up ordering RGB 150 SMD strips. You can get 300 SMD, which has twice as many LEDs on the strip, but it was a bit more expensive and consumes a lot more power resulting in needing bigger power supplies etc.

I tried them out and even created a mock up along the stairs. It looks great! Even though I will keep them white most of the time it is nice to be able to change the colours for special occasions. Also, since there are different "whites" this way we can choose how cool or warm we want them to be.

The boys like the "dance mode".

(sadly - the testing pictures are also MIA. Too bad - they were fun).

Other updates:
  • built new bulkhead over gaming tv area
  • my wife built a mockup of the fireplace corner, complete with cardboard fireplace. She makes me smile all the time. She is also running with narrowing down the selection and getting quotes etc. We are trying different angles to maximize viewing impact, but in the end we are going to stick with plain old 45 degrees. (side note: since gas fireplaces are essentially a luxury market I am amazed at the lack of sales attention that we have found. Stores not phoning back, no attention at showrooms (if they are there at all!). My guess is the main revenue stream is subdivision builders and they just don't care about individuals.)
  • rewired bottom of stairs gang box - added a separate "ALL OFF" switch that will kill all lights in the basement.
  • Moved the furnace junction box so it was in the furnace room. Since the ceiling is so busy there with all the ducting etc there was no place to anchor it so I had to move it 3ft farther away from the epanel. Thus I needed to pull a brand new home run of 14/2 and remove the old one, and I decided to move the kill-switch to a better location as well. As I removed the old run and made these changes I ran across the typical "in-the-field builder decisions", leaving me grumbling about slap'n'dash building the whole time.
post #90 of 173
Thread Starter 
(Sunday April 29)

A totally free day today - no other commitments - however it's a late start because we were out drinking and dancing at the local hockey volunteer banquet. I need to start on something low key (NO power tools until the Tylenol kicks in) so I am going to finally plug in my ISY 99i INSTEON controller. (side bar: what kind of name is ISY-99i ??? I mean ... really ? I can never remember it when google searching. How marketable is that ! Unless it's a tribute to Wayne Greztky or something, I just don't get it.)

Up until now I was holding off on doing this because I have been hesitant on installing any electronics in the basement until after the drywall (dust issues). However it dawned on me that I can install this *anywhere* in the house and access it from my laptop via wi-fi.

Installing is the easiest thing. Just plug it into the the wall through the INSTEON modem, and connect to a hub on the house LAN. Done. After that, I can access it from any computer in the house through a default URL or using the IP address. (java required)

Holding my head and laptop I shuffle down to the basement to start playing. Again, it's pretty easy: I press the "start linking" button on the app and I can then go around the basement and press the Set button on any dimmer/outlet that I want it to control. If I want, I can tell it to remember any of the links that I manually created already, but I chose to delete everything and start from scratch. After I identified all the devices the ISY99i initializes all of the devices which took a long time .. about 5-10 min .. which was a good time to get some java of my own.

Once that was done it was all play. Click on any device in the tree and turn it on / off, change the ramp rate, change the max dim levels etc.etc. I renamed all the devices so it was easier to keep track, and now it was time to make some "scenes". Again - intuitive and easy. Create a new scene in the tree, drag all the involved devices into that scene, and specify which devices are 'controllers' (those that start the scene) and which are 'responders' (everything else). I slaved some devices to others, and re-created the virtual 3-way circuit for the stairwell.

Now time for the "ALL OFF" button. Creating the scene was simple - drag every device into that scene. I can even specify different lighting levels and ramp-rates (how fast they fade) for the scene which was very cool. However there was a little trick: Since I wanted the All Off switch to be a nice big button I decided to apply it to the dimmer part of a keypad/dimmer combo (the dimmer wasn't connected to any load, but that doesn't matter for INSTEON - it can still control things). What happened was the scene settings were being over-ruled by the dimmer settings. Once I noticed that, I just changed all the dimmer settings to what I wanted and voila - awesomeness.

Now when I press the All Off button at the base of my stairs, most of the lights fade out fairly quickly, but I have the accent lights (like on the stone wall, the screen, etc) fade out much slower so your last view of the basement is of all the accents. And lastly, i have the stairway light fade REALLY slow (19s) so you have lots of time to climb the stairs and the light will take care of itself.

As crush the turtle says: Awesome.

Can't wait to integrate the stairs running lights and motion sensor. But that will have to wait a bit.
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