(sorry for the long thread, but it covers a journey of about years of mistakes)
Approx. 7 years ago my family moved into our current house. After previous houses and apartments where I would install a TV wires, satellite cable wires, etc throughout the house – resulting in a mess that my wife grew to hate - my wife and I had the idea to designate a specific room in the new house as “mine”. The understanding was that I could do what I wanted to this room on the condition that I don’t touch the rest of the house. Those with ambition combined with the necessary skill or money to make it a reality would turn this into their dream theater. After reading enough posts on AVSforum about what is possible I had tons of ambition, unfortunately I lacked both the skills and money. Especially since the HT equipment (projectors, AVR, speakers) are very expensive – no way I’d “waste” my limited funds on construction. My money for this came from buying on clearance/using/re-selling on eBay – so if I spent $ on construction I’d never be able to recoup that $ and I’d be stuck:
(note- although I have a fairly nice paying job, I burnt through too much of the bank account in the past, so for the sake of peace, we agreed to setup my own paypal account. This account would be funded exclusively by whatever I can make buying and selling on eBay. Again, “knock yourself out but don’t get into family finances”. I have to say this was probably the best decision we ever made for marital peace. Unfortunately, it seriously cramped my resources available for the project. I ended up with virtually a 2nd job buying/selling on eBay)
Now, I was pretty adept at screwing a nail to hang a picture– so what could be so difficult about building a home theater. I read through people posts and then set off to scrounge up parts and build. The room contained nothing but bare joists, so I knew I had to add walls. It took me a few days to understand what “gypsum” meant, but when I did, I borrowed my wife’s minivan and I went to HomeDepot and bought a bunch of 3/8” sheets. I knew that there was a concept of sound containment, so instead of one sheet of dry wall - I put up 2 sheets ! All that talk about colored glues, and de-coupling was probably just overkill by the fanatics on AVS who spend tons of money for improvements which are imperceptible by human senses – I’m smarter than that I thought- I would be more than happy with this (plus sound containment was out of my budget anyway).
Hanging the DW was pretty easy – I just nailed the sheets to the wood and viola! - it stayed– reinforcing my belief that I could do this. The ceiling is low (about 6’8” high, and I’m 6’2” so I figured that I could hang the DW on the ceiling myself. After having DW sheets crack as I tried to lift it over my head alone, I figured there must be a way for someone to do this alone and I found out about a DW lift. Off to Home Depot - not too much money to rent, and I quickly figured out how to use it, and up the sheets went- See - I knew I could do this. Unfortunately I didn’t note where there might be wires – uh oh. Kinda scary hanging a 2nd layer into DW with that on your mind. You get the idea of how well I planned – so don’t even think about installing my A/V cables first before putting up the DW- wish I would have planned that one. I was taught by a computer professor in college to “push details down the pike” – guess I misapplied that lesson.
Though for the screen wall, I knew that I’d need a dark border. I figured I’d plan ahead and instead of painting in the house, I’d paint the wall outside. So I went to Home Depot and went to the section where the discount the paints that people colored and then changed their mind. So I found a dark color (without regard for sheen) and painted the DW sheets outside, and then after the dried brought them inside and mounted them to the wall joists. (A neighbor asked me about primer – of well, guess I would have known that earlier – would have saved me a lot of paint needed for the panel). Anyway, I bought a parkland plastics sheet. It looked nice, but I soon decided I wanted needed to go bigger so I read up on AVS and bought Screen goo to paint the wall. Now that I have the paint, I wondered wouldn’t there be a noticeable gap on the screen where the DW panels meet – Yes, no one told me about mudding DW panels. It sounds stupid (and it is) but that’s what little pre-existing knowledge and a lot of desire/urgency will do. So off to AVSforum I went and learned that the joints and nails have to be covered with spackle. Another trip to HD, and a bucket of DW mud at hand, I spackled the panels. Being that the nails protruded and were all over the sheets, I reasoned that I’d need to add a layer of spackle covering the entire panel in order to produce an even / flat layer so the nails wouldn’t be visible. So I spackled every panel – wall and ceiling. As per AVSforum members instructions, I needed to sand the spackle to get the smooth finish. That made dust – lots of it !!– something must be wrong. Needless to say my wife wasn’t happy. Granted it was my room to do what I wanted with, but not at the expense of making the rest of the house unlivable. …So I queried the AVS and was told of professional sanding machines that have vacuum attachments to get rid of the dust problem. Of course, that’s what I needed – this must be what the pros do to avoid this sandstorm. It wasn’t cheap (I bought a Porter Cable) but it would be worth it to finish my HT and keep the wife happy. This device would vacuum up the dust as it was created – makes sense.
In hindsight the AVS crew wasn’t figuring on an entire layer of spackle being across each panel. This machine made so much dust and SOO fast it was incredible. The entire room quickly became a dust bowl. It knew that I’d be killed by the wife, but figured that I’d at least better finish the sanding so I’d have the job done – as either way I’m dead. Unfortunately though, the machine sanded so fast that it sanded down to the DW panel and nails leaving me pretty much where I started – just full of dust. As expected my wife was furious, and started telling me how unsafe this is. I figured in the 21st century that can’t be true. If I was able to buy it at Home Depot it had to have been approved by some agency, but she came armed with reports and the word “Silicosis” seemed pretty scary. Especially being that we have a son who is imnio-surpressed (heart transplant) – I needed to get serious about this. Also, since no one mentioned wearing a mask, I started developing a cough. I’m pretty athletically fit, so I figured it’d go away in a few days. Unfortunately it didn’t, so I asked my doctor. She didn’t think one time exposure would be a long term issue – but I learned my lesson and stopped my HT project. I did get some consolation when the guys on the AVSforum applauded me for my persistence, but this was getting serious.
I did however convince my wife of the need to replace the existing carpet in the entire basement with laminate flooring. No dust issues with this, and as part of the project, I got to floor my HT room. I must say, I really did a great job on the flooring and it looks very nice. Best of all, as part of the house project – I didn’t have to pay for it (you can see the only money that matters is what I have in that paypal account).
I left the room as is for quite a while, and went through a # of projectors (from the Infocus 4805, pretty much the entire line of BenQ’s HT projectors, and the Epson’s 1080 UB, 6500UB, and a bunch of Pannys. I even “experimented in the heavy stuff” -- CRT’s (what did you think I meant?) - Sony 1272, 1292 (which I even had Terry install – he even gave me the sound advice that sometimes you just have to pay for someone to do things for you. I often think back on that. Anyway the CRT became a new learning project, especially trying to figure out how to keep the (airplane level) sound from the fans down- I ended up getting a hush box from someone (but they didn’t allow enough ventilation) so I ended up parting out my 1292 and going digital. In short I was buying projectors every 6-12 months. eBay enabled me to fund / continue this habit – or moreso quest for the perfect PQ. It was enjoyable and I really enjoyed watching movies in my HT.
As time went on, it just didn’t seem right to be watching such beautiful images/PQ in a dump of an unfinished room, so slowly I began thinking of restarting the construction – after all now I’m experienced . I put up wallpaper (where the DW panel joint gaps are less noticeable) and it really did the trick hiding things– not perfect by any means but a BIG improvement. I really like the pattern, and I bought an area rug (for aesthetics), and found someone local selling their large Carada screen for cheap. It made a nice difference. Now I was done I really liked it.
I watched tons of movies, and finally enjoyed actually watching theater in the home-theater. As you’re probably asking yourself – what about the audio? Over time this became an issue too. I wanted that theater rumbling effect in my gut during LOTR. I found an AVS member (Roman) selling an SVS sub. I didn’t know much but it seemed like a high end sub. He wasn’t local, but he lived near a seminar I was scheduled to go to, so I snuck out and met him and got the sub. I installed it in my HT (I had a set of Boston speakers and a Marantz SR7002 AVR) and the sound was REALLY good (to my tastes). Only problem is that I usually don’t have time to watch a movie until later at night, and as I would do so, my wife would complain that the house was shaking and it was scaring the kids. Those 2 layers of DW weren’t as effective as I had thought after all. So I ended up buying Grado wired and then Senheisser wireless headphones. No LFE effect but the sound was good. However my speakers were just collecting dust and more so, I REALLY wanted that LFE rumbling. As you’ve probably diagnosed me right now as either a HT fanatic (in the literal sense- i.e. a nut) or someone with OCD (guilty on both charges)– I couldn’t leave it alone.
Onwards, I started reading up on sound-containment. The room-within-a-room idea really made sense, so I built walls inside of the existing walls. I didn’t feel comfortable drilling the frame into the concrete foundation of the house (I imagined, that I’d mess that up and I’d ruin the entire house), so I just screwed the top of the frame to the ceiling from one wall. For a side wall, there is a main beam of the house going lengthwise through the room, so I just screwed the DW directly into that for one side. (2 of the other walls were the concrete frame of the house – again I didn’t want to touch concrete foundations) – so I left them as is. As you’d imagine this helped some but not enough, so off to AVS and found out about dampening products. I saw curves showing scientific tests how LFE would be reduced, so I bought Green Glue and (yet) more dry wall, and put up new walls making “Green Glue Sandwiches” It was my winter break from work so I had the time to do this (though the family didn’t appreciate me not spending time with them, I tried to explain – that this really means a lot to me, and “just this” and I’m done.) I put up the DW-GG-DW sandwiches. However with the break almost over, I ran out of GG, I really didn’t want this left unfinished until my next break so I researched how to get more material in the next 48 hours. I spent a day researching/calling and the only thing I found was a lumber yard selling sheets of quiet rock, it wasn’t close by but 30-45 minutes was close enough that I can get it the next day and still have time to install before my vacation was over. I laugh when I say this now, but –no lie- there was a snow storm that day. But no way, I was going to leave things as is and not be able to enjoy my LFE. So in an old minivan with balding tires, I slowly made my way through the snow and got a sheet of quiet rock and came home 3 hours later. My wife didn’t say anything as she saw me pull in – she already knew I’m nuts. Why can’t they just understand the joy ?
Anyway, I set it up, working through the day, skipping dinner, and then that night put on a movie – I’m sure if you’re reading this you know that a coupled wall/ceiling would still have the house shaking- less so, but still enough to get the visit from the wife – that it’s keeping the kids awake. I’d like to be able to say that I swore then that I’d give up and stop this pursuit and just “be happy” and that I’m fully “recovered” from this addiction. But I knew that others did it, why couldn’t I. After more AVS research I found out the answer – “Ted White” . With his help I was able to build a decoupled soffit isolating the main beam. He’d lead me to the promised land. It helped, but not fully ( I appreciate that he understood my budget concerns and had me do things in stages perhaps the job would be done with less –I even begged him to just buy stuff and he wouldn’t let - I laugh that I had to beg a salesman to sell me something.) Anyway, next on his list of things to do, is the door – as it the HT room is pretty much right below the main stairway to the house, so sound getting through the door is making it’s way straight upstairs to the kids’ bedroom area (not to mention the coupled ceiling).
I got someone local to take care of the coupled ceiling (while taking down the existing ceiling – I learned one reason why people hang DW with screws and not nails – oh well). Now (as in the present) I have one last “just this” thing to fix – namely that doorway. I’m currently able to watch movies, and although it’ll still give some rumbling to the house, it’s not enough to wake up the kids – so I just have to watch late- goodbye headphones.
I ended up buying a set of Klipsch speakers (RF82 II’s RF-64IIs, etc) on a big sale – didn’t do much research but the discount was so great, I figured that they had to be good. Fortunately they are. But now it makes me realize that my room acoustics stink. Off to AVS … This time however, I caught myself, and before I started another DIY project – I heard Terry’s advice ringing in my head, and I splurged and just bought sound panels form GK acoustics . I must say I’m happy with it. But wait I just read an ad in Home Theater Review mag that Goldenear speakers beat out $20k speakers for just a fraction of the price…oh yeah, and also realized after the fact that the width of the front Klipsch speakers is blocking some of the projector's image from reaching the screen - didn't think about that....
Wow, that was a mouthful, I don’t know if I’ll win the projector with my confessional, but this was somewhat therapeutic to me. And hopefully someone else out there with not enough cash and a lot of desire can learn from some of these basic lessons learned all to real– Plan first, don’t rush, and “sometimes you have to pay to have someone else do the job”.
A nice epilogue to the story is that my son recently got a visit from the Make-A-Wish foundation. They asked him what his 2 best-wishes were. His first was to have an indoor basketball court, and #2 was Disney World. Unfortunately, as a matter of policy, they don’t do home construction so they couldn’t do much by way of a court. We had a great time in Disney, but I knew how much he’d love the court –so I set about using some of my newly learned construction skills to turn the unfinished garage into a court. I have to say that it came out incredible. I did the work – putting up the dry wall (first learning how to spackle – the correct way this time) and painting. More impressive is that I even paid others to do what I couldn’t . People who see it give jaw dropping compliments and my wife is even amazed at what I have done – I just tell her “what do think I’ve been doing all these past years working on my HT – learning construction!”
Edited by cgott42 - 6/22/12 at 5:30pm