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Second Time Around Home Theater - Build Thread

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
After a five year hiatus from AVS, I’m back for more. I built a small HT in my old townhouse about 8 years ago. I moved out of there 5 years ago into a SFH and boy have I missed it. The plan was to build a new HT a year or two after moving in to the new home, and as many of you have similarly experienced, life got in the way. Three kids and a dog later (I still have the wife!) I’m itching to get going. I may set some kind of record for longest construction duration needing to balance family, time and budget, but I’ll stick to this thread to keep everyone who’s interested up to date and, most importantly, to me, throw out the bajillion questions I’ll have through the process that I’m hoping you all can help me out with.

I’m going to be using my old A/V gear (Paradigm floors and sub w/surround satellites) and projector (Panasonic PTL500). I’m already itching for a newer projector but would rather build the room first and then upgrade that down the road. It still puts out a reasonable image in a light controlled room. I’m thinking about two rows with the first one at 12 ft with a 100” screen. I will probably add the second row later and on a small riser

I’m still heavy in the research phase but I’m itching to start framing. So here are some current questions.

1. My main breaker box is one floor up in the garage. There’s plenty of open space in the breaker and it looks like someone with experience can pull new wire down to the basement. Question: Would it be easier to have an electrician wire up a new subpanel in the HT, like 100amps or so, and then I can run dedicated circuits for my HT equipment and lights (and the rest of the basement when I finish it)? I was also thinking that way I could do all the wiring and then have an electrician tie in the new circuits to the new subpanel.

2. I am building mostly a room-in-a-room. I will use clips and channel to decouple the ceiling and I’m using clips to decouple the walls. Double drywall with GG. There's concrete walls on all sides except the wall between the HT and where I’ll have a pool table. There are two posts along that wall. I foresee putting a double door there. Question: Should I go with two separate walls or should I do a staggered stud? If I do a straight wall for the inner HT wall, then the outer wall will have to deal with the posts (see photo below). If I was willing to give up floor space, I could just do a straight outer wall and sandwich the posts. Or an alternative is to box around the posts and build some kind of column. One of the posts would tie into a soffit (the post holds a large beam), so it wouldn’t look that balanced if I build a column around each post.

3. The HVAC system is in the same space where I plan on storing all my A/V gear. When the home was built, the system was sized for a finished basement. There will be two vents in the rear of the HT where I will simply tie into the current line that feeds the room above it. Question: Should I put a dead vent in the wall between the HT and the HVAC system? This would be the easiest. Should I put one in between the HT and the adjacent room? I don’t see any easy way to tie into a return vent, since there is basically a return on each floor of the house. The home leverages the gaps beneath the doors to pull air out of rooms so I figure a dead vent in the wall would provide the same thing?

4. What are your thoughts on storing all the gear behind the wall? I like the idea of keeping it clean and I’m not too worried about having to go back there to put in a DVD. Any other drawbacks other than using an IR repeater to control things?

Here's some crappy drawings I did.

The chairs are oversized in the drawing. I'm hoping to put a small bar in the back corner. As far as sound proofing, right now I only have one wall between the HVAC and sump area. It will be clipped in with double drywall and GG. I'm hoping I don't need to build a second wall. I'm only worried about minimizing sound from the HVAC. I plan to use a sealed exterior door for entry.

Here you can see the two posts I need to deal with. Was planning on putting the HT entry door in between those. I would like to do a dual single door configuration but I don't think my wife will accept that so most likely an exterior french door is in my future...I'll have to deal with its acoustic properties.

Originally I had started to frame the area out to build a barrier in between the HVAC and to be able to set up the projector just to use it in unfinished spaces. Well, that's the catalyst for now building out the whole space. Notice that I need to keep access to the sump pump on the far right. If I put the screen wall far enough back, I should have plenty of room to add a false screen wall. I'll need to build a sofitt around the beam.

Here's the overall layout of the basement.

I need to think hard about entry into the theater. I'd rather do two single doors to create an air gap, but I will most likely lose that battle.
post #2 of 13
Thread Starter 
Been thinking about that second row. I really want to add it, but I'm worried because the length of the room just doesn't really support it. I'd have to build a riser in the middle of the room. If I do that, would it look weird? Would it fit in with a bar in the back of the room.? I was in the basement today staring at the walls and to have a riser at the rear of the room would be way too far a viewing distance. I really like the dedicated theaters people are building, but I don't think it's practical for my space. So how do I get two rows of seating to blend in with a bar at the back of the room. My room is 8 ft high so I don't want to build out the entire back half of the room just to put a bar on the same level.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
I laid out the posts that are giving me some concerns. You'll notice one right smack in the middle of my space. I mocked my projector right in front of it (the post is also carrying a beam, wall to wall from the entry side to the far side). I think I could get away with a second row...maybe. The post is 16.5 ft from the screen wall. If I take away 2ft for a false screen wall, I think I'm cutting it close for a second row. That would push my front row even closer. I could probably push that wall back even further. Stupid posts and beams.

post #4 of 13
To create a little more space could you move your AV kit to the back and bring the sump pump into the room? It'll be behind the screen wall if this would work.
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi Gareth_Alien. Thanks for an interesting idea. It would help solve my space issue. I'm a little concerned about having the sump inside a sound proof room. It runs a good amount in the summer time since the HVAC drains into it. I basically lose 3' of space if I wall in front of the sump. Hmmmm.....

I just modeled the room in SketchUp. After failing many times to figure out how to use SketchUp, I think I finally have the hang of it.

And I guess I'm glad that I did. I am not sure that the hours spent imagining my theater will actually work with two rows. Stupid beams and posts!

I modeled the posts and the beams I have to deal with. You can see pretty quickly what my dilemma is with that post in the middle of the room. If I go with twice the width of the screen then 174" is where my first row should be (for a 100" diag screen). I guess I could go with a smaller screen, but there's got to be a better way! Or maybe one seat doesn't recline...nah, that won't do. Maybe smaller seats? Maybe a full front row and then a platform with some kind of split seating?

I looked at the left area on the drawing as an alternative but I think it's too narrow if I were to build a wall and reorient the space. I'm a little disappointed...not sure which direction to go. There really is no better space in my basement.

post #6 of 13
The 20'x13' area beside the stairwell looks like a (smaller) alternative. If you can stretch the length you can still get 6 seats in there.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks Fred. Unfortunately a bathroom is in the works there. The longest I can stretch it out is about 17 feet. So it's may be 17 by 17 (I'm discovering errors in the first layout not done with SketchUp). What's the minimum size for a reasonable theater with two rows of seating? Funny though, the model home had the home theater in the space you are recommending. I thought it was tiny. They had a 50" flat screen in there. I couldn't imagine a much larger screen. My current 78" screen would probably fit in that space.
post #8 of 13
Originally Posted by pcaulfie View Post

What's the minimum size for a reasonable theater with two rows of seating?
I'd say if the screen is big enough to be reasonable for two rows, the first row will be at least 9, probably 10 feet back. So, 16-17 feet is an absolute minimum. 20-22 is what I'm building so that the rear row is not too near the rear wall. With a smaller screen you could squeeze that some, but then the second row is either too near the wall or too far back for good viewing angles, IMO.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hey David. Just so I understand, you're saying that 11 ft from a 100" diagonal screen is too close for a purist, correct?

I had framed up the screen wall and it's just floating so I moved it back to model dimensions and taped up what a 100" screen would look like. From the front row it didn't look as large as I thought it would. I definitely agree with your advice that I should rig up something temporary before I choose a screen size. I have a row of 4 HT chairs. I broke them up into two rows of two, just to get an idea of the size and spacing. I think this is totally doable, even with the first row at 10 feet or so.

You also read my mind about the need to do something with the free space behind the second row. Here's what I came up with below. There's plenty of inspiration on this forum. I like the 42" bar behind the seating idea. First, it serves the purpose of my room. I imagine we'll entertain during sporting events, for example and the chit chatters and snackers can hang out in the back where there is also additional seating and a galley style mini kitchen. I like that it also somewhat disguises the post. If I leave it open, it becomes part of the bar and serves as a room divider.

You'll also notice the wine closet. That's sort of a dream idea that I'm playing with. I do have concerns about having bottles in a room that's going to shake all the time...so it may not happen, but it was part of my original vision. Not sure how practical it is but I like the idea of it.

So for the most part I'm getting close to starting the framing. I won't frame up a wine closet though...that could be an add on later.

Thanks for all the advice so far. Would love to hear more comments, even the critical ones! I still need to figure out if I'm going to add a sub-panel rather than wire the new dedicated circuits up to the breaker box in the garage, a floor up.
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Ok, I was hoping I misunderstood because it doesn't seem unreasonably close to me. I'd like to see if I can go bigger. Thx!
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
David, I really like your theater. It's got me thinking about going with an AT screen and back to the idea of a false screen wall. It doesn't help with my two row concept, but I think I can find alternative seating, like a couch, for one of the rows. Most likely one of the rows is for the kids anyways. As long as I get the prime seat. I pushed the wall back and mocked up my system with my old 78" screen. Even with that screen and my Paradigm towers, center and sub, the wall looks cluttered. I like the clean look of a false screen wall. Just need to determine if I can squeeze it out. I recall reading somewhere (BIG?) that two feet is all I need. I think I can sacrifice that.

I also think I need to find another spot for my equipment rack. I think I'll just frame up the walls and see what kind of space it leaves me. I might have some room in the double walls that divides the HT from the pool room area, right next to the door to HVAC area. Hmmm...how about a secret door? Put the equpment rack where the door should go and figure out a way to push/move it out of the way to get back there? Is that even practical?
post #12 of 13
Another option is to have that support pole in your 2nd row of seats. You could have a loveseat butted up to the pole and a single on the other side. this would only move them apart by the width of the pole but could move them back by 2-3 feet. That could give you either a larger screen or an AT screen. All these estimations are based on your sketches and for all I know this won't work at all - but is something to think on.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Gareth, that is definitely an option. I'll have a hard time finding the exact same seats I have now so I will have an opportunity to relook at seating. I think I'll finish the room and then decide before I build a riser.

Haven't made much progress. My 6 week, 3 year and 6 year old kids are making sure of that. I should get some time later this week to finish one side of the room. I'll keep on pressing.
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