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post #1 of 17 Old 03-23-2017, 09:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Initial planning of garage conversion

I'm finally purchasing a house and I'm looking forward to converting the garage to a theater. In the house I'm renting now I currently have a theater in the basement so I already have plenty of gear and experience with the A/V. I've got the seating, screen, PJ, speakers, equipment, etc. I've even got plenty of black acoustic absorption panels, drapery, and carpeting tiles I'll be able to pull up. 

What I don't have though, is experience with construction. At all. I've been a renter all my life. So that's really the only part I can't DIY. 

It's a fairly spacious 1 car garage, I figure 15x20? Whatever it is, it's a probably just slightly above average size for a 1 car garbage. It's attached and has its own vaulted ceiling, high enough that if there was a standard sized ceiling, there would be like a standard size attic that you can climb into. So I figure that's going to make wiring way easier.

Right now the garage is in an...interesting configuration though. It was subdivided by building an L shaped wall, so that as you enter from inside the house, there's a narrow laundry room running along the length of it, and a smaller storage area running along the width. Then there's a separate door to walk into the garage proper, which is now just barely big enough to fit a car. So the "outer" L-shaped room is properly finished, heated by a baseboard on the outer wall, cheap tile, painted etc. The "inner" garage is still unfinished, concrete slab, etc. And there's an additional door to the outdoor from the garage itself (which I don't need.)

So ideally I want to do:

1) Knock that wall down and open it back up to its proper size. 
2) Finish and properly insulate and the outer walls, soundproofing to the extent that I can. 
3) Installing flooring that will reverberate pleasingly with the subs instead of being completely dead like the concrete. The flooring itself can be as cheap as possible, I'll be covering it with dark "carpet tiles" that are basically stick on. 
4) Cover the walls with an appropriate dark fabric, doesn't need to be especially fancy.
5) Install a drop ceiling with good acoustic properties, downlights and maybe even ceiling speakers for atmos.

A few wrinkles though: the garage is a few steps down from the house proper, and I still need to work an small enclosed laundry area as well as an A/V closet into this. There's also the garage door and an outside door on the wall opposite the laundry that needs to be dealt with somehow.

So anyone experienced with garage conversions have any thoughts? Any rough ideas of what the construction would cost, and materials to use for the floors, wall cloth, ceiling, etc?

What's the standard way to deal with doors? Lock them up and just build a wall right up against them? If I wanted to eat a little space out of the theater make the garage door opening into a small outdoor pseudo-shed, can the track of the door just slide up and over the ceiling without issues, given that there will be lights, speakers, wiring up there?

Also, I'm located in Stony Brook, Long Island and I'd obviously prefer people with home theater experience to work on this. It's a few months off at the earliest but if you know of any good contractors in the area or you are one yourself, definitely get in touch.

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post #2 of 17 Old 03-23-2017, 11:18 AM
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I've never converted a garage into a theater, but I do have experience with construction and garage doors. Unless you make some significant modifications to the garage door track design, you likely won't be able to keep the operational roll up door if you want any kind of reasonable headroom under the door in the open position. Standard doors are 7' high, and depending on the height of the ceiling structure, the door may hang down somewhat below that, or it may be just above that, in the open positon. Your ceiling framing will need to drop down significantly below that to carry the weight of the ceiling across the span. Although a suspended "drop" ceiling, can be built with only about four inches of clearance, it needs to suspended from above, and you won't be able to install the supports from above where the door needs to move into in the open position.


You could keep the doors in place, but not operable. You could install carriage type doors that are hinged from the sides, or you could remove them and build a conventional wall. You should look into the building code requirements for egress. You may be required to have either a door or a windows of a sufficient size to get out of, or firefighters in full gear with oxygen tanks to get into, in case of emergency.


Soundproofing is a rather significant investment, so make sure that you set your budget and/or expectations accordingly.


You should probably do more research on acoustical treatments. Unless you are building a concert hall for live music, you don't want reverberation for subs (or other speakers, for that matter). You want a balance of reflection, absorption and diffusion, with a particular emphasis on "trapping" or minimizing low frequencies to avoid standing waves that will cause peaks and valleys that will negatively impact the low frequency response of the room. Concrete is definitely not a "dead" material. It is highly reflective to sound waves and you definitely do want to cover it with padding and carpet, but to reduce reflection and reverberation, not increase it.
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post #3 of 17 Old 03-23-2017, 12:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveClement View Post
I've never converted a garage into a theater, but I do have experience with construction and garage doors. Unless you make some significant modifications to the garage door track design, you likely won't be able to keep the operational roll up door if you want any kind of reasonable headroom under the door in the open position. Standard doors are 7' high, and depending on the height of the ceiling structure, the door may hang down somewhat below that, or it may be just above that, in the open positon. Your ceiling framing will need to drop down significantly below that to carry the weight of the ceiling across the span. Although a suspended "drop" ceiling, can be built with only about four inches of clearance, it needs to suspended from above, and you won't be able to install the supports from above where the door needs to move into in the open position.


You could keep the doors in place, but not operable. You could install carriage type doors that are hinged from the sides, or you could remove them and build a conventional wall. You should look into the building code requirements for egress. You may be required to have either a door or a windows of a sufficient size to get out of, or firefighters in full gear with oxygen tanks to get into, in case of emergency.


Soundproofing is a rather significant investment, so make sure that you set your budget and/or expectations accordingly.


You should probably do more research on acoustical treatments. Unless you are building a concert hall for live music, you don't want reverberation for subs (or other speakers, for that matter). You want a balance of reflection, absorption and diffusion, with a particular emphasis on "trapping" or minimizing low frequencies to avoid standing waves that will cause peaks and valleys that will negatively impact the low frequency response of the room. Concrete is definitely not a "dead" material. It is highly reflective to sound waves and you definitely do want to cover it with padding and carpet, but to reduce reflection and reverberation, not increase it.


When we were house hunting I definitely saw at least one or two garage pseudo-sheds. (Is there a proper term for this?) If it's mutually exclusive with a ceiling how did they even pull it off?

As far as safety goes, there's a "normal" door to the outside as well as a door to the inside of the house in the opposite side, if a second exit from any room is required then it seems like the simplest solution is just to keep the door.

I used the wrong word there, I really mean physical vibration, not acoustic reverberation. I have a monster 18 inch velodyne sub - In my current house I used to have it in the living room with hardwood floors and it was awesome. You'd feel the low rumbles in your bones because it physically shook the whole room. When I moved everything down into the basement that effect was completely gone. I could still hear 20hz but I couldn't really feel it. I ended up moving the sub near field right behind the couch and that restored most of that feeling, but it still wasn't really the same. I figure the floor had to be the major difference there. But otherwise I'm on the same page as you, I spent a lot of time reducing reflections with panels, traps and EQ in my current theater.

As far as soundproofing goes, it doesn't need to be some exotic design that's completely sealed and silent until you open the door. It's just something I want to take into account in the design. Like if there's one type of insulation that's more absorbent than another, etc. My understanding is that it's like the typical 80/20 situation - you get 80% of the way there with 20% of the work, and the other 20% requires the other 80% of the work.

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post #4 of 17 Old 03-23-2017, 03:07 PM
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You'd have to look at those garage "pseudo-sheds" to see how they were built. A lot will depend on how high your door track is mounted.


I get what you are saying now, you are looking for the tactile vibration, rather than reverberation. You will naturally get more of that with a structure that is framed in wood, rather than on a cement slab. To recreate that, you will likely need to build some sort of wood framing like a riser for your seating. Consider using "bass shaker" type devices on the riser and/or seats.


I understand what you are saying about your soundproofing intent and the 80/20 rule. There is a lot that can be done to increase sound isolation, but it is a lot more involved than than selecting the right kind of insulation to get to that theoretical "80% level".
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post #5 of 17 Old 03-23-2017, 06:57 PM
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I don't want to dampen your spirits but I just want to be sure you've done your homework. There are communities where the county codes or HOAs frown on garage conversions. There are also busy body neighbors who might turn you into the code compliance office. You may choose to not apply for a building permit but build to code just in case you get caught so you don't have to redo too much.
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post #6 of 17 Old 03-28-2017, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post
I don't want to dampen your spirits but I just want to be sure you've done your homework. There are communities where the county codes or HOAs frown on garage conversions. There are also busy body neighbors who might turn you into the code compliance office. You may choose to not apply for a building permit but build to code just in case you get caught so you don't have to redo too much.


Yeah, definitely. That's why I'm planning far in advance. My HOA only has stipulations about freestanding structures and exterior appearance of the house, but nothing about internal renovations. I can do whatever I want with the garage, but if I wanted to build a new detached garage to replace it, then there'd be a problem.
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post #7 of 17 Old 03-28-2017, 08:48 PM
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How tall is the garage? How many seats are going in there?

Is the raised entry level just an opportunity to enter at riser level? If so, then it's a feature, not a negative.

That tactile feedback is created by building the floor a tiny bit on the springy side. Or you could add some tactile
feedback and use an inline filter so nothing above 20 Hz goes to the Bas Kickers, or similar units.

An effective and not overly cost effective wall fabric is grill speaker cloth and buy it by the bolt. It actually looks
better then Guilford Of Maine products with it's finer weave, IMO.
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post #8 of 17 Old 03-31-2017, 12:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Initial planning of garage conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tedd View Post
How tall is the garage? How many seats are going in there?



Is the raised entry level just an opportunity to enter at riser level? If so, then it's a feature, not a negative.



That tactile feedback is created by building the floor a tiny bit on the springy side. Or you could add some tactile

feedback and use an inline filter so nothing above 20 Hz goes to the Bas Kickers, or similar units.



An effective and not overly cost effective wall fabric is grill speaker cloth and buy it by the bolt. It actually looks

better then Guilford Of Maine products with it's finer weave, IMO.
It's very tall and highly peaked. I want to say like 1.5 stories high. So it definitely needs a new ceiling and a drop ceiling seems to make the most sense by far.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the steps. I might just leave some of the outer room at "house height" and build a little laundry room out of it on the other side of the L-shaped room - it depends on how hard it's going to be to move the water and electric lines from the other side of the garage. In that case I'll probably build a second door for that and just keep the steps down where they are. Between the two should be just enough room for an A/V closet.

I don't really need more than 4 seats in it. I'm even considering leaving the walls exactly where they are and building a riser so I could have two rows of 2-3 seats in a narrow theater. That'll certainly make construction easier and someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the air gap/second wall created by the outer room will help isolate the sound from the rest of the house. It'll be much less ambitious but also much quicker and easier to build.

Any recommendations on *how* to build the floor on the springy side?

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post #9 of 17 Old 03-31-2017, 06:45 PM
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How high up does the garage door tracks go? You could have the tracks redone, to take the door up high, before it goes horizontal.
(Assuming a panel style door here.)

And if you leave some room at the front for that pseudo-shed, then a garage door replacement is a future possibility.

Could we get a diagram of the layout of the garage and stairs?
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post #10 of 17 Old 04-03-2017, 07:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Here is what I'm working with. It's not exactly to scale because I haven't moved in and measured it to the inch, but it's very close.

The easy option requires knocking down no walls or moving any plumbing, just adding an A/V closet in the corner and a wall in front of the garage door. It'll be a smaller theater, with a max 80-90 inch screen and 4-5 seats. Although there's a lot more room up front for kids to lay down on or whatever. And that empty 5x7 space up front would make a decent VR playspace.

The more involved option results in a bigger theater but requires knocking down every existing wall, adding new walls further up, building a small laundry room and the necessary electrical/plumbing for that, and then putting the A/V in the rear. Overall it will make it a much wider theater with more seating, but less floor space up front.

I imagine the easy option is far, far less expensive than the hard option.

Any other ideas of how I could arrange it?

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post #11 of 17 Old 04-03-2017, 10:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Initial planning of garage conversion

Saw this outside today, this is what I mean by "pseudo-shed." There were any workers around that I could ask more questions about it. I assume that's the new door waiting to be installed sitting in there. Doesn't look like a folding garage door to me though?

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post #12 of 17 Old 04-03-2017, 11:40 AM - Thread Starter
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Initial planning of garage conversion

Also, any thoughts on acoustically transparent screens? If I'm going to go with the "easy" option, there isn't going to be room for much more than a 65" panel. I figure I can get a way bigger screen with one, but how much depth would I need to sacrifice to keep the speakers sounding right?

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post #13 of 17 Old 04-03-2017, 07:51 PM
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Another option that might not be on your radar...

It has no seating on any boundaries.
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post #14 of 17 Old 04-03-2017, 07:53 PM
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As for an AT screen, it would be my choice. It could be as simple as in-wall speakers.
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post #15 of 17 Old 04-05-2017, 05:53 AM
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My sister has a garage as such. The previous owner left about 5' up front and put in a (people) door, to have access to the house at basement level.

Do you have your speakers already? You could pull off a large room with a little rework of the laundry room. I don't know if you don't already own your washer dryer, but a stacked unit might be nice to have to the right of the door.

You could go for some nice in-wall speakers, and backer box them. The projector could be housed in a hush box, in the back wall, and be accessible from a media closet. You could find yourself a used rack for the back corner and it could be built in, with side access, via a media closet.
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post #16 of 17 Old 04-05-2017, 10:14 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tedd View Post
My sister has a garage as such. The previous owner left about 5' up front and put in a (people) door, to have access to the house at basement level.



Do you have your speakers already? You could pull off a large room with a little rework of the laundry room. I don't know if you don't already own your washer dryer, but a stacked unit might be nice to have to the right of the door.



You could go for some nice in-wall speakers, and backer box them. The projector could be housed in a hush box, in the back wall, and be accessible from a media closet. You could find yourself a used rack for the back corner and it could be built in, with side access, via a media closet.

I seriously doubt I could get wifey to approve of squeezing the laundry room down to a stacked washer/dryer in a closet.

I already have a full 5.1 set of paradigm studio speakers and I'd prefer to keep using them.

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post #17 of 17 Old 04-05-2017, 04:20 PM
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Fair enough, but I had no idea if there was a wife, or even speakers.... I gather there's no basement to put a laundry room in?

I was aiming for the best audio experience, largest volume, while keeping the front storage.
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