Old house, third floor renovation home theater with obstacles
I have been a lurker in this forum for a number of years and when I moved to an older home several years back, I had two important criteria for the purchase-1) a basement where I could install a woodworking shop and 2) a room somewhere that could become a home theater/listening room.
I am an amateur woodworker although I am not a carpenter--and believe me--there’s a difference! I am also a bit of an audiophile, so great sound is also important for both movies and listening to music. Oh, and I also have a full-time job.
I have now been underway on this project for coming up on four years. I am nearing the end and have finally decided to post about it in this forum. I would have done it sooner but progress was so slow that I thought folks would lose interest. By doing it this way, I know that I am giving up the chance to incorporate a lot of great advice from members of the forum. You can’t have everything,
I think this will interest many readers because the project has had to deal with a number of important constraints and likely some that may have scared off others from attempting their project. Perhaps this will help. I am a stubborn DIYer (just ask my wife!) but tackled this project without experience in virtually any part of what would need to be done. YIKES!
The house was built in 1928 by a gentleman in the marble business. He knew he would load the house with marble (i.e., the kitchen walls are marble), and so it is extremely solid to handle the additional weight. The third floor was already finished, has a full bathroom (complete with cast iron tub) and a furnace for the second and third floors. There is also a separate air conditioning unit for the second and third floors so temperature comfort shouldn't be an issue.
I think this was originally a maid’s quarters way back when. When you get to the third floor, there was a small hallway for no apparent reason, a bedroom that was about 12 ½ x 13 feet with relatively low ceilings at about 7 ½ feet (not a very promising start I know), an alcove on the front at about 6x10 ft and two long walk-in closets. However, the entire footprint of the room/closets is about 19 feet square (also not great for acoustics but more promising for a footprint for the theater). In the attached PowerPoint, the dotted lines show walls that were removed. Because it is on the third floor, three of the walls also slant at a 45 degree angle starting about 5 feet up (which I tried to show in the attached pdf drawings). The walls were also plaster and lath (it just keeps getting better!) And the main wall separating the bedroom from one closet is a load-bearing wall and the house has a heavy slate roof. Now those are constraints!
I consulted a very well-respected residential engineer who indicated that we could remove the walls but would need to but add support beams front to back and side to side. I even considered trying to raise the ceiling, since one side appeared to have about 18 inches of space above it but the roof is actually flat and sloping to drain rain over much of the space and it sloped down to only about 6 inches at the other side. Just as well…. it would have been a nightmare to tackle that. We don’t have floor plans for the house and the joists also run in different directions under parts of the roof.
I used construction professionals to remove the walls and install the support beams and to do some drywall work, and had an electrician add a sub-panel in the room with a lot of dedicated outlets because I have quite a few heavy-duty mono amplifiers. I will have professionals install the carpet.
Aside from that, it’s been all yours truly. I have developed the design but am so grateful to the many dedicated supporters of the forum from whom I have learned so much and who gave me the courage to tackle this project.
Just in case anyone is still reading, I am posting some pdf files that approximate what the finished product will be like. I did a lot of work with SketchUp to develop the design—big learning curve there! SketchUp is great for working in three dimensions and checking the lines for how the projector might work. Since it creates files in a proprietary format, I will use PDF to show my plans.
My idea is to take readers through many of the issues that I have encountered and how I have dealt with them. I welcome questions about the many constraints I faced and will try and post pictures that show the progress that I have made. I have also added some interesting ideas including doors and light fixtures that I have built, some pretty cool amplifier stands and an audio rack that I will start on soon. I have made many adjustments to the plans throughout the project.
The basic theater plan includes two rows, eight total seats, a rear 4K projector, seven speakers and two subwoofers in a high-end audio system (Wilson Audio speakers, etc) and partial-masking theater screen. I have made many accommodations to try and deal with the acoustics, but frankly I cannot know if they will work until it is complete and I can test it out. I have probably overdone some aspects of sound-absorbing materials but can remove some if necessary after further testing.
I hope many of you will find this interesting and ask questions and provide comments. And I apologize in advance if I swear at anyone because they have a great idea that I wish I had thought of!!