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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Problem: My wife and I bought the home she grew up in on 2 acres in a rural area, but her mother lives with us, hence - I can't turn anything up. Worse still, I've heard high end audio and know what I'm missing. Call this my obsession, or perhaps my mid life crisis, but rather than a Jaguar convertible, I must have high end, deep bass at reference levels.

Over the past 3-4 months I've been designing and rejecting different options as too expensive. I can't put anything in the house (size and sound proofing), but I could build out in the backyard.

I started with a two story, three car garage with a 24x36 theater above that would give me everything. Contractor estimated about $100k.

I scaled down to a single story, 20x32 that would give me most of what I wanted. Contractor estimated $60k.

I visited a manufactured home factory about an hour away that could build a shell, about 12 x 32 with just finished electrical and lighting and AC, no plumbing or cabinetry. $21k, plus another couple thousand for shipping and to trench and run electric. So about $25k for the powered building. Saving a lot of money not to have to pour a foundation. I may go this route, although the manufactured home rep said the county may not approve a manufactured home for that use as 2nd structure on property. (Looks like no joy. I contacted Skyline Manufactured Homes local rep for a 2nd bid, and he wrote, literally a few minutes ago, "We are coded either to HUD, Park Model, or MOD ( Washington ) or Canada. All are pre-approved prints for residential. What your looking for is an “add-on” type structure and we have no approvals for these.")

As a final consideration, I'm near a shipyard (Portland, OR) and the delivered cost of an 8x20 shipping container is just $2100. This is well used, and would need a few hundred just to clean it up and paint the exterior. But something so small would by a huge compromise. Is there any way to fit a 7.2 system in there in 140 square feet? Wondering what it would look like, I worked it up roughly in sketchup:

House Animation Floor plan Multimedia software Building

Room House Architecture Building Furniture


After two layers of drywall and green glue all the way around, I would have internal dimensions of about 19'3" x 7'3" by 7ft tall. (I have since learned they make a High Cube 20ft container as well, with 9'6" height, I'll look for those, but didn't put it in the Sketchup. That would allow for lighting up in soffits and headroom.) First seating position is 8' from screen, 2nd position is 15.5ft, on a 1ft riser. That extra room between spots is to allow for a 2nd door to access the rear seats. I've found a couple possible 3 wide theater seats that will just fit in that width.

That's a 7 ft wide acoustically transparent screen on a hinged, fixed frame that can swing to allow access. Behind it I am imagining three, Fusion 8 Alchemy MTM speakers from the DIY speaker group, 2 ported Martycubes with Stereo Integrity SI18HTs , two Fusion 6 speakers for the rear wall, and some form of dipole speakers for the side surrounds since with full occupancy, someone will be right up against them. It's a compromise. :(

A split unit AC on the back wall to keep temp controlled. I haven't figured out how to control air exchange, but I imagine a supply and return register under the riser to pull and exhaust air from under the container (which would be up on poured 1' x 1' blocks). Some low flow, always on PC type fan to push and pull a little air through, ducted to either end of the riser step might work.

I'd save a ton of money from not having to pour a foundation, trench electric, lay down extra gravel to allow a cement truck to get to rear of property (I could put it right next to the house, instead of 100ft away where I planned the larger structure) and a very small capacity heat pump

Rough Cost breakdown:
Shipped container, sand blasted and painted: $3,000.
Two Doors: $300
Lumber and drywall and Green Glue: $1,100
3 DIY Fusion 8 MTM: $900
2 DIY Fusion 6 rear: $300
2 Dipole Side Surrounds: $400?
2 DIY Martycubes: $750
Amp for subs: Behringer EP 2000: $250
DIY acoustic panels. $500
Seating: $3,000
Projector: Will use current Optoma HD33 until a reasonable 4k projector comes out. Will reserve $3k.
Receiver: Using current Sony 7.2 system.
Transducer: Use current Buttkickers and Amp.
Electric and AC: Unknown. I'm guessing $5k if I do most of the work myself. (Ex Navy Electrician). Never done residential wiring though and would need to pay to have someone do the final work after I rough it out. May need to have a certified HVAC guy handle the coolant. Not sure.

So that's about $18,500 total, assuming max cost for HVAC and Electric is ~$5,000, but even a few thousand more there would be doable.

I know it probably makes more sense to skip the side surrounds and go 5.2, but I've been in a really tight 7.1 room before watching Master and Commander really desire that level of sound field.

Thanks for letting me ramble. If you've gotten this far, does anyone have any suggestions?



Thanks,
-Chris
 

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Clever idea.

My only thought would be if you are going to go through that kind of pain and expense ($15k is a lot still) you might be better off doing something more ideal like the construction project. It would suck to have regret and have spent the effort and money already.

Can you get them to just pour the concrete, then frame, then side and roof it ? That should not cost that much. If your quotes are that high you might want to consider trying to general contract yourself and getting individual bids on each stage from specialists that do that work. It's going to be cheaper for sure.

Once the shell is framed you can take over and do the wiring, HVAC, drywall and finish the interior room yourself. $100k for a garage or theater room that size is reasonable for a turn key job with a healthy profit for the general contractor and all the subcontractors but there is tons of fat you can trim if you wanted.

A shell shouldn't cost you more than $30k. Worth the extra IMO. If you can frame you could save some cash there. Or if you wanted to side it yourself. I'd be inclined to side it myself if it was only that big, that' a weekend job with a buddy, a couple cases of beer, a miter saw, pair of sheers, and a sheet metal trim bender rental. Roofing kind of sucks IMO but I guess you could do that too. The point is if you can pick off as many things you can DIY instead of turn key your cost will come down substantially.
 

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Agree that its a clever idea. However, more than anything else (at least to me), is that when you get done with insulating the crap out of it so its not a sweat box, i'm purely speculating here, but I'm guessing you'll need at least 6 inches of space on each side, which would make your 8 foot wide box no more than 7 foot wide. Thats SUPER narrow.
 

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I'd try to identify why the quotes are what they were and identify an area of cost savings.

Can you pour a cheaper simpler foundation like a slab or put the building up on cinder blocks you do yourself ?

You can probably build a structure that is like a shipping crate for about the same cost out of wood, so I am not sure you are comparing apples to apples. I've built garden sheds bigger than that space for $3000 in lumber. Considering you would still have to frame, drywall, wire, hvac, and interior finish the room just the same I am not seeing how a shipping crate saves you any money or it is cheaper?

It's not cheaper. It's just lesser, which cost less. I could build a wood shipping crate for $3000 that is room frame style construction with roofing that is the same size.

If the purpose is to save cash you can do that in other ways. Sticking with a wood construction isn't expensive in comparision, and you'll end up with a building that looks more like a home and less like a shipping crate. If your plan was to finish the crate, roof, side, blend it into your existing home it would never be cheap.

You plan is very creative but I think you are giving up to much; you are not getting enough for your $15k IMO and you will regret or be unsatisfied.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Clever idea.

My only thought would be if you are going to go through that kind of pain and expense ($15k is a lot still) you might be better off doing something more ideal like the construction project. It would suck to have regret and have spent the effort and money already.

Can you get them to just pour the concrete, then frame, then side and roof it ? That should not cost that much. If your quotes are that high you might want to consider trying to general contract yourself and getting individual bids on each stage from specialists that do that work. It's going to be cheaper for sure.

Once the shell is framed you can take over and do the wiring, HVAC, drywall and finish the interior room yourself. $100k for a garage or theater room that size is reasonable for a turn key job with a healthy profit for the general contractor and all the subcontractors but there is tons of fat you can trim if you wanted.

A shell shouldn't cost you more than $30k. Worth the extra IMO. If you can frame you could save some cash there. Or if you wanted to side it yourself. I'd be inclined to side it myself if it was only that big, that' a weekend job with a buddy, a couple cases of beer, a miter saw, pair of sheers, and a sheet metal trim bender rental. Roofing kind of sucks IMO but I guess you could do that too. The point is if you can pick off as many things you can DIY instead of turn key your cost will come down substantially.
I wrote to a local cement company on Friday (6/13) about what it would cost to just excavate and pour foundation and slab in a monolithic pour for a 20' x 32' structure. Haven't got a reply yet. Monday (6/16).

I had the same thought about doing much of it myself, using cement blocks and mortar, but have no experience in building, residental wiring, or roofing. Plus I have a bad back (herniated L4-L5), so that isn't too reasonable for me to do most of it. DIY speakers, and some basic framing and drywall is about my limit.

Giving myself a real home theater experience for $25k is justifiable in my book. My wife even agreed to 40k-50k, with some reservation. Financially, I could easily do $50k rolled into a 30yr refi, but am such a tightwad that I still want to minimize costs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Agree that its a clever idea. However, more than anything else (at least to me), is that when you get done with insulating the crap out of it so its not a sweat box, i'm purely speculating here, but I'm guessing you'll need at least 6 inches of space on each side, which would make your 8 foot wide box no more than 7 foot wide. Thats SUPER narrow.
I was planning basic 2x4 interior framing with standard fiberglass insulation batts, the either double drywall and Green Glue, or maybe 1 layer of OSB, the GG and DW. It's only 140 sq feet, so a low capacity split unit heatpump should handle temps OK. I'd estimate 7'3" wide. And yep, that is damn narrow.

Crazy, or crazy like a fox?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
You can probably build a structure that is like a shipping crate for about the same cost out of wood, so I am not sure you are comparing apples to apples. I've built garden sheds bigger than that space for $3000 in lumber. Considering you would still have to frame, drywall, wire, hvac, and interior finish the room just the same I am not seeing how a shipping crate saves you any money or it is cheaper?

It's not cheaper. It's just lesser, which cost less. I could build a wood shipping crate for $3000 that is room frame style construction with roofing that is the same size.

You plan is very creative but I think you are giving up to much; you are not getting enough for your $15k IMO and you will regret or be unsatisfied.
My understanding is that structure that is wired must be permitted in my county. Any stick building (or concrete block) also needs a concrete foundation. The manufactured home I looked at, and the shipping crate, do not need a foundation. That's a big part of costs, as I'd have to gravel about 50ft first to get a cement truck to the back of the property.
 

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I wrote to a local cement company on Friday (6/13) about what it would cost to just excavate and pour foundation and slab in a monolithic pour for a 20' x 32' structure. Haven't got a reply yet. Monday (6/16).

I had the same thought about doing much of it myself, using cement blocks and mortar, but have no experience in building, residental wiring, or roofing. Plus I have a bad back (herniated L4-L5), so that isn't too reasonable for me to do most of it. DIY speakers, and some basic framing and drywall is about my limit.

Giving myself a real home theater experience for $25k is justifiable in my book. My wife even agreed to 40k-50k, with some reservation. Financially, I could easily do $50k rolled into a 30yr refi, but am such a tightwad that I still want to minimize costs.
But if this is really a dream and passion and something that you'll enjoy for years then the extra cost is worth it to get something really nice, and something you can really enjoy.

Wiring isn't hard at all. There is plenty of books and youtube videos or online tutorials to teach you. Sometimes that's the adventure and fun :D But nothing wrong with hiring an electrician either if that is what you want to do. That is why there is electricians.

My suggestion wasn't to try and tell you what you can, or can't do yourself. That's your personal decision. I just was offering the viewpoint that if you take it one step at a time you can often control expenses better, and you can make decisions better by being part of the process. It's slower than paying someone, but it's usually cheaper. If you take things one step at a time it gives you the ability to pick off certain things yourself and save on labor cost.

Example:

You are not full comfortable with wiring, and your local code might require a electricians license to sign off on it and pull the permit. One thing you can do is you can pull a lot of the wire yourself to the locations and save the electrician valuable time drilling holes and running wires. Then hire someone at a significantly reduced rate to put all the receptacles on for you, and tie it into the breaker. That's only a single day's work and most electricians would call that an easy job. You cost is going to be a lot less, but you have the benefit of having a pro sign off on it, and know it was done right.

You can do stuff like that at every step of the way. It will take you longer. But if you sub contract you can get good rates, you can shop each step of the way with multiple subcontractors. In the case above you might get quotes from 4 different electricians, you'll find that lazy one that will take an easy job at a reduced rate. Some might not even want to quote unless it's a bigger job because they are more money hungry and ambitious. You need to find the right guy for everything.


I had the same thought about doing much of it myself, using cement blocks and mortar, but have no experience in building, residental wiring, or roofing. Plus I have a bad back (herniated L4-L5), so that isn't too reasonable for me to do most of it. DIY speakers, and some basic framing and drywall is about my limit.
I think drywall is one of the harder things to do, especially physically. 12 foot drywall sheets that are 5/8" thick are not easy to manage. Luckily a theater usually has less windows and obstacles to go around so it goes quicker- but still it's work. That's one of the area's I am considering subbing out to a contractor.

I'd suggest if you can do that, you can do much of any of the other stuff. The hesitation is probably more lack of experience related, that is normal. I have the same feelings myself about stuff I have never done. I'm adventurous though, and usually afterwards I am always happy I took the plunge myself. With the internet and all the knowledge out there you can learn as you go along for areas that are less familiar to you.

The concrete pour is an area you might be able to save some cash so you might want to call a couple guys explain what you are tying to do, and ask what is the most cost effective way to do it. It's probably not something you want to do yourself because you 'd need to rent a bobcat or like ($350) and you'd still need to hire a cement truck and crew even if you frame off the pour yourself and dig your own hole. That's not an area I would DIY. I'd just hire someone for the whole thing and shop it around hard to get a good deal.
 

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My understanding is that structure that is wired must be permitted in my county. Any stick building (or concrete block) also needs a concrete foundation. The manufactured home I looked at, and the shipping crate, do not need a foundation. That's a big part of costs, as I'd have to gravel about 50ft first to get a cement truck to the back of the property.
That sounds like a good reason to skip the permit process ;) If it's not visible from the road or you have a property where no one is really going to notice the project you can probably just do it. I built two garages at my dads like this, he's way off the road. We ran electrical (no permit), even Natural Gas lines for heated garaged that is detached. We also built three sheds and an outdoor bathroom, which included running a sewer line across the yard and tying that in to the main sewer line (again no permit taken).

You should follow the rules, but there is times you don't have to do it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Update - Just got an email back from my container guy.

I asked for a 20' High Cube, single tripper. (9.6ft high, used once.) There is only 1 available today between LA and British Columbia on the West coast. $4,175 delivered. This wouldn't require any exterior sanding, stripping, or painting. There are no other used ones available currently.

Wall Shipping container Floor Room Architecture Shipping container Transport Office supplies Real estate Freight transport Transport Shipping container Real estate Asphalt Office supplies

The other I mentioned cheaper was for a heavily used one, standard 8ft height. Looks pretty narrow. I've got a 7ft screen now in my current room (in a bad space with a fireplace badly placed, entry level Pioneer speakers placed in compromised positions). When I move my chair 8 ft from it, it actually looks pretty good. Doesn't seem to close. When 4k projectors become available at reasonable prices, I suspect sitting 8 ft from a 7ft screen will be impressive.
 

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You will be limited to the number of seats, probably 2 side by side at most and even then your access to walk by will be very small.
Any kind of riser for second row will be tough given height.
Don't get me wrong I think its very creative but at the end of the day you want to be happy.
What are your requirements for a theater space?
On a plus side if you ever move you can have somebody just come pick it up :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
You will be limited to the number of seats, probably 2 side by side at most and even then your access to walk by will be very small.
Any kind of riser for second row will be tough given height.
Don't get me wrong I think its very creative but at the end of the day you want to be happy.
What are your requirements for a theater space?
On a plus side if you ever move you can have somebody just come pick it up :rolleyes:
I can fit two rows of 3 wide seats. But NO access on the sides. Need a 2nd door to get to the 2nd row. See the attached drawings in the original post. Drawing were for a container with 8ft height. Just found out they make them in 9'6" height, but cost was much more. $2,100 vs $4,100. (that was also for a heavily used one vs a single use, near new one)
 

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I would get a price on a nice double wide garage with a poured slab floor. Ask for a side door. Don't mention the word theater. Then after you get that permitted, approved an built just do a DIY garage conversion. Cover over the door, add Electrical and HVAC. Hang drywall on the interior and put down carpet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I would get a price on a nice double wide garage with a poured slab floor. Ask for a side door. Don't mention the word theater. Then after you get that permitted, approved an built just do a DIY garage conversion. Cover over the door, add Electrical and HVAC. Hang drywall on the interior and put down carpet.
It's no problem to get the theater permitted as a theater. My county calls it an "add on" structure and is pretty lenient as it isn't a living space. Cheaper to build it out that way from the start, I imagine.

The shipping container might be a problem though. I emailed the county permit office today and asked if I would need a permit to put a shipping container on blocks and run power to it "for lighting." I didn't mention the theater bit, as I didn't want to cloud the issue.

Edit: On second thought, you may be right. My contractor didn't think it would be a problem, and he's been working in the area for 20 years. But the manufactured home rep said his wouldn't work, so you may be right. And for a salesman to give up on a sale so quickly, he must be sure of his answer..
 

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Given the shipping container isn't designed or classified as an add-on structure or even as a habitable structure, I think you'd run into a LOT of red tape.
 

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I've been exploring this myself. After coming across Sarah House in Utah, I've been thinking two 20' side by side, 9.5' high containers
might create a very affordable theater. (And if there is such a thing as a 24' container, even better.


https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151963371842759&set=vb.72517442758&type=2&theater


Pier foundation since the containers are self supporting.


Skip the windows, and use the vestibule as entry at the rear of the theater at the riser level, and for the electronics.


7'3" is to narrow (and that's coming from a guy with 9'5" of width....) I think with a single container, it would be too much money for too
little theater.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I've been exploring this myself. After coming across Sarah House in Utah, I've been thinking two 20' side by side, 9.5' high containers
might create a very affordable theater. (And if there is such a thing as a 24' container, even better. 7'3" is to narrow (and that's coming from a guy with 9'5" of width....) I think with a single container, it would be too much money for too
little theater.
I looked at that earlier. I was thinking welding three 8 x 40s together. (Those are cheap, at $2,700 delivered each for the heavily used ones.) Problem is you can't cut out the side walls without adding reinforcement beams. For the costs, you may as well build out a standard building.
 
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