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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Having trolled around this forum for a bit and been completely impressed and overwhelmed by the sweet theater setups people have, I've decided to jump in headlong. Here's the catch: I can tell the difference between a Phillips head and a flathead, and that's basically it as far as handyman stuff goes. That might be a slight exaggeration: I've done some PC case modding with simple rotary tools, jigsaws, and the like. I've also taken a bunch of classes with machining and wood shop tools at a local maker space, but haven't really completed any projects.


That said, building a room is still completely foreign to me. For example, yesterday I read "hat channel" in some thread on hear and spent about 3 1/2 hours trying to figure out what that was. I think at this point I understand that the word "furring" comes into play, but I still don't get it. I suppose that's what happens when you become a lawyer instead of learning a trade like a valuable member of society.


But I do love the idea of learning as I go (measure first, of course!) and doing something with my hands, some lumber, and a bunch of quickly serrated blades. So I want to just build the whole thing from scratch. I'll likely be turning to this forum for a bunch of stupid question, but here comes my first one:


I'm in the market for a house at the moment. I realize that the ideal situation for a new theater is something like a bare basement or even a garage (is that right), but how much am I handicapping myself if I just end up buying a place that has, say, a pretty large spare bedroom? How hard is it to start from existing walls, sub-optimal wiring, etc?


My needs are a big screen, seating for 8 (though I'd honestly prefer couches to theater seats), great sound, a very clean look, and room to incorporate an L-shaped desk with my gaming PC. Oh, and a bar with kegerator, of course.


Anyhow, thanks in advance!
 

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be careful of assuming you can convert garage space to a theater. Not all local county building codes allow it. Seems people were converting covered parking to living space and clogging the streets with parked cars.


You are right that a bare basement with a large enough space should be priority number one. That way no demolition is required and nothing is in the way. It takes a weekend or two to convert an existing finished room to bare studs so you can build a theater properly. The biggest issue with an existing room is you will have to smash some holes for wiring and patch. Also there is probably no consideration for sound proofing. Better to start over.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Great, thanks!


Assuming that I do find a placed with an unfinished basement or bonus room, is there anything I need to look for in the structure to make sure that I'll be able to wire everything and get it all set up? Ventilation, HVAC things, etc.? I'd like to send wires up to the finished part of the upstairs, as well (ethernet, HDMI, etc.) This is all so daunting!
 

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I'm new too, but here is what I have gathered from reading thousands of posts:

1. Ceiling height seems to be the most important issue people face. You can move walls around, or a column that is in the middle of the space where you want to place your theater, but you can't increase the height of your ceiling. Well, maybe you can, but it it very expensive.

2. Try to sketch a room with the stuff you want in it, or find a room you like in the forum. Then determine the minimum size space you need. If you find two houses with tall basements, go for the one that has the space you need. While you can move the walls and columns, it's easier if you don't have to.

3. If you have the ceiling space, you can always deal with wiring and HVAC issues. So I wouldn't worry too much about those. It is probably impossible to find a house already wired the way you want it and with an HVAC system design to support a theater room. On the electrical side, I would look for a service sized for 200 A or more, if possible. If not, that can be upgraded too.
 

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let's assume you find a basement.


Look for the location of the main electrical service panel, basement good, garage bad.


Look to see if there is a HVAC unit, assuming it is forced air system, if yes good chance you can tap that.


Look for any evidence that the basement has flooded


Look to see if the basement has an emergency exit, door or emergency egress window. If not, finishing the basement may require you have one put in $3-5K. The rationale is if there is a fire at the top of the stairs how will you get out?
 

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Would someone typically pull a permit for a basement build ? I don't think I would considering no one can search your home without a warrant. Of coarse if you had a fire at top of stairs and burned to death in your theater that would be very bad. I never pull permits for inside work. If they can't see it from the public view your probably ok. I guess this would depend on you actual location too. I wonder how many have "illegal" theaters in their basement around here? Seems like adding a door or second entrance is counter productive to sound proofing. It's also more expensive. But it's also safer so it's a slippery slope for decisions.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick  /t/1521154/advice-please-beginner-doesnt-even-come-close#post_24446316


... no one can search your home without a warrant. .....












.........yet
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick  /t/1521154/advice-please-beginner-doesnt-even-come-close#post_24446316


 no one can search your home without a warrant.
 

Depends on your jurisdiction. Here is a paragraph from mine:

 

Right of entry.

(1)

Whenever necessary to make an inspection to enforce any of the provisions of the construction codes, or whenever the building official has reasonable cause to believe that there exists in any building or upon any premises any condition or code violation which makes such building, structure, premises, electrical, gas, mechanical, or plumbing systems unsafe, dangerous, or hazardous, the building official may enter such building, structure, or premises at all reasonable times to inspect the same or to perform any duty imposed upon the building official by these construction codes, provided that if such building or premises is occupied, he shall first present proper credentials and request entry. If such building, structure, or premises is unoccupied, he shall first make a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other persons having charge or control of such and request entry. If entry is refused, the building official shall have recourse to every remedy provided by law to secure entry.

(2)

When the building official shall have first obtained a proper inspection warrant or other remedy provided by law to secure entry, no owner or occupant or any other persons having the charge, care or control of any building, structure, or premises shall fail or neglect, after proper request is made as herein provided, to promptly permit entry therein by the building official for the purpose of inspection and examination pursuant to the construction codes.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick  /t/1521154/advice-please-beginner-doesnt-even-come-close/0_40#post_24446316


Would someone typically pull a permit for a basement build ? I don't think I would considering no one can search your home without a warrant. Of coarse if you had a fire at top of stairs and burned to death in your theater that would be very bad. I never pull permits for inside work. If they can't see it from the public view your probably ok. I guess this would depend on you actual location too. I wonder how many have "illegal" theaters in their basement around here? Seems like adding a door or second entrance is counter productive to sound proofing. It's also more expensive. But it's also safer so it's a slippery slope for decisions.

The door wouldn't be in the theater

Locally if you have a basement bedroom, the emergency egress has to be in the bedroom

If you have it in the bedroom the rest of the basement is OK

If no bedroom, just put it outside the theater.


If you don't do it now, at resale the finished basement can't be claimed as code legal finished space and factored into an appraisal, not your problem just affects peoples ability to buy your home and the price they would be willing to pay.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC  /t/1521154/advice-please-beginner-doesnt-even-come-close/0_100#post_24446568


If you don't do it now, at resale the finished basement can't be claimed as code legal finished space and factored into an appraisal, not your problem just affects peoples ability to buy your home and the price they would be willing to pay.
Also a big insurance problem
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC  /t/1521154/advice-please-beginner-doesnt-even-come-close#post_24446568


If you don't do it now, at resale the finished basement can't be claimed as code legal finished space and factored into an appraisal, not your problem just affects peoples ability to buy your home and the price they would be willing to pay.

This was the biggest factor leading me to get a permit for my build. I thought for months that I would not get one and just build. I changed my mind the week I decided to start. I didn't want to risk the future sale of my house falling through because of it, or not getting any investment out of it because I was too cheap to spend ~$200 and too lazy make a few phone calls to have guys come make sure what I was doing was legal and safe.
 

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You could also find yourself in trouble if you change insurance carriers. I've changed mine twice in the past 6 years and each time, the new company has asked to verify square footage and to photograph the interior of my home. My improved square footage didn't change since I converted the builder's media room into a dedicated theater space, but for those improving unfinished basements, that would certainly be a red flag to any new insurance company. I don't know whether insurance companies share those types of discrepancies with local taxing/inspection agencies, but it could bring to light the fact that you have made significant improvements without a permit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrEscu  /t/1521154/advice-please-beginner-doesnt-even-come-close#post_24444849


I'm new too, but here is what I have gathered from reading thousands of posts:

1. Ceiling height seems to be the most important issue people face. You can move walls around, or a column that is in the middle of the space where you want to place your theater, but you can't increase the height of your ceiling. Well, maybe you can, but it it very expensive.

2. Try to sketch a room with the stuff you want in it, or find a room you like in the forum. Then determine the minimum size space you need. If you find two houses with tall basements, go for the one that has the space you need. While you can move the walls and columns, it's easier if you don't have to.

3. If you have the ceiling space, you can always deal with wiring and HVAC issues. So I wouldn't worry too much about those. It is probably impossible to find a house already wired the way you want it and with an HVAC system design to support a theater room. On the electrical side, I would look for a service sized for 200 A or more, if possible. If not, that can be upgraded too.

Thanks a ton. In terms of ceiling height, what should I be looking for? I saw a place today with a ceiling that was about 7.5 ft, maybe a tad shorter. Is that too short? That's the current height with lighting and plaster already installed, so I imagine it's a drop ceiling that leaves me some room for wiring, etc.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratzofftoya  /t/1521154/advice-please-beginner-doesnt-even-come-close#post_24461051



Thanks a ton. In terms of ceiling height, what should I be looking for? I saw a place today with a ceiling that was about 7.5 ft, maybe a tad shorter. Is that too short? That's the current height with lighting and plaster already installed, so I imagine it's a drop ceiling that leaves me some room for wiring, etc.
IMHO 7.5' is too low. If you want to do soundproofing and a riser, you're left with just over 6' at the back of your theater. I would look for at least 9' ceiling.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC  /t/1521154/advice-please-beginner-doesnt-even-come-close#post_24446568


The door wouldn't be in the theater

Locally if you have a basement bedroom, the emergency egress has to be in the bedroom

If you have it in the bedroom the rest of the basement is OK

If no bedroom, just put it outside the theater.


If you don't do it now, at resale the finished basement can't be claimed as code legal finished space and factored into an appraisal, not your problem just affects peoples ability to buy your home and the price they would be willing to pay.

I have a permit on mine. I think the permitting process is a complete PITA but overall I think I am happy that I paid for it. Having code professionals look at your stuff forces you to make good decisions that are safe. I wouldn't buy a house whose basement was finished without a permit. You have no idea if they did it correctly or just threw up drywall over faulty wiring and leaky ducts.


Interesting though, I've discovered some sort of dichotomy here in Colorado. While you may have difficulties selling a house with unpermitted space, they don't have any problems taxing you on unpermitted finished square footage, as soon as you get it done. They were asking me about my new space before it is even done.


I believe here if it isn't "legal", it can't be counted on the real estate listing. But my buddy bought a house with a finished basement, no final inspection, and he didn't even KNOW about that until I told him- so obviously either they didn't know or were witholding the information from him.
 
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