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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
BP's Basement Budget Build - Groundbreaking 6/27/14

Hi all,Been reading threads and enjoying stories and photos of everyone's theaters for years now here at AVSForum, so I'm excited to be starting mine.I'm pretty good at planning but not at construction. So, I'm happy to be in a position where I am looking to have a new custom home built, totally from scratch. I am trying to stay on a reasonable budget as we're already close to our price limit as-is, so if it's built, it will be on a fairly small budget. The good news is that I've already got my projector, chairs, sub, speakers, and AVR so it's a start on things in that regard.The end result is that I may even just end up having the basic framing of the room done, with construction to come later, and if that's the case, I at least need to be sure I set all the correct groundwork for the builder and the plan. So I was hoping I could start there with a little help from any of you in the know or who have been there. Things I should do at a minimum NOW in order to have the room "ready to finish" down the road if the money runs out.Here's the initial plan the builder came up with. This guy builds whole homes but is not a custom theater specialist so I want to make sure I cover areas like rack location, wiring, speakers (built into wall or not), front stage with hidden speakers (yes/no), etc.This is just a rough but gives you a basic idea of what he's proposing. What I'm hoping for from you all is any red flags you might see. The dimensions look to be roughly 22 feet long but only 14 feet wide (the width is a minor concern but I still hope I can get 4 chairs in there and hopefully 2 aisles).Some feedback I am hoping for:- How are the dimensions and floor plan and would you suggest any changes that he might be able to make?- Are the two doors (double in the back, one in the front) too many?- Where can I put the equipment rack?- Can I fit two rows of seating in as well as a back bar with only 20 feet?- Should I build a stage?- He suggested sconces and floor lighting, I was thinking maybe just overhead cans to reduce clutter and keep costs down, is that typically the way things are going?I do want to put as large of a screen in here as I can. I am a BIG SCREEN person and have found that even going beyond the recommended size at sitting distances within reason is actually better for me. Plus, the second row can always be used as a default by anyone who thinks row 1 is too close.With the room length only around 20 feet I'm afraid I may not be able to do this, but what I'd love is to be able to get those 2 rows of 4 chairs plus a back bar).My hope is to keep this thread alive throughout the entire construction so that it can be referred back and a useful resource to others as well, so I will keep an active diary here as things progress.I've used this thread as an inspiration for a look I'd love to have: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1520803/ht-of-the-month-rawlinsway-theaterThanks for any insight, and even if you are just lurking, I hope to be able to share useful tips and a good story as this all comes together.Brad
 

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double doors on the back wall limits the theater to one row of seating.

Stick the equipment rack under the stairs in a in-wall rack

two rows and back bar in 20, no.


If you intend to use aggressive soundproofing techniques use isolated framing methods
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Jeff! My first response, thanks so much.


I can't believe I didn't think of the stairs as a perfect place for the equipment. Would you typically recommend to have the access from the theater side, or from the opposite side outside, for a cleaner wall?


As for the double doors in the back, I can easily have them taken out and a solid wall there, I'm sure. Not sure why he wrote it up that way. Just curious though, how do the doors on the rear wall eliminate a row of seating?


I thought I might have to sacrifice the back bar, but hopefully I assume I could at least get 2 rows of 4 seats in there then at least?


Thanks again for the reply.
 

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Some planning guidelines screen to back of first row of seating 11 1/2 to 12 ft

back of first row to back of second row. 6 1/2 ft assuming reclining theater seating.


so that is 18 to 18 1/2 ft leaving 1 1/2 to 2 ft behind the last row of seating and the double doors, not enough for a walkway.


did you want a false wall up front and an acoustically transparent screen wall? that takes some space
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
From one fellow northeasterner to another, thanks. This winter probably had you loving being inside watching your own theater. You are asking all the right / tough questions and I appreciate it. Now before my builder gives me any final plans for this whole house is the time I need to at least be sure I have this room's dimensions right. It's funny, I could care less about the bedroom dimensions, but this theater room needs the right planning.


Good point about the doors. Even if I have them open outward if there's only 1.5 or 2 feet in the back, that's a narrow walkway that I don't want. Bummed that I won't be able to do the bar but I definitely want the two rows of seating.


I'd love to put a 140" 16:9 screen in there and would also like to do it with acoustically transparent material. I'm still reading up on how to build that front wall/stage area but I'd like to put my speakers (Large paradigm towers and center, and klipsch sub) behind a fake wall. I'm wondering if he might be able to angle out an extra 1-2 feet and bump that out to not take space away from the room itself. I'll have to ask. Would an extra 2 feet be enough?


I really appreciate the dimension advice. My chairs do recline and while I've yet to measure the space needed for a fully reclined chair in row 2 to not hit the top of the chairs in row 1, your 6.5 feet sounds about right. The width of 4 chairs of the type I have (Berkline microfiber) is 9 feet 8 inches which will only leave around 4 feet (2 on either side) so I may even be already pushing it with the aisles too.


I never thought it would be so tough to fit just 2 rows of 4 chairs in a 22x14 room!
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by BradP  /t/1523885/basement-home-theater-in-new-construction-on-a-budget#post_24518952


The end result is that I may even just end up having the basic framing of the room done, with construction to come later, and if that's the case, I at least need to be sure I set all the correct groundwork for the builder and the plan. So I was hoping I could start there with a little help from any of you in the know or who have been there. Things I should do at a minimum NOW in order to have the room "ready to finish" down the road if the money runs out.

Been there, done that...



1) Room dimensions are obviously the main thing - can't change those after the fact. And that includes placement of doors / hallways / equipment areas.

2) Electrical - get enough dedicated circuits brought to the room and accessible for both powering the equipment / projector, but a number of light sources.

3) HVAC - Must have a return in the room, and plan for a heat load like a kitchen. Make sure your system can provide adequate cooling to this area, perhaps even in the winter. Zoning the room can work, too, if you size the HVAC system(s) accordingly.
Quote:
Here's the initial plan the builder came up with. This guy builds whole homes but is not a custom theater specialist so I want to make sure I cover areas like rack location, wiring, speakers (built into wall or not), front stage with hidden speakers (yes/no), etc.

Everything in that list except the rack placement (and the power for it) can wait until you're ready to build the room.
Quote:
This is just a rough but gives you a basic idea of what he's proposing. What I'm hoping for from you all is any red flags you might see. The dimensions look to be roughly 22 feet long but only 14 feet wide (the width is a minor concern but I still hope I can get 4 chairs in there and hopefully 2 aisles).

Yep, as BIG said, those dimensions are a red flag. My room is 16' x 22', and I barely fit 4 chairs in with 2 aisles. I have a bar row behind two rows of recliners, but no AT screen and my middle riser is "too shallow".


BIG answered most of your questions, but I'll add my pair of cents...
Quote:
- Can I fit two rows of seating in as well as a back bar with only 20 feet?

Not with two rows of theater recliners. My room is 22' deep in that configuration, and it could really use another 1-2' of depth overall if I did it again...
Quote:
- Should I build a stage?

Personal preference, but that will depend also on your front speaker choices and placement. If you go with an AT screen, you'll want the stage for aesthetics and to keep folks naturally away from the screen.
Quote:
- He suggested sconces and floor lighting, I was thinking maybe just overhead cans to reduce clutter and keep costs down, is that typically the way things are going?

More light sources at lower levels are better for theaters. In my room, there are six lighting zones and I would have liked a seventh. Sconces can be trouble depending on the design you choose - because they can throw light out into the room and onto the screen - so they may have to be turned completely off while the movie is playing...
Quote:
I do want to put as large of a screen in here as I can. I am a BIG SCREEN person and have found that even going beyond the recommended size at sitting distances within reason is actually better for me. Plus, the second row can always be used as a default by anyone who thinks row 1 is too close.

You can go too big - the best choice is to wait. Get your room set up and projector in place - throw a movie onto a white wall, cheap fabric or super-easy photographer backdrop paper and see what screen size is "right" for you. While some folks will like sitting in the front or the back - you don't want the image to be so big or small that folks actively avoid half of the seating area.



Jeff
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Jeff,


First of all, thanks a ton for taking the time to respond. I appreciate you taking the time to help out!


Your initial 3 tips are great, especially #2 and #3 which my builder may already know, but that I need to make sure I inform on, in case a HT room isn't one of his usual extras. One other interesting point someone came up to me with -- Some real estate agents seem to think that hiring an independent contractor (HT specialist or otherwise) to finish the basement AFTER the house build is done (just roughing in the basement walls), is cheaper than having it fully built by the contractor with the house. I always figured having it done with the house was going to be the best way, but maybe this is something else to consider. If there's no way to build the right room for me with this floor plan, we may need to scrap it.





I'm posting the entire downstairs floor plan (should have done this to start) as I'm growing more concerned that the room dimensions are going to be an issue from day one, and I'm curious if anyone sees any other possibilities beyond just expanding the entire square footage of the basement (and as such the whole house above). Starting a room from total scratch in a new house that is going to be problematic for space doesn't make a lot of sense to me. It sounds like you've got an extra 2 feet of width that I don't have here, and even you are having the issues I don't want to have.


Stage/AT: My front speakers are large Paradigm towers and the center is quite large as well. AT will obviously look the best here. I've been looking at some photos of a stage and sand and that certainly looks better. I don't think that the AT part is something my builder will handle or know how to do, so I need to research how difficult that piece of work is for a novice to do.


Lighting: Most of the photos of theaters I have seen here and liked were all overhead lighting only so I see no reason not to do the same thing. Probably more expensive but I prefer the "cleaner" look (hence the AT screen too).


Screen: So it seems like as long as I place my projector/mount (a BENQ W1070 currently) at a location that will support the range of screen I am looking at, the best course would be to have the stage and cutout for the speakers done by the contractor, and then to handle the fake AT wall on my own after he's done and out? Hang a sheet, dial it in, then build the screen/wall as the last phase of the room?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by BradP  /t/1523885/basement-home-theater-in-new-construction-on-a-budget#post_24526871


One other interesting point someone came up to me with -- Some real estate agents seem to think that hiring an independent contractor (HT specialist or otherwise) to finish the basement AFTER the house build is done (just roughing in the basement walls), is cheaper than having it fully built by the contractor with the house.

Nope, don't buy that at all. It won't be cheaper - the builder has all the trades already there doing each part of the house - adding another few hours of work with materials and people already onsite is cheap. But that assumes you're ready and they fully understand the various theater-specific aspects of the build. In my case I finished the room post-construction for lots of reasons - capital was tied up in my previous house and I was fully consumed with the rest of the house planning / buying and there's no way I could have got all the details right.


One thing I would have done, though, during construction would have been to have the builder buy and stage the drywall inside the room - having all that material brought through my finished house a year later was nerve-wrecking (although the crew did a fantastic job and didn't put a scratch anywhere).
Quote:
I'm posting the entire downstairs floor plan (should have done this to start) as I'm growing more concerned that the room dimensions are going to be an issue from day one, and I'm curious if anyone sees any other possibilities beyond just expanding the entire square footage of the basement (and as such the whole house above). Starting a room from total scratch in a new house that is going to be problematic for space doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Yep, I did the same thing in my home design - tried to save any square feet that I could - in hindsight, the house would have 5% more footage - and it wouldn't have added but probably 2-3% to the cost.
Quote:
It sounds like you've got an extra 2 feet of width that I don't have here, and even you are having the issues I don't want to have.

No, that wasn't extra - it was REQUIRED. Doing it over I would have another foot of width "extra" at least, to make the aisles wider (meaning a room 17' wide).
Quote:
Stage/AT: My front speakers are large Paradigm towers and the center is quite large as well. AT will obviously look the best here. I've been looking at some photos of a stage and sand and that certainly looks better. I don't think that the AT part is something my builder will handle or know how to do, so I need to research how difficult that piece of work is for a novice to do.

It's easy...
Quote:
Lighting: Most of the photos of theaters I have seen here and liked were all overhead lighting only so I see no reason not to do the same thing. Probably more expensive but I prefer the "cleaner" look (hence the AT screen too).

Just investigate the lighting control - get all those sources wired into good zone/groups, and bring everything to one location so you have good options for control systems. The GrafikEye is the go-to unit for theaters, and it requires a 4-gang, deep box...
Quote:
the best course would be to have the stage and cutout for the speakers done by the contractor, and then to handle the fake AT wall on my own after he's done and out?

What cutout?


False wall can easily be done after the fact - but I'd probably have the builder do it - at least some framing and perhaps finish above the screen with a partial wall / soffit so that the room trim is all done properly?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I'm back, after some uncertainty around the build process it's looking again like it's on, so discussions with my builder around the theater are about to resume. And I've got a more current version of the plan as it stands. He doesn't think there's any way to widen the room due to the stairs, but he CAN lengthen the room a bit to allow me room for the acoustic screen and speakers behind as well as to compensate for what looks like an odd cut in at the lower right corner of the image there (ugh). Of all the rooms in the house THIS is the one I have to get perfect for dimensions, the rest hardly matter, though this is the spot the theater has to be in relation to where everything else has gotta go. Otherwise it's time to scrap the whole plan.


So please take a look and let me know if I can make this work...it might be tight but with my chair dimensions coming in around 10 feet across for 4 it does look like I can have around 2 feet of aisle on each side. Maybe not ideal but at least enough to get in and out?


Anyway have a look. The cut in bugs me but given that it will be open space up there anyway, if I can bump in the opposite side to match it may not be all that bad, but the screen will still need to sit back in, I can't lose all that room length and put the false wall at what looks like about 4 feet in.




Jautor, I haven't responded yet though I read this a while ago and appreciate it.


I'm actually considering just that about your comments regarding the detail of the theater at the end, love that idea and might even be able to have him wait to do this room last or even after we move in, if possible. Dimensions on the plan (especially width) remain a small concern but everything else as far as location, the stairs as a spot for the AV closet, and the length, all very appealing.


Thanks for the comments on lighting, I am hiring my own electrician to handle the entire house (not my builder's) and it's someone I can really work with so that will hopefully make it easy to communicate what I need with him, but I want to make sure all that planning and wiring is there and accounted for in the build as well.


When I said cutout I more meant a bumpout for the false wall, but the more I see it, you basically just frame it in there at the build and then add the screen yourself at the end. I might even see if there's a way to build my screen ahead so I know the dimensions and can at least have the builder frame out and finish the rest. Is there a standard typically for how many feet you want behind the screen that I can pass on for the plan?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Jeff,


You know what, that's a really good point. So what's the solution? How much space do I need on the left and right side of the room in order to make a 4-seat row (10 feet wide) work properly for everyone?
 

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The tightest seats I'm familiar with are the fusion Jives and here are the specs. You can easily do two rows of 3 of many different brands and models You can do a row of 4 with 27 inch aisles with the Jives. One other strategy is to take out the arm rest in the middle for a center love seat.

http://www.rtheaters.com/FusionCollection/images/FC-Jive-1013.pdf
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Oooh you know what I like that idea, center love seat and that will give me more space, plus it looks like I was only at around 9.5 feet with my current seating and all armrests...So maybe we can get there. I appreciate your information, this has been really helpful to avoid any immediate problems before the first saw is picked up and the first nail put into place!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Jeff,


Given that The Rawlinsway Theater is really my inspiration and represents very closely what I want my builder to do, if there are any plans you might be willing or able to share, regarding most especially the spacing you used as far as the front wall and speaker space, stage spacing, riser spacing...I'd really appreciate any detail that I might be able to pass onto my builder. At this point I'd say we are still a month away from breaking ground, but the home theater room is the one I want to watch the closest during construction.


I'm waiting on a new plan now to get some extra width and length to the theater to accommodate both the back bar and room to use an acoustically transparent screen up front to hide the speakers and subs. So knowing what sort of dimensions I need to give to the guys doing the actual work on the framing out of the walls, ceiling and floors/stage/riser would be beneficial, since they are not custom HT specialists. I should be able to handle a lot of the work involving the wiring once I know where my equipment and speakers will be.


Thanks for any insight you might be willing to share. I'm also going to go through your build thread top to bottom to see what I can learn.


The end result will likely not be quite as beautiful, but given that the dimensions and elements I have are similar, it is a great template from which I'd like to build out.
 

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Brad I would get the dimensions the same place you can, I've listed the critical dimensions in the build thread and the theater of the month article. From memory screen wall to wall is two feet, riser is 11 1/2 ft from the screen, bar is 6 1/2 ft from the front edge of the riser, room size on the first page of the build thread. I think his first row of seating was 120 wide the second 126.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks Jeff, I have been sponging up tons from the forum over the past few days as we get closer to reality. The information you have provided to so many across the board here is phenomenal. Just wanted to say thanks for all you have done to further the hobby and the dream.
 

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BIG, what would you say is the minimum distance from the side wall you would place seating? I have a 14' width I am hoping to squeeze a 4 seat/120" row.


Sorry for the hijack question, but seems applicable to this thread.
 

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Take a handy chair and place it 24 inches from a wall, are you comfortable walking in that gap? It is different for everyone.


Another trick is to cheat a little, if one side of the room will be the normal walkway leave that at 28 inches and the other at 20
 

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20" is OK in terms of sound? I don't think it's a problem getting by...the only concern is the sound getting funky on the end chairs.


If you're only 20" from the wall, would you alter the height you mount your surrounds?
 

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the end seats, are for the in-laws. Obviously sitting close to side surrounds is a problem, you can increase the distance by putting them high. You are the one who wants 4 seats across. if you do three there will always be one seat in the perfect sweet spot.
 
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