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I’m feeling overwhelmed and I don’t know exactly where to go from here. I’ve spent a couple weeks now reading through literally hundreds of posts on this forum as well as other general DIY type web sites, and I’m feeling confused and overwhelmed. I know ideally one should have the whole HT room planned out, scaled, drawings, schematics showing where every single electrical outlet goes, and so forth. But being a complete non-skilled person, I decided I would tackle one aspect at a time that I felt didn’t require too much fore thought into the future (problem with that is, it doesn't really work with a project like this because many things need to be done BEFORE taking on another aspect, such as nowing electrical needs before doing drywall). As such, I began and completed installing a 3 inch raised floor in a portion of the L shaped basement room I am converting into a dedicated HT.

I’m not sure where I should go from here though. The room is a sub-level basement so I have three walls with exposed concrete foundation with furring strips already nailed into the concrete showing. The forth wall is a studded interior wall currently exposed as well. I know I want FP system with motorized screen (the screen will go flush against the forth wall, the one that is a studded interior wall), I want 4 wall sconces, rope lighting along a small soffit I will create, I will need power for a de-humidifier as well as other logistics, and then there’s the existing recessed lighting already in the ceiling. The ceiling is only about 6ft 10in with the new floor in, so not much room. Ceiling is currently cheap T&G cardboard tiles stapled to joist. I plan to tear it down to install batting type FG insulation because there is none right now between the joists (floor joist for room above).

So I don’t know what I need to do as far as my next step. I’m particularly confused about figuring out exactly what I need in terms of new electrical outlets and where I need to plan for their location, so I can call an electrician and have them come do the work. I am waiting on starting the insulating of the walls and ceiling and applying the drywall till after having any required electrical work done as well, so I am stuck. I do know where I will be placing the equipment rack but also don’t know exactly how to plan ahead for all the needs that need to be installed in close proximity to it as well. Lastly, I know I wish to have some automation for the lights including dimming rope lights and recessed lights as well as motorized screen and possibly a single motorized window light blocking screen, but at this point I don’t even now what that would all require. So, I am reading up as much as I can but all the information can be so overwhelming for some folks trying to do a decent job though not necessarily a “professional†job. Does anyone have any suggestions or has anyone felt this overwhelming ness, and if so, how did you handle it? Thanks folks, this forum is the absolute best, but there is just SO much information, and not all of it is totally consistent between people, so it can be hard to filter through and figure out the best approach.


Jim
 

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It sounds to me like you're in over your head. Building a theater is a LOT more complicated than just finishing a basement family room, as you've found out. It is definitely not a DIY project unless you already know what you're doing. Skills are needed in carpentry, HVAC, electrical, dry wall and finishing. You can have this work subbed out if you want, but you'll have to have detailed plans before you talk to a contractor.


In a project like this, the very FIRST thing you should do (even before installing the floor as you did) is to decide what you want the FINISHED room to look like. You always start with the vision, then plan the construction to achieve that goal. Therefore, your next step is to spend a few evenings making sketches of the room layout the way you want it to be. Design your vision. Decide on lighting, equipment positions, screen size, projector location, seating location, door location, etc. Don't leave ANYTHING out. The decisions you make in your design will drive the requirements for electrical outlets and their location, lighting, risers, etc. The worst thing you can do is to complete a phase of construction without planning everything in advance. As an example, I spent about 50 hours designing my theater before I began any work. And I used to work in construction so I already had the carpentry skills and general building knowledge. And, I've been an audiophile for 25 years so I have an excellent knowledge of acoustic principles and electronic components.


Bottom line is, if you want to do this yourself, and do it right, you're going to have to educate yourself first. Go to a place like Home Depot and get some books on basement remodeling and basic wiring as a starting point. But you must decide first if you're up to this monstrous task. It's a lot of money to risk on something when you're not confident of what you're doing. And there is NO WAY you can learn enough by reading forum posts.
 

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Hire a designer. Then, you will get exactly what you want.


Then, do it yourself. If you decide to throw in the towel, then a carpenter has a great set of plans to follow and there will be no question as to the outcome.


Invest in a good design up front. It will pay dividends.


Jeff
 

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I think your feelings are shared by hundreds, no thousands, of people here when they first get the notion to start a 'dedicated' HT project. I just smiled when I read your post several hours earlier...no not because I thought it was humorous or funny that you were frustrated. On the contrary, I have been there!!!


...and been there about a year and a half ago when we were starting to build a [spec/trac] house. Right before they broke ground we decided to turn the living room into a dedicated HT...boy did I catch my wife on a good day :p . This meant I had to figure out wall construction (double walls, double drywall, add a vent, a return) and wire placement, lighting (sconces, eyeballs) and switched lights/receptacles right away. Heck I didn't even get that all right as I was pulling new wires today!


Oh I was looking for a designer but had no clue about this place. I learned about double wall and double drywall from a woodshop book! I likely would have hired someone (D.E.) back then.


Here is the kicker...you stated you have been looking/reading this forum for a mere couple weeks. I have been designing and planning for several months and really just started working on my HT about 11 months after first coming up with the idea. I'm not alone as I've read numerous people taking a year to plan their dream HT.


The question you have to ask yourself is are you in a hurry? If you are then hire a designer or spend just another month reading the forum and looking at many many examples of what others have done. Take some of those ideas, incorporate in your own idea and stumble upon a few great ones because they just smack you along side the head sometimes...or that road block turned into a shortcut to a less than obvious idea.


I'm not sure the last time I had so much fun...building, running into modest problems, fixing them, building,...


I would suggest like others that you take a few days break, use some graph paper or a computer and start sketching. Keep good notes and a folder (paper and computer) of things you like or think you like. Look at others example theaters...I've looked at hundreds and hundreds. Take at least a month to organize a rough plan...they start out rough...not perfect.


This won't go to waste even if you hire someone as you will have a much better idea of what YOU want and not what someone cookie cuts (style/design) for you.


Have fun, have a budget, have a goal, have subgoals, have patients, repeat have fun!!


P.S. note that you don't necessarily need to figure out what all equipment you are going to use. That stuff you will change over the years anyway. Just put in extra speaker wire (i.e. 7.1 and beyond) and PVC runs.
 

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One of the best ways to sort your own plan out is to see what other people have done/are doing. There's a very good dealer here in Framingham on rte 9 at Framingham Center who has two pretty good sized theaters set up in his store...by looking at the details "live and in person" you can really get a better idea of how to approach the whole thing. Also, the people there are really nice...of course they'll try to sell you something, but they seem very tolerant of diy'ers who just want to pick their brains a bit. Place is called Home Theater Systems, as I recall. I understand that there are also a couple of similar places closer to downtown Boston, like Media Systems at the design center, but I think that they are probably more tuned to the carriage trade.

Good Luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Whew…. well thank ya mighty for the encouraging and enlightening responses, you’ve given me much to think about and have certainly helped put things back in the proper perspective for me. I’m feeling less stressed today and I know I can accomplish this goal, it doesn’t seem like such the mountain it was yesterday. However, I am certainly changing some of my focus. I never planned to do ALL the work myself, I always planned to sub out the electrical work and even a good portion of the more skill dependent areas of the carpentry work, as well as hire an integrator for the FP and acoustical work, as well as some other stuff. I did however wish to minimize the amount of work I would have to pay someone else do because I am actually capable of measuring, cutting, gluing and screwing 2x4s and plywood (however, designing and building complicated framing is another story). I can do basic dry walling, hanging wood trim such as chair rails, baseboards and crown molding, and painting of course is not a problem, I even have all the tools for such jobs. I’ve done all these things a few times and even did a fine job on the new floor. I may have been a little hard on myself when claiming to be a TOTAL non-skilled person, I’m no professional but I consider myself an novice DIYer.

My problem with this has been not enough planning I think, and not knowing enough about all the aspects in order to properly plan for all the logistics and requirements, and yes, perhaps being in a little over my head.

Anyway, I understand now what I need to do at this stage, be more patient, take my time, hire someone to help with the design aspects so that I’m sure I’m not missing anything that will be harder to install after having finished something before it, and contract someone for some of the more complicated areas. So while I felt a bit stupid admitting such shortcomings in my original posts to the pros here, I think the great, encouraging responses will not only help me but will hopefully help others as well who perhaps find themselves in a similar situation as mine. I’ll certainly continue to post questions asking how to do certain things of course, just to understand how others accomplished certain effects. Thanks again everyone, and have a great Turkey Day!


Jim
 

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Jim:


Being a Worcester/Framingham lad myself (alright, back in my youth), I am aware of the secret weapon you have. 1-800-Norm-Abrams. :)


Happy Thanksgiving All !
 

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Pugaboom,


Great response. Don't feel "stupid"... ignorant perhaps (as in not knowing...as of yet) but that is like all of us for one thing or another. It sounds like you have the skills needed for most task and if not you can have fun learning. Remember: how do you advance from a 'novice DIYer' to and 'moderate/advanced DIYer'...read, ask, start, review, and then do it at your own calculated pace.


Best of luck!
 
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