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Discussion Starter #1

Koenen's Home Theatre Room Project


This post describes the design and construction of a dedicated Home Theatre Room at my home in Texas.  I’ve been anticipating writing this post while I was designing and taking photo’s of the construction progress.  I’ve learn a lot from reading the AVS forum and the references too.  I thought I should pay-it-forward a bit by showing some unique features and construction challenges and solutions in my project.  


About Me:  I am middle aged husband and father of 3 with an Undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics and a Master degree in Electrical Engineering.  My father worked for an Airline as an Avionics Electrician.  He had been a machinist earlier in his career and had many tools at home.  He also liked to design and build custom wood furniture.  I watched and learned a great deal from him when I was young.  I am grateful to him for many of the electrical wiring and woodworking skills I have today.


History of Room:  About 5 years ago, we bought a 5 bedroom, 4.5 bath home that had an unfinished room above the 3 car garage.  The unfinished room was being used as attic space by the previous owners.  It had no drywall, just some rough framed walls, a few wired electrical boxes and a single ceiling light.    See original floor plan below.   


Original Layout


For your orientation, the entrance to this room is from the door on the upper left.  On the other side of that doorway is the start of a balcony at the top of the entryway stairs.   Down the adjacent wall from this door is a curved stairway that arched down away from the left wall.  The wall at the top of this drawing is the top of an open 2 story family room and above a fireplace with 2 round vents to the roof.  The window at the lower right has a gable that looks out over the driveway.   The door opening on the upper left was only a door frame (no door) that opened to the bare ceiling joists above the rest of the 3 car garage.  The wall along the bottom is a half-wall, half slanted roof-line.    The wall to the right has some space between it and the roof joists.   See pictures of original framed wall below.


Left (Entry Door) Wall



Top (Projector Screen) Wall



Right (Bookcase) Wall



Bottom (Back) Wall



Gable (Hall) Wall



Since we didn’t need another bedroom, we decided to convert that space into a Home Theatre room.  I imagined some orientations for the seating and placement of the screen.   There were basically only 3 options for the placement of the projection screen: Left wall, top wall, or right wall.  
  1. A screen on the left wall could only accommodate about an 8ft wide screen.  Not enough room on the side for speakers. I would have to put them behind the screen and get a porous screen.   But I would have to be farther away to not see the graininess of the mesh.
  2. A screen on the right wall could be bigger with speaker on either side.  The seats would have to be terraced up to the left causing a bit of a problem with the entry door.  It would have to have a little stairs immediately at the door entrance to the back row of seats and then ramp down to the front.
  3. Mounting the screen on the top wall would provide plenty of width for screen and speakers.  But the seating would be shallow and wide and the front row rather close.  Also I was concerned about the projector throw for the short ceiling length from the corner of the slanted ceiling. 

I decided on option 3 ( screen on top wall) as I didn’t like the idea of people walking in and seeing the backs of seats and a ramp or step to the rear level.   I tend to follow a more Fung Shui design/layout style for walking paths that flow easily ( like water & wind ) from the entrances into the room and around furniture.  I believe that seating or work spaces should be added like islands around the walking paths.  So I choose to make an unobstructed walking path from the entry door on the upper left to the attic door and also to the window.   That then required the seating to be in the lower half of the room.  The hall on the right wall to the window seemed like a waste of space.  I wanted to do more with it.  (I’ll describe it later).  But first I had to build out another attic space above the garage. 


To expand the attic, I bought some 5/8” tongue-n-groove flooring plywood and my son’s and I built out an attic floor over the rest of the garage ceiling behind the top wall and to the right of the new attic door frame.   I also built a small storage shelf to get the HVAC distribution box off the floor and put our ugly black filing cabinet there temporarily too.   See photo below.


Expanded Attic Floor & HVAC Box on Shelf


Looking at the existing wall frames I realized that I could make use of some of the space behind them.  The right wall down to the window would look bland and needed some detailing.  The original floor ended just a foot or so beyond this right wall, so I had to add some more flooring plywood to build out that space too.   Originally I was just going to build in a Popcorn/Beverage Kiosk and work desk into the wall to make better use of the space.   Then I planned to buy 2-3 nice bookshelves to sit next to the blank wall adjacent to the attic door.  But that bookcase would have to be too close to the attic access door.  So, I designed a built-in book shelf between the microwave kiosk and upper attic door also.  Drawing this floor plan on paper wasn’t giving me the perspective I really needed to visualize how all that would look and go together.  I really needed to model this with a 3D tool.


Theatre Room Design

I had purchased a copy of Envisioneer by CadSoft many years early when I was designing a lake house.  Envisioneer was a more polished, commercial version of their former 3D Home Architect.  It was great for going from a simple floor plan to a 3D rendering to visualize the space.  It turned out useful for designing and visualizing this room too.  For some of the cabinet details I used Sketch-up. If I had to start a new project I would probably use Sketch-Up on the whole project and import whatever I could find from the 3D warehouse.

I spent a couple of months in my spare time drawing about 2 dozen different variations of what the room might look like.  I finally came up with the follow floor plan:


New Room Layout



Notice the extra build-outs on the top and to the right.  Keeping with the non-obstructed walk-in, I decided to build a fireplace shaped recessed wall below and behind the screen on the top wall to hide the subwoofer and center speaker inside on a purpose built shelf.   The round circles were actually half round cylinders or pillars for a set of L/R speakers on either side of a 100” diag 16:9 motorize screen.   I decided on a motorize screen because I wanted a whiteboard (behind a curtain) to doodle on when I am designing things.  On the right of the projector screen, I designed an AV closet that I could accommodate a 19” rack for my AV equipment, PC, UPS, etc..   I search around for different racks and decided on the 25” deep, 40U Middle Atlantic ERK line with a set of casters so I could roll the whole rack out the back side to service the equipment.  Not shown is a hinged wall/door at the back of the closet to the attic side.  The AV closet door shown in this floor plan is just a small glass access door to the front side of the AV gear. 


On the right wall I designed a built-in bookcase, beverage & popcorn Kiosk, and a 2x6ft work desk.  The work desk would function as a second mini-office or study carol for the kids.   The work desk was wide enough to accommodate 2 gaming PCs for P2P.  The beverage and popcorn Kiosk niche was designed to accommodate an under-counter fridge, a counter-top microwave, and a cabinet on top to store popcorn.  The 4 dash-line rounded rectangles in the center of the room represent Starlight Panels with indirect lighting around the edges.  (more on this special feature later)  The bow-tie looking wall in the middle of the room is the edge of a foot high platform for rear seating.  With the narrow depth, it only had room for two wide rows of seats.  To provide 7.1 surround sound, I added a square column/post added to the right of the front row seating and matched them all around the room.  Using Envisioneer’s decorating features, I added enough detail to be able to visual what the finish room might look like.  See screen captures below:







More to follow..

13 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Starlight Ceiling Panels
A special feature I wanted to add was a starlight ceiling panel which combined both indirect LED lighting and fiber optic star lights.  I’ve seen many rooms with indirect lighting either above the walls or as part of a recessed ceiling.  But most of those rooms had rather tall ceiling whereas my walls were only 8ft tall.  I was also dealing with an odd layout, slanted ceiling, and projection screen valance that would limit indirect light to just 2 walls.   I wanted the panels to look like ceiling sky-lites exposed to the night sky.  I saw a starlight ceiling for the 1st time at the Space Center Houston.  I wondered how they did it, but thought it was exotic.  When I was searching for ideas for Home Theatre rooms, I saw some with star light ceiling as well and I really liked the affect.  My concept was to make it appear as if it extended to the roof, so it needed to be indented into the ceiling a bit.  I decided to combine the star-light ceiling panels and indirect lighting into one.  That was a challenge.   I drew up a couple ways to build the indirect light with LED strips.  I didn’t want a simple rectangle because that would be kind of boring.  I believe that different shapes are more interesting.  I already had squares, rectangles, triangles, and circular cylinders.   I wanted it to look more like a sky-lites that one might find on a large yacht or luxury space ship quarters.  So I added 45deg corners to make an oblong octagon.   See shape below.

Star Light Ceiling Panel


At first I wanted the starlight ceiling to be painted like an early evening sky, just after sunset with some clouds.  But after reading the normal procedure for installing fiber optic, I went with a flat black.   The normal method for installing fiber optic star lights is to: 1.) drill holes and insert the fibers through the ceiling (drywall),  2.) cut them to about ½” length stubs, 3.) spray paint the final coat, 4.) cut the fiber to 1/16” - 1/8” nubs.  It would have been too difficult for an artist to paint the evening sky with the fibers in the way and too difficult or risky to install the fibers after the final scene was painted.  So, I decided to make it a simple dark night black star field background.  

To create the indirect lighting, I wanted an arched/curved surface for an LED strip shine up on then reflect down to the floor.   Carving or shaping wood would have been too hard, so I looked for some thin reflective material like plastic that I could bend into a trough like light channel.  I did a web search and found some 1/8” PVC plastic sheet online and one version that had a fine textured finish on one side.  I liked the texture version because it would help scatter the light better and reduce lighting hot spots from the LEDs.  See cross-sectional drawing of light trough frame in relation to the ceiling and joists below.


Ceiling Mount and Light Trough Cross-Section


The lower right side is the light trough portion and the rest illustrate how the light trough fixture would fit into the acoustically suspended ceiling.   Off to the right is the center of the starlight ceiling.   The starlight ceiling would be offset/indented approximately 3.5” in from the normal ceiling.  To do this I needed to cut out a 2” deep notch into the ceiling joist.  This would obviously weaken the joist, so I had to glue and fasten extra support over the notch.   See illustration of how these ceiling panels would be suspended from the ceiling.


Starlight Ceiling Rafter Mount Cross-Section


Notched Ceiling Rafters


Wall Frame Changes

I decided to start with the easiest framing change and work toward the more challenging.   So in the hallway, I added the Printer Cubby and Front access mini-doorway to a small storage area.   Then I framed out the Desk and Fridge/Microwave Kiosk insets.   Then the AV Closet and center/subwoofer speaker indent.  I re-used 2x4s when I could to save a little money and purchased new ones when necessary.  It was only after I had put all those in did I thought about how obstructing bookcase would be outside the wall next to the attic door.  That is when I decided to design and frame a built-in bookcase instead.  I used four 2x12s for the bookshelf sidewall.  In retrospect that was a little over-kill. The 2x12s had some warping, so I hammered in some preliminary shelves to keep them straight.  See wall frame changes below.





Printer Cubby Frame


Front Attic Access Door


Right Wall Kiosk and Desk Area


Right Wall Book Shelf


Top Projection Screen Wall


Before completing the AV closet, I purchased the 19” 40U Rack to make sure I had a good fit in with the mounted casters.  I also needed to know where to put the mounting holes for AC outlet, cable access hole, and ventilation.


Test Fit AV Rack in Closet

AC Wiring:
After all the cutting and framing was complete, I could now start on the wiring.  I had to rip out much of the existing Romex wiring and electrical boxes and I ended up having a total of 5 circuits in that room:
•    Two 15A circuits for the wall outlets that were shared with other adjacent rooms
•    One 20A circuit for the AV Rack 
•    One 20A circuit for the Lutron Grafik Eye QS
•    One 20A that was shared between the Microwave and a garage outlet below.
I was worried about what would happen to the projector’s light bulb in case of power outage, so I brought its AC line to the AV closet to connect to a UPS along with the PC and vent fans.   The 1200W Velodyne subwoofer I choose would draw the most power and I needed it to be isolated from the rest of the equipment.  So I purchased a 20A Furman PL-PRO to isolate the Subwoofer and 800W AV Receiver from themselves and the rest of the AV equipment and UPS.  
I originally wanted to control 7-8 lighting zones which included floor/path light, but I needed to cut it back to 6 so I could purchase a fairly standard 6 zone Lutron Grafik Eye (LGE) QS.   The 6 zones are:
1.    Four wall sconces on the 4 posts (that also house the L&R surround sound speakers)
2.    Two small recess lights just in front of the projector screen area to illuminate the whiteboard
3.    A row of 4 recessed lights along gabled hall between the attic door and window
4.    Power Outlet for the Fiber Optic Illuminator for the star-light ceiling panels
5.    Power Outlet for the 12V Power Supply to indirect RGB LED lighting controllers
6.    RGB color spectrum for Lutron DMX controller & RGB LED DMX controller
One thing that I didn’t like about the LGE was the lack of a simple input for an On/Off wall switch to put next to the entry door.   I found a way around that by getting a 5 button Lutron seeTouch QS wall switch that had a pair of contact closure inputs that were tied to top and bottom buttons.  I mounted the 5 button on the post next to the AV closet and ran a 3-conductor 18Ga wire to the entry door where I later would install a SPDT momentary Décor wall switch.  The bottom button defaults to all off and I could later programmed the top button to some entry scene.  Problem solved.
Low-voltage wiring:
I also installed the speaker wire for a 7.2 surround sound system.  Actually it was more like 7+2.2 because I added a 2nd pair of speakers on the left & right surround for front and back seating rows.   Then ran sub-woofer coax for two subwoofer RCA jacks; one in the fireplace looking niche in front and another in back of the room just in case.
The work desk along the right wall needed a telephone jack, two Ethernet, and an HDMI jack to the AV closet.  To accommodate all-in-one printers, the printer cubby needed a single gang outlet for AC and another for Cat-5A for Ethernet and Cat-3 for a fax-line.   I chose an Epson 5020 Projector because of its width to fit between the ceiling rafters, the wide throw lens for the short distance to the 100” diagonal screen, and a Trigger out to control the motorized projection screen.   From the projector housing, I also ran Romex to a power-inlet box in the AV rack (as mentioned earlier), an HDMI cable to AV Rack.  The Projector also had connections for RS-232 and Ethernet so I ran those RS-232 and Cat6 UTP cables to the AV Rack just in case.  
In the additional column across from the Microwave/Refrigerator Kiosk area, I also added a motion detector that would turn on a small recessed ceiling light when someone got up for a drink or to make popcorn.  In that same column/post, it also needed speaker wire and QS-Link wiring for a satellite Lutron seeTouch QS wall switch for light control near the entry door.   I was worried about EM interference of the AC line so close to the speaker, so I decided it would need to be shrouded in flexible conduit to minimize the EMI and hum from the co-located speaker.  
Fiber Optics Star Lights
I did some research and found some pre-fabricated 2’x2’ starlight panels but they were way out of my price range.  I didn’t want to do the whole ceiling either.  So I decided to build some custom ~3'x5' starlight panels instead.   I estimated I would need about 75 starlight fibers per panel.   I found an online store (WieDaMark) specializing in fiber optic illuminators that sold fibers in bundled 48 fibers in 3 sizes for different star sizes/brightness’s called a StarPak 48.  That was more than I needed, but I could always not insert some of the fibers.   With 4 panels and 2 StarPaks each I needed a total of 8 StarPak cables of various lengths.  At the same time, I matched that up with a Fiber Optic Illuminator that could hold up to 400 fibers.  I found a Dual Port Illuminator with twinkle wheel and low power (10W) LEDs.   Since it was going in the Attic, I liked that it was so low power and long life.   One of the LGE channels would turn this illuminator on/off via a dedicated AC outlet.  
Indirect RBG Lighting Control Circuit
Around the edge of the starlight panel I needed a bright ring of LED lighting strips.  I search and found 12V RGB LED strip with 60 LEDs/m on ebay for pretty decent prices.  Because of the 45deg corners, I needed flexible couplers/connectors too.   The LED strips I choose drew 1.2A per meter and I needed about 4.4m around the perimeter for a total of 5.2A.   I searched but couldn’t find any current rating on any of their LED strip coupler/connectors.  So to be safe, I decided to split the LED strips into two sets to reduce the current in half.  To drive and control the RGB LED strips from the LGE-QS, I found a common protocol supported by both called DMX.   DMX is the standard lighting control protocol for stage lighting.  The electrical protocol works over both XLR (audio cable) and Cat-5 UTP cable.   A single DMX controller can support up to 512 individually addressed light dimmers, or gimbals, or RGB channels each with 256 levels.    Since the 4 panels of LED Strips sets could draw up to 21A, I needed two DMX-to-RGB LED 12V controllers each rated at 15A max and a single Lutron QS-to-DMX adapter to control them both in parallel (same destination address).  I also needed a high powered 12V Power supply, so I found a 25A 12V supply that would be turned on/off by one of the LGE channels.
While I was searching for RGB-LED controllers, I also came across an audio frequency controlled RGB-LED controller.  I thought that might look kinda cool if my kids ever wanted to throw a party and dance in there with the ceiling RGB colors flashing to the music.   To do this, I needed a set of relays to switch between the DMX and Audio RGB LED controller outputs.   I found some 4P-DT relays online and matching relay sockets with screw terminations and decided to implement both circuits.  The circuit design and layout are shown below with similar orientation of the major blocks.


RGB LED Lighting Control Schematic


Mounted RGB LED Components on Peg-Board


I found it easier to mount the lighting controls and wires on a peg-board with tie-down straps and screws where possible.  The right center silver box with two black caps is the Dual Port Fiber Optic Illuminator w/o the fibers.  A 20A (per contact) DP-DT relay in the center switched the supply between the two DMX and two Audio RGB controllers.  This relay is controlled by a simple black décor wall switch behind the projection screen.  


More to follow...
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13 Posts
Discussion Starter #4

Construction of the Starlight Ceiling Panels

Using the light trough design printouts, I cut all the stock to the appropriate lengths, beveled and sanded the maple and cut the notches for the bent PVC on both sides with a dado blade.   After gluing and nailing together the 1st U-Channel piece, I bent one end of the PVC plastic sheet and tried to slide it all the way down.   I say try, because it became increasingly difficult the farther it went in and the U-channel started to open up!   I didn’t anticipate how much pressure the 1/8” bent PVC would apply to the sides of the U-Channel.  This was not good.  I couldn’t add anymore bracing to the sides, so decided to heat bend the 1/8” PVC sheet to shape.  For that, I needed to design a bending jig.


Light Trough U-Channel




The PVC sheet heat bending jig was made from two straight 2x4s with a 1/8” groove for the PVC and two sheet metal plates at each end.  These plates would pivot on a screw/bolt coming in from a 2x6s at the ends.  I used MS Visio with offset rotation to determine where best to pivot to end pieces to generate the desire arch.  The simple offset pivot point caused the PVC sheet to come out of its groove sometimes, so I added an extra wood strip along the groove to allow it to slide out and guide it back in.  Once bent into position, I went back and forth over the PVC sheet with a heat gun until warm and soft and then let it cool the PVC into shape.  The first time, the bend didn’t keep its shape well enough.  SO I put it back in and applied too much heat the 2nd time and it deformed in spots.  I threw that piece out.  With a new piece, I increased the time with a fixed certain distance and finally got the results I wanted.



Heat Bending PVC Reflector



Reflector in Light Trough U-Channel



Assembling the Light Trough

After heat bending all the PVC sheets and sliding them into the U-Channels, I cut them into the 45 deg sections with a rented 12” compound miter saw as shown below.   I forgot to pre-mark the cuts while nailing the boards together, so I often cut into the 15Ga nails which made the 80 tooth finishing saw blade I bought dull pre-maturely and harder to cut the maple cleanly.  I ended up replacing the saw blade after only half the panels were cut.


Putting Pieces Together


I used a biscuit joiner on the 2x4 ends and assembled the cut pieces on a nice, flat 3/4” MDF board.  I then glued the biscuits & ends and secured them with 15Ga finishing gun nails on the outside corners.  I painted a primer coat on a 5/8” drywall sheet that was cut to size, then screwed it on to the back of the light trough frame.  I had to mark where to attach the hat-channel on the top/back so I temporarily mounted each of the panels on the notched ceiling rafters to mark exactly where the rafters would be.


Temporary Mount to set Hat-Channels




Top of Starlight Ceiling Panel with Hat-Channels and Outline



To layout the stars in proportion the ratios of large, medium and small fibers on the StarPak bundles, I developed an MS Excel spreadsheet to randomly place an x-y scatter pattern chart.  I scaled the chart to be proportional to the dimension of the star-panel interior with some offset near the edges.  See the example MS Excel chart below:


Excel Random Star Pattern Plot


I printed several of these patterns out on paper and had my children pick which ones they liked best and claim as their own section of the sky.  (This got them involved and willing to install the fibers later.)  Then I put their choices, one at a time, under a cheap lighted mirror projector to project the star pattern up against the back of the starlight panel sheetrock as shown below.



I align the projected image with an outline of the star panel interior on the top-side of the ceiling panel sheetrock.  While projecting the pattern in a darkened room, I marked the star location & size with colored markers & unique shapes.  See projected star pattern below.




After mounting the star panels to the ceiling, I needed to drill the holes to the size of the fiber markings.  I had to order a special set of small metric drill bits for this job.  They were so small that I needed to get a small drill clutch for my Dremel tool rather than a normal sized drill.  For each StarPak-48 bundled cable, I carefully stripped about 3ft of sheathing off the ends to expose the plastic fibers to span the ~2.5ft of holes.   I then suspended and inserted fibers into the holes of each panel, with a few extra fibers left over.   The extra fibers came in very useful as I had to replace a few when the HVAC guy broke a few while installing the duct work around the panels. 


Inserting Plastic Fibers into Holes with Marked Sizes


Due to the tight space next to the roof, on two of the panels I could only stand on one side.   So I found it easiest to insert the largest diameter ones 1st and smallest last.   The smallest ones were the most difficult to find the hole and end even harder to push them through.   For the smaller fibers, I had to cut the fiber tips off at an angle which made a point that could more easily push through the hole.  Once they were all inserted and at proper depth, I had my boys glue them in place by raising them up an inch applying glue to the stem and bobbing them in and out a few times for the glue to seep into the holes.  I found that Glue N Glaze to work much better than Krazy Glue like adhesives because the Krazy Glue made the plastic fiber stems too stiff and brittle and they would break easier.    


Fibers Poking Through Star Field 


Wiring to LED Strips and Drop-down Hinge 

While considering how to connect the LED strips to the wired leads, I realized that one or more of the LEDs might someday go out and the strip would need replacing.  I already had a few extra feet of LED strips left over from the 5m reels, but I needed an easier way to service them later.  I wanted to do this without an assistant for uncoupling the connectors while un-fastening the molding from the ceiling.  I could not use a cabinet hinge as that would go into the PVC trough. The edge of the molding was offset about an inch from the outside of the U-Channel so it would need to drop down at least that much to clear the ceiling.  I thought of using some wire or straps to keep one side from falling, but I didn’t know how to keep the slack out of the trough.  Instead, I devised a drop down hinge made of coat hanger wire and half of a brass hinge from the hardware store.  The hanger wire would slide up & down a pair of U-nail guides and hooked ends would stop at some mounted screws as shown in the picture below.  Also pictured are a pair of LED wire leads with guides and plenty of slack to allow them to go up and down along with the drop-down hinge.    


LED RGB Wiring and Telescoping Hinge 


For consistency, I made a simple jig to bend the coat-hanger after threading through the half hinge.  





Recessed Projector Box


I had two problems to deal with on the projector.  For one, I had only about 10’ from the back corner of the ceiling to the screen and had a raised platform underneath it.  I needed all the distance I could get for the projector throw and headroom to walk under the projector.   So I used Sketch-up to design a projector box that recessed into the corner of the ceiling and roof-line between the rafters.   Because of its location, I painted a coat of mildew resistant primer on all exposed wood before mounting.  I also install a couple layers of foam sheet insulation between the top of this cabinet and roof before mounting.  The two holes in the top front were for the 1 gang electrical boxes for the AC outlet and Low voltage wiring. 


Recessed Projector Box



More to follow ..

13 Posts
Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Raised Platform
For the raised platform, I used 2x12s on the perimeter and two as floor joist in the middle. To minimize the noise from this platform to the room below, I applied a strip of 1/8" thick butyl rubber sealant tape along the bottom of each 2x12.  Butyl rubber has good vibration damping properties.  The rest of the platform floor joists were 2x8s as they were not that long.  To keep this floor from squeaking, I applied Liquid Nails on the top of all the floor joists and nailed the 5/8” tongue-n-groove plywood in with some ring-shank nails.

Raised Platform Outline & Floor Joists

Moving the Door Frames
I realized early on that the acoustically isolated, double sheetrock walls would be at least 2” thicker that a normal ½” thick interior sheetrock wall.  This created a problem for both door entrances.  The attic door didn’t have to move much because the right wall / bookcase wasn’t going to need hat-channels, but it would have bookcase molding.  So I only needed to remove the doorframe about 1” over ( one stud).   The entry door was more of a problem because it needed to be moved at least 2” for the added wall thickness another ¾” for the extended door frame.   On the door latch side was a load-baring set of four 2x4s that held up a center beam that went across the two story ceiling on the other side of the wall.  I had to be very careful and add extra bracing while moving 2 of the 4 studs from the right to left side.   After removing the existing door and frame, I made all the modifications to the entry door frame.  I then used the previous entry door as the new attic door.  For the entry door, I installed a new, custom made exterior door.  The entry door is special because on one side is 6-panel door style that matched the rest of the house.  On the inside facing the theatre room is a solid, flat maple wood door mounted to solid maple wood frame.  I had to add a solid maple wood extensions to the door frame to bring it out to 2.5” rather than the normal ½” door frame protrusions to make it flush with the new wall surface.  Notice the extended maple door frame in picture below. 

Door Frame Extended by 2.5"

Leveling the Acoustically suspended Ceiling  
While installing the Star light panels, I noticed that many of the room’s ceiling rafters were warped in the vertical direction.  I was concerned because I needed a very flat ceiling so that the LED molding frames around the Starlight Ceiling Light Fixtures to lay flat without gaps.  I purchased a laser plane leveler and started measuring various points and found that not only were there variations of up to 2.75” between rafter heights, but that the whole room (floor & ceiling) was slanted.  From the entry door to the desk area, the whole room slanted down about 1.5”.   I realized that I should not try to make the ceiling level to a laser plane as I didn’t want one side to be 1.5” shorter than the other.   What I really needed was to figure out what shim thicknesses I needed at various points on the ceiling rafters to mount the hat-channel sound clips to make it flat.  For that I needed to find a perfectly flat plane that would be best fit the rafter height variations at those mounting points.  I search and found an MS Excel formula (LINEST) for calculating the best straight line to fit a set of 2D data points. And then with some further digging, found a 3D variant example that could be used to find a best flat plane to fit a set of 3D points.  First, I had to layout the ceiling sheet rock panels to determine where the hat-channels would best be placed.  From there I picked the sound isolation clip mounting points.   See layout below.  

Ceiling Hat Channels

To keep it simple, initially I was just going to line them all the mounting points on the same set of rafters until I thought about how heavy the double drywall ceiling would be.  I looked up the Kinetics recommended ceiling weight bearing limits and calculated the double drywall weight per square foot to find how many mounting points I needed.  To reduce the likelihood of the rafters sagging due to too much load on any one rafter, I staggered the mounting points between the rafters where I could.   I marked the hat-channel / rafter intersection points and my son used a yard-stick and laser plane level to read off the offsets.  I plugged in this set of {X,Y,Z} coordinates into a table and with the 3D LINEST formula, generated a new flat-plane set of points.  Then I subtracted the two tables to find the deltas.  These would be the shim heights.   But that initial table would require too many shims and some were kinda thick.  So, I decided it would be OK to cut into some of the rafter up to ¼ inch to minimize both the number of shims and the maximum shim thickness for the worst warped rafters.  To minimize the number of shim variants, I limited the quantum to 1/8”increments and cut them from some 2x6 stock varying from 1/8” to 5/8”.   While estimating the number of drywall sheets needed for the ceiling, it became apparent that I would need to add some hat-channel cross pieces at the end of each starlight panel for drywall support to minimize the possibility of sagging at the edges.  For these cross pieces, I just fastened them onto the mounted hat-channels with short, self-tapping sheet metal screws.  I found it necessary to hold the two hat-channel pieces together with vice-grip pliers while pre-drilling a small hole before screwing them in.

Ceiling Hat Channels and Cross Members

The walls were not as critical and already much flatter than the ceiling, so I just used some string to plum the wall hat channel mounts and cabinet shims where needed to adjust the mounting points.  In a few places I ended up using an electric planer to cut into the wall frame 2x4s just like the ceiling.  

Aside from the HVAC ducting, up until this point, I had not had to hire any outside contractors.  But I was getting pressure from my spouse to hurry the project along, so most of the work from here on was done by professional contractors.   I solicited quotes from some insulators found on Angies List, but most thought one room was too small a job for them and declined to even give a bid.   They were used to insulating whole house bids.  But my HVAC guy had a nephew in the business who gave me a decent quote for a two step job.  The 1st step was to install the batting in the walls and slanted ceiling rafters and then coming back later after the ceiling sheet rock was up to blow in ceiling insulation.   I had to remind him to be extra careful blowing in around the optic fibers.  

Double Green-Glued Sheetrock Walls and Ceiling 
I hired a drywall contractor who had some experience with installing double sheet rock and green glue at commercial sites, but had never done a Home Theatre room before.  I decided on ½” for the 1st layer and 5/8” for the 2nd for both the ceiling and 3 walls.  The quote for labor was reasonable and I estimated and ordered all the sheet rock delivered to my driveway.  On this AVS forum and others I had read about using neoprene foam tape along the floor to seal the gap between the acoustically suspended sheet rock wall and floor.  So I purchased a couple rolls of 1” wide by 3/8” thick foam tape and laid it along the perimeter of the room’s floor to line up under both sheets before the sheet rock installers started working.  Two men installed the 1st layer in ~2 days and came back the next to green glue on the 2nd layer on.  I purchased two 5 gallon buckets and a glue gun.  It was more than I needed, but I asked them to be liberal with the glue.  See pictures of room being sheet-rocked below.   

First Layer of Sheet Rock ​

 Green Glue on 5/8" Outer Drywall Sheets                2nd Layer Orthogonal to First  

Nice Floating Job on Outer Layer

Maple Hardwood Wainscoting and Molding
 I solicited 3 hardwood contractors to give me quotes on the majority of the woodwork.  I wanted hardwood maple wainscoting around the 3 walls, a bookshelf with drawers on the bottom, kiosk with cabinet, desk, printer cubby, crown molding and floor molding all done with maple ply and hardwood molding.  I also needed two 14” rounded speaker pillars in front and four 10” posts with speaker holes on the sides in maple plywood.  I also needed a paint grade wooden apron to hide the motorized projection screen tube.  They all came over to look at the room and 3D concept pictures and took measurements.  One quote was way out of my price range while the other 2 were more reasonable.  I decided on the one who had done a nice job on a hardwood staircase for a neighbor.  I also liked that he said they could match the style of the oak hardwood already in our home office.  I had to make a few changes from the concept drawings, but I was impressed that they didn’t flinch on making the curved pillars below the speakers and rounded apron above the projection screen. To reduce the sound from the post mounted surround-sound speaker from going to the next room or to the floor, I made 4 simple, little ½” MDF board speaker boxes to go inside, around the opening.  I had to allow for enough lip for the wall mount speaker retention tabs.  Later I added some poly-fill speaker insulation to the boxes.  See pictures of their progress below. 

Contracted Hardwood Panels, Mill-work and Molding


Speaker Grill Frame below Projection Screen ​

Staining and Painting Room 
We knew a really talented painter already.  He had done some faux texture painting in our entry way and dining room.  We had him comeback and give us a quote on staining, texturing the ceiling and painting the rest of the room.  I gave him a few maple scraps and he applied a couple different stains and finishes on them.  We decided on a Classic Cherry stain and satin finish/top-coat.  For the color scheme, my wife and I decided on maroon & black fabrics, flat black paint for star-panel and projector apron, and goldenrod satin paint for ceiling and walls.   I had read online about how hard it was to stain maple because it often became blotchy.  On some fine wood finishing blogs, I had read about some Blotch Control product from Charles Neil Woodworking.  But with all the wainscoting, bookshelf, desk, cabinets, doors, molding… I would need a lot of it.  I asked my painter if he knew how to stain maple.  He said he wasn’t familiar with that blotch control product and would have to increase the quote significantly.  He insisted he didn’t need to pre-treat with blotch control, but he didn’t sound convincing.  I insisted he ask Sherwin Williams and other furniture strainers about blotching while staining maple. They gave him some suggestions about pre-treating the wood with lacquer thinner or something.

Well,….  his 1st pass turned out very blotchy.  Needless to say I was pissed!  He spent a lot more time than he had estimated to fix all the blotchy areas by thinning out the darker blotches and adding more stain to the lighter areas.   The final finish was darker than 1st proposed on the samples, but at least the blotching was not noticeable anymore.   After all the staining and painting was finished, my family members all thought it looked great except for the white PVC light troughs.  Probably because there was just no other white surfaces in the room and they looked out of place.  I agreed and decided to paint them...  myself.  So I found some Champaign Gold Metallic spray paint that I tried a sample of on a spare sheet and looked promising.   But spraying those ceiling mounted light trough now meant putting up lots of masking tape and plastic sheets around every stained or painted surface round the light fixtures then spraying upward.   I had the plastic sheets hanging down around the lights like a tent.  Because I was spraying upwards in a fairly enclosed area, I quickly learned I needed goggles, a face mask filter, and hat to protect my hair.  The over spray & mist still settled on my face, neck and clothes.   On subsequent panels, I had to take a deep breath, hold it, spray until the misty cloud started, leave & breath, wait for the mist to settle, then go back in again.  The final result looked great, much better than the pure white.  But all the masking, sheet plastic, and cleanup was an ordeal.   In hindsight, I should have painted the PVC sheet after heat bending and before sliding into the U-Channels. 

More to Follow . . .

13 Posts
Discussion Starter #6

Speaker Grills


The speaker grill panel under the projection screen had some fairly wide openings.  I was worried that if someone bumped into it, the speaker fabric alone may easily tear.   So I stapled some stucco sheathing on the front of the speaker grill frames behind the molding lined openings before attaching the fabric.  I also put down some thick rubber electrical tape on both sides of the sheathing to keep it from rattling against the wood.   See picture of the frames before the fabric was applied. 


Speaker Grill with Stucco Sheathing


I painted the recessed wall area behind the speaker grill panel flat black later layed down the same 3/8” recycled rubber pad that would be under the rest of the carpeting.  I’ve read that mass is the best inhibitor of low-frequency transmission.  The rubber pad certainly has a lot of mass and just happens to be one best carpet pads for longevity for both the carpet and pad.  


For the left and right front speakers, I originally wanted some tall thin tower speakers on rounded columns / pedestals and hide them behind rounded speaker grill.  To look nice, the arch on each end of the apron hiding the drop-down projector needed to align with the pedestal and speaker grill and pedestal top below.  I also needed to ensure that the drop down screen would clear the center/subwoofer speaker grill panel below it.   To make sure all these pieces would align properly, I used MS Visio again with semi transparent layers for the Apron, projector screen housing, round speaker grill, pedestal top & bottom, and speaker panel as shown below.  


Concentric Circles for Pillars and Speaker Grill and Apron.  



After the hardwood contractors finished the columns, I had them route out the top of the speaker pedestal about ¼” down for the speaker grill to drop into.  That way, I could just lift up and pull out the bottom to remove them if needed.   For the speaker grill frames, I marked and cut a paper-board template of the indented column top.   Then I used this template to mark and cut some ¾” plywood arches for the top and bottoms.  Both top and bottoms had double high plywood to give it strength when fastening the ends to the side rails.   


While putting the sheeting on the other speaker grill panels, I cut my fingers a few times on the sharp cut ends.  I didn’t want to have those barbs protruding out of the rounded speaker bottoms so I needed a way to tuck them in.  So on the inner half plywood arches, I used a band-saw with slanted table to bevel in the outer edge in a bit, then pressed the sharp pointy ends into the indent.  I also indented the 2 piece side rails for the same reason.  Then I added some re-enforcing  ½” metal bars to keep the rounded stucco sheathing from being dented if bumped.   Then I primed and painted the outer face black as seen below.





Half Round Speaker Grill Frames



Finalizing Indirect Lighting LED Molding and Light Panel

I had already run all the wires and fiber optic cables to a flat wall space behind the projector screen.   So there too, I mounted the light control peg-board to a hardy board backing with hinges at the top back.  Then I connected the Lutron QS-links, LED RGB wires and Fiber Optics ends to their terminations and plugged in the power.  The hinged top was so that I could someday thread new tie-wraps underneath to add or repair components without completely disconnecting everything.  I ran into a problem fitting all 4 StarPak-48 bundled fibers into the crimping nut holes on the Fiber Optic Illuminator.  The hole diameters were designed for up to two hundred 0.75mm fibers.  But I had nearly 192 fibers some which were 1.0 and 1.5mm.   So they didn’t all fit. I had to remove a rubber grommet and bore out the hole a bit and still it was tight.  As shown in the photo below and circuit diagram earlier, the indirect LED lighting was powered by a 25A power supply and controlled via a LGE Channel via the grey outlet shown on the side. The Starlight, Fiber Optic Illuminator was on another LGE channel on the same grey outlet.  And the DMX to RGB LED color control was on yet a 3rd LGE channel via the QS-link.  See mounted board below.


Lighting Controls for Star-Light Panels and Indirect RGB LED strips


While waiting for the painter to start, I finished up the maple ceiling frames by routing a wide molding curve on the outer edge.  I got the course scratches out with an orbital sander.  I then used the biscuit joiner to glue the oblong octagon frame together.  To keep if from shifting while gluing the other corners, I secured the newly glued corners with 2-3 staples across the seams on the back side.  Even after the glue hardened, I was worried that that the biscuit joints were just not going to be strong enough considering the weight of the entire frame.  So I purchase and screwed on a metal braces to each 45deg corner.  Then I painted all the LED channels with a white primer to reflect the light better and provide a better sticking surface for the LED strip adhesive backing than raw wood.  As it turns out, I had to lightly sand the paint in those LED channels to a smoother surface to make the LED strips stick better.   

There was a price to pay for extra metal brackets on the corners.   The thickness of the brackets kept the molding from laying flush.  So I had to use a router to cut a 1/8”+ deep recess into the U-Channel frame and drywall around the outside of each corner.  I had to chisel a notch for the drop-down hinges as well.



After the maple ceiling frames were stained, I pre-drilled the holes for the mounting screws.  To hold it on the ceiling while aligning them to the light trough, I realized I needed something to hold them there.  So I built two tall T-bars with foam tape tops and heavy wood bases at the bottom.   The height was adjustable with a two piece stem and groove in one and screwed into the other stem.  After aligning and screwing in the antique bronze furniture screws, I realized I needed a way to determine where to mount the drop-down hinges.  I ended up putting wet paint on the bottom of the hinges so that when the frame was pressed against the ceiling, it marked where they needed to be.  Then I attached the drop-down hinges and connected the LED leads to the LED strips.



Hinged LED Strip Frame hanging down                      Light Trough in Lite Blue around Star Panel


I typically won't have both stars and indirect lighting at the same time.  Not one of the scenes.  


More to follow..

1,736 Posts

Originally Posted by headcone  /t/1525031/koenens-home-theatre-room-project#post_24586298

Speaker Grills

Concentric Circles for Pillars and Speaker Grill and Apron.  
After the hardwood contractors finished the columns, I had them route out the top of the speaker pedestal about ¼” down for the speaker grill to drop into.  That way, I could just lift up and pull out the bottom to remove them if needed.   For the speaker grill frames, I marked and cut a paper-board template of the indented column top.   Then I used this template to mark and cut some ¾” plywood arches for the top and bottoms.  Both top and bottoms had double high plywood to give it strength when fastening the ends to the side rails.   

The rounded grilles are going to be a wonderful unique touch and using the channel method to hold them in place is ingenious.

13 Posts
Discussion Starter #8

Thank you..

13 Posts
Discussion Starter #9

Front Speakers


While I had seen tall thin wall mount speakers in magazines and show rooms I had no idea how much the cost.  When I got around to buying them, I got sticker shock.  Instead, I decided to buy a pair of Monitor Audio Silver In-wall speakers that match my Silver LCR center speaker and mounting them in some tall narrow cabinets to sit on the pedestals behind the grill.   I did not want to mount them on or in the wall because on the other side was our living room.   When I eventually find a deal on some quality tall low-profile speakers, I will replace them.


I designed and build a custom speaker shelf to align the speakers with the grill.   The sub-woofer speaker bottom was positioned just above the bottom of the grill opening while the top of the center speaker was aligned with the top of the grill opening, just under the bottom of the projector screen.  I put a strip of thick foam tape below the center speaker to reduce the low frequency vibration from the sub-woofer.   See photo's below:  






Recycled Rubber Flooring as Carpet Pad


After the all the cutting, painting, and staining was done, it was time to install the pad and carpet.  But the pad was no ordinary pad.  From what I have read about acoustic isolation, one needs mass like MLV.   I saw some 3 layered MLV carpet pad, but from the price, they were a little too proud of their product.  Instead I went with 3/8" thick re-cycled rubber mat as the carpet pad. (As an added bonus, I also found that this kind of rubber pad would make the carpet last longer. )  Normally when one buys carpet, a 1/2" foam pad is included in the price. The carpet salesman didn't give me a discount for not needed the foam pad because the rubber pad was more difficult to install.  My wife was concerned the rubber mat was not soft enough, so I got a extra plush carpet.  After it was installed, it felt just find. It was a little more firm than a foam carpet pad, but not noticeable in shoes.  Only bear-foot could you really notice.  





AV Closet Enhancements


When I was designing the AV Closet that housed AV Equipment Rack, I knew it would get hot if not adequate ventilated.  In addition to the normal AV Equipment, the rack also held a quiet Cyber Power UPS and a rack mounted PC with several large capacity HDD for storing videos and home PC backups.  This storage PC was on all the time so that it can periodically wake up the other PCs and performs backups.  Based on the amount of equipment I estimated the closet would need 3 x120mm Fans: one for the PC, one for the AV-Receiver and another just in case it got too hot.  I asked my HVAC contractor to install a 14x6x6 vent in the AV Closet's ceiling with a 6" flex-duct that went to an outlet vent in the living room ceiling.  It was a 2 story room so the additional hot air would not be noticed.




I then cut-out a plywood fan mount to hold the 3 fans and added a ¼" x ¾" foam tape around the edges on both top and bottom to isolate the fan vibration from the drywall ceiling.  I search and found some quiet 120mm fans from SilenX that had low noise and a built-in thermistor to increase fan speed as the temperature rises.  From my experience in computer and switch chassis design, the multi-fan configuration would need louvers to prevent recirculation in the event one fan stopped working.  In my case, usually only 1 fan was running all the time and the others would be turn on as needed trying to push air down a 12ft of duct. The picture below shows the plywood mounted fans with half of the louvers installed.  Each louver was made of folded aluminium-foil wrapped around a thin wire box frame and held down with some half-round staples as pivot points.  I tried to be fancy at 1 st with tucked in hidden folds in 4 layers.   This turned out to be too heaver for these fans to lift.  So I had to redo all of them with a simpler, lighter, 2-layer fold which did work.  




For this staged fan control, it needed a relay circuit to trigger off of both the AV Receivers Trigger-Out as well as a Cooling Fan Thermostat.  I found a low-current 12VDC DPDT relay module from Altronix that I mounted in a small plastic project box with a Screw terminal strip on top.  See circuit diagram below.




I had read about others on this forum complaining about noisy refrigerators kicking in while a movie was playing.  So, I added a normally-on trigger out for a Fridge Outlet relay.  When the AVR goes on, the relay would cut the power to the fridge outlet.  Since each fan drew ~150mA, I got a 1.2A 12VDC AC Adapter that plugged into the UPS.  Even after a power outage, the fridge and fan(s) would stay until after the PC went to sleep.  


The picture below shows the white cooling fan thermostat on the left, fans in the middle and control box on the right. The 12VDC power AVR cables are plugged into the front of the project box.  Also notice, the power cords are on the left while all the A/V and Network cables are one the right to minimize RFI.




After the fans had been running awhile, I notice that dust was getting into the rack cabinet and into the PC and AVR.  I decided the pretty wood vent would needed a filter.  So, I retrofitted a 12x12 air filter mount on the back side of the vent.  I had to cut the hat-channel as shown in the 1 st picture below.  Then I built a filter holder that slanted up so that some of the intake air would go up to the PC's front panel, but most would go straight into a perforated panel at the bottom of the rack.   





More to follow later...

13 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Finished Construction

I was wanting to take photos with a better camera, but decided to just post the final construction before furniture and appliances were added. This is what you would see as you enter the room and walk toward the end, look around and then sit down.


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