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I've been an audio enthusiast, audiophile, sound dork, whatever you want to call it, for 20+ years. A dedicated home theater has always been my dream. I don't mean a nice system in my living room (I have that) but a room that serves one purpose, to enjoy music and movies with far fewer compromises than a living or family room demands.
I'm almost done building just that and thought I'd share for those that care.
I almost didn't post this build here for fear of being laughed out of town and banned because it's nothing like the other builds I see here. Then I decided to do it because I am happy with the results so far, and wanted to show others that are wanting to do something similar that you don't have to have buckets of money at your disposal to build a theater.

I live in a 1150 sq. ft. house with an unfinished basement. When we moved in, there was one wall, about 16' long that was drywall on one side, and burlap (!!??) on the other. After much figuring and measuring, I decided to use that burlap wall as one wall of the theater. That set one dimension of the room at 12'. Here's what I had to work with:

BTW, none of these diagrams are to scale, just something I threw together to show you all what I had to work with.

I wanted to add a storage closet to make up for the room I was using. Now, where to put it. On the south wall (right side of the picture) or on the north wall (left). I figured, it doesn't matter, so I put it on the north wall. That ONE decision really mucked things up for me. More on that later. So, Here's what I decided to do.

Leaving the existing wall, I built a closet on the north wall to box in the two windows. That way, if I get a projector later, light is not an issue.
Looking back, I wish I'd have put the closet on the other side of the room. Having that closet door there dictated that the seats are off center, and limited the seating capacity. Oh well, what's done is done.
Enough with the crappy diagrams. Here's a pic of the wall being framed. It shows the scale (not the palatial scales most work with haha) and the windows I decided to block in.


The closet wall is boxed in, starting on the long wall.


As you can see, I have two ducts to content with. I tried really hard to keep this inexpensive, so I didn't swap the ducts over to round ducts to prevent any reverb or ringing, I'll treat them as needed.

A little bit about the budget. I didn't have a dollar figure in mind, but this is a modest single-income family, three kids and my wife. So the goal was to build a room that sounded good, seated my family and friends, and looked/felt like a theater.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
For seats I was able to score some clean theater seats. My place of worship was remodeling and they were throwing away (??!!) 220 of these seats. I sold quite a few to recoup costs (they had NO idea these had any value) and forced them to allow me to pay for some. They were very clean, no food stains, not smoked in, simply very good condition, but not the color I wanted. Here's one partially assembled seat that shows the scale of the room, and the ugly green color.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Another aspect of the room that was dictated to me was the carpet. I was given Mowhawk carpet tiles that were being removed due to the wrong glue being used. The beauty of it was the glue stuck to the concrete floor (where it was originally installed) VERY well, but didn't stick to the carpet at all haha. So I was given tons of carpet tile (2' X 2') that was essentially new. I decided to simply lay it down (two layers) instead of glue. So far, it's worked perfectly. It's heavy enough, and the room is small enough, that it doesn't move around at all.
But, the colors in the carpet dictated the color that I would use to reupholster the chairs. The carpet has dark purple, grey, and a green that just happened to match the chairs shockingly well. Like I said, I didn't like the green, so I decided to play on the purple.
Anyway, on with the build.

I was researching what most folks do for sound-proofing, and quickly decided against the status-quo. This is a family theater, so I don't really care about sound leaking into other areas of the house. What I mean is, when we are watching a movie, we'll be watching it together. If you can hear it upstairs, I don't really care. Because of that, Rockwool was out, as was quiet rock, roxul, GG, and the like. I used Owens Corning pink insulation and 3/4 drywall.


Being a basement, I was more concerned about temperature than sound leaks.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do on the ceiling. I didn't really want to do drywall mainly because I'm doing this myself, no extra hands on deck. I could have rented a drywall lift, but I decided to try something different. I found 5mm underlayment plywood for $8 for a 4X8 sheet. It's actually very nice looking, has a nice finish, and is smooth. So, I decided to cut it into 16" X 8' strips and install it parallel to the joists.
Obviously this stuff is light, the downside is that its flexible. I looked in the 75% off bin at Home Depot and made a dead-man out of crooked 2-by's to aid in installing the ceiling.


Before installing it, I put a 45* chamfer on the edges. I decided to go with 8' lengths instead of 4' because that would allow all the short seams to either be hidden by the cove moulding, or the HVAC ducts. Looks good, me thinks.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Fast forward a bit: the walls and ceiling are done, as is the door trim. My youngest son has pretty serious asthma. Last time I sanded drywall, he was miserable for days. So my wife and I decided on a textured finish on the walls to eliminate drywall sanding, and the resulting dust.
My wife and I were discussing (read: she was trying to change my mind, I was set on my idea so I humored her haha) the layout of the seats. She wanted the seats to be on the long wall, like so:

The above diagram was drawn wrong. Her idea would have allowed for 6 seats flush to the wall, with the two angled seats on the edge. Her idea would have allowed for a few feet of open space in front of the seats. I like the idea of the open feel and the ability to throw bean bags or something for more seating. What I didn't like was that you'd only really have two good seats, the rest would be much closer to one of the rear speakers than you'd really want to be. So I figure you'd have two people sitting in pretty good seats, everyone else would be getting an ear full of one of the surround channels.

I decided on a more conventional layout. Three rows, 3+3+4. With the exception of the mother-in-law seat in the back row, everyone would have a pretty good seat, with 2 or 4 in very good seats.

Now that the room is up and running (though not 100% complete) I can say, the back row does get more rear channel than I'd like, the middle row sounds pretty great. I haven't tried the front row yet.

Naturally, I wanted risers. Since I'm dealing with 8' ceilings, I couldn't go as high as I'd like to have. This also meant I couldn't build a sub into the risers either. I decided on 8" risers for the rear row, 4" for the middle row, the front row is mounted right to the floor.
Here's the rear riser in progress:


I took some measurements and decided where the rear row needed to fall. Then I took my circular saw out and made a slot for a 2X10X8 to sit flush. This is what the seats will mount to.
 

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Here's a roughed in riser with one chair for scale. I just plopped the chair down, the placement makes it look really small for some reason, but that riser is 4' X 8'.


The front riser is done, with the chair in place for scale again.
 

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Originally I was going to paint the ceiling and ducts flat black. My wife said the room would look small and dark if I did that. I could see her point, the carpet is fairly dark, so is the material for the seats. So we decided to paint the long walls white, the short walls grey, and the ceiling and ductwork white. I can't compare it to black, but I think they look nice. Not exactly theater-like, but more, uh, homey?


Next up, the subwoofer.....
 

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Is there any interest here for this thread, or is it too low budget for this crowd?
I think you are doing just fine. Trust me I didn't have any Home Theater designer fly in and design my basement Home theater. DIY, Menard's, Home Depot, Lowe's, and the Dollar Tree store to the rescue. Along with a set of Ryobi power tools and my Meijer $69 clearance table saw. And lot's of stuff off of eBay. I live in the real world, looks like you do too. I am retired now, but most of the Home Theaters written about here cost more than I made in my entire lifetime and I have two earned college degrees (plus most of a third).
 

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I love seeing projects on tight budgets, some of the most inovative ideas come from them. I love your plywood roof pannels, a nice dark wood stain would look fantastic on those!


I'm not sure if you've tried your riser out yet with your screen, but they may not be high enough for the rows to see over the people in front. My riser is built from 2x8's and 2 layers of 3/4" plywood and it's not quite high enough. My second row is 6 feet back from the front row, and the screen is another 14 feet from the first row.
 

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Is there any interest here for this thread, or is it too low budget for this crowd?
No worries, there will be plenty of interest and with the thread just starting recently, being summer (busy schedules), and you not asking too many questions most people will view the post rather than reply. Most threads start out with the OP asking 50 questions and another 50 not being asked. You have a handle on things are hauling along and obviously have the skills to pull this off. No one will care if it's a $1M theater or $100 theater. The threads with the high end theaters get tons of posts with 90% of the replies from dudes looking to get a piece of the pie in terms of doing the build for the person or selling gear.


Looking at your pics, maybe check the riser heights for head clearance views which will play into screen size and height as well. Maybe throw in an outlet on a switch if you can for rope or led lighting on riser for show as that jazzes things up on the cheap. Not worrying so much about sound proofing will save a ton of work and sealing up gaps best you can with sealant or other does wonders (wires holes, electrical outlet boxes, ceiling to wall joints, ceiling lights, seal the entire room up if possible). Then once complete a few well placed foam cushions wrapped with fabric at a few spots on the walls can improve the sound tremendously. But viewing your pics and progress you probably got a handle on all this.


Also, to make something look cool, theater or whatever, usually can be achieved with good thought and planning just as easily with big budget. Plus it appears you have the skills to make quick mock ups of things to see if it looks right and that's a huge help to be able to do that during the build phase. Some times high budget plans look good on paper but as it comes together its much easier to get everything in its perfect place if you're doing the work on site and willing to experiment. I look at the pics of the high end cool stuff and steal the ideas figuring out how to get that look. :)
 

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Yes, keep journaling in here, it's always fun to read along, even well after the build is complete.

Good luck, i'll be checking in to see how things go!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks for the feedback folks. I hope I didn't come off as an attention-starved teenager, I'm old enough to have two of those myself haha. Honestly, I just wasn't sure if a low-buck build was of interest here because of the stellar builds I've seen. Kudos to those builders, absolutely!
I'll address some of the suggestions and thoughts posted, at least the ones I remember.
The riser height is about as high as I can get it. I incorrectly posted that I have 8' ceilings. I have 7' ceilings. I didn't want the folks in the back row to feel like they had to stoop to walk up there. Now that the room is mostly done, I see that I could have gone a bit higher. I might still. I can easily (relatively) get them 4" higher. On that note, I mounted the TV as high as I could. The screen is about right for the middle row seats.
Acoustic treatments: I'm going to need some help on this due to my speaker choice, more on that later.....
Oh, one more thing. Somebody commented on the 5mm plywood ceiling. Thanks, I'm happy with how it turned out. If anyone is going to do this, here's a suggestion. Paint it with oil based paint. There were a few places where the wood absorbed the water from the latex paint and delaminated. So I'll have to repair that.
Now more pics!
 

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Speaking of the ceiling, here's a pic of it painted white. I think I did one more coat after this one.


I went back and forth on the subwoofer design more times than I care to recount. I really wanted to build a transmission line. I owned a Freid Model F many moons ago and liked it. But since there's no formula really, and most folks said I'd end up building 2 or three cabinets before I found the right one, I decided to nix that idea. I don't have the time or budget to build multiple cabinets for the purposes of trial and error. Here's what I had to work with:
I already have two MTX Road Thunder 10" drivers from my younger years. I don't plan on using them. I also have a pretty serious cerwin vega 12", but I didn't plan on using that either since I don't have the T/S specs for it, and don't have the means to measure it. That left me with my two Infinity Kappa Perfect 10.1 drivers. Much better than the other choices, so TAG, you're it! I also have two Sound Stream THX certified monoblocks. 150 WPC I believe. I put the Kappas in two sealed enclosures years ago and had the monoblocks powering them. I liked the setup.

This time though, I wanted to do something other than sealed or ported. I thought about 4th or 6th order enclosures, then I stumbled upon the Picowrecker. Someone here (sorry, can't remember who) ran the Kappas through hornresp and...they are almost identical the the drivers the designer of the box LilMike intended. So, my buddy and I started making saw dust.






And the box mostly built, the driver in place, no wiring or bracing at this point.
 

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Now, on to the speakers. I had Celestion KR2s for my main channels, some unknown 5.25" Celestion drivers I got from the professional audio shop I worked at in Detroit.
Before I go on. Those 5.25" Celestion drivers are simply incredible. I will always own them. I ran them as my main channels for years, the clarity, musicality, and quality wowed me every time I have them more than a little bit of the large round knob. Wow!
My center was a turd of an Advent center.
I donated the Advent, sold the KR2s and am storing the little Celestions for a future project. I replaced them with




Magnepan MMGs for the main channels, MMGWs for the surrounds, and an MMGC for the center. I owned Magnepan MG IIA's years ago and was highly impressed. I wanted to get a full complement of Maggies, and the MMG family are sized right, and aren't expensive. I got the 5 speakers for $1,100.

I already had adequate speaker wire and a 4-ohm stable receiver.

I'm jumping around here, sorry. Around this time I put the carpet down. It consists of 2' X 2' Mowhawk carpet squares. They are essentially new and in perfect condition. Like I said earlier, this dictated the color I would use on the chairs.


Next I temporarily mounted the 10 seats to make sure things will fit.
Here are the seats with the original green colored upholstery.
 

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Back the the speakers, specifically the surrounds. The MMGWs are intended to be mounted on the wall vertically. They mount on pivots that allow them to be set flat against the wall when not in use, and pivoted 30* out when listening. I didn't want to mount them vertically, I asked Wendell at Magnepan if there's an issue mounting them horizontally. He said in my situation, with the close listening position, the horizontal mounting would be ok. Now I needed a low-buck wan to mount them on the wall horizontally, but not rigid so they can still be folded flat in case we need to move something tall into the closet (the speaker sticks out from the wall and could be in the way.
With the use of a drill press I machined a groove in the pin that would allow the use of a hitch pin clip. Here's the pin and bracket.

The groove is not done in that pic, sorry. I'll try to remember to get a finished pic. But the groove goes just inside (to the right) of the bracket, keeping the pin from walking out over time.

I hope I can explain this properly, here goes: I wanted the speaker to be on the wall at the appropriate angle, but to be easily folded down (by my wife) as needed. The simplest way I came up with was to cut one side from a 1" square tube, weld a washer to the top, and use picture hanging cable to attach it to an eyelet in the wall. Here's the finished product.

Yup, it's ugly, but when in use, not even really visible.




This was my solution for the rear channel speakers. I've seen a number of other ideas, but none that would have worked for me.
 
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