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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm moving this weekend to a rental townhome with a basement, and the landlord said I can put up walls as long as they aren't anchored in the basement floor. Now, I've lurked this site for years and have never been able to have a home theater of any kind due to space and budget. 

I'm starting a build thread even though I haven't seen the actual unit yet. They had no units available for showing so we rented site-unseen. This first post will hopefully provide me a good starting point and reference for when I actually see the unit and have the real measurements to work from. Now, that being said, I do have this: http://www.slideshare.net/Foxcroftapts/foxcroft-devonshire-16703318

So, I want to squeeze something like a 11x16 isolated room in the basement, and I want to build a home theater with my extremely limited budget. How limited? It's like this, I am having to sell a bunch of stuff and simplify my expenses to make room for the purchases to build this home theater. Here's a breakdown:

Electronics:
$1200 - speakers, receiver, projector, wiring, IR repeater
$100 - PJ mount, AT DIY screen
$50-75 - lighting

Building materials
$0 - Hoping to collect leftovers from other peoples projects, could take some time
$100 - willing to fork over some cash for essentials like nails/screws, wiring, wall plates

Max budget ceiling
$1500 - don't laugh, I just have to get really creative or sell more stuff

****edit: It took longer and I had to sell more than I originally wanted but I've stretched the budget. My goal right now is to land somewhere around $2000 max and at the moment I'm close to hitting the mark.

Actual room dimensions:
Ceiling - 6'3" at lowest point (air ducts)
Screen - 120"
Seating distance - 13-16'
More to come, still unpacking.

Now, I've honed in on a few items:
Projector - Viewsonic PJD7820HD, not the highest quality kit around but should provide me the features I want. 120+ inch screen, 3D, 1080p
**UPDATE - I purchased a Benq W1080ST used here on AVS Classifieds. Works like new and I love the picture even though its temporarily on a painted white wall with very poor room light control.

Speakers - Monoprice 10565, basically the same as Energy Take 5.1 but not name brand. No idea if these will sound good with how I'm planning my room but the price is right. 
**UPDATE - my monoprice speakers are on the way. I borrowed a 5.0 piecemeal speaker set just so I could test out my new receiver....

Receiver - Denon AVR-2113ci, this is the component I least want to go cheap on, but I'm hoping to get a deal since it's last years model.
**UPDATE- Bought the Denon AVR-X2000, hooked it up to some borrowed speakers, and bam I've got a temporary HT.  

I already have PS3 for gaming and movies.
Movies/gaming/streaming ratio
35/30/35 ish

My goal is to barter it out with amazon or similar to get the price down to $1100 or less for all three above items. Never hurts to try. However, if there are better options in the same budget category that would get me better bang for the buck, I'm open to suggestions. 

Consider this build my practice home theater build, since I've never built an entire home theater from scratch. Maybe someday years into the future I will be able to go nuts with the budget, but not today and not in a rental townhome. 

Here's a picture of a typical basement where I'm renting (not my actual basement):

*update- pictures of my actual basement:


I have a few questions you can take a stab at if you like. I'm still heavily researching everything so given enough time I may find all the answers I need, but this is as good a place as any to record the questions and it might give someone on here an opportunity to increase post count


1. Should I consider 7.1 instead of 5.1 surround sound given my possible room dimensions of 11x16x7-8?
A: I'm definitely going for 7.1, and I'll use zone 2 preouts for the upstairs. What configuration sounds better in the long run, rear surrounds, or front heights?

2. Based on the floor plan here: http://www.slideshare.net/Foxcroftapts/foxcroft-devonshire-16703318, should I isolate the room, or should I instead have the basement staircase landing be part of the theater?
A: I think I'll have to concede to the odd layout and forgo having a completely isolated room. The staircase will lead straight into the media room as depicted below:
Legend: blue = framed walls; orange = people; pink = screen
**UPDATE - Changed my mind again. I did some measuring and I can isolate and soundproof the room if I put the screen end where the stairs come down and the first and second seating rows by the furnace. But boy is it going to be tight...
***UPDATE 2 - So...changed the layout again, I don't have a plan to show but in the three pictures above of my actual basement, the wall shown will be projector wall and the room closed off completely. Plenty of pics below of the WIP room. Projector wall is 15' wide then the side walls angle in towards the back row. Depth of the room is about 14.5' but the room is more of a trapezoid shape. so it's not 15' square at all. Also, the ceiling at its tallest is under 7' due to the existing ceiling being 7' and mine is just below that (not connected for isolation).


3. In a concrete basement, will sound carry to the units on either side of my unit, and should I plan to compensate for this?
A: After reading the soundproofing thread, not to mention just standing in the basement, I know sound will carry.
My plan so far is to soundproof, but this wont be cheap and I'm not sure how that's going to work on my poor budget. At least it passed the WAF test.

4. Besides craigslist and freecycle, what other ways are there to get free building materials? 
A: I have a friend who found that some local metal shops get shipping crates built out of 2x4s and plywood, and they just throw them away. The crates are 10ft, well over the height I would need. Now to figure out how to get them into my house!
A: I found a local guy running a place in Shelby Township, MI called Tower Wood Recycling. He has contractors and others dumping off wood and some other building materials, he charges them to drop it off. Then he piles up the wood and lets anyone who wants to pick through and take whatever you can carry for about $50. So over half of my building materials I got for $40 (only had 2 20s on me when I went), I just had to strip the wood down to size. He's got mountains of the stuff its just hard to find good material in the piles. And what he does with it is runs it through a massive grinder to make mulch. So he makes money on drop off, pickup, and with the leftovers, he makes more money, lol. Great setup to have.

5. Has anyone else done their theater for less than $2000 ish and how did you pull it off? I think I saw one build on here that was done frugally but there was some serious DIY involved with speakers that I'm not comfortable with. I am great with construction and computers, but need to get up to speed on HT. 

6. Obviously without seeing the actual room this might be a tough one, but where's the ideal place for a sub? Front vs back? Should I build a special area for it in the wall? I wouldn't mind having it hidden, but can easily live with a sub out in the open. Just want it to sound good. 
A: after looking through some threads and at the Dolby setup page, I think I'll go with the front corner beneath either FL or FR.

Thanks for dropping by to see my build in whatever stage it's in and feel free to comment or ask a question. I'm really excited to be in this community and can't wait to finish my first HT. 
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Thread has been updated below with pictures of the build so far. Attached to this post is an updated cost tracker. Here are lessons learned so far:

lesson 1 - Get better paying job, buy a freaking house.
lesson 2 - Reclaimed wood sounds like a good idea until you spend 2 months pulling nails and stripping it down to 2x4 size with a circular saw.
lesson 3 - Don't buy speakers until the room is finished. Bought rear ported speakers and they are going to be super close to the wall, probably not too good for sound quality.
lesson 4 - As it turns out, I might have been better off getting the long throw (BENQ W1070) instead of the short throw version. The way I am setting up the room, I might not ever be able to have a CIH setup. We will see on that, can't know for sure until I get the projector and screen down there.
lesson 5 - At some point, research has to stop and the project must go on. I can't know it all and this one won't be perfect, it is my first HT build after all.
 

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I responded to your post on my thread  (not sure how to do a link), but as to sound, yes it will carry if you turn up the bass for movies.  I have mine in the basement and it rocks the upper two levels of the house plus I can hear it  a little outside through the foundation. 

 

A possible solution to sound issues:  I went with JVC wireless head phones years ago, and when the first pair went bad, I bought another until I had four sets.  I could not find a replacement battery so I just bought more.  I found a trick on the Internet of striping the "paper"  a faction of a inch on the side of a replacement rechargeable battery (at the bottom) so now I have four sets.  This allows my wife and I to watch TV after the kids go to sleep.  The trick is to only plug audio into one receiver/headphone base and the other will link to that signal.  We have two in the family room (zone1) and two in the movie room (zone2).  All four will link to a zone.  I use a splitter from the projector and run sound to a 2.1 system and the headphone so both can be used at the same time (this lets us hit the bathroom/laundry/snacks without stopping the movie/tv).  In addition, I have the 5.1 Energy speakers (as detailed in my thread) linked to the DVR and a Sony Blu-ray player ($88 on Amazon).  The Sony lets me stream Prime movies and play 3D movies.

 

By the way the 3D looks great on a Viewsonic (better than my Epson HC2000),and four pairs of glasses ran me less that $100.  Also, I actually prefer your basement to my finished basement since it is wide open space.  I know I will be moving in 6 months to 3 years, so I can't do many modifications without impacting the value of my house.  (With my luck, I would decrease the value.)  I currently use my Viewsonic as a "spare movie room" with a OEG (Camp Chef) screen and it is attached to one nail on my wall.

 

Also, a few years ago, while on an 18 month TDY (Temporary Duty Assignment) with a friend (we both went on a TDY at the same time/place...not together), we ran cable to his rental home's unfinished basement, put a TV, rug and a couch downstairs.  His kids loved it and when he moved, he had nothing to repair/take down.  (We did drill through the side of the house to run cable, but it was under the sliding and I had sealed around the cable.)  I think the key to our type of build (inexpensive) is that we can be enjoying our "theater" in hours or days, instead of months and years.  (The months and years can come on down the road after we have learned from our mistakes and successes.) 

 

Please post the "after" pictures of your build and I hope you have as much fun as I have with setting up a home theater system/room and tinkering with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Work is finally showing some progress on my dedicated build, here come the pics!

Started with a bunch of reclaimed decking which had to be stripped down to 2x4 size.
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270706&thumb=1


These pics show the limited space I have to work with.
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270714&thumb=1
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270722&thumb=1
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270730&thumb=1
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270738&thumb=1

Outline of the room is shown here with 2x4s laid out on the floor.
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270746&thumb=1

And let the wall building commence...
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270754&thumb=1
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270762&thumb=1

Platform in the back of the room for 2nd row seating.
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270770&thumb=1
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270778&thumb=1

Crappy panoramic pic showing the room left to right (major fisheye here)
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270786&thumb=1

Doors are framed.
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270794&thumb=1
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=270802&thumb=1

So far I've stayed within budget for this, trying to keep it under $2000 and I'm well within. Drywall paint electrical might tip me over that but we will see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Made some progress in getting the riser platform walls finished and adding plywood to the outside walls. Next will be ceiling joists and electrical, just need to make a Home Depot run.
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=283730&thumb=1
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=283738&thumb=1
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=283746&thumb=1
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=283754&thumb=1

And I had enough smaller plywood and scrap 2x4s to build an AV rack.
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=283762&thumb=1

Sneak peak at the seats I scored on craigslist.
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=283770&thumb=1
I have no idea what kind they are, there's no tag on any of them that I've seen yet. They look fairly new though.
 

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Wow! I checked out your room again after you posted in "how much did you invest". You've put a ton of work into the basement. I look forward to photos of your HT in action.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Wow! I checked out your room again after you posted in "how much did you invest". You've put a ton of work into the basement. I look forward to photos of your HT in action.
thanks man! Its coming along for sure. Here's the nearly finished product:




last little bit, gotta get a new pj mount. Need it flush to the ceiling. Also need to paint the room and finish 2nd layer of spandex on the screen and mount it.
 

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So you are going with all the sound up front and using the two extra speakers for a 3D front sound stage. How do the Energy or Monoprice speakers sound in the room?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Actually I've got a couple of Definitive Technology bookshelves in the back for SR, just didn't have the space to add rear surrounds so I used the 5.1 monoprice's in the front for front height 7.1 setup. I've been reading around and a lot of people comment that the energy satellites are flat, I can attest to that but I haven't had a chance to open them up too well yet. I still have yet to calibrate with the Audessy room correction on my Denon x2000.

I realize now a little too late that the monoprice/energy was probably too impulsive but they were so cheap that I want to see what I can get out of them before thinking about moving to the next tier of "cheap," like Polk or Infinity. That would be another $2-300 and I'm definitely not ready for that yet :)
 

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I love budget home theaters mate. I think they are inspirational. Good job. You will love it more because you had to put so much work into it too. There is just a certain satisfaction in knowing you made every penny stretch as far as it can go, and you got the best bang for your buck you could get.
 

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Sneak peak at the seats I scored on craigslist.
http://www.avsforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=283770&thumb=1
I have no idea what kind they are, there's no tag on any of them that I've seen yet. They look fairly new though.
Those look like Visteon seats. If you're in Michigan, they are probably the Visteon "Gibraltar" seats out of the Southgate Cinema. Honestly, when I started reading your thread and your ambitious plans with your stated budget, I thought "no way!," mainly because you wanted to frame walls within that budget. You've done an amazing job at stretching your dollars. I'm really impressed that you made your own 2x4s out of reclaimed lumber. Room's looking good so far! I think you've set some kind of record for speediest theater construction ever - a lot of us spend years on this process.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thanks for the comments!
@AudyoVidyo - I agree, I know there are probably lots of things I should have done better but I just kept reminding myself I had to keep it cheap and the room has to be removed when I move out anyway. Just means now I've had practice so when I move to a house I own, I can do it right.
@sulakd - You nailed it! The guy I bought these from said he got them from Gibraltar and they had come from a theater in southgate.

Believe me there were times when I was also saying, "no way." But now that it's practically done (and currently usable) I am starting to see the light. Had a blast building it and I also had help or it would never have been that fast!

Obligatory screen pics in a dark room with crappy camera :D


 
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