AVS Forum banner

1 - 20 of 225 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
UPDATE FOR 2013: I sold this house in 2011, and am now working on Hobbit 2.0 in my new home!
 
 
 
 
ORIGINAL POST:

After lurking for many months, being inspired by the incredible projects in this forum, and dreaming about one day having my own (semi-) dedicated theater space, I'm finally ready to start treading this well-worn path.

This is probably one of the smallest dedicated builds on AVS: the theater itself is approximately 8' wide by 15' long, with an average ceiling height of 6'9" to the joists - 6'7" after finishing with drywall, subfloor and carpet.
 


WHEN I SOLD IT:





It's showtime! But the room is still missing furniture, a little decor, and perhaps some sidewall treatment.


BACKGROUND

My wife and I live downtown where new construction is very rare. So our home is a 20-foot wide, 100 year-old house that is full of character, but also pretty challenging for home theater. The basement is the only location available, and it's barely more than a crawlspace by today's standards - thin, uneven concrete slab, less than 7' of headroom to the joists (by code, too low to legally build in), a maximum open width of 8', decades of plumbing, electrical and carpentry hack jobs messing everything up, and nothing plumb, level or straight. Add to this a limited budget due to the necessity of renovating the -rest- of the old house, and it makes for an interesting build. The estimated cost for the entire basement, including materials, construction, tools, and missing equipment, is about $10,000-12,000.

My ultimate goal is to try and have as many dedicated home theater features as is practical given the space and budget, and then see how it all pans out. Because the house is so small, although I consider the main viewing area from the seating area forwards to be a dedicated HT, it will actually share the physical room with a more multipurpose space immediately behind it.


THE ORIGINAL PLAN

No choice for location here. It's going into what was euphemistically labelled the "Rec Room" in the real estate listing. Basically an 8-foot wide unfinished space with a bit more than 6 1/2 feet of headroom - as illustrated in this photo taken before we took possession of the house:


 


The screen will be against the far wall, and given the decent length of the room, I plan to use the maximum width and height available for an 84" wide (96" diagonal) 16:9 screen. Primary seating will be approximately 11-12' back for a 30-37 degree viewing angle, with some room in front for "overflow seating" (i.e. more than three people!) at a THX recommended 9'-10' distance.


Given the project budget, size of the house, open nature of the basement, and the need to preserve every inch of available space, I won't be using any specialized soundproofing techniques such as double drywall, channels or clips. Since it's impractical to close off the space, any noise would simply flank up the stairs to the main floor. However, I will use some basic insulation such as Roxul in the ceiling joists in an attempt to reduce cavity resonance, and deaden contact transmission to and from the floor above.

Update: After testing it seems that, thanks to the intrinsic mass and nature of old-style construction (plaster, lath and thick, heavy beams), sound at an acceptable volume downstairs (not reference levels, but perfectly enjoyable for most movies and music) is barely noticeable on the second floor. Super.


EQUIPMENT

One nice thing about a hobbit-sized space is that it's not demanding on equipment! Other than the projector, I'll be using mostly existing gear from a previous media setup, which should be very capable of achieving reference levels in a room of this size.

NAD T762 7.1 AV receiver
NAD T531 DVD/CD transport
Paradigm Atom monitor fronts/CC-170 center/ADP-70 bipole-dipole surrounds
Paradigm PDR-10 10" subwoofer
Apple Airport Express w/ optical bitstream for wireless iTunes connectivity (#1 - theater source)

Added during build: Scientific Atlanta 8300HD high-definition PVR
Added during build: Sony Playstation 3 console/Blu-Ray player
Added during build: Optoma HD-7100 720P HD front projector
Added during build: 96" DIY framed Da-Lite High Contrast Cinema Vision (Grey/1.2 gain) screen
Added during build: Belkin PureAV PF60 power conditioner console
Added during build: Logitech Harmony 880 universal remote


Integration with whole-house system (ABUS):

Channel Vision single-source ABUS distribution network
Scientific Atlanta 3250HD high-definition cable box

Added during build: Apple Airport Express w/ optical bitstream for wireless iTunes connectivity (#2 - ABUS source)
Added during build: JVC RXD-205 AV receiver to switch and drive ABUS system


When the walls were open upstairs I ran CAT5e in a home-run configuration to ABUS (audio and IR over ethernet) panels in each room, plus component cabling to plasma locations in the kitchen and bedroom, terminating at a Leviton Structured Wiring panel located just behind what will become the main HT rack. This will allow me to distribute the HT sources plus an additional dedicated Scientific Atlanta 3500HD box throughout the house.


I picked up a great deal on the 720P Optoma HD7100 projector about halfway through the project for about $900 after rebate - 6 months prior it was in the $2K range! It has a very short lens which can throw the necessary 84" in less than 11 feet, which is perfect for my situation. Unlike cheaper models that I originally considered (HD70), it also has zero vertical offset which is a huge bonus for any low-headroom build. I will build a niche into the joist space at the projector location so that the mount assembly can partially recess into the ceiling, maximizing headroom. This should place the lens itself at the ceiling line, and with the top of the screen at this level anyway, it will be ideal for the final projected image.

I started this thread about six months into the project, after a winter of prep work involving demolition of the original finishes, relocating and rewiring all of the basement electrical circuits and moving a lot of old plumbing out of the way. This post takes off where the new construction and dedicated HT stuff is about to begin. Enjoy!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,144 Posts
Very cool. Just don't stand on the sofa :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,939 Posts
Seems like a plan.


Be happy you can do what your doing. I've seen 100 year old homes where this is not even remotely possible. Good luck.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,326 Posts
I have seen worse spaces turned into prett darny nice HT's.


I don't have that much more space in my theater and I am happy with it. I even had a crowd of 10 people in it last weekend.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
445 Posts
Go for it... I was in a similar situation about a year ago. I had to relocate ductwork and a gas line but I made it work. I even had to alter the main support beam of the house to allow for an entrance into the room (thank god my wife is a structural engineer).

I didn't insulate the ceiling joists and unless I really crank it up you can barely hear it upstairs. My finished ceiling height is 6.5 feet. I installed my projector the way you are describing and haven't had any heat issues.


I love the room and don't regret putting it in the basement.


Good Luck
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
So as promised, the first season's worth of progress in one post. After exactly a year in the house (which helped to confirm that the basement does indeed stay relatively dry), I started demolition last January and worked until May, when I stopped for the summer after our baby was born.

Some of the highlights:




During the renovation of the main plumbing system upstairs, our stack sprung a leak and discharged its entire load into the basement. Thankfully, I hadn't started on the project yet, but while cleaning this up, I was pretty despondent about this space ever being clean and decent, never mind an HT.




After gutting the existing finishes to the foundation and giving it a good cleaning, it started to feel better down there. Even with low headroom, the big windows (for an old basement) make it seem less claustrophobic. Along the main beam, you can see the old electrical lines (mostly first generation NM cable wrapped in fabric, with some older knob-and-tube) that I was tagging for replacement and relocation. I also had to relocate some supply and DWV pipes into joists and studs to avoid having soffits or protrusions.




Perimeter framing up and Dricore subfloor going in. It's pretty standard cold-weather construction. I repaired and parged some of the concrete blocks with cement - DryLok and other waterproofing membranes are pretty much useless with x number of unknown paint layers in the way. Poly moisture barrier to grade and underneath the stud walls and subfloor; 2x4 framing on sill gasket set back minimally from the uneven foundation. Once I've finished wiring, R-19 to R-24 insulation where there was absolutely none before.

As I mentioned, the slab is so uneven that I had to get -very- creative with a wild combination of Dricore stacking kits, cedar and PT shims, and Tapcons. It's not much of a floating floor now with so many screws through it, but at least it's relatively stable. Officially, it's far from level, but it feels pretty flat now, and should be even better with pad and carpet.




This is the current state of my build. It's SO much better with a completed subfloor, partition walls, and LIGHT. I spent most of last winter working with one halogen work lamp before I finally got the Halo cans wired in last week. Now I don't have to squint at the miter saw. Nothing too fancy with the controls here - just a trio of Lutron Maestro dimmers. The entire basement space is the size of one typical Grafik Eye zone! Eventually, I might replace them with the excellent Maestro IR system so they can at least be controlled from the remote or as part of a system macro.




Once the interior framing went up, it dawned on me that I had quite a bit of wasted space behind the new walls due to posts, beams and such. So I modified the studs earlier this week to accomodate a small equipment rack backing into the utility room for easy access and cable management, and a couple of long, shallow built-ins for media. I think they're great examples of HT features that translate perfectly into a small space. Others, like soffits and wall sconces, not so much!


QUESTIONS

Thanks to the excellent "Show us your screenwall" thread, I noticed that a stage is one thing that really helps to increase the ambience factor and make it look like a theater. I don't have much going on down there, so I've been toying with the idea of building a (very low) one - more of a step, really - at the screenwall. Seems like something that wouldn't impact space much, but would add a lot of character.

Thoughts on that?

Also, the sand that you guys fill it with - I presume for resonance damping and vibration control - how exactly does that work, where in relation to it are subs typically placed, and how do they interact? What would be the net effect of building a stage that isn't weighted down?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
Discussion Starter #7

Quote:
Originally Posted by victor-eyd /forum/post/12234617


Very cool. Just don't stand on the sofa :)

Stand on the sofa?? With a 6.5' finished ceiling height, I'm worried about standing up on the -floor- and smacking my head on the projector!!
 

·
RETIRED theater builder
Joined
·
35,189 Posts
Looks like you are making great progress but I'm puzzled by those horizontal braces on your exterior walls. Looks like untreated wood in contact with a cement wall? I understand the bottom plates, they are on top of the drycore.


As for stage, go for it. Sand goes under at least the areas under the sub(s), with insulation everywhere else. If your floor can take the weight you can join the "I can't believe I carried a ton of sand down to my basement club" and fill it all up.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
Discussion Starter #10

Quote:
Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC /forum/post/12237140


Looks like you are making great progress but I'm puzzled by those horizontal braces on your exterior walls. Looks like untreated wood in contact with a cement wall? I understand the bottom plates, they are on top of the drycore.


It's 1x strapping holding up the 8 mil moisture barrier. The plastic is bonded to the concrete with acoustic sealant, then another thick layer of sealant, followed by the strapping with a few tapcons to ensure the barrier stays in place. The 1xs are essentially a good 1/4" away from the foundation due to this, on the dry side of the poly.


I guess overbuilding would have dictated PT for that, but it's what I had around, and pretty common protocol around these parts.


Schneedoo and Superrabbit, thanks for the links. Great inspiration.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,296 Posts
Yeah for my Wife and I it's not bad. However my brothers and her father, brother are 6'7 and taller so.. It can get tight.. We are the only short ones in our families at 5'8"
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
Anyone have any ideas for sub placement?


Obvious lazy choice is just to dump it up front, but that would really mess up the symmetry of the look, and with LCR also up there in such a tight space, I could have space problems.


Back of the room, behind the seating? Although LF is of course omnidirectional, I don't have much experience with that kind of setup. Would it work?


Other option is to steal some space from the utility room and "bury" it in the wall, as I did with the rack (my Paradigm PDR-10 is front facing, and I believe has a rear port). Would I build a niche in the wall? Build some kind of false room for it with an AT panel? I have no idea. Help?


Thanks a ton for stopping by. It's really great to have some support, even for such a humble little build!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Finished framing out the basement stairwell yesterday and took this evening off to unpack and play with the Optoma HD7100 for awhile! It's been so long since I've had a working setup that I had to root around for 15 minutes just to find a box of DVDs to play with!


Hooked it up to my laptop and a little portable iPod speaker thing and aimed it at the living room wall. It's a small space, so I managed to get a crisp and clear 5' wide image (versus 7' in the build). This is my first front projector, and all I can say is wow - I'm hooked. A great incentive to keep on going...




BTW, any suggestions on the sub placement? I'm leaning towards building out a highly insulated and damped niche off to the side of the stage to recess it into the utility room, but I'm worried about the effect of its small volume on the PDR-10's rear port...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Framing is done! I also pulled the rest of the low voltage cables today, so after the pink stuff and vapor barrier go up this week, it's off to the races with drywall. HD is delivering 50 sheets of the stuff, along with my cabinet MDF next weekend, so hauling that into the basement will be fun.



Doing the LV runs was a fun job - you really start to visualize the space as a HT rather than some random room. This is a convenience outlet I put in by the seating area for laptops; a VGA to the projector plus a couple of RG6 lines for analog/digital audio to the rack. Right at the back you can see the extra nailers for the left and center speaker mounts as well as their cables.



Framing for the projector ceiling recess. It's 6" deep to swallow the Omnimount I bought and puts the HD7100 lens right at the ceiling line. Aside from the Belden VGA going to the convenience outlet, there's a run to the rack consisting of MonsterVideo3 component and S-video, Belden HDMI, and a spare Cat5e which might come in handy for triggers or IR one day. I also ran romex from this outlet to a dead box by the rack. I'll have to source one of those power inlets or else do the power cable-splice-bushing trick at the box as I'd like to feed the PJ from the Belkin PureAV FP60 power filter I just ordered.



I decided to try recessing the sub off to stage right to save space and streamline the screen wall. My SW is front-firing, but I have no idea at this point what the sonic effect will be. I'm going to overbuild the niche just in case, with extra framing, insulation, double drywall construction and sand in the base as well as in the adjacent stage sections.

I also took apart the lighting circuit and added a gang for future expansion. The GEs are a bit of a budget buster right now for me (even on ebay), but I may eventually go with some sort of powerline carrier solution like Smarthome's Insteon line, and I wanted to make sure I wouldn't have to take the wall apart to accomodate a controller.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
419 Posts
Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Another blockbuster weekend - I finished up the last of the insulation and vapor barrier last week and took delivery of the sheetrock, plywood and MDF (for the stage and cabinetry) on Saturday. Our driveway was way too narrow for the Home Depot forklift so they had to leave it at the curb. To add insult to injury, the side entrance to the basement is so cramped that we could just barely slide in one sheet at a time, so my buddy and I had to shuttle back and forth all morning, tackling the pile piece by piece.





Once we got it in there though, we were flying. My brother came over to help and between the three of us, we got most of the ceiling in place by the end of the day. Another one of the benefits of ridiculously low headroom is that you don't need a drywall lift, ladders or stilts to work the ceiling. Just heave it over your head and start fastening.

The next morning, I managed to get most of the walls at the screen end hung. I think I over-ordered sheetrock, so if I have spare sheets I may DD the front since the LCRs are wall-mounted and it would be nice to have a little extra mass and stiffness up there.





After cleaning up a bit, I ran another set of projector tests to make sure everything still lined up. There's just enough room for an 84"x48" (96" diagonal) 16:9 projection plus two inches of border per side, giving a respectable 32 degrees of viewing angle from 12 feet back. You can see just how small this space is from my table saw in the doorway - it's a portable model, but absolutely dominates the room when I'm using it.

With the size nailed down, I ordered a 90" swath of Da-Lite High Contrast Cinema Vision for my DIY screen. With the short throw and pretty good light control down there, I figured sacrificing some unnecessary gain for deeper blacks would be a good trade. Seeing the walls up, I'm also really happy with the location of the AV stack. My original design (before I became an AVS junkie) had the equipment in a standard low console beneath the screen. This will be much more polished.

Overall, a good weekend. A few more hanging sessions and I should be good to start taping and mudding (yuck).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,939 Posts
Wow... That's some good progress for a weekend. It's no joke when you haul in all that material hang the ceiling and then still have the stregnth and ability to get up the next day and do walls.



Coming together nicely, keep up the good work.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,111 Posts
You are cranking
it really is a huge help having people help along the way. Some days I wish I had someone to motivate me to get mine finished. I guess I should take down the projector from a spare room that I have it set up in
 
1 - 20 of 225 Posts
Top