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My wife and I are just now wrapping up a few loose ends on a3 month project finishing our basement. It is a roughly 500 square foot areawith a 15’x14’ HT area and a 12’x14’ play area for the kids. We did all of thework ourselves with exception of dry wall and carpet. For the electrical we receivedhelp from a family member who is a certified electrician.

Our goal with this project get the TV/HT off of our mainliving area so movies could be viewed without disturbing the rest of the familyand to create a place where our kids and their friends could play, especiallyin the winter. We started this project talking about DD with GG and hatchannel. However, the budget did not allow for all of that so we did the bestwe could with our budget in mind.

I will get some pictures up tonight.

Framing
Most of the basement was precast superior walls so there wasnot much framing needed. The adjoining wall between us and the neighbors ispoured concrete about 4’ high and then visible fireboard from 4’ up. So we didhave to frame a wall between us and the neighbors for sound reasons. Anotherwall created to make a utility room. Wealso framed under the stairs to create some storage and counter space. Weinitially wanted to put a mini-fridge in this area but due to budget overageswe axed that idea.

Electric
We opted for ceiling mounted lights mostly due to soundpenetration to the upper floor. Can lights, backer boxes, and the additionalelectrical work were going to add a bit more money than we wanted to spend. Weran a dedicated 20 amp circuit to the HT equipment and another 20amp to thecounter area where the mini-fridge was supposed to go…

Water Ingress
We have had two instances where we had water in thebasement. Our wash machine is on the second floor with an overflow drain pipethat emptied on to the basement floor. Both times we had water in the basementwas due the washing machine. For this reason I relocated the overflow into thesump pump pit and installed a sump pump. The pipes were run through the wall.Right now the sump pump pit is under the couch but we did build a small 4” tallbox covered in carpet to hide it if the couch ever moves.

Insulation/soundproofing
Being that we were skipping most of the more expensive soundproofing techniques the insulation was crucial in minimizing the sound transmissionthrough the walls and ceiling. All of the framed walls were insulated with R13and the Ceiling with R30. In addition we caulked all of the holes electricboxes with 100% silicone caulk and used duct seal to cover each box. Like thebacker pads duct seal is supposed to stay pliable and adds mass to the back ofthe box. Duct seal is more difficult to work with than backer pads but it is onlya fraction of the cost. All of the air ducts we added for the room were donewith insulated flex pipe to reduce the noise transmitted back to the mainline.The dry wall on the ceiling and the wall adjoining the neighbors is 5/8”everything else is ½”. I stared Audyssey and ran upstairs to see how loud itwas. I could hear bit of the lows in the speakers and sub but that was it.Looking back I wish I would have done some hat channel as it would have onlybeen $500 extra. DD and GG was much more at over $1000 more.

Low voltage
Monoprice was my best friend in this portion. Speaker wireswere all 12-2 in wall from monoprice, monoprice HDMI cables, monoprice lowvoltage boxes, monopice hdmi plate for behind the tv, monoprice key stone plate(2x HDMI, RG6, 2x Cat 5), Monoprice speaker plates in the four corners, andfinally monoprice 4x speaker plate for behind the HT cabinet.



Tip #1: Plan, Plan, Plan
We spent almost a month of planning this project. Everythingfrom room size and shape to building materials and budgets. I spent almost aweek reading building codes alone. The only time we ran into any issues is whenwe made on the fly decision changes. The one that sticks out was a last minute decisionto add an in wall cabinet to the “bar” area, ideally for glasses. My Dad hadthe idea while we were framing it, my wife popped open a cabinet catalog we hadfrom when we re-did the kitchen, and we picked a size. Only to find out afterit was too late that the size was custom order and cost ~$300. That is why my “bar”doesn’t have a mini-fridge LOL.

Tip #2: Know your strengths and weaknesses
Last fall we decided to insulate and drywall the garage. Theinsulation when quick. The drywall, however, was a long drawn out process that ultimatelyI was disappointed in the outcome. Walking into the basement project I knew I waspaying someone for the drywall…

Tip #2.5a: Don’t pick the cheapest drywall contractor
LOL so yeah found the company online. Guy seamed very knowledgeable,insured, registered with BBB. Had a webpage with “customer testimonies” the guyseemed legit. He was prompt and very courteous.After he finished, my wife and mother in-law began to prime and noticed someareas that were not so good. Starting with the ceiling you could see everyscrew… looked like he missed the skim coat. Several of the joints looked likethe dragged a rake through the mud rather than a putty knife. The issues went on and on. The hanging wassolid, all of the issues were mud and purely cosmetic. After calling him backto “fix” the issues and him simply making many of them worse my wife and motherin-law spent two days sanding and filling. Moral of the story get some referencesyou can talk to and check the website if they are stock photos (his were)…

Tip #2.5b: Run wires through conduit
The dry wall contractor ended up cutting both of the HDMIcables that run from the HT cabinet to the tv when he routed out the lowvoltage boxes… luckily it was a short vertical run that was fairly easilyreplaced, however, hind sight I wish I would have run my HDMI and speaker wiresthrough that blue conduit stuff so they could be replace if need be.

Tip #3: Label your wires very well
I had all of my speaker wires labeled using duct tape and a sharpie.At some point some of the duct tape painted over and other pieces got knockedoff somehow. I ended up spending an hour with a DMM tracing them all.

Tip #4: Buy, borrow, or steal (not really) the right toolsfor the job
My Dad and I found a framing gun on Craig’s list for a verygood price. Dad also had finishing nail gun, a small compressor, and miter saw.In addition we barrowed a ramset gun from a friend. I could not imagine framingor trimming the entire room without these tools, it simply would have takentwice as long. If you plan to do it yourself buy the correct tools, they don’t haveto be top of the line DeWalt to make your life easier.

Tip #5: Future proof your build
This is something I did very poorly on. Starting with my keystone plate… I have 6opening and 5 are already full. I wish I would have gotten a double gang andhave a bunch of extra holes.

Rough in extra speakers and video wires. I do not have any plans for a projector,Atmos, or even 7.1 but I wish I would have roughed in those options. I lookedat it at the time but with our budget being uncertain I opted not to pay theextra money for the long HDMI cables, extra boxes, and wire. I have the abilityto run wires through the soffit however, already having them would have beenbetter.

Tip #6: Have fun and get the family involved
If you read the above you already know I had my wife, dad, andmother in-law involved. I also had my two year old, father in-law, botherin-law, and sister involved. We had more and a few evenings where we had peopleover order a couple pizzas and tackled some small projects. The look on mytwo-year old face when he walked down after the carpet was installed and said “Wedid this Daddy. It is beautiful” was priceless.

 
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