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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi-


We are 99% sure we will be starting the basement finishing in the next 3 weeks. I have a nice, sunken area that I am planning on using for the HT. Many of the HT's I have seen seem to take a family room approach rather than a dedicated HT approach. How did you decide which one to take?


I am considering a large archway (10' wide?) for the entry into the HT so can enjoy the theater while doing other activities, like playing pool or using the treadmill. What tradeoffs am I looking at versus a dedicated HT?


If you click the link in my sig. you'll get a layout pic. This grey marks the sunken area, which is about 15W x 19, not including the 2ft deep notch on the left. I was planning on opening the HT via an archway on the right. To the top of the pic will be a bedroom with no access to the HT.

Thanks!!!


PS Is there a primer here somewhere?
 

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I did a dedicated room but laid it out more of a family room. I did this to offer the opportunity for more usage other than just movies/music.


If you make the archway large like the drawing shows, the room will act more like a single room so that's a good thing since the sunken area is essentiall square (not good) - especially if the height is around 8' . Some of the potential issues are:


IF you want/need isolation from the rest of the house, there is more area to deal with, hence more expense.


When you deal with internal acoustics, some of the treatments are probably going to end up in the other room. This can cause spousal approval issues - depends on the situation and how creative you can get with them. At this point, you can plan to build them into the walls so that they aren't as obtrusive if you choose.


The sunken area should not cause any real issues with the room. If it is open, it does however, provide 2 different height dimensions to deal with. Might not be a big deal depending on your priorities.
 

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I'm kinda the opposite of bp. I'm using a common room for HT. (Theoretically there's space downstairs, but we didn't want to sacrifice Barb's office, either shop, or the gym). Besides, the living room is close to the kitchen and has the right general layout (plenty of room behind the sweet spot for a true surround field). Where bp is trending a dedicated room toward a common room, we're going in the opposite direction, setting the monitor into the ex-fireplace soffit, redecorating around theater seats, etc.


The tradeoffs as I see are these:


Cons:

1) limited acoustic room treatments, since we don't want to redo the walls and big traps and panels just don't fit well,


2) need for more sophisticated light control (three windows in the room and three passages that need to be passable).


3) There are only two "proper" seats in the plan. Other seating will be non-theater type.


Pros:

1) Only minor construction needed. Just pulling out the fireplace and hearth and setting the monitor and center into it (with wiring). We're re-doing the wall treatments and millwork anyway.


2) Dual purpose furniture. The room will essentially have a living room suite in it selected for dual use, plus two theater seats for the permanent residents.


3) Don't need a separate multi-purpose media room.


Note that all three of the Pro points are cost reducers. To me a dedicated HT room is easier to make "right" in terms of acoustics, decorating, and light, but a well-done multipurpose room can get darn close.


OTOH, if I had a big space downstairs that wasn't being used, a dedicated room would be awfully tempting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The basement is about 1750 sq. ft. unfinished. (It is a Palisade from Richmond, if you live in the area.) It only has 5 windows, and most of the spots you might use for a 100% dedicated HT will eat one of them. The sunken part is an ideal family room type area, so we are 99.99% sure that is the spot. The room does not center in such a way that the recess will work as a dimensionally perfect spot for the screen. I will do something so it centers in the archway to the left... at least that is what I am thinking. There's a beam across that area, too, and the subfloor vent which I will keep access to.


All of the walls are 75% concrete, then wood studs. The floor joists are that MDF beam stuff.


I do have an option of extending the family room area up the step and to the right. If I do too much of that the HT will also have the utility closet with the HVAC. I am also thinking of putting a web bar along the wall in that area to keep rattles out of the HT area.


To the "north" of the HT/Family room will be a bedroom with probably no access to the HT. You would get to that and the bathroom by going to the left after you hit the stairs. The rest of the basement would go to the right. We want a "romper room", an exercise area, and a place to sit by the fireplace which will heat the whole downstairs.


Above the HT is the real family room, which opens into a kitchen/nook to the east.


Thanks again for the replies. Did anyone else toil over this? Does anyone know of any cool, DIY basements sites?
 

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Here's my $0.02.


I suggest that, if you are really into a "theater" experience, you should build a dedicated room.


You said that this space is below the "family room." Well, if you already have a family room, then why are you building another? I don't ask this to be a smart-ass. I'm quite serious.


I have to admit that, after about 6 months of having our dedicated theater, I started second-guessing our "dedicated HT" decision. The reason for the second-guessing was that I would measure the time we spent in the theater in a given month in hours, not days. Instead, we spent a lot of time in our family room off of our kitchen, where we ate, our one-year-old played, etc. Also, during parties, the theater didn't get used much (except during parites centered around sporting events -- e.g., Superbowl, Final Four, Kentucky Derby, etc.). Also, that time in our lives coincided with a very young daughter and an unforeseeable and very unusual career workload for me (which had me working nights and weekends).


Now, after two years of having it complete and getting back to more of a usual lifestyle, I've come back around (with expectations a bit more realistic). I would have been unsatisfied with an "open" theater. As a previous poster mentioned, sound control will be a major issue. This is one of the largest benefits of the dedicated room. We (or others) can be in the theater with the movie (or music) as loud as we want after our daughter has gone to bed. With an open room, I doubt this would have been possible. During parties, some people (usually children) end up in the theater, while others (just outside it) play pool or socialize.


Also, we came to grips with our real family room. We have a 5.1 surround system up there with a 42" HDTV. It is great for sports and regular TV watching. But, my wife is into this hobby as well and doesn't mind the electronics in our "real" family room. So, I still have decent audio and video in the "casual" use system. For serious HDTV or movies (even sports), we go into the theater. Now that we have HD TiVo, life is much better and the theater gets used about 3-4 evenings/days per week.


It really depends on what you want out of it. If you want sound-control, I strongly recommend a dedicated (well-insulated) room with attention to sound-control issues. If you want more of a rec room, then open it up. I've just laid out some pros and cons for me.
 

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We started with an "open" room - but over the last few years have decided that the theater setup while awesone for movies, gets in the way of the "living" part of the living room. Our room is too small to be both since we cannot fit enough seating when guests come over for just chatting etc.


So now what was our extra kids playroom - which has been whittled down toy-wise -is becoming a small theater....


About 70% done!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks again for the feedback. I am surprised that more people didn't agonize over this kind of thing... maybe too traumatic to recall?


Jason, your comments are in line with where I am at. My son is just past 2 and my daughter is 4 1/2 months. The family room is also the kids playroom (as is the unfurnished living room). The current HT is in the family room and we enjoy the HT experience in there. Part of the basement will be a large, kids romper-room.


Your HT looks very nice and is large. What are the dimensions of the room and screen? How far back is the first seat?


There are a few reasons for the open, family room style HT.

* For sporting events, I expect a lot of foot-traffic and people. With a dedicated HT (of my size) I am concerned the layout would take away from the experience. Would there be too many people jammed into one room? Would the women not want to be in there (save the obvious comments ;) )? I want the room to be used by everyone, including the wives during playgroup or Bunko.


* I do not expect sound leakage to be an issue because in the current family room, which is open on 2/3 of the side wall, I can get away with a lot of sound. Even the sub, which fills the room with tight, punchy bass does not leak very far out of the room. If it was not for the surrounds in the ceiling (WAF), which leak into the MBR, I could get away with a lot more. I may add heavy curtains to he basement HT in the future for a pseudo-dedicated experience. Does that even help?


* I want the screen visible from the lounge area of the basement. If you checked out the layout, I have a lot of room behind the screen. My current plan is to have a fireplace in the lower-right corner of the basement with a place to lounge around. If you chose you could sit there and still participate in the movie or game. This strategy will also help the most when it comes to negotiating equipment purchases with the wife. When it comes to HT, she enjoys it but criticizes my involvement...


* I may have a spot between the lounge and the HT for a pool table. Now you have a place for a full party. The kids are in the romper-room, people are lounging and playing pool, and others are in the HT watching the game or movie.


* I believe I can get the acoustics "good enough". This is actually one of my larger concerns. I would hate to plop down the money and feel the sound was lacking. For the most part, I would be the only one that notices, so investing more to make a difference would be a battle.


By the way, if for some reason I hate the open HT, I could (with $$$) rotate the HT for a 100% dedicated area of about 12x18.


I will call these all naive assumptions because this part of HT (and basement design) is new to me. Still, this is my current thought process. It seems that sound leakage is the biggest issue that drives people to dedicated areas. Are there any other major issues I need to consider?


Thanks again for the feedback!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hi-


One more thought that is kinf of independent of keeping the room open or not.

The room is about 15W x 19, not including a 2ft deep notch on one side. If I keep the room open for the purpose of being able to watch the screen outside of the room, the screen will be on the short wall.


Am I hosing myself if I don't put the screen on the long wall? The notch on the top is where I am thinking of putting a screen.


Click my sig. for a pic of the layout to see what I mean.

This grey marks the sunken area, which is about 15W x 19, not including the 2ft deep notch on the left. I was planning on opening the HT via an archway on the right. To the top of the pic will be a bedroom with no access to the HT.


Thanks again for the feedback!
 

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Acoustic issues include not only sound control, they include control of room modes. A dedicated HT room is acoustically a much simpler problem than an open room (acoustically "rooms"). Also, in a dedicated space you can apply treaments that would be just plain ugly and unacceptable in a multi-use room.


But if you're happy with your sound now, it probably wouldn't be any worse.
 

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I pondered this setup for about 4 years...


I finally decided to open it up for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted an open social floor plan so that friends and family could flow from the Media room to the Bar/Game room without say "Hey, I'm going in there to hear the boom/crash/boom... I'll talk to you later." Having a designated HT room, the only way to really watch a show/movie/sporting event is to have the doors shut, the blinds drawn, lights off, phone turned off, and everything quiet... It just seems to separate all the TV buffs from the social buffs and can also divide a social event or family. I can just hear my wife getting pissed off for having to come all the way downstairs just to tell me "Phone-call... didn't you hear me yell..." (insert snotty reply to wife here) :D


Second, In order for me to get to the other side of the basement/bathroom, I had to either go through Media room or behind a HT room. So, my options were to make an open walkway at the back for an open media room, or build a narrow dark hallway around a closed off HT room. I almost went with the hallway idea until I figure, "Why waste 4x15 ft. of empty dark hallway just to have a separate room... It's extra sheet-rock, insulation, wood, labor, and money for zero utility. If I had a boat load of play money and I could have made a really killer soundproof HT room, I would have done a HT room but I just couldn't justify it nor afford it...


Third, I might have wanted a closed off HT room, but the next owner may not have. It's easier to close it up than rip it open. I know people have said that it helped sell their house but let's face it, how many of your friends, neighbors, and family (excluding this board) have a projector and/or a HT room in there house. Not all, but most women could care less about a HT room. My wife would rather have a damn scrapbook room with a 10" TV in it than a 110" screen-room...


Your only option is to try to get the best of both worlds. In my case, my wife wanted it open and I would have liked it closed. I played with the idea of double doors so that for parties and sporting events, we could open both doors and entertain in both rooms and still have an open feel and then during movies, close the doors and seal it up. But, double french doors or pocket doors are not an ideal home theater friendly solution and I really didn't have a good entrance point (side entrance, interfered with side and rear speakers.


So, I decided to make pillars and arches for room separation, which will hide my side and rear speakers, and I will now have plenty of sitting and standing room in the back, within the walkway and high-top bar.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Quote:
I finally decided to open it up for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted an open social floor plan so that friends and family could flow from the Media room to the Bar/Game room without say "Hey, I'm going in there to hear the boom/crash/boom... I'll talk to you later." Having a designated HT room, the only way to really watch a show/movie/sporting event is to have the doors shut, the blinds drawn, lights off, phone turned off, and everything quiet... It just seems to separate all the TV buffs from the social buffs and can also divide a social event or family. I can just hear my wife getting pissed off for having to come all the way downstairs just to tell me "Phone-call... didn't you hear me yell..." (insert snotty reply to wife here)
This is my primary line of thinking. HT is something my wife appreciates, but she also has that thing where your spouse is jealous of something that takes attention away from her. If I go 100% dedicated, she will think of something for me to do everytime I go into the theater. I also think she would not use the space if it was closed off.


By keeping it open I am hoping she will use and enjoy the area a lot more. Keeping it open for social gatherings is part of it, too. I plan on having a large archway in between the HT/family room and the rest of the basement. For partial sound and light contol I am considering a heavy curtain of sorts. Does anyone have feedback on that? I thought about using pocket doors, but people seem to frown upon that.


The other issue I am facing is where to put the screen. Right now it is slated to be put on the short wall (opening on the left of pic, screen on the right). That is so you can see it from the other room. It would be better to have it on the top, but then you need to go into the room to see what's going on instead of just standing up or peeking over.

Quote:
Third, I might have wanted a closed off HT room, but the next owner may not have. It's easier to close it up than rip it open. I know people have said that it helped sell their house but let's face it, how many of your friends, neighbors, and family (excluding this board) have a projector and/or a HT room in there house. Not all, but most women could care less about a HT room. My wife would rather have a damn scrapbook room with a 10" TV in it than a 110" screen-room...
I agree that someone else can convert this to a dedicated room... maybe even me! :D
 

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Curtain won't affect the bass.


I'd like to hear more on pocket doors. I know they're a pita to install, but it's the only realistic solution I can see for a couple of issues.
 

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I've been to a couple of showrooms around town and for space, convenience, and instant darkness, most of them use pocket doors. They don't keep sound in/out as well as a sealed door but they do alright for the not-so-picky HT enthusiasts. Some say that they rattle and vibrate during low frequency rumbles but I'm sure there are ways to hush them up with some kind of sound absorbing plan. For the best of both worlds, pocket doors or french doors would be ideal.


I thought about doing exterior wooden french doors (a pair of 36" doors for a 72" opening) but for my side entrance application limited my side speaker options with the doors opening into the room.


I just finished installing my 2x10x9ft 3-ply LVL today and it wasn't as bad of a task as I thought. Once I opened it, I'm glad that I went that route. With a L shape layout, one 26x15 room and the 15x24 room together look huge. I've already accepted the fact that I'm not going to get George Lucas-like acoustics but instead throw Lucas-like parties during sporting events...


Good luck deciding...
 

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I placed pocket doors in my room after being warned not to. I did modify the original frame and placed the door in a 2"x6" wall. My room is not yet complete so I can't really discuss the sound leakage issues.

The issue for me was more of keeping the basement open feeling and not cutting up what I wanted to be a large open space. Now when we watch movies the doors will pull together, otherwise the basement will retain its open feel.


My solution for Theater vs. Social events was simple.

During movies the doors are pulled shut. Sound control my not be "perfect", but for me form and function must coexist.

When entertaining doors are opened and a rear projection screen is hung in doorway and a mirror is hung in front of projector. Image is bounced off of mirror onto RP screen giving me an approx 70" (WS) image. The door way is between the theater and what I call the bar/rec room area. I can't see people sitting in theater seats for an entire sporting event. People want to move around. This setup gives me the best of both worlds and two big screens for the price of one. I've already tested this and it works great. Unlike front projection when projecting from the rear light control is not as much of an issue. As long as the theater room is dark the bar/ rec area can be nicely lit and still maintain a nice bright image on screen. It's really no different than any other RPTV.
 

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Interesting idea!


Any evidence that the pocket doors rattle?
 

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I really don't anticipate a problem with the doors rattling. That was my main concern originally. The doors I am using are quite heavy. However if there is a problem I plan to place a Dado cut on the doors so that they will lock together and place inset a magnetic strip or some type of fastener to lock the doors together. If all else fails and it really is a problem I can always pull the doors out fill the cavity with cellulose and mount the doors like normal French doors. I figure if I started with pockets I could change them if needed.

BTW: It's not very hard to install pocket doors. I thought it would be over my head and set a hole day aside to put them in. I was done in a couple hours. Just make sure your header is level.
 

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When I say PITA, I mean with regards to installing them in an already finished room.


Good idea with the dado and magnetic strips.
 

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Tweak;


I have about the same basement / room layout as what your considering w/ exception to the sunken floor (which I think is really cool!!). Anyways, I'm going for a 'Media Room' in lieu of a dedicated HT.


I had a dedicated HT in my last home and although I think sound & image are very important, it just didn't fit our needs. We are always having people over and it's just hard for us to go into a room with friends and just sit there staring at a screen - so we've opted for layout with the center of attention being a large screen media center. With my layout, however, it will seem sortof dedicated for when it's just us and we are strictly using it ourselves. I like having the ability to switch modes with the rooms. I can be satisfied with 'good' sound.


Attached is my layout. Sorry for the image quality. It's hard to scan in my pencil & pen plans so that it is easily viewable. Also the size restraints for the image don't help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
My wife, for some reason HATES pocket doors. I am having trouble even getting one in the bathroom. She has "approved" some kind of heavy curtain to close off the area. (Hmmmm... sounds like another trade-off thread... WAF versus HT perfection).


Neuner... from your sketch it looks like if you moved the door your could watch movies whilst sitting on the throne! And yes, that is something I would consider during the design phase.


By the way, I did my "plan" in Excel. I made every row and column 20 pixels and called it a 1/4'. I even put tick marks with the number every foot. On my home printer it prints quickly, but fancy printer at work processes it for about 30 minutes before printing.


Does anyone have a good, free drafting program? Any suggestions?
 
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