This first post will be updated with any new information and as a summary for what was discussed so far. Right now this thread is under construction and I am in the process of transposing the information. I literally have a Word document that is 100 pages long I am sorting through to put the information in a more concise and presentable format.
- Introduction- Why Laminates
- Initial Testing- Color Elimination and Durability Test
- Color and Gain Data
- Construction and Cutting
- Border Options and Masking
- Issues and Concerns
- Screen Shots
- Polyurethane How To
There is an index at the top of this post with links to the main thread topics. Also there is a tread that was created just for the purpose of showcasing people's laminate screens
This all started out as a quest for a material over the 4x8 size that is common and readily available. If you want a larger screen though, finding a substrate larger than that can start to become tricky, but some solutions have been identified and they ended up being a surprise as to how well they performed.
There are numerous laminate manufacturers, currently Wilsonart is the primary manufacturer that is being used and has color analysis done. Other companies will be tested and color data collected as well, but the goal is to identify a suitable white, and ideally three shades of gray. These colors and manufacturers must be something that is readily available in any part of the country. Other sources will be investigated as well, such as Pionite, and Formica has had initial color testing done. They will be discussed in more detail later, but the short story is they didn’t test well as a good color for a screen.
It was decided more detailed color information was needed so a dialog was opened with Wilsonart, who put me in contact with their color lab. They provided color analysis, which has now been checked and tested for accuracy. That information will be covered in Section 3.
Below is a quick list of the colors that have had spectrophotometer testing done and their identifier numbers. Color Codes
Designer White D354-60
Fashion Grey D381-60
Platinum D315-60 – Actual screen testing still in progress
Dove Grey D92-60 – Actual screen testing still in progress Availability
To order Designer White, go to any Lowes or Home Depot and tell them you want Designer White D354-60, then the size sheet you want. It comes in 4x8, 5x8, 5x10, and 5x12 sheets. (The grays are also available in the same sizes) Note:
Home Depot and Lowes are listed by Wilsonart as authorized resellers. They are easy for most people to find, but they don’t usually have the best price. Typically the general purpose laminate we are talking about is $1.66 a square foot, but Lowes and Home Depot add on a $15-$20 ‘handling fee’. Some people have used the reseller locater on Wilsonart’s web site to find other sources in their area and they are usually much cheaper if available.
Delivery time seems to vary from one Home Depot to another, but typically it is two weeks tops. Most get their delivery every Thursday, so as long as you have your order placed Monday morning it should be in the following Thursday. Again this could vary from store to store.
The cheapest anyone has found it was in Maryland, which was around $36 for a 4x8 sheet. Weight
General Purpose grade is .322 pounds per square foot = 10.3 pounds for a 4x8 sheet.
Post forming grade is .260 pounds per square foot = 8.32 pounds for a 4x8 sheet.
Vertical grade is .186 pounds per square foot = 5.95 pounds for a 4x8 sheet.
For larger sizes just do the math...
Verical grade laminate is .7mm thick (0.028”) and as such it would work best with a backing or mounted to the wall. If a frame is intended with the laminate attached to the frame then the general purpose grade is stiffer at 1.22mm (0.048”) and would not require a backing. Paintable
I also checked the laminates to see if they could be used as a paint able substrate for those that want a painted screen solution. I know laminate can be painted from my reading through home remodeling sites, but they made it sound like a long involved process requiring sanding and special primers.
To change the color of it as a counter top yes, but as a screen it will not get the abuse a counter top or table top gets so no special primers were required. This of course decreases the durability, but it is doubtful a person is going to actually hose down and then freeze their screen anyway. It should be pointed out though that painting will negate the benefits of laminates and their outstanding performance. The question was asked as to if they could be painted, and I answered it. It did though show that we could introduce a clear poly coating if needed. That ended up resolving some hot spotting issues some people had with Fashion Grey. More on that and why it only happens with the grays in Section 6.
This was a good discovery because it also means that the grays may be an excellent material for advanced top coat paint methods which will utilize the gray as a pre-made durable base color. That will be explored in a separate thread as well. We are trying to keep this thread strictly to laminates as a single solution. Cutting and mounting Laminate
You can cut laminate material with a circular saw, saber saw, backsaw or utility knife. The saw blade should be a fine-tooth blade. Put a strip of masking tape where the cut line is to be made. This helps prevent chipping and makes the line easier to see.
When using a power circular saw or saber saw, cut from the back side of the laminate. These saws cut on the upstroke. Cutting from the back will help prevent chipping. On hand saws, cut from the front side at a low angle.
Important: Always cut the sheets of laminated plastic slightly oversized to allow for trimming and if you are going to drill any mounting holes. You can cover the extra with the trim border for a nice professional finish.
There are also special laminate cutting blades available to use with utility knives. Use a straightedge or a steel square to guide the knife for a smooth and even cut. Be extra careful to make one straight line. Sometimes the straightedge can slip and cause the blade to slip and go off the line. Just be careful and make a single score first. Don't try to go too deep with the first scoring, during the second pass you can apply more pressure and the blade will stay in the first scored groove better than if there was no score line at all.
Once you have the laminate scored, snap it on the scored line by lifting the shorter end and applying slight pressure. It should snap cleanly. As stated before, make the score a little bigger than what you want for your screen in case of chipping.
You can also cut laminated plastic sheets with a fine-tooth hand saw. If you own a router that will also work. Use an edge guide and you can get a very precise line cut. A good point was brought up, and that is to file the edge down to remove any sharp spots. Even though it will be covered with trim, you don't want to get cut from a sharp edge while hanging it.
More detailed information will be discussed in Section 4.
[BANANA]Important Update: To prevent waves from uneven pressure when adhering the laminate to a frame, only glue the outside edges and not any cross braces. Or use a backer board.
That is the basics; more details will be presented in each of the sections. I like this type of outline because it allows people to easily find the basic information right up front in the first post, and then they can click links to get more in depth information if they are interested. I have seen forums and threads that because so unwieldy that it was virtually impossible to find any information. Mech is familiar with seeing this too I know… so we are both trying to learn from things and organize things better here on HomeTheaterShack. If anyone has any suggestions or something they would like to see, let us know. If we aren’t made aware of something we can’t fix it or make it better
So with the basics out of the way, again why laminates? Well I am a movie buff, and I like to watch big epic movies on a big screen. There certainly is nothing wrong with a 45x80 screen, but I had the room and wanted something larger. I immediately ran into a problem. Some of the options other people were using and recommending just weren’t available in my area. I found some places that would ship, but shipping costs were astronomical, in some cases the substrate was $60 and the company wanted $200 for shipping… so something had to be found that was relatively inexpensive and easy for anyone to get.
Well I found a place that sells Celtec and Sintra, some of the more popular substrates, but it wasn’t as cheap as what other's were getting it for, a 4x8 sheet was $85 for a MM thickness, a 6MM thickness will be $165. They said they possibly could get me a 5x10 sheet as well but they weren’t sure, but if they could they did say the price will be significantly higher.
They also had acrylic mirrors for $97 for a 4x8 sheet 8MM thick, 6MM jumps to almost $200. They would ship, but the cost was as much as the substrate or more.
Still though... no 5x10 material. I asked both Home Depot and Lowes if they could order MDF in sheets larger than 4x8, and they said no. This was getting discouraging. I couldn’t find a suitable substrate in the size I needed at a reasonable price anywhere. I thought about going with a material that came in 4x8 size sheets, but I'd be dropping from a 110" diagonal screen to a 98" diagonal screen. Sounds kinda trivial I know, but dropping from a 54x96 screen to a 48x85 screen is a 1,104 square inch viewing difference... Just to put that in perspective, that's bigger than the viewing area on my Toshiba 36inch TV.
That's a hard sale now isn't it?
The other thing I ran into was bias and ego. It seemed like every other week there was a new ‘mix of the week’ and everyone was recommending their solution as the one solution everyone should be using. Some were good, but some were down right awful.
Below is all done tongue in cheek and meant for fun...
Imagine this pitch
Salesperson "Sir I'm sorry we don't have a screen in the size you want you'll have to settle for this one, it's smaller but much better... however I can't let you see it in person."
Reply "Why is it better?"
Salesperson "Because... I told you it was better just now."
Reply "Well what about those screens over there that are the right size?"
Salesperson "You don't want THOSE... that's a remote tab tensioned screen and not worth the money. Besides you can't see those in person either. Nyyaah..."
Reply "But I really like my 110" image and don't even know what the other one would look like or if I could even make it... $100 for the sheet, paint, sprayer, trim, velvet... gee that's starting to add up... how much was that screen again?"
Salesperson "$575 for the tab tension screen, and $245 for the fixed frame screen, but you really don't want those. Besides, I won't let you see those either unless you buy them, but I suggest you stay away from them."
Salesperson "Well... it's a ‘manufactured’ screen that's why. Just settle for the smaller screen and you'll be happy... trust me... you'll like paint much better anyway"
Reply "Because it's cheaper or because it's better?"
Reply "Maybe what? Better or cheaper?"
Salesperson "Well you won't know now will you?! Nyyahh..."
Reply "I already have a DIY screen made with Behr Silver Screen, I just want to make a permanent screen that's better."
Salesperson "You used
Reply "Yeah, is there something wrong with it?"
Salesperson "It sucks."
Reply "No it doesn't."
Salesperson "Yes it does."
Reply "Okay WHY?"
Salesperson "Because I said so. You should have used a different mix. Don't you read
Reply "But lots of people have used Silver Screen and love it."
Salesperson "Yeah and 'lots of people' suck too! Like you for not using the right one."
Reply "Okay, so what mix should
Reply "Depends on what?"
Salesperson "Depends on if you want your screen to suck or not."
Reply "Okay now you're just talking in circles... what is the best mix?"
Salesperson "I can't tell you that."
Reply "And why not?"
Salesperson "Because you have to decide that on your own. Besides, mixes change every week, so whatever you use now will suck next week anyway."
Reply "Now you're just making things up."
Salesperson "No I'm not. May I suggest crayons for your screen? I hear they are very popular with preschoolers."
Reply "Why does this have to be so frustrating?"
Salesperson "I don't know, you tell me. You're the one that wants your stupid silly 110" screen... now be off."
Reply "But I just want a piece of 5x10 plastic to make a screen."
Salesperson "I said you can't have one. Take the 4x8 and be gone!"
Reply "Okay I want the tab tension screen over there."
Salesperson "Can't have it."
Reply "Okay okay... I want the 4x8 acrylic mirror, a sprayer, some molding, velvet, paint, miscellaneous hardware to put the frame together and mount everything, how much will that be?"
Salesperson "Um... hmmm... mirror $97, decent sprayer, say, oh $80-90, wood for a frame $15 or so, paint, $30-40 if you don't screw it up little man and need more... or worse, you have to practice,
… you stupid annoying person... now where was I... okay... that will be $237. Oh, I forgot the velvet and sales tax... wait for me to readjust that... Sir that will be $5,387,932.41... just kidding... That comes to $275 give or take a little."
Reply "WHAT?! Okay give me the fixed frame screen for $245."
News Headline: Breaking news... DIYer stuffs projector screen up salesman's behind... details at eleven!"
Of course that was in fun, but it sure did feel like that sometimes. My goal is to make things easy as well as show some performance data and screen shots, and then everyone can make up their own mind on which way they want to go. This thread is about laminates as screens, so naturally they will be the topic in here, but that isn’t saying or suggesting they are the only available option.
So without further adieu, Welcome to the Laminate Screen Thread!