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Discussion Starter #1
This journey started for me about 25 years ago, with the latest chapter starting about 6 years ago, in my current home.

I'll try to summarize my current build, and what's happening next.

I would love advice, recommendations, etc, which is why I will share as much detail as possible (mostly visual). It makes it much easier to understand it, that way....
 

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This is how it started. A detached garage on a 1920's house. There was no way we were going to drive a modern car to the back of the lot and into this cramped garage on a daily basis. On the other hand, it was perfectly isolated by a very large infinite air space from the rest of the living space -- and the neighbors!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
At this point, all we've really done is yank out some of the old shelves and cabinets, and (important!) had the old concrete slab replaced.

LESSON #1: A traditional garage concrete floor is sloped for run off. YOU DONT WANT THAT in a home theater (or, really, any domestic room). But I wasn't smart enough to know that's how they would pour the floor, so I wasn't smart enough to tell them not to.

In the end, the building itself was so unsquare (80+ years of settling will do that) that it wasn't a complete disaster since everything had to be custom measured and plumb was never the same as what gravity wanted, but it was a miss, and a lesson learned --

-- and it would have made the whole "room within a room" easier to keep level, plumb and square.
 

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Next: Time to clear the old drywall off, and check out the status of things.

The good news is that redwood last fovere so things were structurally okay.

But the electrical was not ideal (it would all have to be replaced). There were plants growing through one wall, due a neighbor's untended vines. There was some nasty insulation, ravaged by time and rodents. Etc. Etc.

 

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And then the start of the framing.

The general concept was "a room within a room".

It got a little complicated in some places, notably with the cross beams in the rafters of the garage. If we had simply made the roof lower than them, we would have had a room that was under 7 feet in height. NO GOOD.

So we went with a modified concept, where we built around them -- and the end result was that it looks like beams running through the roof of the room. Not bad. Rather proud of that solution, in fact.

Less clearly a win: Instead of just using the max space in the garage, which would have resulted in an essentially square room about 16' on each side, we carved out a space about 12' x 16' to get some rectangular-ness to the space -- thinking it would help with acoustics, and that the space outside the theater space would be a nice ante-rooom -- at first for a little exercise space, and the gear, and later (much later) for a lobby. I call this not clearly a win because I do feel a little space challenged into the room.

Not a win at all: The internal door. Well, the position is not too bad. But I made two follow on mistakes: I did not put the screen wall near the door -- which means the door is near the seats -- which means we that valuable space that could have been used for seats was needed for walking space. And the other mistake with the door: It opens INTO the theater space. Doh! The other direction, while non standard perhaps, would be far more space friendly inside it.

(Follow on lesson learned from earlier: The sloped nature of the concrete slab meant that the door could NOT be hung plumb because it would run into the sloped floor. Ugh! Of course, having it open the other direction would have solved that, too.)

I'll post photos in batches below, a bit later, illustrating this phase.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
And the framing for the rest of the room's walls, including painting the old walls (exterior walls) with primer, adding spray foam to seal things, using flashing vapor barrier under the framing, padding places where metal met metal (like the simpson strong ties), etc.

 

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And then those pesky ceiling beams. You can see where I would have liked to have put the ceiling.

And that I ran the main ceiling joists at that level.

I need to dig up the photos of what ACTUALLY worked -- to build something almost "around" the old structure, and not touch the new one at all. The contractor I hired to teach me framing and do a significant amount of the heaving lifting and work at this stage thought I was CRAZY at first, but gradually understood to the point where he has great ideas about how to achieve the decoupled goals in this odd situation.

You may wonder why I bothered to try to do it this way, given that I wasn't attached to a living space or sleeping space nor sharing a wall with a neighbor. But my goal was isolation from the outside, in addition to keeping sound from escaping. It mostly worked: Even at full tilt, if you are outside the garage, it just sounds like something faint in the distance. And when inside, if you have nothing playing, you'll not hear the outside world unless something is running a combustion engine very loud and very close.

 

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One advantage to the door opening inward... You can do a double door and have another door opening outward to seal the room better for sound leakage. I am also doing a garage to HT conversion right now, so I will be following your thread to see what I can learn. :T
 

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Discussion Starter #12
One advantage to the door opening inward... You can do a double door and have another door opening outward to seal the room better for sound leakage. I am also doing a garage to HT conversion right now, so I will be following your thread to see what I can learn. :T
That's very true -- if I cared about sound leaking into the rest of the garage. :bigsmile:

In my case, I don't, since the garage is not connected to any other structure, and outside the garage, you have that second door (the exit to from the garage) which pretty much kills any transmission.

So for my tradeoff (easier to get around the room) an outward facing door would be preferable. In fact, so preferable that I am considering ripping it out and flipping it! :doh:
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Next up, running wires.

I wanted to achieve a few things:

Future proof as much as possible. So this meant running five or six separate 20amp circuits in the room. That way, I could separate things like the projector from the subwoofer from the space heater from the power recline chair from the electric screen from the lights on a fader from the lights not on a fader from the blah blah blah. No, I didn't plan to have all that stuff in there, but why the not spend an extra 100 bucks to run separate lines from the subpanel in order have options down the road?

I also ran lots of low voltage wire. And I am learning now I should have run even more. I ran drops for 7 locations. In each location I ran thick speaker wire, two coax, one XLR. This means I could run all active speakers in the room. And seven subwoofers. Or all passive speakers. Etc. I ended up using stuff in creative ways, such as I have had a turntable in the room, but I needed to get the line level out from the turntable pre-amp, to the speaker amp in the equipment rack outside the room. Well, there come a couple of XLR drops to the rescue -- balanced turntable audio safely attended to. Or, no matter where a sub should be placed, there's a coax/RCA or XLR output within a few feet.

What else should I have run? Probably twice as much high level speaker cable. It's relatively cheap, and there have been a few times where it would have been interesting to biamp or experiment with ab/ing between speakers, etc. But for the most part, is has worked out well.

There is an "escape valve" in that I have an open attic space above the room, and could run more cables up there and fish them down into the walls without major surgery. But I haven't resorted to that, yet.

And, of course, whenever possible (which was almost everywhere) I ran power and audio in separate places. Typically the power is run around the room laterally, and audio was run in the rafters and then down the wall. That didn't work perfectly with the overhead lights, but I think I managed to have only one 90 degree intersection and that has not proved problematic.

I ran two lighting circuits to two different switches. So far I have just used the can lights with spots in them, and the others remain unused. That's okay. There are also outlets in the ceiling. Definitely one circuit just for the projector. And some near the screen wall -- which would have been useful if I ever wanted a retractable screen -- or moved the projector to another location.

About the projector "circuit". It's actually got a male inlet plug in the equipment area outside the room, that lets me run the projector off a AV grade UPS device. In addition to the obvious benefit of being able to power down the projector nicely if the power to the house goes out, it also regulates the voltage -- which I believe keeps sensitive or finiky gear (read "JVC projector") happier. It may be a placebo.

(Aside: Having the AV grade UPS in there is nice too for firmware updates or not losing recordings on the DVR due to a power hiccup.)

LESSONS LEARNED HERE? Well, for one, run more speaker level wire. Other than that, don't be afraid to terminate! I bought nice face plates etc for the wires, and then told myself "all those extra terminations and connection points are just additional potential points of failure, and might impact the signal a little". What I really should have said is: I'm too lazy to do this part cleanly, now -- and in the future, so I'll forever have slightly ugly wiring....

Well, we'll get to that part of the story, later, as I am embarking on version 2.0 for this room.


 

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Discussion Starter #14
And then we started in on the insulation. Didn't go with the pink stuff because I had the impression (probably just marketing) that this stuff was slightly less toxic but the same price. Who knows.

Don't forget the simple things like can lights that can be put up against insulation, etc, otherwise at this stage you are taking a couple days to build boxes around your cans -- no fun.

While there were several earlier milestones (new floor, ripping the old garage apart, framing the build, putting in wires) once the insulation went up, the feeling and sound of the space changed in a dramatic way.


 

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Discussion Starter #17
Drywall is another big milestone. And putting blue tape on the walls and temporary chairs on the floor really gives you your first taste of the space. Yes, it does not sound right yet, and look right yet, but still, it's a glimpse.

Maybe I took it too far by hooking up some powered monitors! At least I resisted putting the projector in there (NOOOOOO, not among all that construction dust!!!).

If you can, hire an expert for the drywall. Yes, if you are being a stickler, you will have to educate them about how to hang it and how to mud it, for acoustic perfection. But, especially at the mudding stage, an expert is going to get much better results super fast.

YMMV.

 

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Discussion Starter #18
And then the paint.

Black seems like the hardcore, perfect choice.

After having lived with it for some time, I am not so sure! I didn't get the ultimate perfect, flat black. I just got the flat black that was easy to get at the local hardware store. So I may not be getting the full effect of a flat black room.

And don't get me wrong, it is very dark!

But I think were I to do things over again, I might do dark gray on the walls, and save black for the ceiling and screen wall -- and trim/panels in black or gray, depending on location.

In fact, in "theater 2.0" (tm) that may be where I go. Not sure yet.

---

ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED: In addition to perhaps not going ALL BLACK throughout the room -- which sort of goes against conventional wisdom for a hardcore space -- I will say I have to agree with another conventional wisdom idea that I did NOT follow: Carpet.

Everyone does wall to wall low pile carpet with the biggest thicket pad under it that they can stand. I figured I would be classy and do a hardwood floor and use area rugs. FAIL. Well, I mean, it has worked and does work but is pretty much a waste and is lost to the eye since I have worked so hard to cover it with area rugs.

I don't know that I will install wall to wall carpet as part of theater 2.0, but if I were starting from scratch on a dedicated room in the future, I would not choose to add hardwood! I would spend the money on good carpeting instead.



 

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Discussion Starter #19
While all this is going on inside the theater, outside the theater in the anteroom, the equipment rack was coming together. Yes, could have done the clean and cool thing and gotten a traditional rack from one of the big vendors.

But I didn't. At this point in the process, my budget was getting stretched, and for a fraction of the price of a mid atlantic kind of rack, I could get a double tall wire rack at a kitchen store -- which had great ventilation, adjustable shelves, wheels on the bottom, and fit most gear very well.

Funny to look at this now! HD-DVD, HTPC, a traditional DVD player! Blu-ray didn't exist at the time. My how things have changed.

--

The other end of the anteroom was, for a time, a workout space, with a treadmill facing an old tube TV on the wall. Later it became the DVD and blu-ray library, and storage.

 

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Discussion Starter #20
And then the money shot.... hanging the screen, hooking up a few speakers and the sub, throwing some panels around to tame the room a little, pulling in some furniture from elsewhere in the house for temp seating.

Okay okay, it's all super ugly! And you can see I was already making notes with painter's tape about where I needed to mask the screen. It was a 10 foot wide 2.35:1 stewart screen and while that seemed really cool for a 12 foot wide room, it was actually too big -- at least, in terms of fitting speakers on that wall, too.

In theater 2.0, I am adding a AT screen, that is 8 feet wide, on a false wall, and I have got the Stewart screen up for sale. Strangely, I guess it must be too big for most other people, too, since no one has bought it yet!

Yes, the eagle eyes among you will note that the projector is the classic Sony Pearl, awesome bang for buck in its day.

 
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