Purchasing new home with "Shed", several questions...

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by MikeHerbst, May 2, 2006.

  1. MikeHerbst

    MikeHerbst Stunt Coordinator

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    So my wife and I have made an offer to purchase a home here in town. Among the nice features of this home is that the previous owner has installed a 20'x12' "shed" in the back yard. He's been using it as his workshop for the last 12 years, I'm thinking it would make a decent home theater space. With the high prices of real estate here in SoCal, having a room large enough to be a decent dedicated space means giving up a lot of something else...

    I use the term shed because its a "temporary" structure on pylons, no foundation. Its a stud frame with plywood walls with a gabled roof, looks like a miniature barn, I'd say.

    The shed is currently lightly insulated and wired with adequate but not awesome power. The rafters are exposed and there's pegboard on nearly every wall. (It was a woodworking shed, afterall.) I'm thinking that some real insulation, drywall, carpet and a few HT seats would make this a decent dedicated space. (Much better than the "temporary" pop-up screen and projector in the living room that's driving my wife nuts).

    However, I have a couple of concerns and I'm looking for advice:

    (1) I'm worried about cooling the thing in the summer. Even with better insulation, I'm worried the thing will be a sweatbox once the doors are closed and I've stuffed a half-dozen people inside. My first thought was to carve out a rectangle in the wall and install a window-AC unit, but I'm pretty sure that'll be noisey as all heck. Anyone have experience? See below for additional complications.

    (2) The workshop/shed doesn't have a permit. It's been there 12+ years and isn't in anyone's sightlines or anything, but its theoretically possible that the city could make me tear it down the day I close escrow or five years after that. This makes doing anything super permanent (like a full-blown AC system) or a significant investment, a bad idea. I don't mind investing in a little drywall and finishing stuff, because at least all the HT equipment can be moved into the house if push comes to shove.

    (3) For ease of upgrade and wire-pulling, I'm thinking of leaving the gabled roof more or less open and just installing drop-ceiling tiles or the like. I imagine lots of basement HT theaters do this. Any problems with accoustics or anything?

    For the record, I already have a complete "budget" system at home. My budget plans for the shed amount to basically refinishing the inside and moving my current projector and audio stuff in there...

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. David Noll

    David Noll Stunt Coordinator

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    I definitely think this shed can work as a theater. I can help with your first question. A small split system A/C will work for you. The noisy condenser is installed outside and away from your building and the relatively quiet blower is installed on an inside wall. Once installed it can easily be removed if you need to 'tear it down'.

    As for drop ceiling tiles, they are used a lot in basement theaters. I heard that some rattling may occur but clips are available to 'lock' the tiles into place. Acoustically they will work fine.

    David
     
  3. MikeHerbst

    MikeHerbst Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, I've now discovered the "mini split" or ductless AC system and several threads about them. I was not using the best search keywords the first time I looked, since I was just looking for "AC" in general.

    From what I've gleaned, it sounds like the split systems are much quieter than the old box-in-the-window variety, which would be a real bonus. Now I just need to convince the wife the expense would be worth it... ;-)

    Still going around in circles about the ceiling. I'm starting to think that a more insulated ceiling area would help with the noise and heat overall, so that's pretty tempting. If I'm careful about installing good conduit, etc. beforehand I shouldn't have to get into that area too many times...
     
  4. Kyle McCabe

    Kyle McCabe Stunt Coordinator

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    Would it not be "grandfathered" in? What are the dates on the cities regulations concerning permits of such a building? I would assume that if if the building is older than the date of the culprit law, then you shouldn't have any problems. But then again, I'm not in California, so... What do I know?
     
  5. MikeHerbst

    MikeHerbst Stunt Coordinator

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    My agent and I are looking into that right now. The ordinances are certainly older than the structure, so no luck there.

    There's some thought that rather than tear down the structure I might have the option to bring it up to code instead, which wouldn't be so bad, especially if I do it before the sheetrock goes up onto the walls, etc. The problem there is that in order to get it up to code, I have to bring it to the city's attention, which I'm hesitant to do...

    Might all be a moot point anyhow, because our offer hasn't actually been ACCEPTED yet! :`(
     
  6. Kyle McCabe

    Kyle McCabe Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, good luck and keep us posted! [​IMG]
     
  7. DaveHo

    DaveHo Supporting Actor

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    This might be a function of location, or real estate prices where I live, but I think converting a shed into a theater is, well, something I'd never consider doing. Treking out to the yard to watch a movie seems really silly to me. Not to mention, bathroom breaks, and other eating/drinking activites centered around movie/sports watching. 12' x 20', even less after finishing, really isn't that large of a space. Till you add a few things that would just be there if it were in the house you'll be left with even less. I can't see cooling such a structure being very feasible either. I'm sure it's possible, but...

    -Dave
     
  8. MikeHerbst

    MikeHerbst Stunt Coordinator

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    Yeah, it might be a slightly different decision here in SoCal. You're absolutely right about the problems of having the theater be outside the home. I'm weighing the same things right now. I'm asking myself if my wife and I are really going to pour ourselves a drink, walk outside, open up a shed, and sit down to a movie when there's a TV in the Family Room. Its definitely not ideal, but it might be the best choice we can come up with, because we don't have a ton of other options.

    The first gotcha is that we have no basements. Anywhere. Our clay must be too hard to dig into, because I don't know of a single home built past 1921 between LA and the Mexico border that has a basement.

    After that, you're right, real estate prices become the big issue. The house we're bidding on is nearly 3/4 million for a 10,000 sqft lot and 2100 sqft house. Its a fairly typical home for the area (actually the yard is considered huge). The high price of housing and land means there aren't a lot of homes built with big "bonus rooms" or other theater-friendly spaces. On our home-buying budget, the choices are usually:
    (1) Convert a spare bedroom. These typically range from 100 to 170 square feet. Limits you to a 2-3 person theater.
    (2) Multi-Use theater in a Family Room or similar (like our current home) - The rooms almost always have at least one open wall to a kitchen or other such room. Acoustics aren't great, and light control is poor. Hard to have a dedicated setup in a space like this unless the only time you have guests is to watch movies. We make do, but it means either the whole household is watching movies, or nobody is.
    (3) Convert a garage space - Probably a realistic option for most people. I'm a car nut, though, so my garage is reserved for my cars, shop, and tools. Sorry.
    (4) Get creative. Just looking for other solutions. The shed would at least solve the problem we currently have, which is that our "Movie Nights" are limited to 2-3 guests. When its just the family, our theater is perfect, but I wish we could entertain larger groups. The shed, while small, should at least get us closer to 6 guests or so.

    Cooling looks like a solved problem. The ductless mini split systems David Noll was talking about look like a no-brainer for a 240 sqft space, as long as I add insulation when I finish out the room.

    Power is marginal, but I could always run extra lines out to it. I have the same problem at home, and it would actually be harder and more expensive to add supplemental power INSIDE the home.
     
  9. Mike LS

    Mike LS Supporting Actor

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    Double post!
     
  10. Mike LS

    Mike LS Supporting Actor

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    What about converting the shed to a garage and using the garage as the HT? I know that's only big enough for one bay, but I agree with DaveHo about using the shed as a theater.....eventually you'll stop using it because of the inconvenience of it being separate from your house.
    Heck, my HT is in the basement and after several years I find myself hardly ever using it any more. I've got 500 hours on a PJ lamp in 2+ years.

    Just my opinion, but the more central your HT is, the more you'll use it.

    If there's no other choice than the shed, then I think you can make a fine HT in it as far as size. That's about the size of my room and I can easily fit 8 people in it with the right seating arrangement.
     
  11. MikeHerbst

    MikeHerbst Stunt Coordinator

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    Unfortunately in this case the shed (and all of the property aside from the driveway) is in the backyard, with only a footpath around the side of the house. This is true SoCal suburbia...

    I appreciate the out of the box suggestions, though. Every off the wall idea is another potential winner.

    If I could afford a real piece of land, I'd probably build a complete outbuilding for my cars and shop! Of course at that point I'd probably be able to get a house where the largest room wasn't 13'x14', too.
     
  12. David Noll

    David Noll Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey Mike,

    I heard they are giving away building lots in the mid-west! [​IMG] Just think what you could build for 3/4 million in Wyoming or South Dakota! [​IMG]

    David [​IMG]
     
  13. MikeHerbst

    MikeHerbst Stunt Coordinator

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    Quick follow up: We're now in escrow on the house!

    I've done a bunch of research and have contacts for folks who can help get the shed permitted, should I elect that route. Costs aren't trivial, but I think it would be better to pay them and have the structure be fully legal than to risk "finishing" it and having problems later. As a bonus, I'd get to count the structure in the home's square footage at that point. Not really a reason to do it, but gravy.

    There are a lot of other basic home details that need to get sorted first, but I'm excited about the prospect of having a 12'x20' space to play with. Still not big enough to do EVERYTHING I can think I'd want to do, but certainly the biggest space I've ever had to play with.

    Pictures and plans coming when we close!
     
  14. Martin G

    Martin G Second Unit

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    Another consideration that you might want to think about when it comes to converting the shed is that it is highly unlikely that the shed is very acoustically isolated.

    Would you be able to watch a movie at 10PM without disturbing the neighbors?

    What fun would it be to have a theater that you could only use during the day or at low volumes.
     
  15. Brian D H

    Brian D H Second Unit

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    Oh, don't worry about that. A little wall treatment should easily keep the highs and mids in the shed, and since the bass is non-directional the neighbors will never know where it's coming from! [​IMG]
    ______
    "THUMP! THUMP!.. Martha!.. THUMP! BOOM! .. I think we're under attack! .. BOOM! THUMP! .. Think it's coming from our neighbor's shed?"

    (listening)

    "THUMP!.. Nope. .. BOOM!"
     
  16. MikeHerbst

    MikeHerbst Stunt Coordinator

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    Yeah, I've definitely considered that. Its one of the reasons I've been so worried about permit issues. If I'm going to spend the money to make sure it doesn't leak wicked sound, I don't want my investment at risk.

    Also, while its tons bigger than my current space, I still think its a small enough space that adequate sound will not require MASSIVE amounts of power and air movement. This should cut down on the potential leakage.

    As for bass leakage? Maybe I'll reinforce with buttkickers so I can run the sub pretty low at night...
     
  17. Kyle McCabe

    Kyle McCabe Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey, congratulations, Mike! I hope it turns out well for you. [​IMG]
     
  18. DonnyD

    DonnyD Screenwriter

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    Do you have enough power to run a room air-conditioner or a small room heat pump? Having built several sun rooms around this area, we have used a 110 unit on some and a 220 unit on others. Don't remember the brands but there are several on the market that are really quiet and do a pretty good job, and actually offset the radiant energy through the glass very well, which, in your case, is not a factor. As long as the power is available, it is a great option with low-cost impact.
    Yes, a drop in ceiling is certainly a great option as long as you insulate it too.

    On permit issues, going the route to make sure you remain "legal" cerainly is the best way to do things.
     
  19. JohnnyKretentiv

    JohnnyKretentiv Stunt Coordinator

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    The next home I will buy is going to have an "out-building" for an HT. I feel the big obstacle with your set up of getting enough juice out there. You will need a panel, and security.
     
  20. chuckg

    chuckg Supporting Actor

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    So, ummm, how close is the shed to the house?

    Is there any chance a strong breeaze could push it closer, or maybe a whirlwind could accidentally stack some loose building materials into a convenient walkway from house to theater?

    These things have been known to happen......
     

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