Building my first house! What should I do for a home theater room + other questions

Discussion in 'Home Theater Projects' started by KyleT, Mar 9, 2004.

  1. KyleT

    KyleT Stunt Coordinator

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    OK this is my first house... I'm on a pretty darned tight budget here and honestly won't even be setting up a home theater in the home theater room for a least the first year or two until my budget stabilizes. But I do realize that there are some things that are about 100x easier to do now than they will be when it comes time to set my home theater up.

    Basically our house hasn't even had the foundation poured (less than a week away), but there is a house identical to it that we've been checking out periodically as its being built so that we can decide what changes/improvements we'd like to make by seeing them in person.

    I've got a 800 square foot room that's roughly the dimensions of a 4-car garage... it's actually over a 3-car garage plus over a small portion of the entry to the house... most people that walk in the room call it "the bowling alley" because it's so much deeper than it is wide.[​IMG] Anyhow... the wife has told me that this room is my domain and I may do whatever I so please with it.[​IMG]

    *Remember I'm on a tight budget here... I really just care about doing the things that will be much more difficult later on*

    Question 1: While the framework and eletrical wiring of the house is going up, what should I be wiring for to be as future-proof and versatile as possible in terms of audio and video and for home theater formats?

    I also plan on doing a whole house audio system with the Niles distribution box and their impedance matching in-room volume controls... I assume I can just wire in some basic 12-14 guage speaker cable, right? Nothing too fancy other than to make sure I keep it away from A/C lines.

    Question 2: I would like to sound deaden the home theater room as much as possible without spending too much money... is there any special type of insulation or soundboard or whatever else that I can put in-wall before the drywall goes up? Any type of paint or drywall in particular that I shoulduse as opposed to others? Any type of other construction standards I should use in that room? Again, remember this is all on a tight budget. However with this sort of stuff I'll be getting all parts and labor done at the builder's cost since he's my father in law.

    Question 3: Is there anything else I should do while the frame work is up, like any inexpensive home automation wiring, distributed video wiring, maybe something I should have built into the ceiling of my home theater room to lower down the screen for the projector, or maybe some special sort of lighting for the home theater room?

    Thanks for all your help guys! Links and references to other materials are very appreciated as well![​IMG]
     
  2. Tim Bargar

    Tim Bargar Agent

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    Kyle,

    Find it ($2,000) in your budget to get in touch with Dennis Erskine ( http://www.designcinema.com ). He will give you all the advice you need, and design your theater for you. The $2K is for a fully designed theater that you can DIY at a later date. I recommend contacting him ASAP.

    Tim
     
  3. Greg Rowe

    Greg Rowe Stunt Coordinator

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    Kyle,

    I am in a similar situation. My wife and I are having our first home built right now. My house is framed and has the heating and ductwork in place at this point. There is about 2 months to go before we get to move in. I have about 500 pictures on the web of the process so far (http://therowes.net/gallery).

    As far as future proofing I highly recommend you read http://www.swhowto.com. Most of the ideas I used came from there.

    Using PVC pipe in the walls lets you easily run more cable should you ever need/want to. My electrician quoted me 35$ per short PVC pipe, and 85$ per long PVC pipe. I chose to install 2 long pipes that run from the attic to the basement. These long pipes are 2 inches in diameter. In each upstairs room I had them install a 1 inch PVC pipe that goes into the attic and ends with a gangbox. To save money I chose walls that would allow me to easily run cable to 2 rooms should I decide to. I couldn't justify spending 35$ for each bathroom. I chose to use 2 two-inch PVC pipes for the long runs because there is the potential for a LOT of cable to run through them. I wanted enough space to future proof things a bit.

    To save money I didn't install PVC pipe on the first floor. The distance to the basement is only a couple of feet and it's a straight drop down. I don't expect that running more cable will be a problem for such a short distance (and the electrician agreed). So, I had the electrician install gangboxes and drill holes for me. He charged me 15$ per hole/gangbox for this.

    After that was installed I went in and put in pull string (just nylon cable) that will let me pull cable through once the house is complete. Using the pull cable I don't have to worry about the stuff I put in to cause problems with inspections or anything. Also, I don't have to worry about the dry wallers (or anyone else) destroying cable.

    Keep in mind that you probably aren't supposed to be going in and doing any work on your house due to insurance. Some builders will look the other way though.

    The beauty of using the pipes and pull string is that you can easily run new cable at any time. You'll run everything down to your basement and then you can patch things as you want. Once we move in I am going to buy a spool of cat6 cable for data, and a spool of quad shielded rg6 for TV. I plan on running 2 runs of cat6 to each drop and 1 run of rg6. But, the beauty is that I can run more at any time. [​IMG]

    Greg
     
  4. Jason D.

    Jason D. Agent

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    I agree with Greg....definitly run PVC pipes from the basement to the attic...I also would recommend two...since if you are in an area where radon is an issue, they may want to use one of those in that process....still leaving you with the other to get cable from downstairs to upstairs. I would also recommend insulating everywhere you can....including around bathrooms (under tubs) between your master bedroom wall and whatever wall it shares with another room (i.e. family room or bathroom, etc.). Good luck!

    -Jason
     
  5. Paul_C

    Paul_C Stunt Coordinator

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    Great advice so far. I guess I can throw in my .02 cents.

    Make sure you use electrical conduit. It has a softer corner so that cable does not bind. Using real PVC will give you a 90 degree corner that cable will get stuck in.

    Do as much pre-wire as you can and then run the conduit. It is amazing how much wire you can run to a room and still need more. [​IMG]

    For each room I ran 2 RG6 cables (receive and transmit) along with 1 Cat5e cable to a phone/ethernet drop. I also ran another Cat5e drop to each location where I thought a control box might go for the built in audio/video distribution. This might be an ir-reciever or a control panel or a simple volume control.

    I pre-wired a living room 5.1 system. I also have two speaker drops to most of the other rooms including the garage.

    If you run the cable yourself do it after the electrician is done (they love it if you already have nice holes drilled for them). Don't run anything in parallel to the electrical runs and if you have to then only for a foot or two. If you have to cross an electrical run then do it at 90 degree's.

    Here are some other facts that might be useful or not:
    1)I did all of my own pre-wire. The electrician didn't have a clue so I just did it myself. [​IMG]
    2)I have a central cabinet in my dedicated ht (basement) that has all the audio/video components for most of the house.
    3)I ran a 2" conduit from here into the attic.
    4)I ran a 2" conduit from here to the projector location along with a bunch of other wire. S-video, dvi, rg6, cat5e and component.
    5)I have an ump box that contains all of my telephone and ethernet connections. It also distributes some of my composite video signal.
    6) I spent a lot of time figuring out where speakers would go and IR receiver's and ethernet/telephone (wireless is making this much easier), etc...
    7) I used 1000' of Cat5e, 1400' rg6 (belden 1694A), around 700' of 12 gauge in-wall rated speaker cable.

    Sorry for the long winded ramble.

    Good luck.

    Paul.
     
  6. Frank Zimkas

    Frank Zimkas Supporting Actor

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    Pick up a copy of the latest issue of HomeTheater Magazine. There's an article that covers the in's and out's of the basic things you need to consider before you start building.
     
  7. Greg Rowe

    Greg Rowe Stunt Coordinator

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    ...Only slightly related but the electricians installed one of the pull pipes parallel to an electric wire (parallel for a span of about 6 to 7 feet). They tried to tell me that the PVC pipe would shield the data cable but I was skeptical. I verified with another electrician and others that PVC pipe will not shiled the cable.

    Greg
     
  8. Phaelon

    Phaelon Agent

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    I'm not building a house but am in the process of setting up a dedicated HT room in a house I just purchased. It was originally a sun porch so there's much to do in terms of light control and sound dampening but my biggest concern at the moment is power. The rest of the house was completely rewired with new Romex, a new break box and a new 10 amp service line into the house - just a few years before zI purchased it. The sole existing outlet in the proposed HT room is the old non-grounded outlet that dates back to 1925, the year of construction. There were two extra gang boxes installed in this room when the rewiring was done but they were never connected.

    Soooo... helpful for all us newbies to know.... how much power is really required for HT? I'd like to put a dedicated 20 amp circuit into this room but will mostl likely either have to split a 30 or just reassign on of my 15 amp circuits. Given the flexibility to do it however I choose... how much power is enough? I have an HK325 and a powered sub but no other big power draws in that room at present.
     
  9. Brian Corr

    Brian Corr Supporting Actor

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    Phaelon,
    A 15 amp is usually enough. I usually don't pull more than 9 amps and I have everything running off the one circuit (projector, processor, amp, sub, dvd, dss, etc)

    Kyle,
    wire, wire, wire. Run coax and cat 5 everywhere. Run cat 5 to the thermostats, the doorbell, everywhere, as it can be used for automation down the line. Use different colors for data and phone to help keep organized. Cat5 can also be used for room to room IR control via keypads or other systems.
    Plan on coax for DSS, cable, modulation, etc. Plan on phone lines near your coax outlets where a DSS receiver may go.
    If you think you may install camera's, run coax and power (speaker wire works).
    12-14 gauge in wall speaker wire will work fine for all your in-walls. Usually run a 4 conductor from the equipment to the volume control, and a pair of 2 conductors to the speakers from the volume control.

    Run electrical conduit anywhere that would be difficult to get back to later on (lower floor).

    Plan ahead for your lighting in the media room. Do you want multiple zones, wall sconces, recessed lighting, etc?

    Insulate all the walls, floor, ceiling in the media room. Double sheetrock, staggered spacing of the wall studs, etc can also help reduce noise transfer. Using exterior doors and thresholds at the entry ways also helps. Heck, as mentioned above, insulating other interior walls is a nice way to quiet things down also(utility room, bathroom, rooms where there are tv's or speakers)
    Using common building materials will keep the cost down opposed to using "specialized" acoustic dampening materials. Meaning use standard sheetrock and insulation from your supplier.

    If you think you might want to do a recessed drop down screen, then do the necessary framing now so all you need to do is remove sheetrock. Also make sure to add power outlets above the media room for screen, projector, etc.

    Good luck.
     

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