Buying a new home: Home Theater & a full finished basement?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Ronald Epstein, Aug 30, 2006.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
    Owner

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 1997
    Messages:
    48,494
    Likes Received:
    5,579
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    More questions concerning homes I am looking at here in NJ....

    I am now turning my efforts towards homes with a full finished
    basement.

    In my opinion, I think these carpeted basements are the perfect
    environment for a home theater, rather than putting a setup on
    the main floor opposite the dining area.

    Am I correct in this assumption? Is a full (or perhaps even partial)
    finished basement the way to go?

    Anything else I should be looking for when it comes to a home
    theater environment?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 1998
    Messages:
    12,404
    Likes Received:
    1,133
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Michigan
    A basement offers several advantages when used as a home theater:

    1. Better able to control lighting
    2. Better able to contain the sound, so as not to disturb your neighbors
    3. The space is usually not part of the main living area, so your HT setup does not infringe on your main family/living room.

    However, a few downsides to consider:

    1. Basements are more likely to flood, causing damage to expensive HT equipment and furniture.
    2. A finished basement probably has not been designed with a HT in mind, so extensive remodeling may be required to reconfigure it for HT use. It may actually be less expensive to start with an unfinished basement in some cases.
    3. Even without flooding issues, basements will be more cold and damp than your main floors, which could shorten the life of equipment.

    Our home has a finished basement, but I use the family room for the HT due to items 1 & 2 above. We've had two floods (since installed a water-powered backup sump pump, but also removed the carpeting and installed vinyl flooring, which is not good for acoustics), and the layout of the basement recreation area would not work for HT without major renovations.
     
  3. Brad Porter

    Brad Porter Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 1999
    Messages:
    1,757
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ceiling height can be an issue. I'm 2 1/2 years into my house and I haven't broken ground on a dedicated theater room yet because I'll need to raise the entire living room floor to put it where I want it. That floor is sunken upstairs, and the general height throughout the basement is around 7 1/2 feet. I think that most newer homes are being built with a bit more headroom.

    Otherwise, a finished basement was one of my top priorities when house shopping because of the ability to put in a theater. It stays cool, ambient lighting control is much easier, and you can acoustically isolate it from the sleeping areas more easily.

    Brad
     
  4. Bob_Chase

    Bob_Chase Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2002
    Messages:
    101
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    The water in the basement possbility was a deal breaker for me. I seriously considered it at first but have had a few problems this year alone. I would have been devestated had I lost everything.

    I decided to stick with my original plan of the family room. The only issue was the ambient light coming from the bay window which would kill PQ when using the projector screen.

    My solution to this problem was to install the screen in front of the window and hide the screen (when not in use) with drapes. When the screen is engaged it does a phenomenal job of blocking out the light as the width of the screen is almost exactly the same size as the window opening. I can now watch any programming at any time of the day with little effect on PQ. Most importatly, the wife is happy.

    Obivously mileage may vary.
     
  5. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 1999
    Messages:
    2,568
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ron

    Both Brad and Bob have good points.

    With regard to water in the basement. I had a house in a development where the land was not flat. Some who lived at the bottom of a hill had their sump pumps running almost constantly. Clearly not something you want happening in your HT. Others whose house was on an elevated lot, never had their sump pump run.

    If at all possible, I would recommend that you design from scratch. I realize that this will add $$, however, by looking at what is out there and picking the best from what you see and then adding your HT desires, you will end up with something that will be exactly what you want. One example is windows. Even though your primary HT will be in the basement, do you want a lot of big windows in your living room? Personally, I like a layout where the kitchen is open to the family room. I like to be able to cook, talk to guests, and/or watch TV at the same time.

    I hope this helps.

    Arthur
     
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
    Owner

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 1997
    Messages:
    48,494
    Likes Received:
    5,579
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    I never thought about a basement, water and things like a hill.

    I am taking it that if I want a basement, it should be on level
    land, not at the bottom of a hill.

    I can't start from scratch on a basement, mainly because I'm
    not handy. Optimally, finding a home with a carpeted basement
    and lots of outlets are my best bet.

    Are there ways to almost insure that I'll not get a water bust
    in the basement? Of course, keeping an eye the water heater
    is a must.
     
  7. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 1999
    Messages:
    2,568
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ron

    Yes, no houses at the bottom of hills.
    What I meant from scratch was building a custom house on a lot. That's what I meant about extra $$.
    So let's think ideal here for a minute. There are numerous books in book stores with house plans. Everything from quite small to quite large. When you find a plan you like you order the blue-prints for $150 and find a good contractor. Then you can do things such as include a perfectly designed HT/music room such as this:

    http://www.cardas.com/content.php?ar...=Room+setup+10

    Obviously, this is going to cost you more than you are looking to spend. On the other hand, if you are thinking you might live there for 20+ years, and consider that HT is booming. The resale on such a property should be excellent.

    Your home is supposed to be the biggest investment of your life. It is a really good feeling to have a house that is what you want. You have a secure future. IMHO, it is worth trying to get what you really want.
     
  8. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 1998
    Messages:
    12,404
    Likes Received:
    1,133
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Michigan

    The concern is not from a water heater, but from rain water. A home on higher ground is best. Also, if the home has a sump pump, make sure you have a backup one installed (if the sump pump ever runs). Backups that are powered by water pressure (assuming you have city water, not a well) are better than battery powered ones -- batteries only last for so many hours, and you have to remember to replace them every few years. There's nothing worse than losing your electrical power during a rain storm and discovering that the battery for your backup sump pump is dead. My next door neighbor's basement flooded under this scenario, and is the reason I installed a water-powered backup pump.
     
  9. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2003
    Messages:
    12,013
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    With ceiling mounted projectors, hanging screens, wall mounted speakers, etc. is flooding as big of an issue than if you were just going with floor model equipment?

    I would think there's enough technology to keep all of your HT equipment at least 2 feet off the floor.
     
  10. Michael Warner

    Michael Warner Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 1999
    Messages:
    737
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    All I can add is that I seriously miss my HT basement setup from my old house in Michigan. Now that I'm out in Seattle where basements are very rare I haven't even bothered to unpack my PJ since it won't work well in my sunlit living area. If you live in an area where basements are common it shouldn't be hard to find one where a previous owner has at least waterproofed and done some basic framing. I would never consider buying a house sans basement in such an area. And, like Scott said, be sure to get a working sump pump and a quality backup -- mine used to run almost non-stop in the spring and the backup was needed more than once.
     
  11. mylan

    mylan Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    Messages:
    1,689
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Unless you are buying in a known flood plane you *should* be ok. I am down a slope at the end of a cul-de-sac but there are woods behind and the terrain continues to descend away from the house. If my basement ever floods, my HT will be the LAST worry on my mind as I search for a big wooden boat....
    It depends on the type construction, older houses may have been built using cement blocks which have been known to allow water seepage even though it has been waterproofed, The best foundations are poured and re-bar concrete with a waterproofer. Gutters and downspouts should be channelled away from the house as well. I.M.O. basements that flood have been poorly designed in the first place. I would not shy away from a basement theater, I would just insure the construction is solid and hire an inspector.
     
  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
    Owner

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 1997
    Messages:
    48,494
    Likes Received:
    5,579
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    Let me ask, as I am looking at houses today...

    Two questions....

    First, how old should a water heater be before I consider
    replacing it since this would probably be the major cause of
    a flood?

    Second, if an owner does not have a subpump installed in
    his home, how expensive is it to buy one (plus a backup) and
    have it installed by a professional?

    Thanks!
     
  13. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 1998
    Messages:
    5,584
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    One thing to be aware of is how carpet gets installed in a basement. Anything that is directly on a slab will pull in moisture, so if the carpet is laid on the concrete, it will mold eventually. There needs to be some form of break between the slab and the flooring (like drycore) that allows air circulation beneath the floor, and prevents whatever materials are above from coming in direct contact with the concrete. Putting down plastic sheeting isn't enough to prevent moisture buildup.

    I woudl seriously consider a place with an unfinished basement, then hiring someone to install what you want. This allows cable runs to be concealed, power to be located where you want it, and making sure that the flooring isn't going to become a big mold field.

    As for sump pumps, even with a backup they can require a fair bit of maintenance to keep working properly depending on the type of soil in the area. We had one that was constantly being worked on due to silt. The best solution is having proper drainage available, including a waterproof membrane on all outside walls, and a drain field below the lowest part of the house.

    Hot water tanks can last a long time with soft water, with hard water they require periodic draining and cleanout of the mineral deposits to last. If in doubt about the condition of the tank in a new house, replace it. A couple hundred bucks is cheap short term insurance. I've seen what water damage can be done with a failed hot water tank, and it is a long and inconvenient recovery process. You used to be able to get an automatic supply line shutoff valve, but I haven't seen them around lately. If you can find one, it would be a worthy investment as well.
     
  14. mylan

    mylan Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    Messages:
    1,689
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Eight to ten years on a water heater, depending on when or if it was maintained properly. Make sure it sits in a pan and install something like a water cop or other leak detector, see www.smarthome.com for details. Home Depot or Lowe's probably has them as well.
    My sump pump was installed when the house was built so I have no idea the cost of a retro-fit but I have seen them at the Depot for $275.

    Edit: Why not consider installing a tankless heater, no more risk than a pipe bursting and energy savings too!
     
  15. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
    Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2001
    Messages:
    18,379
    Likes Received:
    1,682
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    One Loudoun, Ashburn, VA
    Real Name:
    David Fischer
    Some quick thoughts:

    - Water damage & flooding is a real concern with basements, but need not be a showstopper. Talk to friends with basements and look at all that you see to get some sense of telling the good from the bad.

    - Know yourself: Will you enjoy leaving the main part of the house to relax, watch movies, etc? For many people, having the main entertainment area in the basement, off the main traffic area is perfect. But I've met others who concluded that if it's out of the way, it won't get used as much or be as enjoyable.

    - You can buy an unfinished basement and have it finished later. The Corning system, while pricey, is fast, effective, accounts for water risks, and very attractive. It takes the installation people about two weeks to do the work. (A friend did this in his townhome and it looks great.)
     
  16. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2001
    Messages:
    1,825
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I have my HT in the basement and I love it being there. The basement is fully underground, and it is very easy to keep out all natural light. It has a drop ceiling which is great for hiding the 30 ft of wires that lead back to my rear speakers. It's a very relaxing and cool, calm environment. I currently monitor the humidity with a digital hygrometer, and I have not seen it go over 60% humidity. it's usually more like 35% in the fall/winter. A heating/cooling person I know said that should not be high enough to cause damage to the components, but I'm sure others here can offer more info on this. You can always run a dehumidifier if necessary.

    I considered building a riser for my RPTV and speakers. However, in talking to those living around me, no one has flooded at all since a freak storm 11 years ago when the area received some ridiculous amout of rain like 17" in 24 hours.

    I took out an additional rider on my homeowners insurance for basement coverage. The house itself is covered up to the value of the home for flood related damage, but as far as personal property, I had to have the additional coverage. I put up custom DVD shelves, of which the lowest is almost 18" from the floor, so I only really need to worry about my furniture, speakers and RPTV.

    In a year or two I'm likely going to upgrade to either a ceiling mounted projector or a DLP set, both of which wouldn't be threatened by water.
     
  17. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2001
    Messages:
    18,097
    Likes Received:
    2,475
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Location:
    Albany, NY
    Invest in a de-humidifier.
    [​IMG]
    They suck the moisture out of the air and will keep all of your equipment running longer. Ours has worked for everything short of actual flooding.
     
  18. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 1998
    Messages:
    5,584
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    One other consideration in favor of the unfinished basement is being able to see what is down there before covering it up. A lot of nasty things can be hidden by drywall. It also allows you access to whatever is above it, in case you want to install additional services (network cabling, speaker wiring) or inspect what's already there (plumbing, electrical).
     
  19. Evan M.

    Evan M. Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2002
    Messages:
    910
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    As mentioned before, the issue is to keep the rain/snow melt from getting in the basement. Just because a house is not in a flood plain does not mean it will not flood. The best way to keep water out of the basement is not focusing on what is inside the house but focusing on the outside. The land should slope away from the house. If it doesn't then that would be the first thing I would try to remedy. Also make sure the house has gutters and they are cleaned out and do not drip. Downspouts should carry the water at least 10' away from the house. Most people simply dig a trench and lie the pipe underground leading somewhere else......not the neighbors yard....[​IMG]. Inspect any visible parts of the foundation for any cracks....although they may not go all of the way through to the inside.....eventually it probably would.
    After the outside is taken care of then look at the inside. If you are looking for a house, inspect the walls aroung the base of the floor. Very often if a basement has flooded even just once and only a few inches a water line is left. If there is sheet rock or wood studs anywhere look for anything that be be rotted or bubbled. If a house is known to have an issue with water it should be in the disclosure form. If it is not and something happens and you have proof that it happened before you owned the house you can sue. I would also make sure the house has a sump pit at least. Most houses have at least a sum pit (hole in the floor of the foundation in which to put a sump pump). Then you can simply put in a sump pump and a back-up. Do not fall for gimmicks like that paint that supposedly seals up cracks and makes a basement waterproof (like dri-lock). It does nothing of the such.
    By the way, I have my HT in my living area and it is a very formal living room. I have a drop down screen and a tabletop FP. I always was nervouse about putting that stuff in the basement. I do not want to deal with any issues with humidity or pay more money for insurance.....then have to deal with insurance companies if something happens..... To me a basement=MAN ROOM......not HT. My basement has a cheap stereo, fooz ball, full bar all of my tools and soon a homemade kegorater and 6' pool table...... The last thing I want to think about when my buddies are over and we are kicking a few back is the safety of my HT which for me cost a lot of money......
     
  20. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2003
    Messages:
    12,013
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Evan is correct, my parents live at the top of one of the biggest hills in our town and they get water in their basement. There's an mother-in-law apartment in the back of their house and it would get over 6" of water on rainy days.

    What my dad finally did was re-landscape the lawn to pull away from the house and he also dug up the flower gardens that were along the sides of the house. Finally he extended the gutters to run further away from the house....Every little bit helped.

    We also made sure to pull all the snow away from the house corners (especailly where the driveway met the foundation) because the snow would melt and the water would backup and find its way in.
     

Share This Page