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The comfort of home theater rooms is beyond any doubt. But building a home theater room involves a great hassle and expense. So, don’t pop the corn just yet. Sit back, relax, and read all you need to know before you take such a big decision.
Home theater room vs. Media room
A home movie theater involves much more than getting a big TV and a new, comfy couch for the living room.
What is a home theater room?
It is a closed room with good sound isolation and proper lighting as opposed to media rooms, which are often multi-purpose spaces.
A home theater room is the next best thing after going to the movies. It has all the amenities the cinema has – from the equipment to the seating, and one extra advantage: the absence of strangers.
The shortcoming of building a custom home theater room is the cost. The cheapest version may cost a few thousand dollars while very posh constructions may reach much higher amounts – even a half a million or so.
Hence, there’s no doubt that most people settle for media rooms. But don’t be fooled. Media rooms are not theater rooms. They are regular house rooms (living room, sitting room, basement, etc.) with a TV that often serve for other entertainment activities too.
If you want the real thing, get ready for some big changes.
Things to consider before building a home theater room
Finding the location for the home theater construction is your number one priority. Here you are faced with three major challenges.
- Where to build the home theater room
- What size should the room be
- What shape should the room have
Most people use a spare room, the garage, or the basement to create a home theater.
When it comes to the location, there are a few considerations.
- The room must have no windows – or the fewer possible. You don’t want natural light to diminish the quality of the display. That’s why living rooms are not the perfect locations.
- You must be able to remodel the room to isolate sound. This is important for the acoustics, but also for the other family members who want to rest, study, work, etc. and don’t want to be bothered.
- If you decide to transform the basement into a home theater room, you need to sound-proof the walls and ceiling but also make sure there’s no moisture.
Naturally, if you can add a room to the home, even better.
Because you can construct a room that will meet the requirements in terms of size & shape.
The home theater room size matters. And now you ask again: why the room size matters? Well, the size of the room affects the acoustics. This is of the essence. It is also determined by the number of home theater chairs you want and the layout of the seats.
You may have only a couple of rows or 4-5 rows of chairs with or without space in between.
You may want space behind the seats to place a bar or table.
And there must be sufficient distance from the projector to the first row of seats and some distance from the seats to the side walls as well.
And that’s not all. The shape of the room also matters. Square rooms are the worst when it comes to acoustics. Home theater builders usually take into account the height of the room to determine its width and length. Most home theater rooms are rectangular. The best shape for excellent acoustics is trapagon. That’s still rectangular at the front wall and becomes wider as it progresses to the rear wall.
There’s no doubt that most people do not have the budget or space to add a room. They usually take advantage of a spare room/space to build a home theater. That’d be fine as long as you hire a home theater builder to modify it. Pros use building materials and acoustical wall panels to reshape the room for the best results.
Even the cheapest home theater room version is not cheap enough for the average household. Keep that in mind when you plan such projects. On the other hand, the cost depends on many factors.
- Whether you build a new room or use the existing one. When it comes to the latter, the cost will depend on how many modifications you need to make.
- Sound isolation.
- The cost of the equipment (projector, speakers, receivers, subwoofers, etc.)
- The seats and the entire home theater décor.
- If you plan to transform the garage or basement into a home theater room, you might need some construction work (or even take a permit to meet the local codes). This is often needed when the basement is not finished or there’s no heating in the garage.
The sum of all the construction work and everything you need to do to perfect the home theater adds up and so the final cost is considerable.
Expect to pay around 5K if you get average equipment and limit the construction work to the minimum.
If you invest in dimmable lights, home theater seats, and better quality equipment, the price will go up to nearly 10K.
Add 10K-20K more to get a luxury home theater – not very big but with all the amenities. There’s nearly no ending to it. The more expensive the equipment and the posher the interior decoration, the higher the cost.
Consider the human aspect in all perspectives. The first thing to consider is how many people will be watching movies. This is important to know before you make up your mind about the home theater chairs and the seating arrangement. If it’s just you and your better half, a home theater loveseat would do. But if you have a big family and/or intend to invite friends and relatives to enjoy the blockbusters, you need a bigger room and more seats.
And then, there’s the question of whether some people in your family are in a wheelchair. If they cannot have access to the basement home theater, who are you building it for?
Home theater room planning comes first
Plan, plan, plan
When it comes to home theater planning, you need to be very thorough. This is the most important step of the project. If you leave anything out, you’ll face it later and it won’t be good – it usually means an extra expense you haven’t included in your budget.
Plan everything in great detail. You need to consider the space and everything about it (remodel or new construction? – shape, size). Then, you need to consider everything you need to do to turn a room into a home theater room with great acoustics and the necessary equipment for relaxing moments. Everything from the distance of the screen to the seats to the seating arrangement, lighting, and the interior is crucial.
If you are serious about this project, you need to find a home movie theater builder. Whether you plan to remodel a room or add a new one, this is not a DIY project. There are many parameters to consider, plenty of measurements to take, and a lot of installations to do. None of the above is easy while the results matter, especially if you consider the high cost.
So, finding a contractor is the one and only step you need to take. What you can do before that is think things over to be prepared and know what to expect.
The most essential aspects of home theater room building
Good acoustics is a combination of things. It depends on the equipment you get, but also the way it is installed. It depends on the room’s size and shape, but also the type of flooring. So, let us take a closer look.
- We’ve already talked about the importance of the room’s shape and size for the acoustics. The sound travels better when there are no parallel walls. Opt for weird-looking room shapes.
- Avoid sharp corners too. Corners amplify only some bass frequencies and thus create an uneven sound. The easy way to avoid bass sound distortion is to place bass traps in the corners.
- Avoid hard furnishings. It’s no wonder that most home theater room floors are covered with carpets. They absorb noise and prevent echo. Hard flooring disturbs the sound.
- Pay attention to the configuration of the speakers. Home theater rooms should have a surround sound, which means at least 5 speakers and one subwoofer. Multiple home theater speakers placed in all parts of the room will have better sound effects.
- Invest in acoustic absorption materials to minimize reflection and maximize sound performance. The point is to have the best possible sound without voice distortions, high pitches, and echoes. And so, you need sound absorbing treatment.
Approximately 70% of the home theater room must be covered with sound absorption materials – the rest will allow some natural echoes in the room.
Acoustic fiberglass is perhaps the best material to use for proper frequencies. Acoustic ceiling tiles and drywall are okay but don’t prevent echoes entirely.
All the above factors constitute ways for the best acoustics inside the home theater room. But there’s more to sound isolation.
It’s important that you isolate sound from going outwards but also the outside noise coming inwards. This is achieved with a soundproof drywall. Concrete is the building material to prefer for the construction of walls and ceilings to isolate noise.
- You need a sound system (speakers & subwoofers) wired together.
- You must decide which media device you will use – streaming, DVD, VCR or Blue-Ray player, etc.
- You need a receiver to plug in the media devices, the speakers, and the screen.
- Don’t forget the cables to connect all the above devices together.
- The remote – you need to manage the TV or projector somehow. You can do that by using a regular remote control or go high-tech by managing viewing with apps & smartphones.
- Naturally, you will need a viewing device. And here comes the question:
Home theater projector & screen or TV?
The television is the classic way to equip the theater room. Its size depends on the size of the room, but it is usually big – around 50”. No need for 100” TVs which are very expensive unless you have a huge room.
Screens go hand in hand with projectors. You can also get a drop-down screen – this is useful when the room is used for other activities as well. If we are talking about a fixed screen or TV, it’s best if it is mounted on the wall – approximately 25”-35” over the floor.
All three choices are equally okay. The shortcoming with fixed screens is the high price. If you decide to get a fixed or drop-down screen, make sure the room is long enough since there must be some distance from the projector mounted on the opposite wall. Another downside of screen/projector solutions is that the projectors build up heat. And so, your decision will also be affected by the room’s ventilation.
Perhaps, the most important factor when you are trying to choose between viewing devices is clarity – apart from the price. You need high-resolution devices so that there won’t be any visual effects.
Focus on the seating arrangement. It’s important that there is a decent distance between the front rows of the seats and the screen, but this also depends on the size of the screen.
Multiply the length of the TV or screen by 2 to get the minimum distance you must keep between the seats and the viewing device. Multiply it by 5 to get the maximum distance.
When it comes to home theater seats, there are several options:
- Home theater sofas
- Multimedia modular sectionals
- Recliner chairs
If you don’t have space or don’t like the idea of having side tables around, prefer home theater chairs with drop-down tables, where you can place your drink and snack. Today, there are many designs and styles in either fabric or leather. The latter is easier to clean but usually more expensive.
One of the most important factors to consider when you are considering the seats is their arrangement. The best choice is tiered seating so that the viewers of the last rows can share the same experience with the front row viewers. In this case, you need to consider the height of the room. If this is a low ceiling room, it might create a claustrophobic feeling to those sitting at the rear. If this is a rather small home theater room for only a small number of viewers, opt for a cuddle seat or a medium-size media lounge sofa.
Pay attention to the home theater lighting. It’s important to have the ability to turn the lights on and off, create the proper ambiance for cinema watching, but also move around when you are not watching. Since you need several levels of light on different occasions, you need different lighting solutions as well.
- Get dimmable lights to have absolute control.
- Install recessed lighting to get enough brightness when you are not watching a movie.
- Avoid table lamps or even floor lamps that will only get in your way and will most likely create a glare.
- Add wall sconces if you like to create ambiance.
Home theater rooms must be dark. Forget white ceilings and walls. The darker the room, the better the visual. Prefer neutral dark colors that won’t affect the screen.
Home theater interiors should be kept simple. You can opt for trimmings to add style, but avoid decorations that will attract your attention. Small items are not only a distraction but might get in your way when you are trying to reach out for the remote or your drink.
On the other hand, home theater curtains are not only a nice interior decoration idea but also create a sense of the cinema environment and are one more layer of soft furnishing that can enhance the sound. One more décor idea is posters. Framed movie posters will also help you create the ideal environment.
Design your home theater room in a way that any activity is done without disturbing the viewers. For example, make sure the door of the room is found at a place where viewers that may get up to exit the room will not pass in front of the TV. Leave some space between the seats so that if someone decides to go make some popcorn at the back of the room won’t disturb the others.
Some last thoughts
Creating a room where you can relax after a long and tiring day, watching films over the weekend, entertain friends, and enhance the cinema experience is a marvelous idea. There are many choices among equipment, seats, lights, and designs and although this is not a low-budget project is worth considering if you are a fan of the movies.
The secret is to keep balances.
Don’t spend a fortune, but don’t settle for cheap choices either. This is already a big project. You either do it or not. But it’s crucial that you plan well from the start and take every detail into consideration. If you have to make efforts to view the screen, it’ll be a lot of hassle and a big expense for no pleasure.
This IS a difficult project. You will face several challenges and pay a considerable amount of money to see it done right.
Is it worth it?
It is if you love films, hardly have time to go to the movies or are annoyed by the noisy crowd, and have the budget for it.
Plan thoroughly, choose carefully, set a budget and stick to it.