Home Theater Design e-Guide:
Home Theater Construction Process

For those of you who have built a new home, you won't find the home theater construction process to be much different. The only difference is that you're customizing a space to meet a very specific need, which may require some rather unique construction specifications.

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For those of you who haven't done this before -- no worries! We'll help you to understand the process flow of a typical construction project so you know what to expect when you begin building your own home theater. We'll highlight some key tips to help make things a little easier for you as well as give you some things to consider as you go through your building project.

As we discuss this topic, we're going to make a couple of assumptions so we can give you the broadest representation of a full-fledged building project. We're going to assume that you're working with an unfinished area in your home (could be a basement remodel, finishing a bonus room, or entirely new construction). We're also going to assume that you're working with a contractor. For those of you working with existing spaces, some items will simply be skipped because they aren't applicable to your project.

OK....Let's get moving. We've got some movies to watch soon, you know!

Pre-Constructionhome theater construction process

This preliminary phase of the process entails all of the work necessary to create the final design proposal and order key building materials. In this stage, you'll work with your contractor to ensure your specifications are correct and inclusive of all design elements you desire. Architectural renderings of your space may be drawn up by your contractor to help facilitate the process. Some key things you'll want to consider at this stage are any special requirements you will have for your home theater room. For example, you may decide that you want to build custom movie poster lightboxes directly into one of your walls. In this case, you'll want to make sure that our design proposal encompasses this aspect so it is taken care of during the framing and electrical rough-in stages.

Also, if you plan on making an addition to your house always check with local building code to make sure you are staying within regulations. Taking a moment to look at your Home and Contents Insurance may also be a good idea to make sure your new addition will be covered under your current coverage.

Surface Preparationhome theater construction process

This stage is primarily applicable to building projects within a basement. Before the framing stage is initiated, it's extremely important to make sure you've taken the proper preventative actions for waterproofing your basement. This may include testing your basement for leaks/condensation, repairing any cracks in the foundation floor or walls, sealing windows, or sealing floors/walls with a waterproof application.

A simple test that you can do to determine the source of your moisture problems is to tape a piece of aluminum foil to your foundation floor or walls. After a couple of days, check the foil to see if you have water on the inside or outside surface of the aluminum foil. If you have moisture on the inside, you've got some problems with water coming through your foundation that require your attention. If you have moisture on the outside, then you have condensation forming within the interior to address.

A variety of waterproofing applications such as sealers are available at your local hardware store. If you have serious water problems, contact a professional to ensure you mitigate any potential problems.

Lastly, we strongly suggest that you purchase a battery powered sump pump for your crock. In the grand scheme of things, it's a rather insignificant expense ($200-$300) and provides you with another line of defense should your primary sump pump fail due to electricity outages.

Framinghome theater construction process

At this stage, your room will begin to take shape. For a home theater project, this process typically will take only a day to complete. During this stage, the framing of any doors and windows will be completed as well as boxing around immovable obstructions. If you working with an area in your basement, be sure you request to have treated sill plates installed for added protection against a potential water problem in your basement.

During this stage, you may also want to consider any sub-flooring that you might want to build to provide your room with more favorable dimensions for maximizing sound performance as well as tiers to simulate a real movie theater viewing environment.

Mechanical Rough-Inhome theater construction process

This stage typically encompasses elements surrounding electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and plumbing installations. With respect to your home theater room, you will run wiring for your surround sound system, special lighting mechanisms, and volume control mechanisms. You'll want to carefully consider the placement of lighting within your home theater in addition to speakers and backlit poster frames so you can integrate electrical elements seamlessly into your space.

We strongly recommend at the culmination of this stage to take many photographs at several different locations and angles within your room. This will be your last opportunity to see what is behind the walls and it may be beneficial to you at some point in the future to know where things are located around your room.

Framing Inspectionhome theater construction process

The framing inspection typically occurs before insulation is installed and after all rough-in work has been completed on plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems. You often have to call and schedule this in advance, so plan carefully if time is a driver for your project.

Insulation and Air Sealinghome theater construction process

This stage is very important to those who are attempting to "soundproof" their home theater. Manufacturers such as Owens-Corning produce products exclusive for home theater projects. In any event, you'll want to make sure you use a high-grade insulation mechanism within your space maximize absorption of sound emitted from your system. With insulation, you certainly will get what you pay for.

There are several different ways to keep other areas of your home free from your booming surround sound system. Some use a combination of dense styrofoam and fiberglass batting or spray-in foam insulation in their projects while others will use two layers of drywall to soundproof the theater room. Don't neglect the ceiling or sub-flooring as you go through this process either.

Insulation Inspectionhome theater construction process

This is typically conducted after the framing has been approved during the framing inspection and after the insulation has been installed. Again, you often have to call and schedule this in advance, so plan carefully if time is a driver for your project.

Drywallhome theater construction process

The drywall stage is one of the more intensive stages, simply because it takes time to cure and sand the joint compounds that are used to join pieces of drywall into a uniform wall. From a home theater perspective, you may want to consider doubling up the amount of drywall you use in your room two create two layers. This commonly used approach will help to soundproof your room and insulate the sound from other adjoining spaces in your home.

Another approach you can take is to use sound engineered drywall. This type of wall board is developed using special materials designed specifically to address sound absorption and vibration. There are several websites you can visit to learn more about these products as well as find retailers in your area who carry these products.

Interior Finish & Trim Carpentryhome theater construction process

A variety of things happen at this stage of your project that will really give you an excellent visual representation of what your theater will ultimately look like. Interior doors are hung, baseboard is applied, windows are cased, and columns are trimmed out. Fan registers are installed and light fixtures are hung.

The trim carpentry is really what will give you theater its distinctive flair. If you're into nostalgia, adorning your theater with ornate mouldings/columns and wall sconces will provide the perfect touch.

Flooring (Part 1)home theater construction process

Not all flooring is applied at this stage. You'll often find that ceramic tile (typically in bathrooms) and hardwood floor installations will occur at this point in time. Since painting is the next stage, carpeting typically isn't installed until all of the painting is complete.

Paintinghome theater construction process

This is another time consuming piece of the project since you'll want to paint your room strategically in stages -- and you have to allow for drying time in between coats. You'll want to first start with the ceiling and then work your way to the trim carpentry (baseboards, window casings, etc.). Once those things have been taken care of, the attention can then be turned to the wall surface. You'll want to use a wall primer if you're working with fresh drywall before you apply your finish coat.

We suggest that you use dark paint colors since you'll want your home theater to be as dark as possible when watching a movie. It's best to use flat, eggshell, or satin paint and avoid creating a reflective surface caused by semi-gloss paint.

If you're doing this yourself and you're not skilled with the brush, it's best to purchase painter's tape to ensure you obtain smooth, even lines between paint colors.

Flooring (Part 2)home theater construction process

After things have been painted, it's time to install the rest of your flooring. Typically, this is reserved for carpeting.

Punch Outhome theater construction process

Commonly referred to as a "walkthrough", here you'll make sure that everything is to your satisfaction. You'll identify things on a "punch list" that you want fixed or changed and the contractor will come back prior to closing to ensure those things have been addressed.


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