Friday, September 09 2011
Back when I lived in a high-rise condominium, I had a simple television and a decent sound system – nothing special. After I got married, my wife and I moved to a single-family home and wanted to take the opportunity to create a truly remarkable media room in our basement.
We ended up spending plenty of money renovating our seventy-year-old house, so we had very little left over for a state-of-the-art movie room. Despite the tight budget, we built an incredible entertainment center.
There are plenty of companies ready and waiting to build your dream room, and they charge you tens of thousands of dollars to do it. However, if you want to save by taking on the project yourself, consider these five key elements of creating your media room, and the ways to exceed expectations without exceeding your budget.
Have you ever noticed how high-end audio stores always demonstrate their speakers in a special room? It’s no trade secret; the acoustics of your room have about as much to do with your perceived sound quality as the speakers themselves.
When you keep acoustics in mind for your room design, you can help contain sounds and minimize the penetration of outside noises by building a space that absorbs sound rather than reflecting or transmitting it. The key to incredible sound is how you cover the space, top to bottom.
Acoustic tiles are the ideal surface for your room’s ceiling. Visit any movie theater, and you will notice that their ceilings are covered with fiberglass panels much like the ones in the dropped ceilings you see in most offices. Fortunately, using these drop systems is the least expensive way to cover an unfinished ceiling.
Because of the low ceilings in my basement, I had to remove the existing ceiling first. Within the structure of the floor above, I added two layers of common fiberglass insulation. Two layers of insulation won’t retain much more heat than one, but packing in a second layer really helps to contain the sound. Though insulation is messy, it’s inexpensive and easy to install.
Next, I installed all of the hardware and wiring for the lights, speakers, and ceiling mounted projector.
Finally, I installed the drop ceiling made of standard fiberglass tiles. Most media rooms are black, to create a theater-like experience, and the hardest part was finding all of the tiles and hardware in black. I finally found a home improvement store that would special order it for me. If you are unable to find black panels, you can coat them with spray paint before installing them.
I completed the ceiling first so as to minimize the chances of damaging the walls or ruining the carpet. The total cost of our 150-square-foot-room was under $200.
Most modern homes have walls made of drywall, while older homes like mine have plaster walls. Both materials have terrible acoustics.
To fix the problem, I added inexpensive, lightweight acoustic boards that almost any home improvement store will carry. I then had my carpet installer cover them with thin, indoor/outdoor carpeting, like the kind you’d find covering the walls of many movie theaters.
Again, you will want to complete the walls before you start on the floor in order to avoid ruining your floor’s carpet. My total cost was under $500 for the acoustic panels, the thin carpet, and the installation.
If you have windows in your movie room, try to cover them to block out light. Room-darkening shades are a great option, especially combined with standard curtains. Alternatively, you can purchase heavier curtains that are lined to keep out light.