How to Build a Home Theater
Want a movie-theater experience in your home? Learn how to build a home theater with step by step instructions from the pros at HGTV.com
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Home theaters are no longer only an extravagance for the rich and famous. Thanks to more affordable technology, many families are enjoying a true movie theater experience without leaving home. If you're thinking about building a home theater, let HGTV walk you through the steps.
Step 1: Choose a Location
The ideal space for a home theater is 20 feet long by 13 feet wide and relatively isolated from the rest of the house. "It has to be in a place that does not interrupt the business of the home," says Rob Rickel, president of RSR Custom Renovations and Additions. "You don't want the sound disturbing everyone."
Good options include:
Building a theater wing off the family room
Closing in the open second-story space above a formal living room
Converting a spare bedroom that's at least 12 by 12 feet
Step 2: Frame and Insulate
Building the shell of a home theater is similar to building any other addition to your home – with one exception. You'll want to pay special attention to insulation. A rating of R30 is standard for the floor, ceiling, and exterior wall insulation, but don't neglect the interior walls. Loosely packed R11 can help keep the sound of movie explosions from rocking the rest of your home. It won't block the noise completely, though. You'll need to add additional sound barriers after you pre-wire the room.
Step 3: Pre-Wire Surround Sound
Most home theaters use a 7.1 surround sound system. This includes one subwoofer and seven channel speakers – left, right, center, two side surrounds, and two rear surrounds. To pre-wire a 7.1 system, follow these steps:
Mark the location where each speaker will go:
Center – just above or below the viewing screen
Left/Right – on either side of the screen at ear height
Side Surrounds – on the side walls just behind the main row of seating
Rear Surrounds – on the back wall (how far apart depends on the system)
Choose a spot for the hub that will house your receiver and other A/V equipment. The hub can be hidden in a cabinet inside the theater or in a closet nearby.
Run audio cables from the hub to each speaker location. Cables should be at least 16-4 (16-gauge, four conductors) for side and rear speakers. Use stronger 12 or 14-gauge cables for left, right, and center speakers.
Some home theaters now use 9.1 surround sound, says Michael Fox of Cinema Sound. This adds another set of speakers in the front of the room. "If there's a helicopter flying overhead (in the movie), you'll hear that sound from those top speakers," Fox says.
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