Building a Home Theatre

Many people love the experience of going to the cinema: hot buttered popcorn, stadium seating, huge screens, incredible and immersive sound, and perfect ambiance. It’s an activity that can be enjoyed solo or with family and friends, and more and more people are choosing to recreate the movie theatre experience in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Choosing to include a home entertainment system in a house you are planning to build, or upgrading an existing room in your home, can add to the resale value of your property. Additionally, it can increase personal satisfaction to have dedicated space in the home for friends and family to gather for movies, sports, or games. However, there are many things to take into consideration before creating your ideal home theatre.

New Build or Upgrade?

If you are including a home theatre in your plans for building a new home, then there are a great deal more options available to you for complete customization. If beginning from scratch, you have the advantage of total control over the optimal construction materials to use for soundproofing and acoustics, choosing your ideal location, and planning out your electrical needs. If upgrading an existing space, there are also plenty of improvements that can be made to create a perfect home entertainment experience.

Acoustics & Soundproofing
In order to achieve a great-sounding room, there is more to think about than just audio equipment. A high-quality sound system can easily be muddied by a poorly planned space. Soundproofing also needs to be considered, especially in a multi-person household or with neighbours in proximity.

Too many parallel surfaces in a room will increase distortion and reverberation. Square rooms and small rooms should be avoided if possible. A rectangular room, or even a large, asymmetrical room, is a better alternative if sound quality is imperative to you. However, if square and/or small is your only option for a room, there are treatments that can be done to mitigate any negative acoustical effects. Your chosen room for a home theatre should also be as self-contained as possible, which not only allows for better control of light and sound, but also increases the snug, intimate feel of the room.

Many people will opt for acoustic drop ceiling tiles for sound-deadening and reduction of reverberation. If you do not have a ceiling grid in place, you can choose to install acoustic panels instead.

Carpeting is the superior choice to hard flooring for sound absorption. The more reflective surfaces there are, the more issues that may arise when trying to manage the sound of your room. If your heart is set on installing or keeping hard flooring, consider a floating floor or the addition of a large area rug.

As with the ceiling and flooring, walls should be optimized for first-rate sound quality. Standard drywall is an adequate surface for a home theatre, especially when acoustic insulation has been added. However, walls can also be treated with acoustic panels that either diffuse or absorb sound to maximize the audio quality in the room.

Speaker placement is of the utmost importance when it comes to the ultimate home theatre surround sound experience. The most basic surround sound systems often include: two front-facing speakers to be placed on either side of your screen or projection; two rear speakers, placed behind you at the back of the room; a centre channel just above or below the screen or projection; and a receiver and subwoofer. The subwoofer should be placed alongside a wall, preferably at the front of the room and as close to the centre of the wall as possible. It should be noted that many entertainment units come with cabinets meant for visually hiding speakers and subwoofers; this is inadvisable. Placing speakers or a subwoofer in a cabinet will greatly decrease the quality of your sound through an increase of reflections and resonances within the furniture.

Choosing a heavy, solid core door is preferable for a home theatre. Doors are almost always the weak point in an otherwise soundproof wall. As for windows, the fewer, the better! As hard surfaces, they are another culprit for unwanted sound reflection. In addition to letting more outside sound in, they also let in light which can result in an unwanted glare on your screen. Any windows should be fitted with heavy curtains or black-out coverings, and ideally, the screen or projection will not be placed opposite a window.

As mentioned earlier, the chosen room for a home theatre should be as self-contained as possible. This often makes the basement an optimal choice for building a home theatre, but comes with important ambient noise considerations. HVAC systems are rarely as quiet as we would like! Fortunately, there are ways to reduce this unwanted noise. The soundproofing options that have been discussed earlier go a long way towards ambient noise reduction, but there are additional methods. Acoustic caulking is another soundproofing method that also has the advantage of deadening sound reverberation in vents. Ducts can also be insulated to reduce vibrations. Additionally, increasing the number of vents or the size of the duct will decrease the velocity of air travelling through the vents, resulting in less noise when the A/C or furnace turns on.

Lighting & Wiring
Ambiance and convenience are essential in a home theatre. When planning your space, consider how dark it is. Projectors are better suited to darker rooms, while television screens perform well in a semi-lit room. Also, acknowledge the surface of your television: some have anti-reflective, matte surfaces, and others have a glass-like coating over the screen panel. The latter type of screen will present a bigger issue when it comes to distracting reflections coming from light sources within the room.

Remote control lighting is often desired in a home theatre setup. It enables the viewer(s) to have control over their preferred lighting level without having to get up and use a wall switch/dimmer.

If you are planning on a full surround sound system, keep in mind the amount of speaker wire that will be running through the room. This can be quite visually unappealing; however, for many people, making holes in existing walls and/or ceilings for wires to travel through is not a practical choice! Wires can be concealed by tucking them between carpets and baseboards, using cable raceways or cable covers, or by choosing to use flat, adhesive speaker wire.

If you are planning on using a projector in your home theatre, you may want to consider having a ceiling outlet installed.

Screen Size and Distance
A common error people make when choosing a television for their home theatre is selecting one that is far too big for the space it is meant for. A good general guideline to follow is to have the viewing distance 1.5 to 3 times the diagonal size of your television screen or projection.

Furnishings and Seating Layout
Soft furnishings are another boon to acoustic harmony. Remember, we want as few hard surfaces as possible! The seating layout is also critical. If you are planning on a large home theatre with multiple seating options, it is vital to ensure that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Every seat should have a good view of the screen or projection with unobstructed sound.

What Works Best for You?
There are so many options available when it comes to building a brand-new home theatre or upgrading an existing space to suit your entertainment needs. Whether you want a modest, cozy experience or a deluxe private cinema with all the bells and whistles, there is no end to the choices available to create the leisure space of your dreams. Tara Construction would be happy to sit down and work with your budget and needs to help bring your home theatre vision to life.