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How To Build A Home Theater

5-Minute ReadUPDATED: January 28, 2022


Finding yourself in front of a screen, watching more movies at home? You’re not alone. COVID-19 has kept many movie buffs away from theaters. But what if you could replicate that movie theater experience in your home?

Building your own home theater, either by working with contractors and audio-visual pros or by taking a DIY approach, let's your family can cozy up and enjoy movie nights on your very own big screen.

Be aware, though, that creating a home theater can take lots of money and planning. There are also plenty of pitfalls that homeowners fall into when creating a home theater, everything from skimping on speaker quality to forgetting about soundproofing and letting in too much light.

Fortunately, you can boost your odds of creating your ideal home theater by avoiding some of the more common mistakes homeowners make below. 

Mistake 1: They Buy Cheap Home Theater Speakers And Don’t Set Them Up Properly

Rex Freiberger, chief executive officer of technology and lifestyle publication Gadget Review, says that homeowners often give little thought to the speakers in their home theaters. This can lead to muddy sound when screening movies.

Freiberger says that homeowners either don't buy the right speakers, or they place them incorrectly.

Wondering where to place your speakers? Freiberger says that if your theater seating is located toward the center of your home theater, you should place your front speakers on either side of the display screen with a subwoofer upfront, too. You should position your theater's surround speakers so that they are at a roughly 110- to 150-degree angle from the room's front.

Freiberger recommends that you don't skimp on the quality of your cables, either. After all, purchasing more expensive and higher-quality speakers will greatly improve your viewing experience.

"The ones that come with your set-up aren't going to cut it in most cases," he says. "They'll work fine for a while, but they'll need to be replaced fairly quickly. You'll definitely notice a difference in performance when you buy better quality."

Mistake 2: They Let In Too Much Light

Larry Greene, president of Case Design/Remodeling in Indianapolis, says that homeowners must also focus on lighting. Specifically, they should make sure that the space they choose for their home theaters doesn't get too much light. 

This is why Greene recommends placing a home theater in a room that lacks windows and can be sealed tight to prevent other light sources from sneaking through, perhaps in your home basement

"The thing we love most about theaters is the ability to be immersed in the film we're watching," Greene says. "With comfortable seating, side tables to enjoy snacks or beverages and dimmable, overhead lighting, you can create that same experience, but even better because all the comforts of home are at your fingertips."

Mistake 3: They Let Outside Sounds Intrude On Their Screenings

Chris O'Halloran, founder and chief executive officer of Denver-based pre-construction platform Joyne, is not only a licensed builder, he's also a movie buff. Because of this, he has plenty of thoughts on home theaters. His top recommendation: Don't forget to soundproof your theater room. 

"To really enjoy a movie, it has to be loud," O'Halloran says. "So the room needs to be designed to minimize the transmission of sound as best as possible." 

O'Halloran encourages installing sound-insulating drywall on your home theater's walls and ceilings. You can also add an internal false wall to your home theater. This will provide an air gap that will significantly reduce the transmission of sound. 

To reduce echoes, you can install acoustic paneling. O'Halloran also recommends that homeowners carpet the floor of their home theaters and lay sound-absorbing underlayment under this floor covering. 

Mistake 4: They Forget To Focus On The Smaller Details

Judd Builders, a custom home builder based in Asheville, North Carolina, has built plenty of home theaters and currently has homes under constructions that will include their own theaters. John Judd Jr., owner of the company, says that homeowners need to answer several key questions to boost the odds that they'll be left with a home theater that serves their needs.

First, they'll have to determine what type of seating they want. Many want stadium-style seating as a way to replicate the feel of a movie theater. This will require extra work but is certainly doable. The more seats owners want, though, the larger a home theater space they'll need. Judd says it's important, then, for homeowners to know how many people they'd like to comfortably seat in their theater.

Homeowners must also decide where they want their audio and video equipment to go, if they want side or overhead lighting and if they want to soundproof their theater's walls and ceilings.

"The biggest mistakes we see are people don't plan ahead for the electrical and the soundproofing," Judd says.

Judd’s company specializes in building custom homes. Often, clients will return to him years after their homes were built and ask him to add a home theater to their lower levels. The problem? Adding a home theater to an existing space isn’t as easy as planning one out when a home is being built.

The electrical systems often aren’t powerful enough in existing homes to support a home theater, or the layouts of already-built homes don’t lend themselves to the addition of a screening room, Judd says. Other clients request basements that are filled with plenty of daylight. When they then add a home theater to these spaces, they struggle to create a space that is dark enough for screenings.

This is why Judd recommends that homeowners add their home theaters when they are first building their homes. That way, they can create a space designed specifically for screening movies.

This doesn’t mean that owners of existing homes can’t add home theaters, Judd says. It just requires that they work closely with contractors who have relevant experience.

"We suggest speaking to a contractor that can help you organize and schedule the project so that everyone involved is on the same page," Judd says. "They will be able to tell you where the theater can go in terms of framing and the best way to insulate and soundproof. Having one point person for a project such as a home theater can help eliminate confusion among the different trades involved."

Mistake 5: They Don't Build A Proper Audio-Visual Rack

If your home theater space has a brain, it's your audio-visual, or A/V components. These include everything from your DVD player and cable box to your BluRay device and streaming box. You need to build a dedicated rack for these key items.

Make sure the rack is large enough to comfortably hold your components and the wires connecting them. Make sure, too, that you have strong internet access for these components so that your streaming nights aren't interrupted by buffering.

Finally, make sure your A/V rack is properly ventilated. The A/V components of your home theater system can create plenty of heat. If this heat build-up becomes too much, these components could suffer damage. The key is making sure that your A/V rack is open-air in both the front and back. This will allow any heat to disperse.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to streaming services, setting up an enjoyable home theater room is easier than ever. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap, though. Buying the right screen, installing soundproofing equipment and creating dedicated seating all costs money. You can help pay for this personalized, high-quality experience by applying for a personal loan today.

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