Hide Your DVR Behind Your TV

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About: Computer nerd, obsessed with 3d printing, pilot, animal lover, commutes 25 miles to work on a bicycle

This project describes our adventure to reclaim our TV room. The room is rectangular, for years we covered the end wall window with a TV on a stand. In the before picture there is a stand with wires dripping all around and you can't see it but the TV is actually perched atop an old briefcase. Lovely.

So we decided to clean things up. The project involves sealing over the window and using that space within the wall for the electronics, in our case a DVR, XBox and power strip. We put the TV in front of the electronics so everything was hidden. All power and cabling was plumbed into the wall, the end result is a flat-against-the-wall TV and sound bar, nice and neat! Add some darker paint and now we have a TV room! And yes that is a gecko on the wall.

Best of all, the TV is mounted on hinges so it will swing up and out of the way whenever we need to access the equipment. Even if you are not interested in covering up a window, I will show you how to hide your equipment behind your TV and use gas charged struts to raise and lower the TV.

Step 1: Pick a Wall, Any Wall

Your first job will be to decide which wall you want to install your TV onto.

In our case we sealed off an exterior window with plywood then placed the equipment in the remaining space. Because we live in Hawaii where we don't need exterior insulation we could get away with storing our AV equipment in the wall. But if you live somewhere cold chances are you are not going to want zero insulation between you and the outside so you have 2 choices: use an interior, non-insulated wall, or build a box to hold your DVR behind the TV. The 2nd option will project your TV a bit further out from the wall than flush-mounting, but it is still more space-saving than storing the TV atop an old briefcase atop a china cabinet. I will not show you how to build such a box, but if you are gifted with carpentry skills you can do it, of that I am confident.

Start by measuring your TV where it will hang on the wall, followed by how much room you need for equipment. Consider you will need power, if you have a XBox or game console, DVR, DVD player, a UPS perhaps, but make sure whatever you do not to make the compartment so large that the TV doesn't hide it. In our case the TV is slightly smaller than the window we covered yet the equipment compartment is considerable smaller.

Step 2: Find What's Behind the Wall

To create a perfectly clean installation you will need to get power, satellite/cable and perhaps other services up to your equipment area. When we started we had 3 openings on the wall beneath the window- a power receptacle, an old unused cable receptacle and a low quality hole in the wall where Spectrum installed a their cable. We need to consolidate all of this and get it into the equipment compartment.

Start by cutting the sheetrock around the existing penetrations. You don't have to be super neat. I set a Dremel skill saw to 1/2" depth so to not damage the studs and started cutting away sheetrock until we could see what was there.

Step 3: How to Get There From Here

Next figure out what route you are going to take and what outlets you want left behind afterwards. Use this as an opportunity to consolidate. In our case we needed to run power up to the equipment area plus needed to get coax cable across a stud before turning up so we opened a large enough area of sheetrock to enable work.

For power we cut the molded plug off a cheap powerstrip, exposing the 3 conductors, and snaked that cord down down to the junction box below, then attached the conductors to the existing receptacle. Make sure you have ground, hot and neutral wired correctly. You don't need to use a powerstrip if a simple receptacle will suffice.

HINT: use a powerstrip that provides USB power as well as regular voltage. You will see later why.

Please do yourself a favor and run a cable from one of your TV's inputs down the wall to a receptacle so that in the future, if you want to use an alternative input such as a computer or game station, the cabling is already done. We installed a 2-gang junction box and ran a spare HDMI cable down to a special receptacle as shown in the image above (you can buy these receptacles in any home improvement store).

We started with 3 wall penetrations and ended with just 2!

Step 4: Seal It Up

Time to seal the wall. Not much to explain here.

Cut sheet rock to fit the openings, tape and mud, apply texture to match. Use your own judgement, I like to apply corner bead to all exposed edges but since this installation will be covered by your TV it is up to you.

For this installation there is a sound bar located beneath the TV, so prior to sealing up the sheetrock we drilled holes down and out to feed power and digital audio cables to the sound bar and ensured we had adequate wood in place for its attachment.

Step 5: Building the TV Hinge

After the last step we went ahead and painted the room!

The next couple of steps will be building a hinge that will support the weight of the TV and will allow it to pivot from vertical to horizontal. We chose 3/4" plywood as the hinge flapper material that was bolted to 2 heavy duty galvanized hinges. The metal hinges will attach to studs in the wall, the plywood flapper will provide a strong attach point for your TV wall mount.

NOTE: purchase a TV wall mount kit that provides a latch that prevents the TV from coming off the mount, you don't want to inadvertently disengage your TV while lifting! Ours provides a slight tilt feature so the TV can tilt down toward viewers, you can see this in the opening video. Totally unnecessary, get what works for you.

Since the dimensions of TV's, mounts and hinges vary widely I am not going to attempt to tell you what size everything should be. Look at the pictures, do the math and come up with something that works for you.

Step 6: Location Location Location

You should have already determined the location of your TV, height and centerline. When you cut open your wall you found the studs in the wall behind it. You should have sized the equipment opening such that it is large enough for your DVR and other equipment, but not so large that it will be visible to people in the room (don't get the penetration edges too close to the sides of your TV.

Now we need to figure out how large of a hinge and flapper we need.

If the TV landed approximately in the middle of your studs you can get away with 2 hinges, if not you may need 3 hinges since the load will be off-center. When you opened the wall you can always add some studs and cross bracing at precisely the right height and vertical location.

NOTE: there is a drawing coming up a few steps from now that shows how the hinges, flapper and TV should fit. Please take a look.

The hinge pivot point should be even with or slightly higher than the top of the TV, but not too much higher else the hinges will be visible to people standing in the room. You need for the TV to rotate slightly past horizontal without jamming into the wall, so either build out the hinges away from the wall (which will allow over-rotation), or locate the hinges 1/2" to 1" higher than the TV, but be mindful that the will be visible to people able to see over the TV. The goal is to make the TV seem as if it is floating on the wall while also able to rotate to horizontal (actually the TV doesn't need to rotate to horizontal, it just needs to be out of the way, you can adjust the measurements to make it whatever works for you).

With the TV on the ground and safely supported, attach the wall mount hardware to measure the distance from top of TV to bottom of hardware attach point, this determines the minimum height of your plywood flapper. You should now be able to cut the plywood flapper to size.

We made our plywood flapper 24" x 19", just long enough for the wall mount to attach, there is a drawing

NOTE: in hindsight I should have made the plywood hinge longer than 19" and perhaps attached a handle. I was obsessing over saving weight and not realizing that the extra flapper length would be useful when lifting the assembly. It isn't a problem but would be more convenient if the flapper extended to nearly the bottom of the TV and an extra pound or two wouldn't have mattered.

Step 7: Choose Your Hinges

The hinges will be carrying a heavy load, so get good ones, again from a home improvement store. These are 3" heavy duty galvanized hinges, if your TV is really heavy you might consider getting 4" hinges.

These hinges had several pre-drilled holes. Two were aligned vertically, perfect for attaching into a stud, however the two holes near the top are spread out too much to use with a single stud. Without support close to the hinge point the metal will bend. So I drilled and countersunk a 3rd hole to help prevent the hinge from bending due to stress.

Don't skimp on attaching the hinges. On the flapper side, drill through the plywood and use bolts with washers, lock washers and nuts to attach the hinge to the flapper. Regular wood screws will likely pull out, so go all the way through and use nuts on the other side (my opinion only).

On the wall side attach the hinge to the wall stud using as heavy a wood screw as you can find, as deep as possible. For this installation we used 2x 3/8" x 4" lag bolts in the large holes and a 4" deck screw in the top hole that we made ourselves. We don't want this coming out. Bad!

Step 8: Spacing From Hinge to Wall

You might have noticed in some of the pictures that I have a wooden spacer between the metal hinge and the wall itself. This is because of the strut attachment bracket protrudes 1" from the back of the flapper, and I wanted the flapper to hang down vertically without the attachments hitting the wall. So I built 2x 1" thick blocks of wood by gluing some 1/4" and 3/4" plywood together.

With the hinge in the fully down position there is about 1/4" clearance between the bracket and the wall, which means when in the closed (down) position the strut attach point at the to will be about 3/8" from the wall and the bottom strut attach point will be 7/8", resulting in a net positive close pressure of a couple ounces. Take another look at the opening video, notice how when the TV is almost completely down it actually "snaps" in place..

Having completed this project I think the best recommendation is to move the hinge point out away from the wall as far as possible (mine is 1"). This will better allow for over rotation past 90 degrees without having to put the hinge higher than the top of the TV. Just make sure to use long attachment bolts into your studs.

Step 9: Sizing the Struts

It is now time to calculate what size strut you need.

You should probably whip out some paper and pencil to sketch your hinge. I used Fusion 360 to create this diagram but you don't need to be so fancy. The key thing here is to measure the distance from the hinge pivot point to the center of gravity of the TV/mount assembly to determine the moment (force times distance).

Our TV + mount + plywood flapper weighs just about 50 lb (222 Newtons). The distance from the hinge pivot point (not the wall) to the center of gravity of the TV is 15.75 in (40 cm). Multiply these 2 values together to determine the moment:

Moment = Force x Distance = 50 x 15.75 = 788 in-lb (908 kg-cm)

Add 10-15% for holding the TV safely when the struts are fully extended:

Moment + 10% = 778 + 78 = 856 in-lb (1000 kg-cm)

The struts must produce a minimum upward force equal to 856 in-lb (1000 kg-cm). Since we are using 2 struts you can divide the total needed by 2, therefore each strut must provide enough vertical lifting force to support a moment of 428 in-lb (500 kg-cm). That's the moment, but since you don't know how far the strut will be from the hinge you don't know how much force your strut needs.

Now you can begin searching for a suitable gas strut on the Internets, for example one manufacturer is Suspa which are available on Amazon, other manufacturers are also available. Find a family of struts with the same extension dimensions but providing different forces, so sizing the strut will be easy. There are 3 values you need to be concerned about: the collapsed length, the overall length and the length of travel.

The Suspa C16 strut family is 19.7 in (50 cm) extended, 11.8 in (30 cm) collapsed, which gives a length of travel of 7.9 in (20 cm)

Length of Travel = Extended length - Collapsed length = 19.7 - 11.8 = 7.9 in (20 cm)

You now have the dimensions you need to mount the strut. Make the hinged attachment point on the flapper equal to the length of travel and the fixed attachment point on the wall equal to the collapsed length plus the length of travel. Refer to the drawing. Both dimensions are from the hinge pivot point.

Hinged distance = Length of travel = 7.9 in (20 cm)

Fixed distance = Collapsed length + Length of travel = 18.7 in (47.5 cm)

Since we now know where the strut attaches to the flapper we can calculate how much force the strut must provide to create the moment that is needed to lift and hold the TV. Remember the moment at the attach point must equal or exceed the moment at the TV's center of gravity. We already determined that each strut must provide 428 in-lb (500 kg-cm) of moment.

Strut force x 7.9 in = 428 in-lb (moment for each individual strut)

Strut force = 428 / 7.9 = 54 lb (241 Newtons)

The closest match from this manufacturer appears to be 60 lb force struts. Gas struts are made in many lengths and forces so explore around before settling on a particular manufacturer.

NOTE FOR THE ENGINEERING-MINDED:

The strut's force is along its axis, which for this configuration when fully extended is at a 24 degree angle. The force consists of a vertical and horizontal component. The vertical force component is 60 lb x cos(24) = 55 lb with a horizontal shear force component of 24 lb (60 x sin(24)). Working backwards, with a 55 lb vertical force x 2 at 7.9 in from the hinge pivot point results in an actual lifting moment of 869 in-lb when the flapper is at 90 degrees, or about 12% more than the minimum required of 778 in-lb, so we are still within our requirement of 10-15% extra lift to keep the TV up in the fully extended position. 869 in-lb of moment works out to be 55 lbs of upward force at the TV's center of gravity, which means approximately 5 pounds of downward force will be needed to close the assembly from its fully extending position.

Here are some useful conversions from English to Metric measurements:


1 pound weight = 4.443 Newtons

1 inch = 2.54 centimeters = 25.4 millimeters

Step 10: Attaching the Struts

Don't get into too big of a hurry to install your struts, they come fully extended and require A LOT of force to collapse. So unless you want to work underneath your TV or a bunch of lead weights, installing the struts too early will mean that without the TV you will need about 55 lbs of force to close the assembly. Until you hang the TV it will be better to use a tall support to hold your assembly up.

The struts attach to a standard 10mm ball bracket. There are different styles of brackets, choose the one that best suits your installation. The bent ones are for attaching to a flat surface such as our flapper and wall, the straight one can attach onto the side of a stud.

The brackets we used extend 1-1/8" from the surface with the ball joint at 7/8". We already built spacers to mount the hinges 1-1/4" from the wall so the flapper should hang vertically. Mount the brackets on the flapper in line with the strut attach point to the wall, in our case everything is aligned on the wall studs supporting each hinge, but you can vary it (you could for example mount the struts inside or outside the hinge points).

Tip: after calculating the strut mount locations, install the top strut brackets on the underside of the flapper. Then press the struts (hydraulic end on top) onto the brackets so that they hang down. Lift the flapper to a horizontal (or near horizontal) position. Be careful about rotating up past 90 degrees unless you allowed for it when you calculated the top position of your TV, else it might hit the wall. Do not insert the bottom bracket all the way into the bottom of the strut, just hold it in place, and carefully mark its position on the wall or stud where you plan to install the bottom bracket (it should align itself to the diagram shown earlier but in case you made a slight error this will catch it. Now attach the bottom bracket to the wall/stud. Do the same again for the other side.

Lower the flapper and leave the 2 struts just hanging, do not press them into the bottom bracket until you have hung the TV.

Step 11: Hang the TV

With the struts dangling from the upper brackets, lower the hinge flapper so that it is in the down position, parallel to your wall. Set the TV onto the wall mount. Be sure the bottom catches are engaged so it cannot accidentally slide up and off.

You might need a helper to help hold the assembly up while you connect the struts to the bottom brackets. With the TV securely attached, raise the entire assembly to 90 degrees and snap the strut bottoms onto the ball of the brackets. Remember the cylinder goes on top, the silver rod goes on bottom.

Step 12: Install Equipment and Wiring

Drill at least 1" diameter holes through each stud for cables to pass between compartments. Arrange your equipment so that it is readily accessible. If you elected to install a small UPS be sure there is adequate ventilation (we didn't install one).

If you look closely you will notice that I made a mistake. I didn't pay attention to the location of the right strut attachment bracket when I drilled the cable hole through the stud. This resulted in one of the bracket attachment screws coming into contact with the cables. Do as I say, not as I do!

I used cable ties with a mounting hole which were then screwed into wood. If you don't have those you could screw in a small eye hook and attach a regular cable tie through that.

Be careful attaching your cables to the back of the flapper so they 1) move with the assembly and 2) don't sag beneath the bottom of the TV. That is ugly and bad.

One strategy that works pretty well for cables that go from equipment to the TV is start running them high near the hinge point on the underside of the flapper, as close to the top as possible. Then attach them a couple more places to they can connect to the back of the TV without sagging. This allows the cables to easily pivot as you raise and lower the TV and any sag will be out of sight.

Step 13: Controlling Your Infra-red Remote Devices

Fortunately XBox uses Bluetooth to communicate from controller to the box, so no line-of-sight is needed.

Older devices however, such as our DVR, must have a direct line-of-sight from the remote to the device's infra-red sensor. Since the whole point of putting the DVR behind the TV is to hide it, we must find a way to control it while tucked away.

I experimented with a number of so-called "remote extenders" and found none worked reliably, including ones that claim to work with my model of DVR by plugging a 3.5mm plug into the remote input on the back.

Then I found an active IR Extender by Cable Matters. I am sure there are others like it, this is the one we settled upon. What makes this one work well is it has its own power supply via a USB connector (hence it is "active") so produces a consistent, bring IR signal. The power strip we installed earlier has a couple USB outlets so it was a simple matter to plug it in, then route the input sensor to the bottom front of the TV, attached with some double-sided tape. The emitter was placed opposite the DVR's infra-red sensor location, again with double-sided tape. The extender's IR sensor is double-sided taped to the front of the TV but you can put it anywhere convenient. Depending on the strength of the batteries in the remotes it works pretty well up to about 12 feet distance from the TV.

This particular extenders cable is about 10' long, great for when your equipment is in a closet but not so much when tucked into a small compartment like this, so I 3D printed a small spool to wind the extra cable on. You can see the spool in the 2nd of the pictures in the previous step.

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    Thanks for sharing this. I need to do this with my router.