Introduction: How to Make a DIY Home Theater
In the past decade home theaters have become more popular in homes around the country, instead of simply being a luxury item that only the rich or famous could afford. Technology continues to improve, making the equipment more affordable and easier to install.
Step 1: Theater Location
As you analyze your home to determine the best location for your home theater, think about a few things. First, you won’t want the theater right next to bedrooms, since the noise can disrupt sleeping children. If the only space you have available is next to a bedroom, consider spending a little extra to soundproof.
Experts estimate that you need at least 20 feet (length) x 13 feet (width) for a theater room. The most highly recommended locations are rooms that are next to the family or dining room -- or converting a larger spare bedroom.
Step 2: Insulation and Framing
Once you decide on the space, the next step is insulation and framing, if you're creating or modifying the room. Insulation plays an important role in keeping the sound limited to the theater room. A standard R30 rating will work for the floor, but you'll want to add loosely packed R11-rated insulation to the interior walls as well.
Step 3: Surround Sound
One reason we enjoy going to the movie theater is because the large screen and surrounding speakers make us feel like we're part of the excitement. In order to make your home theater feel the same, you'll need to wire and install a sound system.
Surround sound experts recommend at least a 7.1 surround system that has one subwoofer and seven speakers to put in designated spots around the room: right, left, center, two rear surrounds, and two side surrounds. Mark the spots where you plan to hang the speakers, then connect each to a central hub.
Step 4: Wiring
The cables that connect the rear and side speakers to the hub need to be at least 16-gauge, 4-conducters, while left, center, and right speakers need 12-gauge or 14-gauge cables. The central hub can be inside of a closet or entertainment center.
Step 5: Screen
Some home theaters contain large flat-screen televisions, but the largest TV available is 80 inches, so when you compare that to a 30’ x 70’ movie screen the TV will feel much smaller. Instead, wire a projector in the ceiling and use that to project on a screen as large as you can fit. Pros recommend a 110-120-inch screen size for a 20’ x 13’ theater room.
For the projector, you'll need an HDMI cable and a CAT5 control wire that you connect to the projector to provide an HD video feed and remote control. You can purchase a pull-down projector screen, or you can simply use projection screen paint (available at most hardware stores) and paint a screen onto any wall. Finish the job by framing the screen-painted area with a black border.
Step 6: Add Devices
Once you install your projector, surround sound, and screen, you're ready to start connecting your multimedia devices. You can connect a Blu-Ray or DVD player, add your home computer, connect to your satellite or cable TV subscription, or add a gaming console. Another option to stream movies is to add an Apple TV or Roku that can play movies on your computer. If you subscribe to triple play, you can project the television programming or Internet content through your computer.
Step 7: Seating
Comfortable seating will make it more enjoyable to spend time in the theater room, so add some cozy couches or recliners. Some furniture manufacturers make theater-specific recliners with cup holders in the armrests, so this is a fun way to give a more authentic theater feel. If you decide to put in rows of seating, you might want to elevate each row to make sure those sitting in the back can see as well as those in the front.
After you complete your theater room, sit back with your family, pop some popcorn, and enjoy the excitement of Hollywood blockbusters or your favorite reality show on a big screen.