Greengate Ranch Remodel
Remodeling a Daylight Ranch in Oregon

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Home Theater #14 - Screen Size

I am trying to make a final deicsion on the screen size for our home theater. Since I am building it from sheetrock (see previous posts), this is going to be a relatively permenent setup.

We use our projector to watch normal TV as well as HDTV and DVD's - so my initial idea has been to go with a 4:3 screen that's as large as reasonably possible (60" high x 80" wide). If I stick with this, we have the blank horizontal bands for 16:9 formats.

There are of course a number of opinions on this. I fould what seems to be the most objective at Projector Central, in the article: What is the best screen format?

For today (and the next couple of years), 4:3 is obviously the way to go. Since I am laying stone around the screen, going to 16:9 won't be very easy. I would need to tear it out and add more veneer, which is not a good idea. Instead of building the screen sitting in front of the stone, I could inset it - then la more up if the scrren needed to become 16:9, maintaining the same width. Another option is to lay the stone up to accomodate an HD ratio screen and mounting a screen over it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Craft Closet #1

After watching a Martha Stewart segment on pegboard organizers my DW decided she wanted pegboard in the craft closet and sewing center I am building for her. The craft closet (4' x 5') is located at the entrance to our home theater as shown in the diagram below. The sewing center is on the other side of the basement.

We decided to focus on the storage areas of the basement remodel before completing the home theater, so we can get all the remaining stuff that is stacked in the room put away. Also, I am not 100% settled on all the theater room details, and this will give me time to work them out.

Here is a picture of the craft closet before installing pegboard. Why do all this sheetrock work if you just going to install pegboard over it? Two reasons: sound management and fire resistance. The sheetrock walls of this and the opposing closet are sound absorbers, stopping the noise from the theater traveling to the rest of the living areas. So far the sound reduction has been great, and the sheetrocked partition walls obviously contribute to this a lot. Also, even on a simple partition wall internal to the house, its best to sheetrock and tape it to help reduce airflow in case of fire. I could not find a specific requirement for it in this case, but it's always a good idea.

In this photo, the pegboard is being installed. I have a system that includes a support ledger and battens to mount the pegboard. The 1/2" battens provide room for the hooks. I used OSB that I cut into strips, which is significantly less expensive than using furring strips. I can cut 30 OSB strips for the cost of 5 1x2 furring strips (in about 15 minutes). Also, OSB is a greener option, since it's made from wood chips, not full lumber.

Here is a simple diagram showing how the pegboard is mounted. The lower ledgers will also provide support for the work surfaces I am installing later.

Here is the sewing center with the ledgers installed. Note that I have a top ledger as well. This is because the pegboard will not go all the way to the ceiling here, and I need a surface to nail the top trim to.

This next photo shows the battens installed. These are nailed directly to the studs behind the sheetrock. I also glued them with wood glue.

Note that I put small batten supports around the outlet boxes. I am going to need to add electrical box extenders to bring the face of the box even with the pegboard. I am definitely not in favor of just bringing the outlets out the surface and leaving a gap. This exposes combustible material to open wiring, which is a code violation and just plain hazardous. A few extra dollars and minutes are not a big deal.

Finally, here is the pegboard installed. I now need to trim it out before my DW paints it. The corners came out very tight, so I am only caulking these. Once painted, I will install the work surface.

I have to admit that I initially thought the idea of pegboard was crazy. I reminds me of some musty garage workbench. However, after doing a bit of research to make sure I could provide what my DW wanted, I realized there are a lot of cool accessories out there, and the overall flexibility is great.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Home Theater #13 - Concept for Screen & Cabinets

I have decided on the concept for the cabinets and wall around the projection screen. Here is the rough drawing (made in visio)...

It looks a bit busier that it will be because of how the beadboard looks in the sketch. Basically, there will be cottage-style cabinets on either side of the screen - open on the top, drawers on the bottom, beadboard as backing. The open places on the wall will have stone.

I got the idea for stone from the following picture:

The cabinets will echo the large bookshelves outside the theater room, but will be stained rather than painted. I got the original idea from this cabinet picture I took at the PDX Street of Dreams.

Here area the bookshelves (from an earlier post)

This plan will be a bit of work, but actually very doable and not overly expensive. The pine is fairly cheap, and I already have the stone left over from another project.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Score on Doors

I was in Lowes, looking at pegboard for the craft closet, and one of the employees rolled a cart of bi-fold doors up front with a clearance sign on them (50% off). Since I am replacing all the doors in the basement, plus the new ones from remodeling, an opportunity presented itself.

Luckily, they were changing door brands, so a lot of stock was put out for fast sale. I ended up buying 10 bi-fold doors and 9 slab doors at half price, saving over $500 - and they all match.

Normally, I buy pre-hung doors, not just slabs, but I had to go this way to match the bi-folds. Part of the challenge of getting things cheap, or reusing things, is making them work. I guess I am going to get good at building door frames and routing hinge mortices...

Normally, I go to Home Depot, but Lowes' selection of things like pegboard is really good. I can say without reservation that their service is terrible, slow and chaotic. I believe the Lowes' management is fully asleep at the wheel on this issue. That being said, when they clearance things out, the prices can't be beat. I just plan (and this case it did indded happen) to stand around for long time waiting for a supervisor to approve the discount sale. I guess mediocre people need to work too.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The basement soffit is now hidden

The set of photos below show how the soffit in the basement was "hidden". Here is the "before" picture:

I have discussed this in past - the two things that really detracted from the house where the long, dark, narrow hallways and the HVAC soffits across the ceiling in the basement. I really didn't want to go the expense to fully redesign these (if possible), so I focussed on hiding / incorporating them.

The soffit shown above became the defining location for the theater room wall. We were lucky in that the theater room size is fine (600 sq ft) doing it this way.

The pictures above and below show the new wall and the theater room entry it forms. The openings on both sides are for bookcases. I actually made the soffit a bit wider so I could put a row of recessed lights along it. These light up the game / homework table nicely.

Here is the rendered computer model, showing the final planned result.

Home Theater #12 - Sheetrock Screen

After quite a bit of research, I have decided to go with a sheetrock projection screen. Here is an image of one I found on line...

Reasons for going with this type of screen as opposed to a purchased or cloth DIY one:
- Cost is low. This screen will cost $40 max for a 100" diagonal size (80x60). To purchase anything of that size with a reasonable level of quality is at least $500. I did find one online for about $150, but the reviews on it were mixed.
- Sheetrock is easy. This will take one and a half sheets, with just one seam to tape.

I am going to use Home Depot's Behr flat paint for the screen. They have a light grey color called "Silver Screen" for this purpose. The examples I have seen online show very sharp images with good color. I am still not sure about adding a coat of matte sealer to the flat paint - there are varying opinions on it.

I'll be building this screen in a 4:3 size, since we watch TV on our theater, as well as movies. I doubt broadcast TV will be going to 16:9 for quite a while, so I am not worried about changing it any time soon.

Also, I will use a couple of layers of 1x4 to build the support frame. This will easily give the sheetrock full support, plus offset it from the wall by 2 inches, giving it a solid shadowline.

- Projector Central
- Big Screen Forums

Friday, March 07, 2008

Home Theater #11 - Projector and UPS Mounting

After looking at the various projector mounts, I decided to go with a flat-screen TV mount instead. All of the less expensive mounts I could find looked flimsy, where as the TV mounts for the same price were sturdy. Also, I wanted to mount the projector behind the beam as shown.

To get this to work, all I needed to do was drill two holes in the universal mounting plate. It would be nice if projectors and TV's had the same standard bolt-pattern for mounting...

This configuration allows the projector to sit behind the beam, and just under it (keeps the headroom). Another benefit is that the projector sits pretty much out in space, so the it gets maximum air circulation around it. We had the projector sitting on a table for a while, and the secondary fan came on all the time. It doesn't here.

I also mounted the UPS on the beam to keep things simple.

After having this set up for a day, I immediately noticed that a very faint 60Hz line (slowly rolled up the screen - you had to be looking for it) disappeared from the image. The power condtioning function of the UPS is obviously cleaning up the "dirty power". This alone makes it worth the $50.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Home Theater #10 - UPS to Protect the Projector

I bought an APC uninterruptible power supply (UPS)to protect the projector bulb. A sudden shut-off can shorten the life or even ruin a $300 bulb - so the $50 for additional 10 to 15 minutes of continued operation is worth it. This will give us time to properly shut the projector down if the power goes down.

I selected APC, since it is the "standard" for UPS units. The best price I could find was through Amazon, including free shipping.

Rather than try to hide the UPS, I am mounting it on the beam near the projector. I will keep it back at least a couple of feet to allow maximum air flow around the projector, and not transfer any heat.

I am still looking into adding an additional fan up by the projector to cool the area further, but I don't want to stir up extra dust either.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Home Theater #9 - Wiring the Speakers

After quite a bit of research, I decided to go with 16 gage in-wall speaker wire. The cost for a 500 ft role was a good deal less than the 14 or 12 gage wire.

There are varying opinions on the performance, but most reviews stated that 16 gage is fine for most home theater applications. In doing my own "ear test" the back speakers sound fine - one of them has a run of 25 feet and the other 60 feet.

Home Theater #8 - Soffits and Lights are in

I completed nailing up the sheetrock and edge beading on theater room soffits. You can really get a feel for how the room is going to turn out. The picture below is a bit fuzzy - a flash would have washed out the lighting...

The pair of lights shown on the right on a separate dimmer from the ones on the left, so we can keep the light a bit lower near the screen. So far, so good - the room feels very comfortable, and the indirect light actually enhances the projected image. I put 30 watt PAR20 bulbs in the cans, which are about 4 feet apart.

I had an unexpected (negative) side effect of the recessed lighting. All the wall imperfections are easily seen. The horizontal tape lines really stand out - the sheetrock job by the previous owners is poor in the basement. It looks like I am going to be skimming the walls with a 12" trowel and re-texturing.

The soffit definately improves the sound quality in the room, cutting the echo. It also seems to stop some of the sound transmission to the upstairs. I am assuming that the top plate of the wall was a main sound transfer point, since its solid, and the soffit covers it up.

80 linear feet of soffit took a bit of effort, but its worth it. I still need to tape, mud and texture, but it won't be that bad.
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