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Big DIY Basement and HT project


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Dear "Klipsch Buddies,"

FYI "Klipsch Buddies" is a term that
my wife recently coined since I've joined the Klipsch forum. I'm
in the middle of finishing my basement and building a new HT, and I've
recieved some much needed advice about speaker upgrades and so forth
for this bigger room. I just now realized that there's an architectural
forum, and I saw the awesome feedback you're giving dkp, and in my
jealousy, I thought I'd start a thread here, just in case anyone was
interested in chiming in on my project.

I've posted a thread HERE in the Powered Subwoofers regarding my subwoofer worries (this is an 8,000 cubic foot room), as well as HERE on the "Let's see YOUR home theater" thread on the HT forum. Both threads have pictures, floorplans, etc.

Instead of re-posting it all, I'll just mention and link to the
other threads here. Please feel free to look at the plans and
pictures I've got up so far.

For the record, I'm doing this all
myself (with help from my Dad and myFather-in-Law occasionally) and I
have never attempted such a massive project on my own and on such a
hurried pace. This project includes a 2,000 square feet basement
with a big office, 3 closets, 2 storage rooms, a full bathroom, a wet
bar, the Home Theater, and more. I started it in late June, and
hope to be done by September 1 when I start my new job. I'm
working furiously, but slow enough to keep quality better than I think
most sub-contractors would manage.

Thanks for any input you may have, and I'll post pictures here as I make progress!

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Welcome to the forum!

I just speced-out a media room (HT) for a client a few months ago. He has a 3,000 sq ft walk-out basement to work with and the theme is much like yours with all sorts of separate-purpose areas and rooms such as a work-out area, wet bar, kitchen and banquest area, full bath, game room and media room (theater). He's kept the overall architecture fairly-well open so there aren't a lot of walls. Instead. many of the areas are designated by a change in the flooring material from carpet, to ceramic tile for example. It certainly was impressive to see such a large space come to life during the construction. At 2,000 sq ft, your space is an impressive size as well.

Your project is very ambitious and your schedule is quite aggressive, although I fully understand the constraints based on your starting your new employment. Let me just start by saying, being the owner of a very small (in comparison) 199.5 sq ft (1,396.5 cu ft) HT, I am quite envious of the room you have at your dispoal in which to experiment.

I reviewed the sketches, drawings and photos in your other threads and I am curious about the space immediately behind your screen wall. In your drawings, it appears you have planned two bookcases that will each flank your screen. In one view, there is a doorway shown where one of the bookcases would reside. Am I correct in my assumption that the left bookase will actually serve as a door, or "secret panel" though which acess will be gained to the room behind the screen wall? That back room might be an excellent play to place your equipment as well as to house your media collection (DVDs, CDs, vinyl, etc.). Your floor plan is interesting and I was glad to see your inclusion of a bar and the pinball machine. Best of luck wih your space. -Glenn

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Thanks for your interest!

First off, you're right- that left hand bookshelf is less deep than the

right one, and will have a few big wheels under it and heavy duty

hinges, and is a "secret" door. It will be a media shelf

(CD's, DVD's). THe reason you see some tall wood fascia at the bases of

both bookshelves is that the left one needs the space to hide the

wheels and support structure, so we made it look the same on both

sides. It will have a hidden hex-key latch.

The room behind the media wall is 6 feet deep, and is used for 1) media

wall access 2) storage 3)it's a hidden room,so it's a good place for

the safe, etc.

The TV will be flush with the wall which will be trimmed out to just

show the screen. The AV rack will be split into two, and will be

under the TV, also flush with the wall, with smoked glass doors.

So techinally, all of the electronics are in that room.

You can see where the center channel goes, and the mains will be

floorstanders toed in in the corners under the sconces. The

surrounds will be mounted a little higher than usual (around 7 feet) to

the L and R of the sectional. The subwoofer is another

problem. I've got 950 square feet and nowhere good to put a SW if

you can imagine such a predicament. I've got a thread going on

that issue over in the Powered Subwoofers forum. I'm considering

getting a Danley DTS-20 and putting it in the furnace room. Any

experience with something like that? What is your experience with

using big/loud subwoofers for a big room like this but not placing them

in the general central listening area anywhere?


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Vance: Cool! I had a feeling that bookcase was a secret door! Great idea. I fully understand your design logic in using the facia to cover the door mechanicals. That's a nice way to make both cases symmetrical.Please tell me the door opens in towards the secret room so you wonldn't have to move your speakers each time you open it! The features and placement of the electronics and such sound great.

Regarding the SW, I have one large sub in my small space; a Klipsch RSW-15, and it is placed mid-way along the left wall behind the theater seats and beneath my wet bar and it more than does the job. I might consider a pair of subs for your room to ensure a balanced sound, such as the Klipsch THX dual subs. However, there are several folks on our forum who come to mind that know far more than I about subwoofers and their placement. Hopefully, a few of them will chime in here or on your other thread and lend a hand. But, I do think it's important to keep the subs in the general vicintiy of the space that your viewers are seated within.

Your room should be quite nice when it's finished. You sound as though you've thought a lot of the details out thoroughly and that's very key to creating a good design. Don't forget to consider ventilation of the hidden room to allow your components to breathe!

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Thanks for the compliments on my design. I'm so rushed, that I'm

afraid I'm going to finish it up and then realize dozens of things I

should have done differently, but I'm in such a hurry to finish this

basement before I go to work, that I'm ok with a bit fewer novelties,

as long as everything is done well. I couldn't imagine having

someone else do all this work, I wouldn't trust them to do it right and

I'd be breathing down their neck constantly.

YES, the bookshelf door swings in and to the left, out of the way. I won't have to move my mains.

I haven't made any decisions on SW yet, and probably won't anytime

soon. Regarding that Danley, I could potentially hide it in the

drop ceiling anywhere in the listening area, and I'm tempted to, but

I'm afraid it would rattle all the ceiling panels like crazy. I'm

not sure my wife would let me buy one anyway. I'll probably end

up with a RT-12d if I get a Klipsch, becuse I don't know where I could

put the pair of THX subs, other than right in front of the bookshelves,

which just would seriously detract from the WAF of this project.

I'll be both researching this SW issue and looking for a bargain for

months, I'm sure.

You brought up the issue of ventilation for the room behind the media

wall. I've thought about that some, and that room is roughly 920

cubic feet. I can open up the electronics to the air back there

without making it visible from the front, I'm sure, if you think that

would be enough (the room does have upstairs ducting passing through

the ceiling, so I could put an AC vent in there for the summer).

Also, I can get through the external wall on the side of the house

above the 1st floor base plate. If I were to ventilate the room

outside, I have some questions:

1) Do I just make a vent like you do with your dryer, and let the laws

of thermodynamics do the rest, or do you add a fan in the vent?

2) If you make a fan in your vent, do you bring air out to in, or in to

out? (or do you reverse it depending on season, and vent AC air

from elsewhere in the house into the room in the summer.) What

about the fact that I live in Kansas, and sometimes it's 10 below zero

outside, and sometimes it's 110?

3) If I vent into the room, do I just vent somewhere in the room, or

should I carry the air to/from the electronics cabinet directly?

While we're talking about this room, let me ask questions on another topic: Insulation.

4) I'm not worried about the room from a temperature perspective, but

should I insulate the walls of the Media Wall from a sound

perspective? More than half of the wall surface behind it is bare

concrete. Should I fir these out and insulate them? (Please say

no, this is a big and costly enough project as it is!) Should I

drywall them? (Again, please say no.)

Last question:

I can't find the page in the thread now, but I recognize the picture on

your sig. As I've been planning this HT for the last couple weeks

and have joined the forum, I've been doing a lot of research, reading

old threads and lurking on new ones. Are you the guy with the HT

that is decorated in primary colors with low voltage lighting, a bar

behind some red chairs, and a framed hockey jersey? If you are, I

have some compliments for you! If you're not, I'm sure your HT is

great too! :)


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Vance: Guilty as charged: [:$] I am the guy with the theater you described and there's no need to search for the link as all you need to do to access my site is click on the banner immediately below this post and it will take you there. Just to put things in perspective, the project in my basment that created my theater, bathroom and equipment closet went from demolition to completion in 26 months. So, in comparison, I can understand your frustration with all of your room's details as you are running somewhat of an "HT Marathon"!

Ventilation is an important aspect of HT Design regardless of where you live. Here in Michigan, it can also reach 20 below zero F as well as 100 degrees and with very high humidity!

With respect to keeping your equipment "happy", let's keep things very basic:

When I mentioned ventilation, I was referring to moving the air between the main room and the secret room using either a passive vent that would allow a simple air exchange to take place,

Or, some sort of powered vent near the top of the wall that might vent the warm air from the secret room back into the main room using one or more whisper fans. A passive vent mounted low on the wall should also be incorporated into this design to supply makeup air to the secret room.

Your idea of simply installing an A/C register in the secret room for the summertime would be great, too and it would eliminate the need for a passive vent in the screen wall.

I would only recommend venting to the outside as a last resort as that could become two way trouble: It could allow sound from your HT to excape outdoors and it could allow humidity indoors when the vent is off. Also, the power vents usually made for this purpose would generally add a good deal of noise to the main room's noisefloor; not a good thing!

Aside from many other reasons, I personally do not recommend the mounting of your sub into a suspended ceiling at least for the concern you stated regarding noise and vibration.

Regarding your wall questions. I know this isn't what you are going to want to hear but: I am an absolute 100% believer in isolating the concrete walls of the basement from interacting with the room's acoustics. I studded my walls and installed standard fiberglas insulation (not for acoustical purposes) and then covered the studs over with a thick, dense, rubberized membrane ( inexpensive, GAF Ruberoid Torch FR membrane from Home Depot) in an attempt to block the room's sound from penetrating the room's walls to the concrete and then bouncing back into the room. Obviously, this could also be accomplished if placed over furring, rather than studs. I then installed drywall over the membrane. I coupled this with a suspended ceiling that was fitted with Sonex Harmoni 2" melamine foam tiles for absorbtion. Despite a few initial naysayers out there; my plan using the membrane appears to have worked! Below is my room's curve (courtesy of Dr. Who) to illustrate what I am saying:


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I thought that was your place- I never thought to click on the banner...duh!

I actually saved a picture of your HT a week or two ago, so I could

show my wife the colors you chose. You have done the lighting

exactly the way I would have for the space you have. I suck at

interior decorating, but I know that I like to "decorate with light."

26 MONTHS!?? You must have the patience of a saint!

Patience has never been my strong suit, and comparing my 2 month goal

to 26 months does make this seem like a marathon (and I'm getting sore,

and cramped and that makes it *feel* like one.)

OK, back to business. I have all the walls in front of the media

wall insulated and drywalled. Behind the media wall, the

half-wall (Foundation) is insulated from 4 feet up, but the wainscoat

(foundation wall) and the big one behind and to the left are 9 foot

concrete leviathans. I hadn't thought about firring out those 3

walls back there with studs and insulating them for sound, because

they're isolated from the main listening area and I figured I'd

insulate the media wall. The only speaker that will be in that

wall is the center channel, which I'll build in its own insulated box

up there above the TV.

I can still stud out and insulate those walls, but it will be a royal

pain, because I'll be working in a 6 foot space- it would have been

SOOO easy to do it first, but i never thought about it! Not to

mention it will cost me a few hundred bucks in materials. Here's

the picture again, to remind you of the situation:


If I insulate the heck out of the media wall, do you think that would make it less of an issue back there?

I really REALLY appreciate your knowlegable assistance!


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Vance: Thanks for the good words on our theater and lighting. I'm glad you like what I did with the lighting and colors. I like to accent and color with light, too.

Sound acts just like a liquid within a room; it will leak out of any opening and flow right through drywall and insulation. The only way to stop penetration is to block it and seal it off, which is why I choose to use membrane in my walls from floor-to-ceiling and corner-to-corner.

Allow me to suggest that perhaps we should take the word "insulation" entirely out of the equation here? Regular home insulation ("the pink stuff") does relatively little for the sound quality of the room relative to reflection, diffusion, isolation and absorption. Certain rigid insulations can help, but if you really don't have the time or really prefer not to stud or or install furring, then your alternative will be to try and correct the problems with the room that you discover after it is completed. There are many wall treatments that may be added to existing rooms too, so that may work out better within your timetable and current budget constraints.

Remember, it's always better to build the room acoustically correct in the first place, but if it can't be done that way, that doesn't mean it can't be improved upon once it is finished. And with the layout you have proposed, you will have some unique issues that might not really be helped by studding anyway. Forum members such as mas and Dr.Who know far more about room acoustics and treatments than I do.Hopefully they or someone else will chime in here and offer their expertise. There are also some very helpful posts in this Architectural category, so do some exploring here as there is a lot to read and some very helpful links.

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Styrofoam doesn't absorb sound very well. It's is a closed cell foam so it doesn't trap anything. It's better than nothing (maybe) but by far poorer than mineral wool or fiberglass batts or rigid panels.

When sound hits mineral wool or fiberglass it gets trapped inside the fibers and bounces around a bit taking the energy out of the wave. With Styrofoam the sound will bounce off and/or vibrate right through it.

Styrofoam is really only excellent for insulating against heat and resists water. It's also pretty flammable and will give off toxic fumes when burned so it has to be covered when used as insulation. Mineral wool on the other hand is non-combustible and water resistant and adds fire-resistance to a wall when used.

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I can still stud out and insulate those walls, but it will be a royal
pain, because I'll be working in a 6 foot space- it would have been
SOOO easy to do it first, but i never thought about it! Not to
mention it will cost me a few hundred bucks in materials. Here's
the picture again, to remind you of the situation:

If I insulate the heck out of the media wall, do you think that would make it less of an issue back there?


I the easiest way would be to use 2x2s and frame the wall. Inside the 2x2 space use 2" rigid mineral wool or fiberglass (or use 2x4 rotated). You could then cover it with fire resistant burlap or other fabric (in the color of your choosing).

The insulation and the lack of drywall in front of it will help deaden the sound (drywall reflects high frequencies). I don't think it would meet code so if you're having it inspected you might want to ask someone who knows about building codes in your area.

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Vance: I agree: Styrofoam is a wonderul temprature insulator...and that's about it. Just about anything we could recommend to you would require studs or furring strips. I suggest just build the room as you said you had planned. Then, after it's all over with, consider placing some panels similar to the ones found on this LINK in strategic places on the walls and be done with it. You may need to install some bass-trapping, too, but that usually amounts to angled foam in the corners and it may have a low WAF.

Click HERE to download a product spec sheet. I've done a lot of business with Memtech and they know their stuff.

Additonal panel types: LINK


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Can the wife sew? I just finished building a HT basement similar to yours for a customer/friend. Picture a theatre what is on the walls..? Curtains..! I attached a board to the top of the concrete walls and attached the curtains to that. The more "wrinkles" we put in the curtains the more sound dampening they seemed to have. No firring, no sheetrock,taping,texturing, or painting !!!! DONE..! Thought about doing the same on the lid (ceiling), but ran into trouble with the lighting (recessed pots).

Just tryin' to help...

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Depending on how dry/damp the basement is, anything touching the concrete wall will be subject to moisture. Curtains on the wall will look great but might start to smell after a damp spring or rainy period. Concrete actually breaths a bit, that's why any wood that will be touching it must have vapour barrier or seal gasket between it and the wall/floor. I guess you could take down the curtains every now and again and give them a wash if you went that route.

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I guess I forgot to mention that the walls were painted already. If you have that much moisture on your basement walls you better contact your contractor. There is something really wrong! You may need to dig out around the foundation and seal it. It should have a coating of tar or something similiar.

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If you have that much moisture on your basement walls you better
contact your contractor. There is something really wrong! You may need
to dig out around the foundation and seal it. It should have a coating
of tar or something similar.

Basement walls may appear dry and you won't see spots of water or effervescence but they do breath. They can also condense small amounts of moisture vapour on the wall. You won't see it, but it's there. It normally evaporates into the basement air in both cases. If an absorptive material is touching the wall it will absorb the moisture and start to grow mold/mildew and eventually rot.

Some basements are dryer than others but unless you live in a super dry area (like Nevada or Arizona) or you have a newer home that included vapour barrier and insulation on the outside surface of the concrete (not many homes do), you will have water vapour penetrating your walls and floor.

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I must agree with MatrixDweller's comments. Moisture is ever-present in concrete and block basements regardless of their integrity because block and concrete is porous. My opinion about basements in the West differs slightly, however: Although the climate may be arid in both <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Nevada and Arizona, depending on the location, you can have an even larger problem: The water table is sometimes so high there in the desert (sometimes only 3 feet below grade) that basements can become so damp and/or flooded that local codes sometimes prohibit basements from being dug in the first place! We used to live in the high desert of Northern Nevada and our water table in LahontanValley at 4,000 ft above sea level was typically 3 feet below grade. Basements were a rarity.

Verna and I currently reside in the "mitten": Southeast-Lower Michigan. Our home is built on clay soil which brings its own set of issues. Clay is always moving from expansion and contraction due to temperature changes and moisture saturation levels, and it does not perk well with regards to water drainage. Water likes to take the path of least resistance, just like electricity, so on homes with poorly-sealed basements, rain water passes down between the outside basement wall and the clay and enters the basement at any point that offers penetration because the opening presents less resistance to the flow of the water than does clay. Remember: "Water ALWAYS wins!"

Our home was constructed in 1943. When we purchased it in 1979, the basement leaked every time it rained. I had the entire outside of our basement dug up down to the footings years ago. The drain tiles were all replaced, the outside basement walls were cleaned, primed and coated with very heavy, tar-based waterproofing, covered with a membrane and then Styrofoam sheeting was glued in place to protect the membrane from sharp objects and rocks. The foam also provides a bit of insulation. The excavation was then backfilled with pea gravel and then the appropriate mixture of sand, soil and clay. The leaks all stopped. The soil was allowed to settle for a few weeks, after which, the contrator returned and topped-off the void left by settling with rich top soil. I then planted grass seed and in a couple of months, no one knew we'd just had our basement dug up. It's one of the best things we've done to our house since buying it. It's important to protect your investment and nothing threatens a home like water.

When we demolished the interior of the existing finished basement in August of 2002, the bare basement walls were in horrible shape. You can get a real feel for this is you visit our theater site's construction pages HERE. (The site is based in frames, but you will only see the individual page on this link. To see the entire site, please click on the Small House Theater banner below.) The block's motar was in need of repointing and some holes required the insertion of hydraulic cement. Once finished and clean, I applied numerous coats of a white, water-based waterproofing paint named UGL Dryloc. There is a product link on our web site. Once the walls were completed to this level, stud construction began with confidence that moisture issues would be kept to a minimum.

It's imporatnt to note here that although our home (including the basement level) has central air conditioning during the summer, we do run a stand-alone, portable de-humidifier in the basement utility room that is set to 35% relative humidity. An instrument to the upper right of the theater's equipment rack (in the photo, the hanging, small white device) constantly monitor's the basment's relative humidity, temperature as well as the temperature inside the equipment rack. There is a thermostatically-controlled, 10" round ventilation fan mounted in the top of the equipment rack. When the outdoor temperature consisitently stays below 65 degree F in the fall, we curtail the use of the de-humidifier for the remainder of the heating season. Once every 30 days, we pour a gallon of water down each of the two floor drains to ensure that the drain traps are kept full of water, therby blocking vermin and odors such as sewer gas from entering the space. Consequently, our basement is always dry and very rarely smells musty.


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Not to interrupt the thread, but I just spoke with a gentleman putting our THX system in a new home with dedicated HT room. His contractor is recommending spraying Urethane foam in the ceiling joist cavity and adjacent walls to reduce sound transmission. I asked him to come here and check in with our resident experts. Please help him out if you can.


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You guys might find this helpful:


Using sound-absorbing materials in a rigidly connected assembly is a waste of money.

You absolutely want to avoid every form of mechanical connection. In other words, you don't want any object or material touching both sides of the gap between walls. If you've got the walls mounted to the same studs, then adding insulation between the gaps really isn't going to help much.

The room also needs to be airtight. For instance, there needs to be an airtight seal on the door that leads to the basement. You also need to make sure the HVAC systems are isolated as well, otherwise you can't avoid hearing the HT in every room in the house.

FWIW, STC ratings themselves are a bit misleading because there are ways to cheat the manner in which they're calculated...which is to say, you can make the room very effective at a single frequency to get the STC rating, but in reality you haven't improved the situation.

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The spray foam stuff, usually polyiscocyanurate, will seal cracks nicely but will not absorb sound very well. It's a closed cell foam and is pretty light weight. You want high mass to absorb low frequencies and lots of little pockets for the sound to bounce around in. Closed cell foam is not an option.

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