DIY Home Theater

We recently bought a house with an extra room in the basement. The other rooms were all the same paint color, carpet, lighting and other finishes. We decided to take one of the rooms and give it some personality by turning it into a home theater. We could have just ordered a TV, some speakers and a couch and called it a day but the room needed some character. Our budget for this project was $15k but we soon realized we would only need about half of this budget and get everything we wanted.

After considering a few options we decided on a dark blue paint (Behr Superior Blue) for the entire room and an accent wall with board and batten. Aside from waiting for a TV sale, the room was transformed inside of just a few weeks. I went with an LG OLED for its superior contrast – something that I’ve been envious of after having seen my friends. There is no LED dimming – and glow with an OLED. But it is costly – and this was our biggest line item on the home theater. I paired this with a Klipsch R-625FA floor speaker pair with the R-12SW subwoofer and R-52C center channel and R-41 bookshelf speakers for the rear. Powering this is the Sony DH790 receiver. For furniture we chose the Larna Park Taupe sectional couch with ottoman. This was our second biggest expense with the speakers+receiver being third. Final touches include a Quaniece console for some additional storage and a pair of the Beaker Plug-In Black Wall Sconces, and Britton series ceiling fan from Home Depot. Stay tuned for the total cost!

Day one was preparation and and supply run to Home Depot. We watched a few YouTube DIY videos and decided on a 3 1/2″ primed pine board and 6 vertical battens and 2 horizontal battens for a total of 12 of the 3 1/2×8′ boards. This was roughly determined by how large we wanted each square of the grid and using an online calculator. This takes the guesswork out of positioning, padding, and board widths and just tells you how far apart to space them. First run of boards, 1 gallon of paint, liquid nails and other materials was ~$200. I was fortunate to be able to get a brad nailer and air tank from my father and law so that was not a tool I had to purchase. To make cleanup easy I decided I would buy a new painting kit for $10 and chuck it in the trash when I was done. Cleaning a paint roller takes forever, and it never works as good the second time anyway. You will also need some other basic materials – tape measure, saw, level, hammer, screwdriver, caulking gun. I’m not including these in the cost of this project since I use them for everything.

First we took down the existing crown moulding on the intended accent wall. We had a decision to make on 1) taking down all the trim, 2) taking down just that trim and joining it to the board and batten or 3) building the frame below the existing crown moulding. We opted for number 2 after pulling down the crown from one wall and seeing we had a sizeable gap between the drywall and ceiling. That would have been a lot to contend with across the entire room. Cutting back the crown I used a saw to make a 90 degree cut so it could fit flush against the batten frame. Brad nails about every two feet, and liquid nails on the back of the board.

The room is so plain – yuck! Day two is when the project really took off. We put up our first vertical board being very careful, measuring everything multiple times, and generally moving slow. It soon became a routing however. Don’t think that your wall height or width is the same and measure each cut individually. We did all the vertical boards, using the brad nails and liquid nails on the board backs. Next we measured and cut the horizontal boards. A few of the videos said use a spacer board but I found it unnecessary. Instead we just measured each board placement and attached. A laser level makes the horizontal boards go much quicker. We made a line all the way across (you want to true level, not parallel to the ceiling/floor. This was pretty much the second day. As a nice end of day bonus the TV and the speakers both arrived.

Day three we prepped for painting. This involved some drywall repair to other sections of the room, sanding, removing face-plates, spackling, and caulking. A wood putty is used on the batten board joins to make it look like a single piece of wood. This has to be applied, allowed to dry, then sanded flush. The spackle took a few passes – applying then letting dry only to build on top in some of the worst places. A lesson learned here was apply caulking to the interior squares. We were not going to do this at first, but it was super quick, and it looks fantastic – especially where the board and the wall had a gap.

Day four was a continuation of our paint with an emphasis on the detail work. We taped off our edges and really tried to cleanup our lines and fix some dripping and sparse areas. This step seems to be the biggest factor in what looks like a DIY project and what looks like a professional project. You just have to keep going and getting more and more precise in your results. Cumulatively you want to look at the paint and have anywhere you look be sharp lines and cleanly applied.

Day five the sectional couch arrived in the morning. We went with a two tone gray and dark brown to match the dark blue paint color. The sectional dimensions work well with the room fitting almost perfectly on the back wall in front of the batten. I absolutely love how much room the sectional provides – the entire family can comfortably sit and watch a movie together. We mounted the TV on the opposite wall with a slim profile wall bracket to make it just blend in like a hanging picture

The slim mount actually had two settings – one with a more aggressive tilt. The TV is so thin however it felt better to have it on a very slight 5 degree tilt to optimize viewing. The vertical on the TV was around 68 inches so we bought a console that was 88 inches so it didn’t look dwarfed by the TV. This has some shelves and doors to hide the controllers, cables, and provide a buffer for the wall to keep people from bumping into the TV screen.

Next up was the speaker installation. The Platin Monaco speakers were unfortunately a big disappointment. Lots of popping, dropping, crackling, and speakers getting “stuck” on a note like a computer freezing. The nail in the coffin however is that WiSA doesn’t support Dolby DTS which is the surround sound format that virtually every Blu-ray disc uses. These went back and were replaced with a more aggressive sound system – but for roughly the same cost by catching a good sale on the speakers, and using an Amazon gift card on the receiver. I took a gamble on WiSA but if you care about your audio then move on to a wired system – no comparison and I’m not even a trained ear.

Running all the speaker wire was one of the hardest projects. I had a door frame on either side of the wall with the TV so getting to the rear speakers was an undertaking. I initially bought some 1/2″ cable raceways and painted them all and was going to tuck the speaker wire inside them. This might have worked well, but the new sound system came with a large 10″ subwoofer that I wanted to locate to the other side of the room between the couch and the wall. Wherever the rear speaker cables went, the suboofer monoaural cable needed to go to. And at lengths > 30″ it is recommended it be shielded – which of course means extra bulk. They were too tight a fit for the raceway, and after painstakingly getting it somewhat crammed in there I realized that the adhesive was not sufficient to keep this stuck to the walls/ceilings. I didn’t want a larger raceway either and I still didn’t want cable staples with visible cable. I ended up debating options and fished the cables under the carpet at the doorway, and tucked them under the baseboards along the rest of the wall the best I could. It was the third or fourth option but I’m happy with it. You don’t notice unless you step on the cable without wearing shoes.

The final step was crimping all the speaker cables, and connecting my speakers and giving it a run for its money. After about 30 minutes of Dunkirk on Blu-ray I realized I wasn’t getting signal from my left speaker. Stupid mistake – on checking the speaker I realized I neglected to connect the left channel – having connected only the Atmos/height channel further up the speaker. Easy remedy.

One other pain point was getting the PS5 to output 4K+HDR via a receiver. The receiver sits between the TV and PS5 and I get all the niceties that entails – synchronized power on/off, and the TV remove controlling the PS5 and the receiver volume. However the PS5 kept informing me that do output HDR I needed to drop to 1080p. I was thinking the receiver was just not going to support this feature when I found a Reddit post of a user with the same issue resolving it by setting the HDMI port the PS5 is plugged into into “enhanced” mode in the AV options. After a restart the PS5 immediately picked up 4K + HDR completing the build.

The painted cable raceways that I abandoned were not a complete loss however. I did use one of the larger ones under the TV instead of using a gang plate and running cables through the wall. This pairs with the batten somewhat unintentionally and is a whole lot easier than fishing cables. The sconce cables were also secured using some of the cable raceway meant for the speaker cable and cleaned up that installation. The discarded raceways even got involved in fishing the cables under the carpet!

The ceiling fan was also a late purchase when we realized it had a wobble at higher speeds. Instead of trying to balance it we realized that the rest of the room had so much character that the contractor model fan just didn’t fit any longer. This was a relative simple swap and has the added benefit of being much quieter while operating and comes with a remote control.

We are really happy with the final product and having done it ourselves we saved quite a bit of money. All said and done we spent about $6800. Having done it ourselves there is an extra feeling of pride and attachment and we are ready to show it off to family and friends. Had we paid to have it done we might have had an electrician run wiring and a new switch for the wall sconces but the plugin ones seem fine – especially with a dark paint. This should make a great room for movie watching, and some gaming sessions on the PS5 and Switch. I do wish the room had already been run for cable but fishing them under the carpet only took an hour or so and I’m happy with the result. The only real disappointment with the project was the WiSA speakers. But I took a gamble with a new technology and instead ended up returning them and got some seriously amazing sound as a backup. Another unintended side effect – these particular sconces rotate downward and the make the perfect reading lights. I’ve been starting my mornings reading my book, listening to music through the speakers, and enjoying the couch.

Future additions include floating shelves instead of the bookshelf, with space underneath for the subwoofer. The monoaural cable is already run for that area because I’m planning on this happening in the near future. We also have some movie art to hang still. Also a fun concession stand stocked with movie theater staples like candy, drinks, and a popcorn machine centerpiece will be right outside the door in a little inlet we have next door to the converted movie theater. It should pair well with our next project – the wet bar with beer and wine storage!

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