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Home Theater with Surround Sound: The Must Haves & Great Extras

Do you enjoy watching movies at home? Do you like music playing wherever you are? Do you wish you could invite friends over to share streaming events, like the last episode of a favorite TV show?

I’ve had requests to renovate an extra bedroom, close in some space in a family room or basement or even build over a garage to add a home theatre and surround sound system to a home. The technology is affordable and the construction (which I always recommend keeping in line with the home’s overall size and décor) adds value.

The Must Haves You’ll want your dedicated media room to be: • At least 12 feet x 12 feet (for a home theatre, a length up to 20 feet is ideal) • Well insulated for sound, including walls, floors and ceiling • Wired for surround sound; you may want to wire the entire home for sound • Waterproofed, especially if the room is in a basement; you may want to add a secondary sump pump to ensure the safety of the room in case of flooding • Designed with convenient lighting and volume controls • Set up with heating and air conditioning • Painted in darker colors for a true movie theatre experience.

The Great Extras A small kitchen area or bar area is a nice addition to any media room, especially one that will host parties.

You should decide early on whether your seating will be a traditional couch, recliners or specialty home theater seats, so that construction accommodates tiers if you want them; the appropriate sight and audio lines; the right dimensions for viewing and listening; and the right positioning of electronics. For example, installing movie theatre-style tiers for the seating may require changes to the subflooring. If your seating is against a wall and not in the physical center of the room, you may want more sensitive control over speakers to ensure that your seat is always in the “center” of the sound. As another example, you don’t want to force viewers to look up at a screen. That puts a strain on neck muscles; and the doctor bills can easily cost more than the home theatre! The ideal height for a screen is 3 to 5 feet from the floor (depending on the height of the seats). Distance from the screen varies with the size of the screen, but shouldn’t be more than 10 feet for a 50 inch screen.

Now let’s say your media room is constructed as part of the living room. As I mentioned earlier, you want don’t want the video and surround sound systems to take over the entire space. To make the system blend in with your living room, you might: • Purchase a picture frame TV, which looks like artwork when it isn’t in use • Place bulky equipment in an attic crawl space or closet (or have a closet built specially to hold the equipment) • Select in wall or in ceiling speakers or smaller bookcase-size speakers • Hide visible wires by using wireless speakers or placing cords behind wire tracks in the same color as your walls.

For most homeowners, a soundbar, a thin speaker system that drives sound through your TV, gives quality surround sound, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to stream content from electronic devices. Other homeowners find that the soundbar doesn’t give them the quality of sound they prefer, and instead customize their sound system by purchasing a specific AV receiver and specific surround-sound speakers. With a whole-house sound system, the goal is to control and hear clear, true sound throughout the home regardless of the source.

Conclusion A media room—a home theater or music room—may be a home renovation or a new build. Current audio and video products allow any basement, extra bedroom, family room or addition to be converted into a media room; the systems look good, are easy to use and deliver on quality audio and video. As with all construction projects, we need to start with a plan to ensure that the room is constructed to deliver the best and most comfortable home theatre and surround sound experience. I can help you with that plan or work with your architect or interior designer. First and foremost, this should be a room you and your family and friends will enjoy for years to come.

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