Building a New Home Theater, Part 3
Apr 20, 2009 8:54 AM, By Jason Bovberg
To that end, I paid the small extra expense to have the insulators blow thick cellulose insulation into the ceiling joiststhis would clearly help blunt the transference of high-end sounds upstairs. The process was fascinating to watch: A vast white sheet of netting was stapled to the undersides of the joists, and the insulators poked holes every few feet to blow the loose insulation inside. Two other decisions happened earlier: First, I told the heating subcontractor to not provide a heat register in the theater, knowing how easily sound travels through furnace systems. (To observe local code regulations, we couldn't avoid providing a fresh-air return for the area, so for that purpose we used flexible pipe—much more amenable to sound isolation.) Second, I decided to not use canned lighting in the theater; I'd read many stories of too much attention paid to sound-isolation techniques with too little attention paid to the amount of sound that can sneak up through those hollow cans! Instead, my theater will have low-profile ceiling-mounted fixtures. One of the final tasks my insulators accomplished was to insulate my back-row seat riser with R-13 bats so that it wouldn't sound like a hollow drum.
With the ceiling crammed with cellulose and the walls and riser lined with R-13 bats (I wasn't as concerned about the leaking some sound to horizontally adjacent rooms), I walked into the theater area and was amazed by how acoustically dead the room sounded. I tried playing some fairly loud music on a portable player, and upstairs I could only barely hear it. So far, pretty good. I knew a layer of drywall would help, but I still wanted to do the best job I could afford. At the last minute, my contractor and I decided to have the drywallers add fairly inexpensive Sound Choice sound-deadening fiberboard to the ceiling, to be sandwiched between the drywall and the joists. And although it might not make much difference in the end, we decided to throw in a layer of hat channel to the ceiling. (The wall studs are not protected by hat channel, so bass will still find a way upstairs for some master-bedroom rumbling, but my hope is that this measure will at least help.)
So, the drywallers are done. Everything is taped, corner beads have been applied, and knockdown texture has been thrown. The room has a very satisfying "finished" look already. I'm looking at paint today—I'm thinking a traditional red-and-black palette—and the painters are soon coming in to prime. And as I look forward to the cosmetic steps in my near future, I'm confident that I've done all I can—with my economy-strained budget—to isolate my theater's sound.
Keep in mind, I’d love to hear about what you’ve learned from your own home-theater construction, big or small. Perhaps your experiences can help me in my process. Feel free to comment with ideas or suggestions!
Jason Bovberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior editor for Windows IT Pro and SQL Server magazine and a regular contributor to Residential AV Presents Connected Home. He specializes in networking, mobile and wireless, hardware, and home computing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and editor in magazine, book, and special-interest publishing.
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