Building a Custom Home Theater System and Media Room

What to Know

  • Go with a pro. A custom home theater/media room is not a beginner's project.
  • Have potential installers come to your house or review archtectural plans before they give you an estimate.
  • Consider the size and shape of the room, acoustics, lighting, ventilation, equipment, seating and primary purpose of the room.

Home theater basics are all about what is available to use in your home theater, how to shop for home theater components, and how to connect and use your home theater components.

If you are interested in having a complete home theater room build from the ground up, you are moving way beyond the basics. Unless you are a contractor yourself and willing to train on home theater construction, go with a pro.

Custom home theater room

M. Eric Honeycutt / iStock

Get Professional Advice on a Major Installation

Whether you are a great do-it-yourselfer or a complete novice with a large amount of cash to work with, the best way to get the most out of your custom-built home theater/media room is to hire a licensed home theater installer.

The best way to evaluate the full potential of the room is to have someone knowledgeable in the field, such as a professional home theater installer, assess the environment in person, take notes of good points and bad points, and suggest options on where to place your components for maximum benefit and ease of use.

Working with a home theater installer is not the same as going to a retailer to purchase a bunch of components, going home, and hooking it all up. The role of the home theater installer is to provide a complete experience for the consumer. The details of each individual component are not the primary focus. The primary focus is the final experience.

The goal of the home theater installer is to provide a complete package that provides access to all your desired audio and video content. The consumer provides the room and the budget, while the installer puts together a complete package of components to provide the best entertainment experience possible. The installer presents the complete package to the consumer for consideration. The consumer doesn't have to decide each brand or model of the component to be used.

You will get a much more accurate budget picture of the whole project as the installer won't overlook small details that you may overlook. They could end up being significant.

How to Prepare for Constructing a Custom-Built Home Theater Media Room

Some of the factors that you and a professional installer need to consider when planning a home theater media room include:

  • The room's primary purpose: to watch movies and TV, listen to music, play video games, or use as an office as well as entertainment?
  • The size of the room
  • The shape of the room
  • Where you or your audience will sit in relation to the TV or projection screen
  • Acoustic properties of the room
  • Ambient light issues that may affect the type of TV or video projector to be used
  • Whether a projection system or large-screen television will work best
  • Whether in-wall or stand-alone speakers would be most effective for the listening experience
  • Where your components will be located—out in the open or in a closet or booth
  • Room ventilation for both the viewers and home theater and other media components

These and other factors can be determined best by an on-site inspection of the actual room or by looking at architectural plans for a home to be constructed with a home theater in mind.

Best Resources for Custom Installation Help

  • Contact retailers, such as Best Buy and find out who they subcontract with in your local area for home theater installations. In addition, independent dealers and home remodelers in many cities specialize in custom home theater construction and installation.
  • Contact CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) for information on a licensed installer near you. CEDIA is a worldwide association of home theater and custom electronics specialists. In fact, if you are so inclined, you may be able to take a CEDIA-sponsored course or workshop and become an expert home theater installer yourself.

Another good source for finding a home theater Installer is through the Home Technology Specialists of America. This site has an extensive database of home theater installers and related audio/video and security system installers throughout the U.S.

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