Bonus Rooms Make Great Theaters
That unfinished space above the garage can be converted into an intimate home entertainment hideaway.
January 30, 2009 by Lisa Montgomery

Dodson and other installers often remedy these problems by building new walls around the perimeter of the room. Naturally, you’ll have to be willing to sacrifice some square footage to achieve this design, but the space between the new walls and the originals will provide an open avenue for running cabling, stuffing in some soundproofing materials, and building a closet for your A/V equipment.

It’s tough to wire. Because there is no attic space above a bonus room, it can be extremely challenging to route cabling to speakers, projectors and other equipment—unless you construct new walls for the space. False walls can also help block out light from dormer windows and create a mounting surface for a video screen.

It’s small. Depending on the size of the room, your home theater designer may recommend a screen that’s smaller than you envisioned. “Screen size should be determined by the viewing distance,” Dodson explains. The smaller the room, the closer the seats must be positioned toward the screen. The closer you sit toward the screen, the smaller the screen should be to prevent eye and neck strain. In addition to settling for a smaller screen, you may not be able to fit as many seats in a bonus room theater as you would have liked. You can make room for more seats by having tiers built on the floor. Similar to stadium-style seating in a commercial cinema, the tiers let you arrange the seats in rows, where the back rows sit up higher than the front rows. This arrangement ensures that everybody gets a good view of the screen.

Tips from the Pros

  • Flatten the walls: Slanted walls cause problems for a home theater system. Even things out by building a new, flat perimeter for the room.
  • Stuff it. Bonus rooms often sit next to bedrooms, so be sure to fill the space behind the walls with soundproofing insulation. You’ll be able to enjoy a late-night action movie without waking anyone.
  • Control the climate: Bonus rooms often suffer from drastic temperature swings, so consider giving the space its own thermostat. You’ll be able to keep the room more comfortable.
  • Construct risers: Floor risers provide additional room for seating, and will ensure that everyone—from the front row to the back—can clearly see the screen.

Lending their advice: Michael Dodson, M Audio Video Design Group, Dallas TX; Michael Bonetti, Home Theater and Beyond, Merrimack, NH.

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Lisa Montgomery - Contributing Writer
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.

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