Info & Answers
A Custom Installation Veteran Asks: “What Are You Waiting For?”
April 08, 2009 | by Richard D. Stoerger
Richard Stoerger of Audio Design Associates explains why the time is right to get that home theater or home control system of your dreams.

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Posted by Doug  on  04/08  at  11:52 AM

Not only have we not seen economic conditions like this is in the last 20+ years we haven’t seen anything like it in the last 50+ years.  Home theater is a luxury and that it lags other spending is not only unsurprising but wise, that’s how the one’s with the most got the most.

Posted by Sal  on  05/21  at  03:37 PM

Does anyone know how much of a cut custom installer’s typically take on a project?  Just looking for a ballpark % of the pie.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/21  at  04:43 PM

Sal, great question. Of course, phrasing it like it’s an installer’s “cut” may sound a little pejorative. Are you asking what percentage of the cost of a typical installation is labor? That is a percentage I might be able to get you.

Some firms do the design, programming, installation, construction, etc. Others may just do one or the other so it fluctuates wildly.

If you’re looking for dealer MARGINS, that again varies wildly. Some margins (TVs, b-ray players, etc.) are very slim for the dealer. Others, like dealer-only control systems, can be considerably more.

For retrofit jobs, dealers usually charge by the hour.

For new-builds, by the job.

So, if you can get a little bit more specific, I might be able to help you out.

Posted by Sal  on  05/22  at  12:34 PM

Thanks Julie-  Pls excuse my poor choice of words. I have an unfinished walk-out basement in a 3yr old home that i’d like to turn into a family / media room. Since I’m not the handy type,  I would want an installer to manage the whole project from dry wall, soundproofing, wiring and components. Also looking at putting in hardwood floors with radiant heat and possibly some shelving but nothing fancy in terms of major construction or control systems.  The room is a perfect rectangle with high ceiling. I’m at least 6 months from getting my budget in place and talking to installers but I’d like to know beforehand what kind of costs I’m looking at.  Thanks!

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  05/22  at  12:52 PM

Sal, best thing to do is simply have a few pros come out and let you know what’s involved.

Start here:

If that doesn’t do it for you, email me with your location. I might be able to recommend some folks. jjacobson at ehpub dot com

Posted by Paul  on  05/22  at  02:34 PM

Hi Sal:
Just a quick observation from your description of what you want in your basement.  I’m not a home renovation pro, but I have the flooring you say you want, and there are a few things that I needed to know before installing both systems.

The radiant heating system will need to be installed in a wood subfloor built over the concrete slab, so you are going to loose a couple of inches of height in the basement.  Also, I’d recommend a three zone thermostat for the heating system.

A lot of contractors still don’t believe that you can install radiant heating under hardwood, as the constant temperature changes can bow or warp the wood.  You can do it, but you need to be gentle with temperature changes, as this is what can really warp the floor.  Make sure you pick a wood that is recommended for radiant floors.

If you live in a climate like I do where the temperature can shift drastically between seasons you have to gently warm the floor in the fall, and slowly cool it off in the spring rather than just turning the system off and on.

Finally, make sure that your heating system is in place and turned on for anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks before they put down the hardwood. This will minimize warping and bowing during installation, as the floor will already be the temperature you want it to be at.

Posted by Sal  on  05/22  at  03:11 PM

Paul, thanks for the info.  Much appreciated.  I was wondering if warping would be an issue even with the floors that are compatible with radiant heat. I’m in the New England area so the temp swings will be of concern. Does the 3 zone thermostat make it easier to maintain and prevent warping? Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’m assuming your satisfied your flooring despite the extra attention required.

Posted by Paul  on  05/22  at  04:16 PM

Warping is always going to be an issue with wood, but it can be minimized by choosing smaller width pieces (less than 3 inches wide), as then there are more joins per square foot, and more ‘give’ in the floor.

The three zone thermostat monitors the temperature in the room, outside of the home, and the temperature of the water in the heating coils.  This makes it easier on the system to adjust to changing temperature conditions, and adjusts the water temperature in the heating coils automatically, and over time to make gradual changes to temperature, rather than sudden ones.

I’m still satisfied with the flooring, I’m just happy I found out about the warping issue before I started construction, and not after.

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