Most home theater owners have friends surrounding them, wanting to experience a night of home entertainment. Tom Hetzel, on the other hand, has his friends surrounding him—literally. This do-it-yourselfer built his home theater in the basement of his townhouse, with neighbors on each side.
“I did a lot of research on soundproofing on the Internet and used several techniques,” Tom says of the process. “I used what is called a ‘room within a room’ setup, where none of the theater walls or ceiling are touching the rest of the house—anywhere.”
Still, there were concerns about the noise in his tight-knit neighborhood. Before Tom started his project, he did a bit of experimentation. “I cranked my stereo, went to the neighbors’ and figured out what I was dealing with,” he says. After some of the work had been completed, he attached an Aura Bass Shaker to the ceiling to see how heavy they rocked the house. Then, he adjusted the insulation until no vibrations could be felt outside the theater. “Before I could not watch or listen to anything at high sound levels and now I can turn it up,” he says. “It’s awesome.”
It wasn’t just the soundproofing that made the project difficult, though. The entire basement room was unfinished. This meant Tom had to run electrical wire, do lights, install outlets, and even plant wall studs. “It was just mason block,” he says.
However, Tom had to do more than the finish up the basement. Because this was a townhouse, he needed to add Roxul acoustical batting insulation to the walls and the ceiling. “I had to make new joists for the ceiling so the sound would not travel to the upstairs or to the neighbors house,” he says. Tom used double-layered 5/8-inch drywall for the ceiling. Each outlet, light, and every other opening is also sealed with acoustical sound caulk. “There is a metal exterior insulated door I used for the entrance,” Tom says. “Basically everything had to be soundproof, so my neighbors would not hear anything.”
All of the insulation, carpet, wood, and other building materials averaged out to about $3,000, with another $5,500 spent on audio and video equipment. Some of the equipment is new, some is old, and some was purchased on eBay. His oldest, dearest pieces are the Acoustic Research 910s, which he’s had for about 13 years. “It would be hard to find speakers like this today,” he says. “Each speaker has two 12-inch woofers [one back-firing], and -inch mid-bass, two 6.5-inch mid-range, and one liquid-cooled titanium tweeter. They weigh 147 pounds each.” All of the other equipment lives in a rack, located in the back corner of the room.
Other extras add some sparkle, to give the room that theater feel. Aside from the Spider-Man clinging to the wall as you go down the staircase, Tom created his own walk of fame. For just a buck each, he bought stars at a local party store and typed the names on himself.
While Tom rocks the room on a regular basis, he can relax knowing that his neighbors are enjoying a quiet evening at home. He says that the only time he really disturbed his neighbors was during the construction process. “Nail guns, saws, etc.,” he says. “But I told them I was building this so they can rest easy; they understood.”
Location: Cleveland, OH
Year Completed: 2007
Room Size: 10 x 16.5 feet
Length of Project: 7 months
Total Cost: Under $8,500
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Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.