DIYer Stuffs Tech Toys in the Attic
One do-it-yourselfer took on the task of tricking out the trickiest space in his house.
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Craig wanted to take advantage of the 12-foot high ceilings in his unused attic space. (Slumdog Millionaire © 2008 Fox Searchlight Pictures. All rights reserved.)
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May 21, 2009 by Rachel Cericola

Not all attics are dusty, musty and full of old magazines and past prom wear. Instead of stuffing all of his memories into that space above, Craig decided that this was the best spot for his home theater. 

Why? “Because I am crazy?” Craig jokes. However, despite what some may think, this wasn’t the ravings of a mad man. Instead, Craig saw a lot of potential, specifically in the form of 12-foot high ceilings. “I wanted to take advantage of all the space up there; it was just unused.”

After a bit of tweaking, Craig gained about 800 square feet in the attic, making it an even better spot for his idea. However, there were still plenty of issues to contend with.

For instance, there were obvious concerns with the roofline, as well as ventilation. That didn’t even scratch the surface, though. “There are various issues with attics, such as tray ceilings [from the master bedroom below] and cathedral ceilings [from a bathroom below], which created all these obstacles to deal with,” he says. “Plus with an HVAC unit and ducts running everywhere, there were even more obstacles.”

All of that, coupled with trying to maximize comfort and screen size into one sloping space meant a big project. It didn’t help that Craig’s contractors and pretty much everyone else under the sun couldn’t envision his space. “I spent many days trying to show them why a wall went somewhere or what purpose it was serving,” he says.

This was also one of the main reasons that it took two years for Craig to complete his theater. “The project was really too big for the contractor I had selected, and I think he was overwhelmed,” he says. “We had weeks where nobody was even working on it as he stretched his company too thin.”

Yes—the project was too big for such a small company. For instance, the contractor needed to put in an entirely new floor system placed over the existing attic floor to support the new weight loads.  Craig used some of the obstacles to his advantage. Since a tray ceiling from below caused the attic floor to raise in an area, it was the perfect place for a raised second level of seating.

Next, it was important to install the HVAC system. After all, no one wants to sweat during those summer movie marathons. “We tied a few vents into the existing system and used thermostat-controlled vent registers,” Craig says. That way they only opened the attic’s registers as needed. “These registers basically allow you to make a room (or multiple rooms) their own HVAC mini-zone.” He also added a 12,000 BTU mini-split heat pump, as well as motorized window blinds to keep the light out.

Even the existing stairs up to the attic were complicated. Due to engineering/code issues, the new stairs being built had to be moved slightly. However, where they were moved to turned out to be exactly where Craig had planned to put the screen wall. “We had to come up with a very complicated shape at the top of the staircase to steer away from the home theater screen wall and still meet all the width requirements for the hallway to the bathroom, headroom clearance requirements, and stair railing requirements.”

There was no blood (that we know of), but plenty of sweat and maybe even a few tears put into this project. However, none of the effort was in vain. Now Craig is sharing his experience through a home theater business: Cinema Builder. “I learned so much that I wanted a place to share that info,” Craig says. He currently has many how-to videos on the site, which feature this very project. It’s also a great place for Craig to offer some of the unique items he has come across over the years, such as the register vents, recessed outlets, and even poster cases.

Aside from a business, another bonus that came out of Craig’s project was the addition of a bathroom, library and closet. Sure, a bigger theater could have been nice, but it’s all about balance—marital balance. “Did I say I was married?” Craig laughs. “The only way I could convince my wife of the idea of doing the attic remodeling is that she would get some rooms for herself.”

Want to check out Craig’s bathroom, library, closet, and other areas of the theater? Click here to view our slideshow.

Quick Hits
Location: Sterling,VA
Year Completed: 2008
Room Size: 15 x 20 feet
Length of Project: 21 months
Total Cost: $68,700

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Rachel Cericola - Contributing Writer
Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.

Equipment List

Belkin Pure AV Power Conditioner
Da-Lite 92-inch Imager Screen
Harmony 880 Remote Control
Motorola QIP6416 DVR (Verizon FiOS)
Onkyo TX-SR705 Receiver
Panasonic PT-AE1000U Projector
Polk CSi A6 Center-Channel Speaker
Polk FXi A6 Side Surround Speakers
Polk RTi A3 Rear Surround Speakers
Polk RTi A9 Front Speakers
Sony PlayStation 3


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