DIYer Spends 3 Years Researching Theater


Steve Caesare spent three years researching how to best complete his basement theater.

Steve Caesare didn't want to throw something together in his basement; he wanted things to be perfect.

Nov. 13, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

It’s easy to get excited about home theater. Go on the AVS Forum. There certainly is a lot to get your creative juices flowing and your mouth salivating. While seeing the big, beautiful, comfortable rooms might get many to jump into a project, Steve Caesare wanted to take his sweet time.

“I’m genuinely a do-it-yourselfer type of guy. My dad was that way and I grew up that way,” he says. “I’ve always grown up looking at a project with the thought that if at all possible, I’ll try to educate myself on how to do it and try my own hand at it.”

So that’s exactly what Steve did. For three years, he researched how to create his perfect room. He did lots of reading, combed the AVS Forum for suggestions, and talked to people that had been there and done that. 

Not to say that Steve hasn’t jumped the gun before. He had actually attempted theater greatness two years prior. Alas, it was not so great. “After a month, we actually stopped that,” Steve says. He decided to go another route with the framing, for better sound isolation. He also wanted to try something different with the soffit. “So I really don’t count that.”

So Steve waited, researched, added more to the budget and decided to do something better. After all, he had spent enough time thinking about it. When he and wife, Vanessa, looked at houses, he always wanted the theater room. Of course, this basement layout afforded him that dream and much more.

When the entire project was finished, the Caesare household got more than just a theater. Walk down the basement stairs, open a door and you’ll be in theater room, with the screen at the back corner. There’s a large stage built under the screen, which houses storage drawers. To the left and right of the drawers are subwoofers. On either side of the screen are two built-in equipment racks. The cabinets have removable side panels, which provide for easy access. There are also large-diameter conduits to tie both racks together and to allow to cable runs over to the projector. The same room also features a bar area, air hockey and popcorn machine. At the back of the theater room is a gas fireplace, which Steve says comes in handy in the winter.

Behind the bar is a gym/dance studio. There’s also a bathroom and storage closet. Off the theater, through a set of recessed pocket doors is “the lab”—also known as Steve’s work area. “I have a closet for all of the electrical and mechanical connections for the house. It’s where I have a bench and stuff set up for working on electronics projects and computers and all that sort of geeky stuff that I like to do.” Some of that fun also counts as work, though, since Steve is actually a computer geek by profession.

This time around, Steve didn’t want any trial and error. “We actually went into it with very limited set of drawings,” he says. “They weren’t much more than glorified sketches, to be honest about it.” Other than that, Steve discussed the framing and the soffit with his friend Marty, a contractor that he hired to handle the Sheetrock and cabinetry work.

“From there, most of the time, it was simply in my head.” Steve must have a photographic memory because he says the project actually turned out exactly how he envisioned it.

Part of that blueprint called for excellent sound isolation. Steve went into the project with two goals in mind: Keep sound away from the rest of the house and create killer sound within the room.

“We did the framing to isolate the walls in the basement from the rest of the framing of the house. This minimizes the sound transmission to the rest of the house,” he says. “Then, we selected fabric with insulation and cotton batting and put it key locations to make the soundfield in the primary seating locations as good as possible.”

Steve also didn’t skimp on the design. Instead of using a soffit to stuff away his room’s biggest flaws, Steve put a one around the entire room as a design element. It wasn’t easy though. “There’s an I-beam in the middle of the room, there’s ductwork at the back of the room, and there’s some piping at the side of the room, all with soffits to cover them,” he says. “Then we built other dummy soffits around the perimeters of the rest of the room to make it symmetrical. The result of all of that is there’s a lot of soffit work to do and Sheetrocking all of that was a bit of a chore.”

At some point, Steve says that he might upgrade. For now, though, his years of research seem to be paying off. “Most of the newer stuff that I’ve looked at doesn’t provide enough additional bang for the buck that I think it’s really worthwhile,” he says. “I’m very pleased with how it turned out.”

To see why Steve is so pleased, check out his entire basement in our slideshow.

Quick Hits
Location: Ashburn, Va.
Year Completed: 2006
Room Size: 25 x 15 feet
Length of Project: 9 months
Total Cost: $60,000 (entire basement level)

Da-Lite HiPower 133-inch Screen
Dish Network 722 HD Satellite Receiver/DVR
Gyration Wireless Keyboard & Air Mouse
Insteon Lighting Controllers (11 zones/6 scenes)
JBL HTi-5 Center-Channel Speaker
JBL HTi-8 Speakers (4)
JBL Northridge E-Series Speakers (2)
Logitech Harmony 720 Remote
Microsoft Windows Media Center PC
Microsoft Xbox 360
Monoprice Cables
Pioneer TXSi-84 A/V Receiver
Samsung BDP-1500 Blu-ray player
Sony PVM-14 Monitor
Sony VPL-VW50 Video Projector
SVS PB10 Powered Subwoofers (2)
Toshiba HD-A30 HD DVD Player
Viewsonic 19-inch LCD Monitor
Yamaha MX12/4 Mixer & Microphones

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