September 01, 2005
| by EH Staff
By now you’ve probably shopped around for a home theater professional. You may have even selected all the equipment and features you’ll enjoy in your home theater system. Now comes one of the hardest parts of the process: waiting.
It can be months from the time you write that big check for your home theater equipment to the time you finally get to turn it on. So how do you cope with the wait? How do you temper that burning anticipation? Idea #300: Crash the home theaters of family and friends. They’ll return the favor once your home theater is done. Besides, you’ll probably want to show it off. And by visiting others, you may get more ideas for your own home entertainment haven.
1. It helps to understand the process of constructing and installing a home theater. First, your home theater will be prewired for all of the equipment. In a new construction or addition, this usually occurs when the builder has completed the framing and before the walls are “closed” with drywall, sheetrock or any other material. With wood or steel structures, the vertical wall supports known as studs will still be visible.
2. Whoever installs or “pulls” the wire should test each cable to make sure it works properly. Receptacles for in-wall speakers, multimedia jacks and power outlets will be installed during this time.
3. Don’t expect your audio/video equipment to be installed until the construction or renovations are complete and the areas are free of dust and debris that can harm sensitive electronics.
4. A good custom electronics contractor will use this time to build your system in racks at its own facility, test each of the components and program any controllers so the entire system works properly when installed in your home. Ask if you can see your system assembled in your contractor’s facility first. Any lingering questions or concerns you have can be addressed at that time. Late changes may still be possible as well.
5. Once all the construction work is done, the “trim out” phase begins. This is when all the electronics are put into place. In new homes, this may occur while you are moving in.
6. After the electronics have been installed, the company should test all the components to be sure they are working properly, tune the audio system to ensure it sounds its best and calibrate the video monitor. If you have a costly video projector or monitor, ask about certified professional calibration.
7. The electronics company should show you how to operate the system and any controls, and it should be available to answer your questions. The company may provide a basic package of commands to get you started, and it’s a good idea to schedule a visit to add more extensive controls once you’ve had some time to use your home theater system.
8. The “completion” of your home theater and any payment due at that time should include the initial training on using the system as well as a follow-up visit to add extra control options and iron out any wrinkles. It’s a great idea to specify this in your contract.
Working with Other Contractors
You may have several contractors working at your house, including the general construction contractor, electricians, an interior designer, a home theater contractor and cabinetmakers. And sometimes their goals can conflict. The general contractor may want to finish the walls before the electronics and the wire have been installed. The interior designer may want the speaker locations moved for aesthetic reasons. The heating company may want to place vents where the screen is supposed to go.
How do you keep track of it all and keep everyone happy so you can get what you want? Here are a few tips.
9. Communication is key. The construction company should let other contractors know when the wire, the plumbing and the heating need to be installed. The electronics company must let others know where any speakers, screens and other items will be located, as well as coordinate with custom cabinetmakers if audio and video components are to be housed in their creations. The interior designer and electronics pro need to communicate about decor issues and placement of speakers and other electronics. And so on. You should encourage this communication and make it clear that you expect it.
10. Respect is appreciated. Show each of your contractors that you respect their opinions and hard work, especially if one is being asked to alter a design for the need of another. If you don’t respect their talent and hard work, then seek other contractors to finish the job.
11. Call a meeting. Still having communication issues and battles among your contractors? Call everyone to a meeting, put the issues on the table and don’t allow anyone to leave until the problems are resolved. Encourage embattled parties to see and articulate opposing points of view. Before you know it, they may be referring clients to one another.