Custom home theater design check list

May 24, 2005

plansI often meet with clients who are interested in a custom home theater, but aren’t aware of all of the design elements, equipment choices, and pre-build planning that goes into building such a theater. I don’t fault them, after all many of my clients are successful professionals, and I know little to nothing of the inner-workings in their field. Why should I expect anything different from them, towards mine?

Recently I’ve gone as far as giving my clients a “check list” of things they can think about, in-between our initial meeting and the first sit-down, to plan out their theater. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, I’ve found these notes or check-lists are becoming more and more important in ensuring pertinent details aren’t overlooked.

So think of this list as a rough mental walkthrough of what you’re after, or rather things to take into consideration when designing your custom home theater, notice I say you and your. When all is said and done, no matter how competent your installer is, they won’t have to view movies in it, you will. Do as much as possible before construction begins to help create your dream theater. Below is a modified version of what I have my clients work on, the part about spouses in particular is noticeably absent from my version, if I have to explain why…

Read: Sounds simple enough, but basic research goes a long way in bringing yourself up to speed on the current technologies and construction methods, that go into custom home theater construction.

Discuss: Discussing your new investment with your significant other beforehand can nix unexpected surprises and disappointments later, when changes become difficult and costly.

Define your overall needs: This is a big one, if you don’t articulate what you want and expect from your custom installer, the results likely won’t resemble what you envisioned.

Provide your integrator detailed specifications and drawings: This one might sound a little odd, but even if it is just “one room” this one rooms cost per square foot is often one of the highest in the home. Don’t chance misunderstandings or uh-oh’s to poor specifications or lack of documentation.

Further definition of your seating and general room requirements: I see this area as a growing problem between client, integrator and build-out contractor. Unless everyone is on the same page the design execution may suffer. The reality is, no matter how much state of the art equipment you put into the room, if the room itself isn’t comfortable and inviting, your return on investment will be diminished.


Before the wiring begins talk about future technologies: It’s never too late to wire for future technologies, it just gets more expensive after the fact. Before the pre-wire is the time to nail down as many what-if’s as possible.

Have your integrator prepare a detailed list of proposed equipment: Now surely every proposal will list (at least in part) the equipment your installer/integrator intends to use for your project, but what we want is specific names, models and quantities. For example “HDTV Satellite receiver” just won’t cut it, is it DirecTV, DishNetwork or uncle bobs FTA sat receiver? Without a detailed description, you may find out much too late.

Obtain a wiring schematic from your installer: You’re paying for the pre-wire, you deserve to have a detailed wiring diagram of the work once completed. Also be wary of any integrator that seems reluctant to provide such a diagram. A competent detailed installer with fair prices shouldn’t worry about “getting shopped”, by your desire to have a roadmap of his work. In addition, make sure any high voltage electrical work on the project, is handled by a licensed electrician.

Get an installation plan and project timeline: Before you sign the bottom line, get a detailed installation plan and timeline. “We’ll get right on it” might mean next year. Ask questions, ask more, do more research, and then ask more questions. Here’s another tip, any custom A/V integrator worth his salt won’t mind a few questions, it typicaly means less questions after the fact, when they’re trying to move on to the next job.

Note: The do-it-your-self version of this list, would obviously be much much longer, I’ll work on that one for a later date.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater Design


Comments

  • Steve

    – “A competent detailed installer with fair prices shouldn’t worry about “getting shopped”, by your desire to have a roadmap of his work.

    “Once completed” is the key. Only after a contract has been signed, or the work performed, will I give any detailed specifics. It’s not fair to do hours and hours of work in putting together a custom proposal, then have the customer go to eBay and buy the components from who knows who – I’m not in business to provide free expertise. I have to make a living just like everyone else. If a client wants to do it himself, figure out the wiring and system yourself. Good luck troubleshooting all the unforseen issues that will definitely come up.

  • Steve

    – “A competent detailed installer with fair prices shouldn’t worry about “getting shopped”, by your desire to have a roadmap of his work.

    “Once completed” is the key. Only after a contract has been signed, or the work performed, will I give any detailed specifics. It’s not fair to do hours and hours of work in putting together a custom proposal, then have the customer go to eBay and buy the components from who knows who – I’m not in business to provide free expertise. I have to make a living just like everyone else. If a client wants to do it himself, figure out the wiring and system yourself. Good luck troubleshooting all the unforseen issues that will definitely come up.