How and Why We Built a Home Theater In Our House

by | Mar 16, 2015 | 0 comments

Obviously we talk a lot of building and running businesses on this blog.  We also talk about how to build your relationship while building those businesses.  Part of building the relationship, and a key reason why we build businesses is to help us achieve the life we want.  Today we are going to some you one of the perks that we have been able to receive from our hard work, which is our home theater.  Additionally, you will see how this allows us to spend more time together as a couple, as well as as a family.

Most people are pretty shocked when they learn that we have a home theater in our house, and it I have to admit it is pretty cool to think about.  Even though home theaters are becoming more common, they are still somewhat of a luxury.  Given the interest that our theater tends to generate, as well as the variety of benefits that we receive from having it, we decided to share a little more with you guys about how we came to have a home theater and how it has improved our lives dramatically.  Whether or not a home theater is for you, think of what sorts of things you want as you start to achieve some success, and how those things can help you have a better life and relationship.

It Begins With Purchasing Our Home & Getting Married

Back into 2007, as part of Getting Into Debt Young, we purchased our first home.  We had recently graduated college ana after Tom failed to purchase a duplex we decided on a ~1,200 sqft ranch house.

Our First House - Entreprenewlyweds

Our First House

Before we purchased the house in March ’07, Tom proposed to me in December ’06.  So after moving in, not only were we trying to get unpacked and setup the way we wanted, we (read: I) were also planning a wedding.  After looking at the registry, several of Tom’s groomsmen came to the realization that he did not have much on the list.  So when they asked what he really wanted for his wedding, the natural answer was of course a home theater.

Home Theater 1.0

All kidding aside, I was actually glad that Tom answered the way he did.  In reality, we already had a home theater in our basement, but what Tom was looking for was to really upgrade it and make it an awesome place for our family to hang out together.

When we purchased our house, we each had a few criteria.  I wanted 3 bedrooms and hardwood floors.  Tom wanted a finished basement and a fenced in yard for a dog.  Well, we got just about everything except the finished basement.  The good thing was that we did get a basement, and it was open so that we could finish it ourselves.

Tom and I had always been interested in movies.  During our college years, we would often stay in on the weekend and watch movies or play video games together instead of going out drinking with our friends.  So when Tom saw this empty room in the back of our basement, he naturally wanted to make it into a home theater.  The first step was painting the ugly brown paneling.

Home Theater - The Beginning

The start of the theater – an empty room

Tom then set out to find a projector.  At a random meeting with his uncle, he came to find out that he had an old projector in the basement and said Tom could have it.  So Tom painted the room from white to black, installed a temporary screen out of paper and went about setting up the projector.  Unfortunately, the projector did not work, even after hours of messing around with it.

Home Theater - Mapping Out the Screen

This is one of those embarrassing pictures. What was Tom thinking?

So with that, Tom bootstrapped and set out to find a cheap projector as well as other items needed for a home theater (screen, audio equipment, etc).  Given that we had just purchased a house, Tom had purchased a new car and we were planning a wedding, I made sure he knew that we could not afford to spend a lot of money on this project.

After searching online, Tom found out that “blackout cloth” that goes behind curtains to block out the light made for a very good projector screen material.  Using instructions that he found online, he was able to purchase the material at a local craft store and build a custom projector screen for ~$50.  This initially saved us several hundred dollars as commercial screen ranged anywhere from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars.


Blackout Cloth Hung on the Wall

The design was pretty simple.  The first step was to build a frame out of wood.


Wood Frame for Projector Screen

After the frame was completed Tom wrapped the wood in black cloth.  He then stretched the blackout cloth around the frame and stapled the back side.  Below was the finished product.  This screen was 100″ (standard 4:3, not widescreen 16:9).


The Finished Screen

At the same time, Tom was able to find a used projector on Craigslist for $50, as well as some miscellaneous audio equipment.


Our First Projector – $50 Courtesy of Craigslist

We had an old cabinet that we painted black to store all of the electronics.  Tom was able to find someone selling a receiver (the “brains” of the home theater that send the video and sound from the different electronics to the projector and speakers), several speakers and a CD player for $50 on craigslist as well.  We had the Nintendo 64, the GameCube and the PlayStation 2 as Tom was always a fan of video games.


Our First Component Rack

And with a little bit of money and some work, we had our first home theater.

Home Theater - The First Iteration

The Official Home Theater 1.0!

During our first year in the house, this became a popular place to hang out.  We would watch movies together or play video games.  When we had people over or parties, this naturally became a place to gather, especially because Guitar Hero was very popular at the time.

Home Theater - Movie Example

An example of a movie on the screen

Home Theater - Mario Kart

An example of video games

Home Theater 2.0

So getting back to our wedding, we had enjoyed our home theater over the previous year and a half, but as always Tom wanted more.  Given that several of his groomsmen were hands on with construction, they decided to take a week off after we got married to gut the existing basement and build a truly dedicated home theater.


In order to rebuild, we had to first remove the existing theater.  Whereas the first theater was in a 13’x13′ room, we wanted to make the new theater much larger.  We expanded into a nearby room, which was originally the workshop.


Tearing out the wall between the theater and the workshop


Jon tearing out the wood panel walls


Demolition complete!


Once we clear out the room and removed the existing walls, then the fun really began.  We first had to frame out the walls and HVAC system.

Home Theater - Framing Out the Walls

Framing out the soon to be theater 2.0

We then insulated the entire room, walls and ceilings.  Part of this was for heating/cooling of the room, but the other part was to keep sound in the room and out of the rest of the house.

Home Theater - Insulation Before Drywall

Insulation all installed

And of course we had to take a break and test everything out before we put the drywall up. I swear Tom is a 5 year old and can’t wait for anything!

Home Theater - Testing the Speakers Before Drywall

Again, I’m embarrassed for Tom with this picture… He just cant wait

Home Theater - Drywall

Drywall going up!

And of course all of that drywall dust can make the help do some crazy things…

Home Theater - Things Get Crazy

And the embarrassment continues…

Anyways… back to drywalling the room and getting it ready for paint.  I didn’t see Tom for a few nights while this was going on.  And he hates finishing drywall, so when I did see him all he could say is “now I remember why we hire this out for all of our real estate investments”.

Home Theater - Drywall

The drywall receiving mud

Home Theater - Drywall

The sump pump closet and component rack space

Home Theater - Drywall

A view from the front towards the back

We painted the front wall and ceiling black, and painted the other walls with a charcoal gray.  This allowed for a dark viewing experience but did provide some color.

Home Theater - After Paint

The paint is complete and initial mounting of the screen

Home Theater - Projector Mount

A great way to have the projector out of the way

We build a shelf for the projector as well.

Here is the completed project with the furniture moved in.  We ended up with 4 rows of seating.

Home Theater - Furniture Moved In

The furniture moved in

Home Theater - Furniture Moved In

4 rows of seating is nice for friends

It didn’t take long before we realized that our concrete floor was not cutting it.  For one it made the room cold, and it also didn’t help with the sound.  So we added in a sub-floor over the concrete.

Home Theater - Subfloor

What a difference the sub floor made

We also decided to build a riser for the back couch.  This helped make sure the back row had a better view and set the room apart.  This is one of the features that people always comment on when they see the theater for the first time.

Home Theater - Riser Construction

Tom building the riser for the back row

Home Theater - Riser

Testing the fit of the couch

Home Theater 3.0

Home Theater - Epson Home Cinema 8350

Our new high definition projector

After going through the construction and having a dedicated room for the theater, we really enjoyed and used the theater a lot more.  Then one fateful day the bulb in the projector died and because the projector was several years old, we could not find a replacement bulb.  So of course Tom just had to go out and buy a very nice high definition projector (after much pleading with me, but I do enjoy it now).  We went with an Epson Home Cinema 8350 high definition projector and have been very happy with it.

And of course since we now have a new HD projector the old projector screen just wouldn’t cut it, so Tom had to build a 120″ wide-screen.

Home Theater - DIY Screen Build Materials

Tom’s materials for the new screen

As you can see, the new screen is quite a bit bigger than the previous one.  This one is 120″ widescreen.

Home Theater - New Screen Size Comparisons

A size comparison of the two screens

The finished screen.

Home Theater - DIY 120" Projector Screen

The new screen is complete

What a difference high definition makes.  It is so much clearer and with the size movies are so immersive.

Home Theater - ESPN Quality Example

This shows how clear the new projector/screen is

And of course if we were going to upgrade our projector, Tom just had to upgrade our receiver as well, right?  We went with an Onkyo HT RC180 receiver, and again have been very happy with it.  One of the coolest things is that it has 3 zones, so we can have a movie playing in the theater, different music playing in the workout room and still different music playing in the pool table area.

Home Theater - Onkyo Receiver

Our new receiver – Onkyo HT RC180

We also started adding some styling to the house.  Below is our theater sign directing people to the basement.

Home Theater - Direction Sign

We need to make sure people can find the theater, right?

Home Theater - Entrance with Movie Posters

And what theater is complete without movie posters?


Home Theater - Entrance with Movie Posters

We have 4 spots for different movie posters

We also added a “concession area”.

Home Theater - Concession Area

Candy anyone?

Below are some current images of the theater. You will see we have removed the front row of seating and now only have 3 couches. This served 2 purposes: 1. The front couch was too close to the larger screen, and not placed well for sound, and 2. We knew we would need more room for play once we had a baby.

Home Theater - View From The Back

A view from the back row


Home Theater - View From The Front

A view from the front


Home Theater - Rear Seating

Tom’s favorite things – Call of Duty, Buffalo Bills and The Simpsons


Home Theater - Component Rack

All of the electronics in the closet

 The Benefits

Did I mention that we love our theater?  It is one of the best things that we did to our house and for our happiness.

  • We Get “Us” Time

    Given that we are now parents, Tom and I definitely have less time with just the two of us.  The theater allows us to be able to hang out and watch movies after we put Elena to bed.  This is typically what we do on Friday/Saturday nights if we have nothing else planned.

    Home Theater - Family Time

    We love spending time in the theater


  • We Can Hang Out With Friends

    Again, once we became parents it became more difficult to get together with friends.  Given that we have the theater, we often host movie nights, game nights or sports nights. We order pizza/wings, invite some friends over, catch up and hang out in the theater.

    Home Theater - Watching Football With Friends

    A few friends over to watch a football game


  • Tom Can Play Video Games & Relax

    Tom doesn’t really watch TV and works pretty hard, so every now and then he really enjoys being able to take time to play video games, especially Call of Duty.  With the theater he gets an awesome way to play video games without being bothered, and we don’t have to worry about Elena watching the violent or scary games.

    Home Theater - Call of Duty

    Tom playing Call of Duty


  • Elena Can Play

    Our house is just about all hardwood floors, but we did install carpet in the theater.  This makes the theater a great playroom for Elena.  We have her toys in the theater and she often enjoys playing in there, so it doubles as a playroom. As she ages, it will make a great place for her to have friends over for play-dates and movie nights.

Home Theater - Elena's Fort

Elena playing in her “fort”

Additionally, she enjoys snuggling up on one of the couches, or a beanbag or one of the racing seats and watching a movie or some of her cartoons.

Home Theater - Elena Watching A Movie

Elena watching Monster’s Inc


Home Theater - Father/Daughter Time

Tom and Elena cuddling while watching Frozen

So if I haven’t mentioned it, we love our home theater.  Whether or not building a home theater in your house in on your list, we recommend thinking about what will make your life better and make sure you add that to your priorities.  As entrepreneurs we all work a lot and it is important to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor, as well as spend some time away from work to relax.