Here is a brain dump of all things I think are important with the construction of my basement.

Parts List / Sources
  • Rec room - Behr "Caroway" I think? Satin
  • Theater - Behr "Red Red Wine" Eggshell
  • Trim - Behr "Linen White" Semi-Gloss

  • Solid pine doors from Home Depot painted with trim color

  • Dricore subfloor:
  • Carpet/pad from Lowes

  • Drop ceiling from Lowes special order. Armstrong - Sahara Product Number 271 They claim 60% sound reduction.
  • Crown molding and other specialty hardwood trim was from St. Charles Hardwoods

  • Shower: Aqua Glass Eleganza 48" Shower Wall Set" from Lowes
  • Toilet: "Jacuzzi ERA 2-Piece Complete Toilet" from Lowes
  • Vanity: I'm not sure, but I think it's the "Estate by RSI 24" Premier Cinnamon Vanity" from Lowes

    IR Distribution
  • Round Micro IR Sensor, Smart Home Item# 8130W
  • 4 Emitter Connecting Block, Smart Home Item# 8191
  • Stick-On IR Emitters (10-Pack), Smart Home Item# 8170S10

    Low Voltage Wire
    Source for all of my low voltage wiring: or
  • IR receiver wire - New Generation 5522UG 4 cond 22 awg Security and Alarm Cable for my security system as well as for the IR receiver. Any 3 conductor wire will work for the IR receiver. Even cat3, cat5, etc.
  • Coax -
  • Speaker Wire: I used the Belden 10-gauge 5T00UP. It's very flexable. Can you beat 85Cents/ft for a good 10Guage speaker wire?
  • HDMI Cable: used the BJC Series-1 Belden Bonded-Pair HDMI Cable Jacks:
  • RJ11:
  • RJ45 Cat6:
  • Binding Post/Banana Jacks:
  • F-Jack (Coax):
  • RCA Jack for Sub:
  • Wall Plates:
  • Banana Plugs:
  • RCA Compression Connector for the sub RG6:
  • Ideal Type F Quad Shield Compression Conectors from Home Depot to terminate all my RG6 used for Antenna, Satellite, etc.

    Insteon (X10 compatible) dimmer switches. I bought a INSTEON Wire-in Dimmer Scene Lighting Starter Kit, Smart Home Item# 2492 that controlls the sconces and provided the tabletop controller and the RF bridges. And then added these INSTEON SwitchLinc Dimmer (High Wattage) Smart Home Item# 2476DH high wattage dimmers for the can lights in the theater. With 14 60watt bulbs I needed the higher wattage dimmer. All of these dimmers are also X10 compatible. So I programmed them with scenes for movie time. When I sit down I hit a button on my IR remote that sends IR to this Infrared X10 Command Console IR-543 that converts the IR to X10 commands, the X10 commands then trigger the lighting scenes in the dimmers. It would be nice if they had an IR to Insteon converter but they don't at this time. This way with one button push, my main lights slowly dim down to off and the wall sconces just dim very low. Then one button again brings the lights slowly back up over about a 20second period so it doesn't strain your eyes. The IR/X10 controller is tucked away in my AV closet and just a stick on IR Emitter on the front of it.

  • The can lights were just your garden variety Home Depot Halo IC rated New Construction can lights. Model number is H71CT-6PK for a case of six.
  • Sconces: Minka Lavery - Belcaro Collection Part number 931-126

  • Denon 4306 AV Receiver
  • Pioneer Progressive Scan DVD player (Hopefully soon an HD-DVD player)
  • Optoma HD73 720p Dark Chip 3 Projector from Kirk Ritari at Projector People (HD73)
  • 106" Elite ezFrame Fixed Frame CineWhite screen from Kirk Ritari at Projector People. The frame is aluminum with a beveled edge where it meets the screen and is wrapped in black velvet. Very nice IMHO for a cheap screen. Picture is awesome. (Screen)
  • Projector Mount: Cheif RPA-U Universal Projector Mount


    I toiled on the speakers for a long time. My budget was about $3,000 for a 7.0 surround package. I had an old powered sub I will use until I recover from all the other expenses. I wrote a quite lengthy writup of my reviews of several speakers and why I chose B&W 704's. Bottom line, speakers are a very personal taste, what I may not. Here's a link to my review in case you want to know the details.

  • B&W 704 Front Mains
  • B&W HTM7 Center Channel
  • B&W DS3 side and rear surrounds (I couldn't see paying $700 each for four 7 series surrounds!)

    Opening Thoughts
    My main goal for finishing the basement was I didn't want it to feel like a basement. I wanted better maintained temperature than the usual finished basement, I wanted softer warmer floors, no dampness etc. If you are thinking of building a house, you don't have to have a standard 8' foundation. I opted to pay for a 9' foundation. It was only an additional $2,500 add-on but gives me a just under 8 foot high ceiling BELOW the ductwork! You can of course go deeper than 9 feet but then you get into significantly more money. Before finishing the basement the first thing I did was measure out all the exterior walls, drains, furnace, windows, etc and put them into a Visio drawing. That gave me the ability to move around walls and begin a rough plan on how things would lay out. I also spend several hours down there just trying to think of the best locations for different rooms. For instance:

  • A pool table takes up quite a bit of space so find a spot without poles, drains, etc.
  • You don't want the breaker panel on the front wall of your theater.
  • If you want a bedroom in the basement according to code in my area you have to have an "egress window", basically, a window large enough for an adult to comfortable fit through.
  • No windows in the theater if possible.
  • Is there any opportunities for "cool stuff" in moving around your floor plan? For instance, I planned in a closet on the same wall as my AV rack. That way the rack is built in the wall and to do wiring I just walk into the closet behind the equipment. You don't see the mess and it's easy to wire. I also built a built-in book case that can be slid and out, it covers the shower shut-off valves and shower fixture. That way if I have any problems with the shower faucet, valves, etc I can just pull out the bookshelf and have full access to them. The ceiling in my HT also had an opportunity, the ductwork only came about a 1/3 of the way into the room. So I built the projector in the ceiling next to the ductwork, then had the level of the ceiling go up into the room. This offered me many decorative options. The one I chose was obviously what you see.
  • I also built the breaker panel and my patch panels into a closet in the office/bedroom. Gives me plenty of access/room but also hides them.
  • Don't forget cooling for all of your AV gear! For instance, don't expect to stuff it all in a small closet and expect it to last. You need cooling!
  • Cooling for the theater room. Not only does your AV gear put out heat, don't underestimate the amount of heat that people give off! I read somewhere that the average adult puts off 450-500BTUh of heat! That's a lot! I have two 4" x 12" vents and one 32" wide cold air return in the theater.

    Spend a lot of time on It is an absolute wealth of knowledge on finishing theaters, equipment, etc. I spent months reading it.
    Once I had the plans fairly set, I could easily estimate lumber and drywall by how many linear feet of wall I had. For instance, one stud every 16" plus a few on each wall for base plates, top plates, reinforcing, etc. One sheet of drywall every 4 feet (or 2 sheets every 8 feet, 2 sheets every 10 feet, etc) I estimated so well, I only had to go back to the lumber yard for ONE SHEET! I bought enough drywall to finish over a thousand square feet and was only off by one sheet. Yea, I got lucky. :-)

    Here is a Visio drawing of my plans. There are four pages, one for the floor plan, one electrical, one HVAC and one to estimate square footage.
    Visio Drawing
    Here are JPGs of each page for those not Visio inclined:
    Floorplan: Floorplan
    Electrical: Electrical
    Square Footage: Square Footage

    Floorplan – Basic stuff. You can get a feel for size and placement of all my doors/windows, etc.
    Electrical – You will notice what looks to be an obscene amount of lights. More on this later…
    HVAC – Again, I wanted it to feel like upstairs, so I have two 4" x 12" registers in the ceiling of the theater with a 2-stud-wide cold air return by the floor, then one vent and one cold air return in each other room. I figured put the cold air return next to the floor to pull the cool air off the floor in the summer (to help with cooling) and keep the floor warmer in the winter. There is a ton of info in this realm on the AVSforum. One thing to consider is every vent you install in the theater the more noise you will get in the rest of the house. Some people use insulated flex-duct to cut down on this…just keep in mind it dramatically cuts down on airflow over straight metal duct.

    The Beginning – DriCore

    I struggled with this one. I read about DriCore on the AVSForum for some time. and you can buy it at Home Depot. I had never heard of it or seen it, but after reading about it I decided I wanted to try it. The DriCore cost me about $1.60 a sq foot to install. It's basically 2'x 2' tiles that are tongue and groove with a heavy plastic layer on the bottom that has 1/4" feet. So the whole floor floats on these feet 1/4" off the concrete.

    They went down pretty quickly; I think I finished the whole basement floor in about a day and a half. Only tools you need is a jigsaw and a circular saw (table saw was nice for cutting quick and straight). In the end, I am VERY glad I used DriCore. The floor feels wonderful. It has a lot of "give"to it, it feels almost like a standard sub-floor. Again, my main goal for the basement is I didn't want it to feel like a basement and this REALLY helped. I can walk around down there without shoes on and my feet stay just as warm as upstairs. Not only that, since all the walls are built on top of the DriCore, if you get a leak from the wall or floor, it just runs underneath to the floor drain!

    DriCore completed and lumber brought in:

    The topic of metal studs is pretty hot lately. I chose wood studs for many reasons. I am a woodworker, so I already have all the tools needed. Easier to cut and assemble (nail gun) easier to add bracing, easier to hang pictures etc, and I think that metal studs do not dampen noises NEAR as well. They vibrate, rattle, etc. Overall, I just didn't want to mess with metal.

    First wall put up!

    Here you can see how I wrapped my main I beam with plywood. This made hanging the drywall on it easier later on.

    The screen wall up

    Here's where the treasure is buried :-)

    Ah, the home theater ceiling. This has to be the crown jewel of my basement. The next series of pictures help show how I framed up the ceiling. Basically, I wanted a classy ceiling but not lose the ability to access above the ceiling in case I needed to run additional wiring, plumbing, etc. In the end, I am VERY happy with the results. Each square is approximately 4 foot by 4 foot and you can lift the panel up and move it about 2-3 feet to the right or the left. I left a couple extra feet of wire attaching each can light. The process of this was basically build the drop-down short-wall part, drywall/tape/mud, paint, crown molding and then set 4' square painted drywall panels on top of the crown molding. One thing to note, if you are looking toward the screen wall the two supports that go front to back are not attached to the ceiling, this way I could slide the panels in over them from the right or the left. Since they are so large you can't simply tilt them and drop them on top of the crown molding like a drop ceiling. I would put up the crown molding on say the left square, insert the drywall square from the square to the right and slide it over the support to the left and drop it in. Then put up the crown molding on the center square and feed the drywall square from the right square over the support into the center and drop it in. Then lay the right hand drywall square on top of the center one, do the crown molding on the right square and then slide the drywall square back over the support and drop it into the right hole. Make sense? :-) Long story short, if I had to fully remove any square, I'd have to pull down the crown molding.


    Here's the explanation for my great number of lights. I have 14 can lights and 5 sconces in my theater and 16 can lights in the pool table room. Each one with a 60Watt bulb. Two things here, can lights are more of a spot light than a standard bulb or fluorescent. They tend to "hot-spot" more. So I wanted them closer together. Secondly, I figured I could always put lower wattage bulbs in them. In the end, they are all filled with 60 watters and I think it's perfect. Since I have a large number of lights in the theater, I have one circuit ran just to power the lights, one to power the outlets and a dedicated power for the AV rack. Rec room is the same thing, one circuit for outlets, one circuit for lights. All other rooms just had a couple of outlets or a couple of lights so I just shared outlets with lights where necessary.

    I ran all the electrical myself as I've had a fair amount of experience with it. I wouldn't recommend it for the average do-it-yourselfer. There is a lot to consider with codes and such. One thing that caught me off-guard is the inspector wanted GFCI outlets anywhere that I didn’t have flooring installed. Such as my utility room and workshop regardless if there is water. They wanted GFCI outlets because it was an "unfinished floor". Also make sure not to run electrical (or low voltage) through cold air returns and always have the runs straight with 90 degree bends. Staple at least 4-6" from each box and along the way every couple feet for support. Another stinker is the inspector wanted to see all the grounds attached before I could do drywall. Now think about this, can lights that sit in a drop ceiling grid...the drywall and paint goes up before the drop ceiling grid? Grrrrr…I wired all the can lights, left a fair amount of extra Romex and nailed them to the joists. He came out and did his inpection, I continued with construction and then dropped the lights down to the grid when it was time. It did work out nice however because I had plenty of light for mudding and painting.

    Also, don't forget to run round boxes near the ceiling for smoke detectors!

    Low Voltage - The life blood of the theater.

    I used the orange low-voltage boxes from Home Depot for all of my low-voltage. It is very similar to a standard electrical box only it doesn't have a back on it. It makes running low voltage wire into them a snap. Just make every attempt not to put 110 boxes right next to your low voltage boxes so you don't get EMI.

    Don't forget to run a speaker wire for each speaker and coax for each sub from where your AV equipment will be. In my case, my rack is to the extreme left of the sitting position and the projector will be in the ceiling. So I ran an IR Repeater setup to receive the signals from a receiver on the front wall and blast them out to all my equipment via little stick on emitters. The receiver required three conductor wire, I used some wire I had left over from installing my security system ( but any 3+ conductor wire will work.

    Here you can see the low voltage and 110 boxes on the screen wall. The left hand low-voltage box is for the left front speaker as well as an RG-6 coax for a sub. The center one is for RG-6 and center channel speaker and the right box is for the right front speaker and another RG-6 for a subwoofer.

    This pic shows my AV rack as well as the left surround

    This pic if you look carefully you can see the rear and side surround low voltage boxes.

    Here you can see the low voltage and power outlet on the far wall that now supports my LCD TV by the pool table

    Here's my patch panel where all the cabling comes to in my house. The antenna, satellite, phone and every wall jack in the house terminates here. The tan box is my security system. It's a litte messy at this point because all of the basement wiring isn't terminated yet.

    The back half of the basement is done here. The bathroom, rec room and office.

    Still need to hang the closet door.

    Back To The Theater - Or as my friends call it, sconnerBerg
    Be warned, some of the colors are off in the early pictures. I couldn't get the camera to take the colors properly, just stick with me until the later pictures. :-)

    Here is how I mounted the projector in the ceiling. The projector and mount I got from

    Stained wood up and first two panels installed. Notice the wire hanging out of the wall about six feet up? That's where my IR receiver will be later on.

    Decorative squares put up to cover seams

    Finished results of the home theater. Notice in the first and second picture picture the rectangle hole in the ceiling. That is where the projector shines through.

    See Mr. Projector? :-)

    Here you can see the IR receiver up on the left side of the screen. I considered painting the cover...I don't care for how much it sticks out. I also need a center channel stand.