Everything you need to know about building your own Home Theater and how much does it all cost.
Choosing the right Space:
The biggest decision you'll need to make when deciding the home theater location is where to build it. The best time to design a home theater is during your meeting with the architect and General Contractor. It will save you hundreds of dollars during the wiring phase and is preferred by most installers.
If you build a home theater in an existing home; you'll have some construction challenges and need to be creative when retrofitting the room, additional devices will be needed to expand or extend existing wiring and cable infrastructure and the aesthetics would not be as pleasing. You are also limited to the size and function of your theater. Some of the benefits of retrofitting an existing room include lower cost, fewer construction requirements, and a good use of existing space. However, the room might not provide the ideal theater layout, windows and doors could present a problem, and theater noise could become an issue throughout the rest of the house. If space and your budget allows, you can also consider building a new addition or use an unused space like a basement or garage.
If neither of those options is possible, identify an existing room that is large enough to convert into a home theater. It should have room for seating, at least 8ft ceiling height for a projector and access to pull wiring or enough in the budget to have the holes needed to wire the room patched and repainted. The plan is to have all wires and most devices hidden and controlled with a universal control system. While the components are hidden away they also need to be in a place where they can be easily accessed or changed in the future.
For new construction, be sure the room is large, free from windows but with good ventilation, and that the walls are soundproof by starting with thick (at least 1 inch or better) drywall. Double-wall construction can be used for audio baffles by creating a dead space between two sheets of thick drywall separated by about 4 inches of space. Floor electrical outlets and ambient lighting strips also should be built in. In addition, wiring for speakers and lighting should be run throughout the room.
Theater Remodeling Cost $4,400 - $45,000:
The average homeowner has spent between $11,000 to $30,000 Remodeling a new space taking into consideration the Labor, construction materials, and, if needed, permits for the new construction. Add in there luxury items like a wet bar, tier seating and upholstered walls the cost could sometimes exceed the average cost. Best thing to do is have someone help you through the process. Spending the time trying to figure all this out and miss a critical step in the design process can end up costing you more. Besides how much is your time worth?
Large enough for the desired seating and with appropriate viewing distances to the screen
Few doors (one is best, but two is safer)
Free from outside light (the ideal room does not have windows)
Located where sound can be isolated from other rooms and neighbors
High ceiling for mounting projector high above seating to avoid heat and noise produced by it
In, or over, a basement since running wires is easier from a basement as opposed to a concrete slab or crawl space
Walls closer together near the front of the room and the viewing screen and farther apart in the back
Tiered flooring for better viewing positions in the rear of room
There are as many different types and levels of components for a home theater as there are people who want a home theater system. Everyone has their own vision of what creates their home theater experience. The most important aspect of constructing your home theater is planning ahead and knowing your budget. Which brand and quality level of Television, BluRay player, receiver, gaming system etc. is completely up to you and your budget.
The Receiver - $300 - $3,000+
The A/V receiver is the hub of a home theater. An A/V receiver is the electronic component that controls and drives your home theater experience. It powers all the speakers in your system and assigns a video source to the TV or projector while directing the audio from that source to your speakers. Think of it as the brains of your theater.
Receivers can range from $300 for a basic 5.1 Channel 70 watt per channel (Watts measure the power output to the speakers, more watts the larger the speaker required, larger speakers more sound) and up to $3,000 and higher which offers all the bells and whistles such as Dolby Atmos, Multiple zones (Audio and video in multiple rooms/locations), 11.2 Channels 4K HDR and more. Depending on your space and your intent for your home theater will determine the receiver you will need.
Components - $500 - $2000+
Depending on the size of your system and the components you are looking for. If you are expanding to multiple locations like a bar, outdoors or even all your bedrooms the price will increase exponentially:
Universal remote ($50 - $300+) hub and hand held remote. Our recommendation is the Logitec Harmory Elite. There are several variations based on the size for your system, but this example we are going to use the Harmony elite we mentioned above. There is a pro version, however it’s only recommended if you have a large system.
Streaming box ($30 - $200) for streaming video apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. Our go to is the Apple TV 4K. The apps are endless and the control options are very easy, however if you are an amazon lover the Fire TV 4k, where control is limited and the integrations is not quite up to par with the Apple TV.
Gaming System ($250 - $500) The XBox One X or the PS4 will give you the ability to play games and watch BlueRay videos. Throw that DVD and VHS player away or donate it
Lighting Control ($250 - $1,000+) to remotely control your lights, set specific scenes for watching movies such as dimming the lights and turning on the led lighting under the seats all with one push of a button, or without pushing a button at all. Lighting could be integrated with your system to do whatever and however you want it to react to specific actions or environments.
And That’s it, no, I did not forget the cable box, you don’t need it, without going too deep into why you should “cut the cord”, most cable companies are following the cord cutting trend in order to stay relevant to today's steaming generation. Some companies even offer an internet package and an app that you can download on your Apple or Fire TV that acts just like a cable box for under $60 a month.
Speakers - $1,650 - $10,000+
Your speakers are the crown jewel of your system, though it cannot run without the receiver, it will last decades longer. I always recommend the speakers to be considers the bulk of your investment. As Components become outdated and replaced by new technology every year, the speakers will always stay the same and having them installed in the walls or ceiling, they become part of your home and possibly increasing your home value or at minimum increasing the potential to sell if needed. I do not want to recommend speakers here on this platform, but I will share our go to line of speakers.
We choose Episode speakers, though they cannot be purchased in any stores or online, they outweigh the competition by low marketing expenses, competition from big box store competition and they offer a lifetime warranty. Now the amount of speakers and the size of the speakers depend on the size of the room and your budget. Below is the price range for a 5.1 configuration:
Left, Center and Right 3x Speakers (LCR) - $950 - $4,600+
Surround Left and Right 2x Speakers - $400 - $2,500+
Subwoofer $300- $3,000+
Total Cost $1,650 - $10,000+
7.2 Channels - $2,350 - $15,500+
9.2 Channels - $2,750 - 18,000+
11.2 Channels - $3,150 - $20,500+
Materials $300 - $2000+
Behind all the bells and whistles is the support materials. The components that keep everything together, ensure they operate and keep them in place. Some of the materials that are needed in a home theater install are:
Cables - Bulk cable is used for several purposes. Category cable is the same cable you connect your computer to the internet with. They come in Cat5e (which is just about obsolete) and Cat6 which is pretty much the standard for internet and using as a conductor for other types of cables. This wire is the catch all solution for most of the equipment that does not need more than 5v of power. The installer could use this to run IR Control, HDMI, Coax and in some cases low powered speakers. Other cables needed are Coax for cable, Digital audio and subwoofers. Romex is used for power, HDMI for Video, RCA for stereo audio and Optical cable for digital audio.
Mounts - Could be easily explained by a device to keep something on the wall or ceiling. The list of mounts in your theater would be, A projector mount, TV Mount, Speaker mount, and even microphone mounts.
Wall Plates - There are a variety of wall plates for every component The wall plates act as entrance places to run wiring to your equipment, direct connections to your equipment and decorative plates for your light switches and outlets.
Equipment Racks - Usually the most expensive piece in the materials category, however they can be replaced by shelving or custom recessed or built-in shelving, however ensure cooling of your equipment is taken into consideration if it’s in a closed cabinet. Equipment racks store your equipment in a shelf usually bolted to a metal frame integrated with wire management to keep everything together in one location and neatly organized for servicing, troubleshooting and replacement if necessary. Wire Management is the best application for the need of an equipment rack as you can see in the photo below besides making your equipment so much more appealing.
Labor - $ Various Trades
Labor rates Vary However you get what you pay for. You may ask how long does a project like this cost. It all depends on the budget, coordination between all trades of the project and the location.
Architect 5% - 15% of the project: Your first order of business should be figuring out what your priorities are in terms of design and making sure your plan adheres to building codes, such as those for egress windows. Get the design in place before you begin hiring subcontractors
Project Manager 5% - 10% of the total Project cost:The role of project managers often gets conflated with that of general contractors for individuals outside of the construction industry. This is due to the fact that they share responsibilities in some situations, such as accepting bids, outlining project costs, determining completion timelines, tracking account, and handling permitting. Put another way, for some projects a general contractor may perform some of the same duties that a project manager does. This is often the case when a project manager isn’t necessary, such as for small or simple projects
Construction Contractor (hourly rate $50-$100phr): They manage and install structural changes to the building, such as concrete work, Framing, Foundation, Support beams, window installations and other labor intensive tasks.
Plumbing Contractor ($45-$150phr): They manage and install the plumbing and sometimes heating and HVAC installation and relocation if needed during the project. Although plumbing projects can run as low as $95 or as high as $800, most homeowners spend between $170 and $458. Some plumbers charge a flat-rate service call plus an hourly rate for their labor. The plumber may be able to break down their labor rate into quarter-hours. The average hourly rate ranges from $45 to $150
Electrical Contractor ($50 to $100phr): For the entire project, you'll spend an average of $319, or within a range between $160 and $504 or more. Both hourly and project rates vary depending on the type of project, license and experience of the service provider.
Audio Visual Contractor ($90 - $175phr) Are masters of the complex art of technology. They not only install theater equipment, but all Audio visual and smart home technologies. They also help customers understand how their electronics work, and consult on products they should purchase. Usually a subcontractor under the electricians for wiring low voltage cables such as Speaker and Data cables, but also work independently.
So the “So what” to all this information is the bottom line, “How much will it cost me”, well the short answer is, I don’t know, just kidding. As you can see through the writing above the cost can vary by what state the project is in (New construction, Remodel or use of an existing space). If you don’t need plumbing, Electrical, or a Project manager/Architect, no issues there either. So the bottom line cost of your project is… to book a free online consultation:
Not kidding there, but here’s the math below:
Equipment Cost - $2,450 - $20,000+
Materials - $300 - $2000+
Labor - $1000 - $10,000+
Total - $3,750 - $32,000+