Take your at-home movie-watching to the next level.
How much does a home theater cost?
Home theaters don’t come cheap. Like other major renovation, installing the right tech and finding the right design can take months of labor. The total cost will depend on a number of factors, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $10,000 for your home theater.
Why such a price difference? It’s up to you to decide what you need and what you may already have. If you’re creating a media room — the younger sibling of a home theater — then you likely already have the space finished off and much of the tech purchased. If you’re building out a home theater from scratch and purchasing a litany of new furniture and tech, you’ll pay significantly more.
Renovating your room
Where are you going to put your home theater? A spare bedroom offers an easy, enclosed area but lacks the space many film enthusiasts want. A basement or attic space may be able to handle more equipment, but it may cost more to finish it off and make it suitable for hosting guests. Your choice of where your home theater will be is crucial and can impact the final cost of your home theater.
What do you want out of the space? Adding risers to your seats requires a carpenter, and you can expect to pay $50 to $75 an hour for this service. If you want a wet bar, a plumber and carpenter adds thousands of dollars to your renovation cost, especially if the bar has granite counters or the room lacks suitable plumbing. A designer is likely needed to shape the space into what you imagine, and again, it will cost you.
Cost of theater-quality equipment
For most people, this is where the real money comes in. A high-quality projector can cost you anywhere between $250 and $1,000, though some far exceed this range and cost over $2,000. A projection screen that is mounted to your wall or ceiling will cost $200 to $500, though some brands with a high-definition 16:9 ratio can cost over $2,000.
Homeowners with smaller theater spaces may want to choose a TV instead. While it won’t have the size of a projection screen, it will provide great visuals. Most 65″ TVs cost between $700 to $3,000. It may be more expensive that some projector setups, but if you’re interested in easy installation and use, a TV is often much simpler.
Whichever you choose, you’ll need sound. Sure, you could use cheap speakers, but a sound bar makes your home theater come alive. Good sound bars don’t have to be expensive, either. You can pick up great models for less than $500. Surround sound is all about appropriate speaker placement, so take the time to read reviews on good speakers and sound bar combos. Once you make your purchase, experiment! There’s no better way to set up a home theater than to figure out what works for you.
Soundproofing your space
It’s no good to spend time and money on creating the home theater you’ve always wanted only to have the amazing sound disturb others in your home or neighborhood. Soundproofing is an overlooked but crucial component of your space, but for people with a large space, it’s not a simple DIY project.
Soundproofing begins at the design stage. You might want hardwood or tile flooring in your home theater, but if you’re keeping soundproofing in mind, consider using carpeting. This better absorbs the sound coming from your speakers and reduces echo. If you’ve ripped the space down to the studs, start building your soundproofing now. Two walls filled with layers of soundproofing barriers can help reduce the sound leaving your home theater.
Once your walls are up and your carpeting is installed, take the extra step to install acoustic panels. These come in a huge variety of designs and can be built to suit your space.
When it comes to your budget, expect to pay for the hard work involved. The national average to soundproof a room runs around $1,600, but can cost upwards of $4,000. The bigger the space, the higher the cost. If you’re ripping down walls and tearing up floors, builders will charge more. It all depends on how much you need and how quiet you want your home theater to feel.
How can I finance a home theater?
- Home equity loan. The loan amount is based on the equity you have built up in your home. Your credit plays less of a role, and you can typically borrow up to 80% to 90% of your home’s value.
- Home equity line of credit (HELOC). This is a mixture between a home equity loan and a credit card. You can draw on your equity whenever you need it, up to your credit limit, rather than as one large lump sum.
- Personal loan. This can be either a secured or unsecured loan. Provided you’re approved, you can typically borrow between $1,000 to $100,000 — more than enough money to finance a home theater.
- Credit card. A credit card won’t likely finance an entire home theater, but it can be used to cover some costs like expensive audiovisual equipment.
Compare your personal loan options
What else could I add to the room?
Between small appliances that make life easier to important aesthetic decisions that will enhance the quality of your movie experience, it’s not always all about the sound equipment and screen quality. Here are some small additions to your home theater that can make a big impact.
- Home assistant. A Google Home or Amazon Echo give you hands-free access to your modern tech. No need to leave those comfortable seats when you’ve got a home assistant hooked up.
- Ambient lighting. Nothing adds to the mood better than lighting. LED strands can be hung on the walls to create the soft glow many movie-goers adore.
- Blackout curtains. A room with a view can be great, but the sunshine isn’t what you want when screening a new film. Blackout curtains are a great way to keep the glare out.
- Popcorn machine. It’s certainly not a necessity, but having popcorn without having to leave the room is the ultimate luxury.
- Wet bar. If you’re a fan of adult drinks and hosting large parties, installing a wet bar will make it easier to enjoy the movie while entertaining your friends.
5 specs to consider when picking your projection screenStruggling to choose the right projection screen for your space? Here are some basic things to keep in mind when comparing screens:
- Mount. You can mount your screen to the ceiling — either with a visible or hidden mechanism to roll it when not in use — or to the wall for a true theater look. There are also portable screens, but these are less professional and won’t provide a proper theater experience.
- Retraction. Screens can be retracted electronically, manually or not at all. Homeowners on a budget will likely want to opt for a manual screen, but if you have the extra cash, a screen that can retract with the push of the button is much simpler.
- Aspect ratio. If you want high-definition, a 16:9 aspect ratio is a must. If you want a movie-like picture, a 2.35:1 aspect ratio can give it to you. Simpler and less expensive screens will have a 4:3 aspect ratio, so this is a good option for people on a budget.
- Size. The size of screen you choose depends on how much space you have. Smaller screens, usually less than 100″, are great for living room home theaters without multiple rows. With larger screens, you’ll have a great picture, but it may impact your seating and visuals.
- Gain. The fabric you choose for your screen will impact the gain — the light reflexivity. A low gain will mean a dim screen, and gain can be impacted by the surrounding room. Choose your gain with your light sources in mind, and talk to a home theater specialist if you’re not sure what gain you should pick.
How to calculate your seating needs
While you might imagine hosting a huge party that could fill an entire theater, you’re more likely to only need a handful of seats to cover most of what you’ll be using the space for. In order to have a roomy area that doesn’t feel too crowded, you’ll have to determine how many people you’ll be hosting most of the time. You may throw a large party with all your friends and family once or twice a year, but for the majority of your home theater use, the room will be populated by the people who live in your house. If you have a family of five, two to three rows should suffice to cover daily use.
Keeping everyone comfortable is crucial. Calculate the minimum and maximum distances from the screen to make sure everyone has an optimal view, and if you have those two or three rows with comfortable recliners, installing risers will give everyone a chance to see the screen without strain.
However, the main factor in figuring out how many seats you can fit is the size of the room. You may want to install six luxurious recliners, but if you have limited space to dedicate to your home theater, you’ll end up overcrowding things and lessening the viewing experience. Most home theater contractors recommend a large, open space like a basement or attic. This way, you can fit a huge screen, multiple rows of seats and other necessities.
You can calculate your seating needs by measuring the space between rows. People should have at least 20″ to walk around, even when seats are reclined. The space from the back wall to last row should be about 4′ so your guests aren’t overwhelmed by bass. A home theater designer can help you determine the overall look and feel of your home theater, and there are many resources online that can give you an idea of what you’ll need and which brands are superior.
Creating a home theater can be an expensive process, especially if you need to do a complete renovation of a space to get it functioning properly. It’s important to create a budget and tackle your home theater one piece of tech at a time.