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Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

It’s been a while since I’ve provided an update on my home theater construction project. Quite a lot has happened since I last documented my progress, but I haven’t had the time to write about it. I don’t think that I’m ready to reveal the finished theater just yet, but I can show you some of the work that’s taken place in the meantime.

As those of you who’ve followed me on this journey may remember, I last left this tale in a state of disaster. The beautiful finished theater room I’d constructed in my basement had to be torn up to repair a broken pipe behind the wall, which had flooded the back of the room and destroyed the brand new carpet I just put down literally one week earlier.

Well, we (and by “we,” I mean my plumber) got the pipe out. You can see the giant crack in this photo. It’s ugly.

Broken pipe Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

Fearing that the rest of the old plumbing in the house is probably in a similar condition, I was forced to make a difficult decision and take some drastic actions to make sure this doesn’t happen again in another part of the room.

Originally, the pipe ran down the back of the wall from the kitchen upstairs and connected to another pipe under the floor. Because I don’t trust the condition of that lower pipe, I elected to bypass and abandon it altogether. We capped it off and redirected the kitchen line to turn and run a new pipe behind the wall towards the front of the room, where it will connect to the sewer drain-out in the boiler room beyond my theater.

Hole in wall 1 Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

In order to run that pipe, this meant cutting two more big holes (for a total of three, plus a smaller access panel) in my lovely, freshly-painted, double-drywall soundproofed wall. I was heartbroken to have to do this.

Holes in wall 2 Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

Hole in wall 3 Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

Holes in wall 4 Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

This is on top of having to trash the carpet in the entire back half of the room.

While the plumbing was being repaired, we had no water in the kitchen, and had to wash all of our dishes in the laundry room sink.

Our plumber does good work, but this was a big project and took some time. Once he was finally finished, we regained use of our kitchen again, which was a big relief. However, the theater project stalled for a time due to money (I’d long since blown my budget, and insurance only covered a portion of the expenses) and scheduling issues with my contractor. As a result, the room sat in disrepair for much longer than I wanted. To be honest, I had a hard time even going into the room. Every time I stepped in there, my heart sank and my ulcer flared up. I couldn’t even bear to look at it. I wanted nothing to do with the room while it was in this condition.

Thankfully (!), the repair work eventually resumed. First, my contractor’s plasterer patched up the holes in the wall.

Plaster Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

Plaster 2 Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

Then I had the carpet replaced. Of all things, this actually felt like the biggest hurdle to overcome. Once the carpet went back in, the room started to feel like a usable space again, not just a huge money pit under my house. I finally felt some sense of progress being accomplished.

Plaster and carpet Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

Next, I’d have to repaint. To ensure an even color, the entire wall would need to be repainted, not just the replastered parts. Further, all this repair work had caused additional paint damage on my ceiling.

Paint chipping 1 Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

You see, the package deal I signed up for with my contractor included painting from a subcontractor. This was the only aspect of the original construction that I was dissatisfied with. Although the paint job initially looked good and I was pretty happy with the way the room turned out, I later found out (from another professional painter) that the walls and ceiling had been painted too soon after construction. They should have waited a few weeks for the plaster to fully cure.

To be fair, being ignorant of such things, I was in a rush to complete the room, and the first painter was merely meeting my timetable. However, if he had at least said something, I would have made the decision to wait and do it correctly. But he didn’t.

Why was this a problem? Because the plaster wasn’t completely dry, the paint didn’t adhere properly, and is very prone to chipping and flaking at even the slightest nick or ding against the walls or ceiling.

I’d already noticed a few small issues that I needed to touch-up myself before the plumbing catastrophe. When doing his repairs, my plumber strung a plastic tarp across the room to protect the undamaged carpet, furniture, and my home theater equipment. He attached this to the ceiling with standard painter’s tape. If the room had been painted correctly, this shouldn’t have been at all an issue. Unfortunately, because it wasn’t, the paint peeled right off in a nasty strip when we took that tarp down.

Paint chipping 2 Building a Home Theater, Step 7: Picking Up the Pieces

I wasn’t going to let that happen again. So I waited an appropriate amount of time after the repairs and had a second painter, one I knew and trusted, finish off the room for me.

Photos of that will have to wait for another post. More to come.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

13 comments

  1. William Henley

    I feel like I have read the beginning and end of a book, and am now looking at the middle. So weird.

    I see you went with the white plates. My OCD is going nuts right now. :-)I would have painted them either the same color as the walls or ceiling.

    Did the contractor leave a hole in the ceiling next to the projector? It seems that, for cosmetic reasons, they would have gone with a plate or something.

    How bright are those bulbs, or is that just a long exposure? Just seems awfully bright for a home theater room, but I am sensitive to bright lights.

    • Mike Attebery

      I’m with you. Outlet covers should match either the wall or the trim, but we’ve been over this before.

  2. MrAngles

    Painting the plates to match the wall would look cheap. Maybe matching the trim would work, but there has to be some contrast against the wall.

    I feel for you josh, I just ran new plumbing (completely outside of the theater room this time) and I’m about ready to start reconstruction after my water damage issues, but it’s hard to have the motivation to get going on it since it was only a couple months ago that I finished hanging the drywall and got the room painted. I kind of hoped to be done dealing with drywall forever…

  3. Ted S.

    Josh, I hope everything will work out and you can have your nice home theater. Can’t wait to see what the room look like once you’re done with it!

  4. Josh – another little trick you might have missed due to inexperience: My years of experience tells me that when a wall is patched, or, where the seams are plastered, or to fix water discoloration, to use a can of white satin spray paint. Otherwise the sheen of the wall will vary on those plastered or stained spots.

  5. John Burton

    Good to see the update. We all such passion in these projects, we feel for each other. I felt sick reading your very last post. I’m relieved to see things are moving forward.

  6. plissken99

    Josh you are a better man than I, under those circumstances I would spend my days gravitating between a blind rage and sucking my thumb under a table. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished project.

    I myself have had some plumbing issues in my theater room recently. Mine being a converted garage which had the washer and dryer, when we moved in I built a wall. I did it myself, my 1st attempt at anything that big and it shows lol.

    The wall creates a theater room and laundry room, well the drain line for the washer backs up every now and then and floods the laundry room, the water seeps right under the wall I built and under the carpet in the theater room. So we have to pull the carpet up as best we can and have fans blow on it for a few days. Well this happened weekend before last and this time our drying method permanently stretched the carpet out of shape, looks like crap. Damn washer always waits until we drop our guard!

    Eventually we plan to reroute the drain line and the dryers electric line altogether, moving the washer/dryer elsewhere and tearing down the wall, making a larger HT room. Gonna be a long time though.

  7. Pedram

    Glad to see this is moving forward again.

    I hope you didn’t have to sacrifice the possibility of overhead speakers for Atmos :)

  8. Toby

    After your home theater is complete, you need popcorn, people and the CD “THE SHOW STARTS IN 45 MINUTES.” This features a countdown to get the movie started on time as well as movie them music and efx of people entering the theater. A perfect pre-show environment.
    http://www.HomeTheaterMusic.com

  9. Nelll

    JZ even though i don’t comment a lot I’ve been following very closely. Good luck in everything my brother. :)

  10. August Lehe

    I too, have been following closely and am stupefied by your determination. From now on, when friends ask me why my Home Theatre is little more than a glorified corner of my home library and not a customized room, I will show them your travails…and they will (probably)say, “yeah, sure, stuff happens!”
    Once the lights are down and the movie starts, I don’t think I will hear any groans or complaints…

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