Planning a Home Theater

Learn how to choose a layout and style, select lighting and seating, and hire contractors

RX-IH_3949-image-02_s4x3 © 2011 CEDIA. Used with permission.

A home's media room has come a long way from being just a place to watch TV. Today, homeowners are using these rooms to surf the Internet, monitor and adjust home functions like electricity use and security cameras, and create home theaters to mimic the cinema experience. Technology is much more affordable, making it easier to customize a dedicated space with one or multiple flat-screen televisions, surround sound and even an iPad control panel.

For many homeowners, a media room is enough, but others may prefer a true home theater. Decide which one is more suited to your lifestyle.

If you're interested in building a room dedicated to being a true home theater, review this guide. This is not a simple project; it requires good planning, the right gear, special seating, quality installation and proper lighting. The combination of a large flat screen TV or projection TV, surround sound speakers, Blu-ray disc players, Internet-connected media devices and the room itself—a room custom-made for a theater viewing—is what makes a home theater unique.

  • Everyday Viewing
    undefined Enlarge Photo © 2011 CEDIA. Used with permission.
  • Big Event, Party Viewing
    undefined Enlarge Photo © 2011 CEDIA. Used with permission.

A little planning goes a long way. In this example, the homeowner knew that different kinds of viewing scenarios should be addressed in different ways. On the left, the single flat screen serves an audience of 1 or 2 for watching the news. But for bigger events or a viewing party, the projection screen comes down from the ceiling.

Home Theater Basics

Consider where most people normally watch TV. Common viewing areas are the living room, family room or a designated media room. Of course TVs end up in the kitchen and bedroom too. A home theater is different. It has unique characteristics and attributes.

Your home theater may be new construction, an addition or a remodeling job. Regardless of the construction aspects, it is a room that requires special features, including:

  • Hidden wiring and connections
  • Built-in components such as the display and speakers
  • Special theater-style seating
  • Remote controlled dimmable lighting and heating/air conditioning
  • Sound and light isolation

Start by making a list of devices, choosing the location in your home and creating a diagram of the space. Decide what you can do yourself and what you have to contract out. A home theater is on a level of construction equal to a kitchen or bath, so if you're not a seasoned DIYer, consider hiring an electronic systems contractor or other professional specializing in home theater design and construction.

Next Up

Choosing a Room for a Home Theater

From the home theater's existing layout to your space considerations, keep in mind these important factors when planning your home theater renovation.

More From Home Theater Planning Guide

Media Room or Home Theater?

Media Room or Home Theater?

Decide what type of space you really need for movies, gaming and more.

Media Rooms and Home Theaters by Budget Media Rooms and Home Theaters by Budget (8 photos)

Get an idea of what's within your range in home entertainment options.

10 Unique Home Theater Themes 10 Unique Home Theater Themes (10 photos)

These 10 unique home theater themes show off the newest and most elaborate trends in home theater design.

Remodeling Photos

Projects by Professionals(at Pro Galleries)

  • Modern
  • Traditional
  • Contemporary

Projects by People Like You (at Rate My Remodel)