When we bought our house last year, we both had visions of building a media/movie room. Johnathan worked so hard to get this room finished. He did a lot of research to get the best quality for the best price. He wanted to share what he learned through the process in a one-stop-shop for anyone else who might be considering taking on a project like this. So this post is guest-written by my husband – Johnathan Dunagan.
I would like to start off by saying this will be my first attempt at writing up a “how-to guide” or an informative piece of this kind. I won’t go into too much detail about myself personally but felt you should have a brief background to better understand who this “advice” is coming from. I am a 30-year-old Union Electrician, and have been for the past 10 years. I’m also married with a 6-month-old baby. Everything that follows in this guide can be done DIY with the proper tools and a little bit of know-how.
If you don’t want to read any additional background info on the project, jump straight to Getting Started.
My wife and I bought our dream home a year and half ago. We had visions of finishing the basement and including a media room was a part of that. For me, I felt I had plenty of time to get the room done; we plan on being in this house till we retire. But when my wife’s grandfather passed away unexpectedly, I had a new reason for wanting to finish this room quickly.
My wife grew up going to Augusta National every spring for the Masters. She went every year from 1997 to 2019. Now that her grandfather (the badge holder) has passed, we no longer will have the luxury and rare privilege to attend any longer. It was tough to swallow; I was privileged to go for the past six years but for her family who grew up at this tournament, it was a tough loss.
With all that being said my wife really wanted to be able to watch the tournament in the next best way possible, for it to feel as real as it could, even knowing we are not there. This is when she asked if I could have the media room ready by this year’s Masters. At first I thought it was impossible, I had just finished another room in the basement; “The Boy Room” as my wife calls it. To be honest I felt guilty for finishing that room because it was something I wanted to finish. So not doing the media room would have been unfair; therefore I got to planning.
Media rooms can be expensive. I’m sure if you’re reading this you’re already doing some research & know that. A simple google search says it costs anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 for a media room. Some cases over $100,000 can be spent decking it out! This seemed outrageous and a little discouraging, but I pressed on. In the end I discovered that you can actually have a nice media room for $2500 (and some cases even cheaper!). At the end of this guide I will have a link posted to the exact items I purchased for my project. I will go over the steps I took for this build, in the order I did them, as well as what I learned during the process and maybe some stuff I would have done differently.
For reference, the room we worked on is 15’x23’
STEP 1: Preparing the screen wall
ITEMS NEEDED: OSB PLAYWOOD 4X8 SHEETS, BLACK FABRIC, STAPLE GUN,
The back wall I was going to be mounting the screen on was half 2×4 and half poured concrete wall. I knew I wanted this wall to black to help drown out any excess light. The part was fairly simple because the majority of the wall was flat. The only challenge was in a few spots, where the studs met the concrete. It was not 100% flush. My idea for this wall was just to mount some OSB plywood, wrapped with black fabric, and mount it to the wall. Here you will need to already have enough fabric to cover the boards. The best way I found to do this was to just lay the fabric on a work table or floor, then lay the board on top of it and pull the fabric tight and staple it. To save some money on fabric, I left the plywood uncovered in the area where we have the screen. Only opt for this if you know the screen you are buying has a black backing to it, or else the light from the projector will shine through.
STEP 2: FASTENING/MOUNTING THE OSB WALLS
ITEMS NEEDED: DRILL, CONCRETE ANCHORS, HAMMER DRILL, WOOD SCREWS, LEVEL
Once I had the boards wrapped I was able to mount. Since the top half of the wall was studs and the bottom concrete I was able to secure the top part of all the walls without having to worry about anchoring the bottom right away. A small tip: when screwing the wood screws to the studs, go very slow and push hard. If not the screw will catch the fabric (may not do this with higher quality fabric, we used felt) and twist or tear. Once I had the walls in place and was satisfied with the result I then was ready to order the screen.
I did not anchor the bottom part of the walls at this time, but you should if you have the same situation. I drilled a 1/4 hole through the OSB board where I wanted to secure it to the wall, & then drilled a hole with the hammer drill in the wall. I was able to secure with concrete anchors (the drive pin type). Tapcon screws will not work, I tried and failed. Hopefully your wall is already sheet-rocked or is all just 2×4 studs.
STEP 3: INSTALL THE SCREEN
ITEMS NEEDED: SCREWS, TAPE MEASURE
This is where it starts to get fun. I started by ordering a cheap 100” screen from Amazon for $25.
This one looked awful; light went straight through the back & it was too “spider webby” for me. It would work well outdoors or in a smaller space, just was not what I envisioned. So I ordered another model, and got it 150”. This one worked much better as it had the black backing and gave the look I wanted. (Jumping ahead a bit but, after I had the projector mounted, I realized I wanted a bigger screen. So we returned the screen & ordered another. The same brand, just 180” instead.)
Installing the screen is simple but tedious. You need to measure on the wall where you want it. It may be helpful to use some painters tape for this or a laser of you have access to one. The screen I purchased had riveted holes all along the border. I just started at a corner and would screw them in to wall, pulling tightly as I went along. I had to backtrack several time to get it nice and crisp with no wrinkles, like I said it’s very tedious. Some more expensive screens come with frames that can just be hung, but I opted for a cheaper route. (More on that later!)
STEP 4: BUY PROJECTOR (if you haven’t already)
ITEMS NEEDED: MOUNT, DRILL, INSTALL CABLES
This item is by far the most important, so do your research. There are tons of lists and reviews out there for all types of projectors. I’m no expert with them but I will say this item will determine how you set up the rest of your room. Ones with multiple HDMI ports is a huge plus, as well as having an “audio out” port. When I found the one I wanted, I designed my entire room and setup around that specific projector. Once I was ready to get the projector and had pulled all my cables and installed power, when I went to buy the projector it was no longer in stock as it was not the latest model. Luckily I did find an almost exact model, the only difference being it was a short throw projector.
I order a projector mount from amazon to be able to mount my projector to the ceiling. Attaching it to a board first allowed me to be able to move the projector easily to see how far back it needed to be set. (INSET PIC)
Obviously a projector needs a lot to make it work, so make sure you decide what all you want to use it for. DVDs only, Cable TV, Netflix, Disney+? Also think about what you’re going to do for sound. They are capable of a lot but you do not want to forget or want something later and not be able to plug it in.
For me this was very important because I will not have a regular drop ceiling with accessible tiles. My ceiling is going to be tin sheets off of old barns, to get the “rustic” look we were going for. I knew I had to get all the right cables run and in place beforehand because I would not be able to add any later – at least, not easily.
If you have a drop ceiling or don’t plan to have a ceiling this will not be an issue. Personally, I planned for a Blu-Ray player (for DVDs/movies), Cable TV, & Chromecast. For sound I used a cheaper Vizio soundbar setup that we were already familiar with from our living room TV. I was able to simply run a long Auxiliary cord from my projector to the front of the room where the soundbar would mount. I just ran the cord behind the screen down to the bar.
This soundbar connects via wifi to the subwoofer, which then controls the 2 rear speakers. Awesome little sound system and was very happy with the results. Side note: we had to also invest in wifi extenders with our setup being in the basement, far away from our router.
STEP 5: FRAME FOR SCREEN
ITEMS NEEDED: TRIM, NAIL GUN
After getting my projector in place and cycling through all the inputs (Blu-ray player, ChromeCast, Xfinity TV/cable) I realized the picture was not perfect on the edges. This was because as I stretched the screen, it was not exactly even on both sides. Thankfully this was an easy fix as I knew I wanted to build a frame around the screen anyway to hide all the rivets and screws. I found some cheap house trim at Lowes and spray painted it black, miter cut the pieces and put it all together. It made a huge difference and hid any minor imperfections in the picture.
STEP 6: INSTALL REMAINING WALLS AND CEILING, CAN LIGHTS
ITEMS NEEDED: NAIL GUN, AIR COMPRESSOR, DRILL, LEVEL (WILL VARY FOR MOST)
This final step will vary for most people pending on how they want their room to look. For me I used Birch Plywood walls that I stained and trimmed out. This is all just measure and cut. I had to frame in an air duct in the room since it was running through the back of the room, but it gave me a great place to mount my speakers and sub.
For the ceiling, as previously mentioned I used old reclaimed corrugated tin. Its tough doing by yourself but I love the look it gives. I added some cheap stained beams as well to help hide all the overlapping joints. Around the screen itself I wrapped some ¼ Masonite board on the ceiling to really shadow box in the screen.
This is also when I finished installing the can lights. They actually are can-less which is a cool design but I had to get creative with how I was going to mount them. I didn’t feel like just the tin would hold them in place well so I made a little board to help hold them in place.
STEP 7: DECORATE AND ENJOY
We decided to decorate the walls with some of our favorite movie posters and screenplays. The posters I just found online. For the screenplays, my wife actually made them on Photoshop. So unfortunately they aren’t real, but they still look cool. In the back corner of the room we will be adding a refreshment area with a mini fridge and snacks.
I really hope this helps someone be able to tackle their own media room project. No, it is not the most breathtaking movie room you will ever see. But it is perfect for us and still looks really nice as a finished space that we will be able to enjoy with our son, family and friends. Thanks for reading!
Below I will have the list and links to all products used during this build. Several of these items can be replaced with cheaper options or more expensive ones, depending on your taste. Sheetrock would be much cheaper than the wood walls, the screen size can be smaller if you like, & you can find a cheaper projector. But in my opinion, the projector is the one place you don’t want to cut costs.
15 sheets ½ Birch Plywood- $570c
1 sheet ¼ – $25
Fabric – $50 (Hobby Lobby had best prices)
OSB Walls- $50 (Home depot or Lowes)
180″ Screen– $95
HDMI Cables 30ft. (2) – $23
HDMI Cables 1.5 ft (3) – $12
Aux Cable– $14
Projector mount– $15
BenQ Projector– $750
Vizio surround sound– $200
Tin Ceiling- $225
Outlets, wire (7) – $2
Wi-Fi extender– $25
Can Lights– $125
Movie posters, frames, – $172
Total Cost- $2527
Have any questions for Johnathan about the process or supplies?