Home Theater Gets Deserving Facelift

September 17, 2009 | by Arlen Schweiger

The leftover theater room from previous homeowners didn’t suffice, so it got a high-performance makeover.

After purchasing their beautiful new home, these owners realized their it had everything they wanted—except the theater room that was advertised on the sale sheet. Not happy with the work done by the company hired by the previous owners, it was time for the room to receive a facelift.

That would come courtesy of Onalaska, Wis.-based Audio Video Pros (and a little help from their woodworking friends), after owner Heath DeBernardi met the couple during a local Parade of Homes Tour.

DeBernardi says he asked the homeowners, “What about your current room would you like to change?” The reply said all he needed to know about where to start on the makeover. “It’s just really hard to understand what’s being said, the subwoofer is really boomy, the room has a lot of echo and we can see the heads of the people sitting in the front row of seats.”

AVP began re-building the theater by removed the entire existing system from the room. “The room had good bones,” says DeBernardi.

Tony Szak, owner of Empire Development and Construction, Onalaska Wis., was hired to give the room a much-needed aesthetic facelift, DeBernardi adds. “Since Tony has a custom wood shop, he fabricated, installed and painted the chair rail and raised panels now added between each of the wall columns. Custom-made acoustic panels occupy each of the locations above Tony’s new workwork. The original panel design called for a diamond in the center of each panel. Johannes Lemus, our installation manager, suggested that an off-set elongated diamond shape may be more unique and appealing. Upon showing the homeowners the new design they agreed.”

With the room’s decor and acoustics in tow, attention turned to the video quality. A 1080p projector from Epson was matched to a 106-inch acoustically transparent screen from Screen Excellence. AVP had Realwood Products of La Crosse, Wis., custom build the frame.

Other than the projector, none of the equipment in the room is visible, DeBernardi explains. The left and right speakers are concealed behind grille cloth in the woodwork, and the center channel is behind the screen to better present movie dialogue. All nine theater speakers are THX-certified Atlantic Technology models.

AVP added 4 inches of height and 12 inches of depth to seating riser so people sitting in the second row had better sight lines, DeBernardi says. A Furman surge/power conditioner protect the Integra THX Ultra2 Home Theater receiver, Integra Blu-ray disc player and DirecTV DVR. Meanwhile, the beautiful glow from the ceiling comes from the iSky fiber-optic drop-in ceiling tiles—they are made out of 2-inch acoustic material they add to the overall sound quality of the room.

True one-touch control over the entire system is handled by a Universal Remote Control MX-3000 Theater Master touchscreen remote. Overall the facelift was quite a success, notes DeBernardi: “While the original room may have changed, the owners’ new home theater ended up with a space that was far more enjoyable and simple to operate than they had ever imagined.”

Old Door Opens Up Theater Inspiration

May, 2009 | by Lisa Montgomery | Original Article

Meant for the junk pile, an old wooden door sets the tone for a budget-friendly theater.

Unusual circumstances can hold the keys to inspiration. While walking through a local building materials company, Bill Raven of Raven Homes in La Crosse, Wis., stumbled across a dust-covered door. Distressed and fitted with a small lockable look-through, the door was once on display in the showroom with a price tag of $3,000. Ready to get rid of it, the shop sold it to Raven for $100.

Amazed by the deal he got, Raven showed it to clients who were in the process of finishing their basement. The old, unwanted door became the inspiration piece for the theater portion of the project.

Rated for outdoor use, the door was solid and therefore would help prevent noise from entering or leaving the theater. This was an important benefit, says Heath DeBernardi of The Audio Video Pros in Onalaska, Wis., as the rest of the basement would include bedrooms, a bathroom and a casual entertainment area with a flat-panel TV. To further seal off the theater, the crew framed the walls with double-staggered studs and stuffed in plenty of acoustical insulation.

The door also became the measuring stick for the budget. If Raven could get such a great deal on the door, then The Audio Video Pros should be able to create a theater for less than $25,000.

“After three attempts at a design, we came up with a room that would work,” says DeBernardi. To get to that magic number, the plan changed from using separate audio components to an all-in-one receiver, from an $800 Blu-ray player to a $300 model and from a high-end Runco projector to a more modest Optoma 1080p unit.

The Audio Video Pros did splurge on the center-channel speaker, though. “Eighty percent of what happens on screen comes from the center channel, so we went with a $1,000 reference model from Klipsch,” DeBernardi says. The audio portion of the budget was rounded out with front, side and rear Klipsch models priced at $400 a pair.

DeBernardi saved even more money by constructing the acoustical wall treatments himself. The eye-catching three-dimensional design added visual impact to the room, but came in at an affordable $2,200. “That’s about two to three times cheaper than had we ordered them preassembled from an acoustical treatment manufacturer,” he says.

From the $100 door to affordable alternatives in audio video equipment, The Audio Video Pros were able to pull off a project that settles in at under $25,000, but according to DeBernardi “looks and sounds more like a $50,000 theater.”

Why Bamboo Works For You

January, 2009 | by Tom LeBlanc

The fast-growing, durable material isn’t just for eco-friendly homes; it’s also becoming very hip.

You don’t have to be a marketing genius or an economic wizard to realize that builders ought to be doing everything they can do to differentiate their products. Selling homes has never been more critical.

Use of bamboo is a clever and simple way for builders to make their homes stand out to prospective buyers. The fresh, lighter shade alternative to traditional wood also has a good story for builders to tell.

Often used in flooring, Bamboo is similar in appearance to wood flooring, but it’s offered in light or honey color – different enough to make people look down and take note.

These days, however, bamboo isn’t limited to flooring. Cabinetmaker Mike Schieber at Real-Wood Products, La Crosse, Wis., recently used bamboo to create a 13-foot by 9-foot entertainment cabinet.

Schieber began by purchasing several 4-foot by 8-foot sheets of 3/4-inch-thick bamboo plywood. The sheets were adhered together to form various levels of thickness. After the glue dried, the sheets were cut to shape and pieced together.

Real-Wood Products worked with integrator Audio Video Pros, Onalaska, Wis. Its installers carefully cut away cavities for a 58-inch flat-panel TV, three speakers and two subwoofers.

The entertainment cabinet ended up costing the homeowners about 25 percent more than an oak cabinet would have cost, but it offers a different kind of value. Not only does it have a unique and fresh look, but the homeowners have a compelling, eco-friendly story to tell.

According to the National Association of Home Builders Research Center’s resource Toolbase.org, alternatives to traditional wood make sense for builders – and the environment.

Bamboo, cork and eucalyptus grow twice as fast as conventional woods like cherry, oak and maple. Materials made from these alternative materials will last as long as traditional wood as long as they are properly maintained, according to Toolbase.org.

Builders can feel good about using bamboo, since it has less of an effect on the environment. According to the Environmental Bamboo Foundation, some species of bamboo can grow up to 1 meter per day, making it a highly renewable natural resource.