With the rapid advance of electronics in home theater equipment professional home theater installation is becoming the norm rather than the exception. However, with limited knowledge of the technology, finding a quality professional home theater installer is difficult. Below we will provide details on what to look for, what questions to ask and in general what to expect from a home theater installer.
Due to the board range of items people are looking to have installed, we will break this up into two sections. The first is a simpler installation such as installing of a flat panel TV and/or a speaker installation. The second is a more advanced custom home theater installation. This involves the design and build out of a home theater room.
Let’s start with the common items that should be available for all professional home theater installation no matter if you have simple or complex installation task.
Warranty/Satisfaction Guarantee – A good installer should be willing to back up their work with some sort of guarantee. Normally this can be anywhere from 90 days to 3 years. Therefore discuss with your installer before agreeing to the work and get this in writing. For more information on what to expect in this area see home theater installation warranty.
Insurance – Insurance is a must. Your installer should be insured in case they damage your home and also in case they get hurt on the job. Make sure they are properly insured for both.
Free Estimate – This should include a willingness to walk through your building plans or your existing home, with you, to gain an understanding of what you are looking for and to provide input in how things can be achieved. Concluding with an cost estimate for the work that needs to be done. Note that some simpler work such as mounting of a TV or speakers is done on a fixed price basis. In this case, just make sure you have a specific list of items that will be done. See below for more details of what should be on this list.
References – Ask for references for similar work to what you are asking to be done. Also pictures of past work are usually helpful. Help you to visualize what will be done. If you are considering a major home theater design and installation, a walkthrough of a previously built home theater is not out of the question for any professional home theater installation.
TV And Speaker Installation The most popular request for professional home theater installation is in mounting Plasma TVs and speaker installation. This is often done a fixed price basis with companies commonly providing ‘packages’ that detail exactly what will and will not be done. If one of these packages meets your needs, this is easiest way to go since there is no confusion on what will be done. When reviewing the packages, look for the following things:
Will the speaker wire be in the wall or run along the wall. Often the package deals have the wire running along the baseboard or along the wall with a cover. Be sure you understand what you are getting and that this is acceptable to you. If the wiring will be in the wall, there is usually a limit of how many feet of wiring in the wall is included in the package. Be sure to understand your needs and check if there will be extra charges for additional distances. If you have an attic above or cellar below, hiding the wire is much easier so the cost should be less.
Same for the television, will the wires be in the wall or external?
Is mounting included for the type of wall you are looking to mount to? For example, if you have concrete, brick, stucco there may be an extra charge. Also there are plenty of packages that only include hooking up the equipment and running the wires with no mounting of speakers or the television. Be sure you are getting what you expect.
Does the package include the wire? What is the quality of the wire included?
Custom Home Theater Installation Custom Home Theater Installation is similar to building a house. There should be walk throughs, plans drawn up, colors and material selection process, etc. Depending on the budget, this can get very complex. Be sure that you get a copy of the plans to keep in case any changes are desired sometime in the future. Also a contract must be drawn up and reviewed before the work starts. Actually this should be done with any professional home theater installation, but is even more important for custom work. Make sure that a wiring diagram is provided for any wiring work. This should be for high voltage like your electric wall plugs, lights and light switches as well as low voltage such as HDMI, DVI, speaker wire, etc. To learn more about low voltage wiring in the home theater, see audio cables or video cables.
Other things to consider when doing professional home theater installation are sound and light. Depending on the location of the home theater and the adjoining rooms, above and below as well as beside, to the home theater. Sound insulation may be desired. The sub woofers that drive the deep base are great for your theater room, but not as nice when someone is trying to sleep nearby. Sound insulation comes in several different forms and can get expensive, so understand what you need before jumping in. The more room you have the better because you have the option to make the wall thicker and possibly raise the floor to insulate the floor also. Risers under the seats are actually very common in custom home theaters. They also allow for butt kicker and other ‘shaker’ type devices to improve the realistic experience of the movie.
Regarding light, make sure all light in the home theater is controllable. If outdoor light from windows or doors is present, use blinds or curtains to control it. All lighting in the room should be dimmable and should be position so it does not cause a glare on the screen or TV.