Full basements are increasingly rare in new Steamboat homes --the increasing cost of concrete is part of the trend. But for those who have them, they make strong candidates for home theaters.
"If you're going to design a basement remodel specifically for an audio/video system, it's important to get a professional involved early," Dale Johnson of Yampa Valley Sound said. "If you're going to design it around a pool table and a family room, it's less important."
Designing a home theater begins with the wiring that is installed in the wall studs, and the Routt County Regional Building Department now inspects low voltage wiring. But Johnson said the conversation really begins with the budget, and the number of people you hope to seat in your home theater.
"We kind of need to know what your expectations are," Johnson said. "Is your budget a hard number?"
If a client's budget is really modest, Johnson recommends investing the money in the wiring that would make it easy to add components when funds are more readily available.
Paragon Technology Group of Steamboat Springs will help homeowners create fully integrated home electronics systems that bring together home theaters, music components, computer networks, heating and air conditioning systems and architectural lighting controls. All of those systems can be linked through a single control panel.
If you have a 20- by 25-foot theater space, you could seat eight people, Johnson said. The next question is, "Do you want to seat them on couches or in theater seating?" Eight-foot basement ceilings could seat six people in chairs, with another half dozen seated 12 inches higher behind them.
The cost of home theater systems varies tremendously. You can spend between $3,000 and $300,000 on the video projector alone. Johnson has installed home theaters that cost $400,000 and he doesn't think $1 million is out of the question.
At the same time he talks about home theaters costing six figures, Johnson said consumers are able to purchase far more capable theater components for half the amount of money they would have cost just a few years ago.
A Runco flat panel plasma television screen that would have cost $9,000 two Christmases ago now cost $4,500 and nothing can touch it in the market," Johnson said. "And a 42-inch lcd television that used to cost $3,500 now cost $1,800 with more performance."
Prices have probably dropped as far as they will drop, he added.