Building a home theater riser is an excellent way to get the most out of your movie-watching experience. With more space for seating, you’ll be able to enjoy movies in comfort and with fewer distractions from family members or pets walking around behind you.
Building a home theater riser will create extra room for comfortable viewing by increasing the available floor area without having any impact on sightlines when seated directly below it (when placed against the wall). Doing this has plenty of advantages including being able to avoid other disturbances such as entering/exiting people standing up while others are seated, children running through at random times during films that don’t require yelling down repeatedly asking them again, and so forth.
Building a home theater riser basically consists of just cutting out an opening in the room and having it filled with something. This is done by first calculating how much space you have to work with, laying out the cuts on the floor, and then either building your own boxes or having them custom-built for you depending on budget and time constraints.
- Provides the perfect viewing experience with a more comfortable environment
- Guarantees your family will stop walking in front of the TV while you’re watching it
- Creates a space where you can enjoy movies without distractions
The following sections will explain how to use the diagram and tape measure in the following image to precisely calculate your available space, where to position your cuts for maximum comfort when seated directly below it (when placed against a wall), and finally how to go about building or having boxes built for you.
Calculating Available Room Space and Riser Positioning
Before we can start cutting anything out of your home theater room, we need to find out the exact amount of space you have available for a riser. This includes not only the height difference between the floor and ceiling but also how deep the riser has to be to get everything situated properly.
The diagram below shows three different diagrams with corresponding red, green and blue markings. The description of the diagram will be given in the order above.
First, we need to find out how much height you have available for a riser. If your ceiling is at least 8′ high then there shouldn’t be any problems when building a home theater riser. Measure between the floor and ceiling and subtract 12″ (for the riser itself) and 16″ for the front of your seating area. This will give you a rough estimate of how much space you have between floor/ceiling to work with e.g.: 6’4” riser depth * 2r = 13’8”.
Next, we need to find out how much space you have to work with when seated directly below the riser. This is done by positioning your seating area directly underneath and measuring how far back it needs to be to avoid any sight-line obstructions for people seated directly below it. Using the diagram, mark out where your seating area will be positioned (red) and measure it back to where the riser will start (green). Subtract this number from your overall available space e.g.: 13’8″ – 1.5′ = 12’6”.
The final measurement you need to take is how deep your seating area should be when seated directly below the riser. This is done by measuring how far out from the wall your seating area will be (blue) and then dividing this number by how many people you have. The more people you have, the closer it needs to be from the wall e.g.: 12’6″ / 2 = 6’3”.
Once all of these measurements are taken into account, you can determine where to place the cuts on your floor for optimum results when seated directly below it.
For example, if you had 6’4” of height available to work with, then the riser would be 12’6” deep and your seating area should be positioned 10’3” from the wall (this makes for a 6’3” seating area) when seated directly below it.
In this example the cuts needed in the floor are shown in blue but could be any size as long as they’re all equal to or greater than 6″ and they don’t interrupt the red line (12’6″).
Stairs and Risers
As you may know, most home theater risers are built either from multiple pieces of plywood or the same piece with stairs in the middle. Nothing is stopping you from building your risers out of any kind of material but these two are the most common due to price and ease-of-use for accessibility purposes (e.g.: movie night during a power outage).
If you’re cutting into drywall, always be sure to make your cuts square by using a speed square as shown in the image below. A good tip is to remove only one stud at a time if you’re going to have someone hold it for you while cutting or else it will wobble back and forth and potentially fall on top of you while cutting which isn’t fun.
Multiple pieces of plywood are also acceptable but can be a lot more work since you’ll have to cut the individual pieces beforehand and place them into position before bolting them all together. If you’re going this route, make sure to leave enough room between each piece for someone to easily fit their fingers in there to move it around. One big benefit of using multiple pieces over a single sheet is you have more control over the outcome. For example, if one section was too high or low and needs to be shaved down, then it’s easier to do with separate pieces that are already cut to size.
If you’re cutting through drywall for stairs, always be sure to make your cuts square by using a speed square as shown in the image below. A good tip is to remove only one stud at a time if you’re going to have someone hold it for you while cutting or else it will wobble back and forth and potentially fall on top of you while cutting which isn’t fun.
Once the floor is cut, you can easily slide the riser into place and bolt it down by using a ratchet with an extension. It’s highly recommended to have someone stand on top of the riser while tightening each bolt to ensure that everything is square and there are no squeaks or wobbling once it’s completed. For more information about cutting plywood, check out our Tutorial: How To Cut Plywood.
If you’re afraid of cutting the floor, then it may be a good idea to have someone either make these cuts for you or else drive to your local home improvement center and purchase pre-cut pieces. These are often more expensive but can save you a lot of time in the long run since they’re already cut to size and ready to install.
If you plan on purchasing pre-cut risers, then a good store to check out is Lowe’s since they carry a full line of them for any occasion. For example, if you want some treads in the middle of your riser so you can easily climb up or down, then they have those as well. Do a quick search and you’ll find them right away.
Or if you need stairs instead of a riser, again Lowe’s has that covered for any height, width, or length that you may need.
If these pre-cut styles don’t suit your needs the then it’s best to measure the height you need and purchase them from a local lumber mill since they will custom cut them for your exact measurements.
I would suggest using 2×4’s or 2×6’s if you plan on cutting through drywall. If you’re going to be cutting through plywood then I highly recommend the 2×8’s since you’ll have more control over the outcome and they aren’t that much heavier.
If you go with 2×4’s, then be sure to cut through every other stud so you don’t have any protruding pieces of wood on the outside edge when finished. This will prevent your risers from moving around or falling apart while someone is standing on top of them.
On the other hand, if you go with 2×6’s then you can cut through every stud since they’re so thick that you won’t have any problems when it comes to stability. However, I would only recommend doing this if you plan on having someone stand on the edge, or else your risers may break if you weigh too much.
The same goes for plywood but the outcome is all up to your personal preference since they’re generally easier to work with and can be cut through a lot easier if you don’t have someone there holding it for you while sawing. If you go this route then I would recommend using 2×4’s as bracing just in case you need to add more support but keep in mind that you’ll have a bit of an overlap on the edge.
If you go with 2×4’s then I would suggest cutting through every other stud so they’re a snug fit without wobbling back and forth from side to side. This can be done by having someone hold the stud in place while you’re cutting.
If you plan on putting plywood down, then I would suggest the 2×6’s since they’re also very strong and have a lot of weight to them. Having said that, if you go this route then be sure to cut through every single stud so there are no gaps when finished and it’s a snug fit.
If you plan on cutting through plywood, then I would strongly recommend the 2×8’s since they’re even thicker than the 2×6’s and can be cut through in an instance if you don’t have someone there holding them for you. You’ll get more stability from not going with anything less than 2×8’s since they’re so thick.
If you cut through every stud, then the 2×8’s can be very flimsy especially when someone is standing on top of them. For this reason, I would go with just using plywood instead and add some support if needed by using bracing that’s fitted in between each piece of plywood.
If you plan on cutting through plywood then it’s best not to go with anything less than 2×8’s since they’re so thick and can easily break under pressure if someone is standing or sitting on them. If you don’t have anyone there holding the boards for you while sawing then be sure to cut through every single stud just in case and use bracing if needed.
Before you go on to building your riser, try visualizing what it’s going to look like when finished so there won’t be any surprises. For this reason, it would be best to create a design or lay the boards out in order before cutting anything so you can see exactly how they’ll fit together.
Plywood should be the first thing you cut since it can’t be easily moved once cut so make sure you have a good idea of where you’re going to put it down ahead of time. However, don’t worry too much about the size because with a little bit of skill and patience this is easily overcome if you’re really careful when cutting.
While you’re working, try not to cut too much off at once since this can be very dangerous and the last thing you want is to lose a finger or worse yet your eyesight. Instead, always take your time and make sure that you have everything lined up correctly so when it’s finished there are no doubts about the outcome.
Once you have all the boards cut, it’s time to start assembling them so they’ll be the correct size and fit perfectly. Again this can also be done by laying each board out in order before adding any type of support system such as bracing or screws. This will add a lot more support than just using glue alone but either way, it’s all up to your own personal preference.
It’s always best to use wood glue between each piece of plywood just in case you need extra support and this can be easily added by using screws lighting about every 16 inches or so. This isn’t required but it will give you a little bit more peace of mind if someone does happen to start jumping around while standing on top.
Once the glue has dried then it’s time to add the screws which will also help keep everything very stable and in place, but not too many since you don’t want your riser transformed into a jungle gym for your kids. Typically 2 or 3 lightweight screws per board should be sufficient enough until you get to the last inch or so, then use a couple more for added support.
You must have all your boards cut exactly where they need to be before assembly since it’ll mess up everything if you don’t. You’ll quickly learn as you go along because this is just one part of building a home theater riser.
Depending on the size of your room you can go with either 2×8’s or 2×6’s since they’re both thick enough to support someone standing or sitting on them. If you plan on cutting through plywood then I would strongly recommend using the 2×8’s because they’re much thicker than the 2×6’s and will add a lot more support.
Once you have everything cut and assembled, it will be ready to set into a place where you plan on using it in your home theater room. Depending on the design or number of rows needed there are several different ways to assemble this type of riser so make sure to keep that in mind before going any further.
With a little bit of planning and patience, you can easily build your own home theater riser to help keep everything organized, although it really isn’t as difficult as most people think. The most important part is knowing what size boards to use and how thick they have to be so when someone is standing or sitting on them they won’t break because this could be very dangerous.
Professionally built home theater risers can cost a small fortune and there’s the possibility of needing to buy several different sizes so it’s almost considered custom fitted. This obviously takes a lot more time and effort just to have something shipped directly to your house that has already been fabricated and ready for assembly. However, if you’re good with your hands and enjoy building things then this might be a great way to invest in something that might ultimately save you quite a bit of money.
Making use of the indoors is oftentimes overlooked because some people tend to forget about certain areas which can easily be transformed into something spectacular! Areas such as closets, attic spaces, garages, basements, or even under staircases can be used in several different ways such as storage or making use of the space that others simply leave unused.
Home-made theater risers are a great way to improve your home theater area without spending too much money while also creating something very unique which will make you feel like you have your own private movie theater!
Frequently Asked Questions
How high should a home theater riser be?
About 16″ is usually a good cutoff point, but this can vary depending on your preference. People with shorter legs may not want to go above 18″.
How high should the front of a home theater riser be?
As shown in Fig, the front of the home theater riser should stick out about an inch beyond where your couch will be to allow for any legs coming off the couch and making it over to the coffee table.
What materials are suitable for building a home theater riser?
Pretty much anything that isn’t particularly soft or spongy works fine, even cardboard boxes if you’re on a budget and not concerned about looks.
How much does it cost to build a home theater riser?
A one-piece riser will usually cost between $100 and $300.
How much time does it take to build a home theater riser?
About an hour or two, depending on how fast you work.