You’ve finally built your platform, installed your Atmos home theater, and then boom – another thousand dollar ticket awaits for a projector screen. Even still, while there are so many options out there, they rarely match the exact configuration and requirements of your space.
When thinking projector screens, most of the expense goes towards the frame when arguably it should be spent on the physical screen material right? So why not reallocate that funding, splurge on a high quality material, and then whip the frame together yourself? That’s exactly what I did (or redid). Overall, process took about 2 hours to complete.
Note this is the second time I’m building the screen. I built it two years ago but didn’t take any photos. Now that I’m redoing my space, I have the opportunity to do it again.
- Mitre Saw
- Drill & Driver Set
- Kreg Pocket Hold System (Optional)
- Right Angle Clamps
- Kreg Clamp
- Projector Screen Material (Elite Screens)
- 4S Lumber (if Possible)
- L and T Braces (Optional)
- Black Felt Tape (Optional)
- Determine your layout and screen dimensions. Every room is different so you’ll need to figure out the size of your screen. When I built screen version 1, I went the biggest I could go cause you know, bigger is better. Given my distance to the screen was about 16 ft, the floor to ceiling 150″ screen I created was actually too big. This time around, I took the opportunity to downsize since I was building a cavity in the wall to accommodate my new speaker setup. I ended up reducing the diagonal size of my screen by about 20″.
Normal projector screens have a standard 16:9 ratio, however note that a case can be made for 21:9 and 2.39:1 as well. I won’t go into detail about this other than the fact that I went with 16:9. You can do your research around the pros and cons of each but 16:9 was the most versatile for my needs.
Instead of grabbing a paper and pen to do your math, measure the width or height of the screen size you want to fill. For me, since I wanted the width to fit snugly into my cavity, I measured the distance across coming up with 113″. I wanted to leave a 1.5″ border so deducted 3″ for a total screen width of 110″. Moving on, notice the black border around my old screen? Well this time around I intended on slimming that down to a 1 inch border. Considering there are 2 sides to the screen, I further deducted 2″ from 110″ giving me an actual screen width of 108″.
Now take this 108″ and punch it into this calculator here. Just be sure to select the aspect ratio that you like first.
Take the height it spits out to you (in my case it was 60.8″) and add 2 inches to it for the top and bottom sides of the black border.
That yielded me a screen dimension of 110″ x 62.8″, and a viewing size of 108″ x 60.8″ (16:9 screen ratio the calculator spit out).
- Prep your Lumber. I think the most important part of putting together your own projector screen is ensuring the lumber you use is straight. Many lumber stores actually sell 4S lumber, which has been premilled on all 4 sides. That being said, it can come at a premium and may still be susceptible to bowing over time.
What I did in this instance was purchase two 10ft x 8 inch premium pine, and then have my lumber store rip it down into 3 inch widths. I used the thinner cutoffs for interior bracing and used the full 3″ pieces for the outside framing. I could have used 3″ for everything since I had 4 x 3″ pieces in total but I happened to need one 3″ slat for another project. While not perfect, it was the closest I could get with the least amount of work. Conversely you could bring the piece home and rip it on your own table saw. Even better if you have a planer.
- Set your Mitre Saw to 90 degrees, clamp your pieces and give it a fresh cut. The picture above shows 4 pieces clamped, but I actually only clamped the top and bottom of the frame. Since I needed 110″ wide, I gave one end a fresh cut and then measured 110″ across and cut the other side. Clamping the top and bottom sides of the frame together ensures the two are exactly the same size.
- Mark 3 ft from each end. While still clamped I took a speed square and marked 3ft from each end to ensure the braces would line up exactly from top to bottom. 3ft is a rather arbitrary number, but the point is to spread out the vertical framing across the width of the frame.
- Repeat Step 3 for your vertical framing. Since the height of my projector screen was 62.8, I subtracted 6″ to accommodate for the width of each slat (2 x 3″), which left me needing 4 pieces at 56.8″ length. Clamping 4 pieces together, I cut one end clean and made my second cut at 56.8″.
- Insert Pocket Holes. I used B/C holes for the thinner slats and A/B holes for the wider.
- Putting it all together. I started at the corners first. Using a Right Angle Guide to set the corner connects at 90 degrees. I then used a Kreg clamp to ensure the ends were flush before screwing in the pocket holes. Repeat for all four sides.
- Once the corners were done, I moved to the inner bracing and repeated the same steps using two right angle guides and the Kreg clamp. If you look closely at the first picture above, I lined up the inner bracing with the 3ft markings we did in step 4. If you did this correctly, the bracing should line up perfectly with the top and bottom rails.
- Reinforce your joints. This may not be required, but I did it anyways to prevent warping or bowing. I had these leftover from another project so figured I’d put them to good use. Again, I used the right angle clamps as I didn’t want the wood to shift when the screws were being put in. L for corners, T for bracing.
- Before the canvas went on, I tested the fit inside the wall cavity. I shot a laser at my desired point and predrilled two wall anchors to test the fit. Perfect 1.5″ border across the top and sides.
- Laying your screen canvas. I won’t go over all the details here as it’s actually the same method used in my canvas frame tutorial. The Elite Screen material was quite flexible and very accommodating to work with, so if you find any areas where you haven’t stretched enough, simply remove the staple, stretch the canvas some more, and re-staple it. The process is quite forgiving overall.
- (Optional) Black Felt Border. Remember how I left 1 inch around the entire border for a black felt border? Well turns out I love the frameless look. I decided I will hold off on applying the black felt around the edges until I get bored of this look.
For Context, this is what the screen looked like with and without a border.
Well that does it.
If you are reading this, then chances are you already have or are thinking of putting in a home theater. Between design choices, setup and installation – the journey can be quite the adventure in itself. I wish you the best of luck and hope you found some inspiration with mine. Good luck!
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