3 Time Saving Tips For DIY Plank Plywood Floors

3 Time Saving Tips For DIY Plank Plywood Floors

3 Time Saving Tips for DIY Plank Plywood Floors



Now that we have two DIY plank plywood floors projects (the dining room and the living room) under our belts, we’ve learned a bunch of things – things to do and things not to do. We’re going to cover 3 Time Saving Tips For DIY Wide Plank Plywood Floors.

If you’re planning on making your own wide plank flooring made from plywood, then make sure to take a look at this list – it will save you tons of time… and sanity :).

We wrote detailed articles for each of those projects (see below for links) but we also wanted to write a short article highlighting the biggest time saving tips we have.

Here are the 3 things you need to know for making your own wide plank plywood floors. Following these tips will make your project go smoothly and you’ll end up with better-looking plywood floors.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these products, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. We recommend these products only because we have experience with them and use them for our own projects. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

DIY Plank Plywood Floors Tips

Bonus Tip First – Cut The Boards Yourself

Yeah, it’s a little different to get the bonus tip first, but a few of the tips piggy back on this one. So it makes sense to share this first.

And I know that cutting the boards yourself sounds like the opposite of a time saver, but let me explain. 

There are a few posts out there that recommend having the person at Lowes and Home Depot to cut the plywood for you.

That sounds like it would save you tons of time since you’d be offloading the cutting on them, but we I wouldn’t recommend doing that.

We’ve had home improvement stores cut the plywood for us on other projects in the past.

Although it does save you time – we don’t think it’s worth it. Their cuts are not very accurate, like really inaccurate.

That may be perfectly find for certain projects, but with this project consistent cuts are important.

Having boards that are all about the same width allows your project to go smoother, easier and the end result will look much nicer.

#1 Make A Jig

OMG – If I didn’t use a jig I don’t know if I would have ever finished this project. The jig gives you consistent cuts and also allows you to easily rip through the pile of plywood.

The next best tool to use would have been the table saw, but that is a super distant second to using a jig.

The jig wasn’t hard to make and it didn’t take very much time.

Take a look at the jig details in the dining room flooring article.

There you’ll find out how to make one and how how to attach it to the circular saw.

DIY Rustic Wide Plank Plywood Flooring - Secure The Jig To The Circular Saw Using Screws

#2 Don’t Use A Plywood Blade

This deserves another OMG. I tried using a plywood blade to cut the plywood into planks initially and that was a BIG MISTAKE!

Ignore the plywood blades – instead, use the cross-cut blades.

Like I said in the dining room flooring article, the plywood blade didn’t even make it through two sheets of plywood.

When I used the cross-cut blade, a single blade did the rest of the plywood for the dining room and also the living room!!

If you’re keeping score, the plywood blade barely ripped 2 sheets of plywood into planks and the cross-cut blade did 19 sheets – and it can still do more.

This is hands down the best blade for cutting plywood planks. It cut through the plywood like butter, and also didn’t splinter the wood at all.

 

The best blade to cut your plywood planks is a cross cut balde

#3 Skip Sanding Between Polyurethane Coats

When we did the dining room floor, we lightly sanded the bumps out of the coat of polyurethane with 120 grit sandpaper. It’s what I’ve always known you needed to do between coats and it’s also what I read in other plywood flooring blog posts.

With the living room floors, we figured that the bumps would even out a little after multiple coats of poly were applied. 

3 Time Saving Tips For DIY Wide Plank Flooring - Skip The Sanding Between Polyurethane Coats

Besides, the bumps would add a bit more texture making the floors less slippery.

The only concern we had was how it would feel walking barefoot on the floor with more texture. When we ran our hands on the planks we could clearly feel the additional texture, so we were a bit nervous.

Well, it turns out, the additional texture was barely noticeable when walking on the floor barefoot. Phew, that was a relief!



There You Have It

Those are our time saving tips for DIY wide plank plywood floors. Just these few tips will save you HOURS and HOURS of time. Without them, our project would have taken A LOT longer and would have been harder to do.

The first two tips alone will save you from pulling your hair out! 

We hope they will help you with your own wide plank plywood flooring.

Let us know what you think!

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3 Time Saving Tips for DIY Plank Plywood Floors

DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood

DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood

DIY Rustic Farmhouse Wide Plank Plywood Flooring - a closeup of the distressing and Knots



The first place we did a farmhouse wide plank flooring made from plywood was in the dining room earlier in the year.

Now we’re doing the same wide plank flooring in the living room.

For the most part, both the floors were done the same way, with a couple of exceptions. In this article, we’ll cover what was different with the living room floor. You can see more of the step by step details check out the dining room plywood floor article.

The dining room’s wide plank flooring took about a week to finish, the living room took a lot longer. The space was a bit larger but mostly it was adding shims and the end grain flooring inlay that added a ton more time to the project.

From start to finish, it took a little over two weeks to finish the living room floor.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these products, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. We recommend these products only because we have experience with them and use them for our own projects. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

What We Did Different With This Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring

Just about the same methods we used for both the flooring in the dining room and the living room.

In the living room, we pulled up the old carpet, removed staples, painted the sub-floor a dark color and put down the floor the same way.

The width, length and thickness of the plywood planks was the same, and we cut, sanded, distressed, stained and added 3 coats of polyurethane to the flooring in almost the same way.

Here are the things we did a bit differently.

We Didn’t Sand Between Polyurethane Coats

When we did the dining room floor, we lightly sanded the bumps out of the coat of polyurethane with 120 grit sand paper.

With the living room floors we figured that the bumps would even out a little after multiple coats of poly were applied.

Besides, the bumps would add a bit more texture making the floors less slippery.

The only concern I had was how it would feel walking barefoot on the floor with more texture. Turns out, despite clearly feeling the additional texture when running your hand on the plank, it was barely noticeable when walking on it barefoot.

The Shopping List

Tools List

Here’s a list of the tools we used on this project, it’s basically the same list of tools from the dining room flooring project.

Affiliate links below may be to similar items when exact items couldn’t be found online.

Cordless Finish Nailer

Extra Battery For Finish Nailer

Belt Sander

Palm Sander

Miter Saw

Circular Saw

Cross Cut Saw Blade

Oscillating Multi-Tool

Hearing Protection Ear Muffs

Table Saw

 

Supplies List

These are the supplies used on this project.

Affiliate links below may be to similar items when exact items couldn’t be found online.

Varathane Cherrywood Gel Stain – we used about 7 quarts

Water Based Oil-Modified Poluyrathane – we used 2 gallons

3″ Natural Bristle brush – 6 brushes to apply the stain

4″ Polyester Synthetic Brush – 4 brushes to apply the poly

Masking Paper – We used the masking paper to protect the deck when applying the stain and poly

6 Gauge 1 1/2″ Finish Nails

A New Character Builder Was Used

The same original cast of character builders were used with the living room floors, a hammer, pliers and a propane torch… and this time we added a utility knife to the arsenal.

For the dining room we would dig into crack in the wood using the sanders to open the cracks up and soften the edges.

This time we used a utility knife to lengthen and widen the cracks in the wood before softening the edges with the sander.

The result was even better than we imagined. The deep cracks we were able to make with the utility knife gave us the farmhouse wide plank flooring look we wanted.

You wouldn’t even guess that it was plywood.

 

DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor Finished - Close up of the Distressing Done With A Utility Knife

Shameless Plug

If you are looking for a great house to rent in the Poconos, Feels Like Heaven may be the perfect fit for you!

Feels Like Heaven - A Premium 5 Bedroom Vacation Rental in The Poconos, PA



We Added Shims

The living room floors were much more uneven then the floors in the dining room. To the point where we needed to add shims in the low spots to try and level things off a little.

I went around the floor with a straight edge, and where ever there was a dip, I added the shims.

Since I knew I needed a good amount of shims, I made them out of a sheet of 1/4″ plywood. I cut ripped the sheet into 1″ strips using the table saw.

Once the floor was shimmed, we painted the floor a dark brown color, just like we did in the dining room.

DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor Finished - Wood Strips Used To Fill The Low Spots
DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor Finished - Starting The Plywood Flooring Install

The Living Room Plywood Floor Is Finished!

Like I said, the living room floor took much longer to do than the dining room floor did. It took a little over two weeks to finish, had I not messed up with the wood slice accent flooring, we would have finished in about 2 weeks.

Check out the wood slice accent flooring project here

We love the farmhouse wide plank flooring in both the dining room and the living room. This style was the perfect fit for this house, we couldn’t have imagined a better fit.

Between the two floors, I’d say I’d stick to the steps used on the living room floor.

Sanding between poly coats seems to have been unnecessary, and using the utility knife to expand on the cracks in the wood added sooo much more character to the living room floor – LOVE IT!

Here’s a few more pictures of the stained plywood floors in the living room floor.

Let me know what you think, is there something you would have done different?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!



DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor Finished - Close up of the Distressing
DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - Close up of The Plywood Floor In The Living Room By The Wood Accent
DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor Finished - Finished Plywood Floor Seen From The Stairs
DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor In The Living Room By The Wood Accent
DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor Finished
DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor Finished - Another Close up of the Distressing
DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor Finished - Seen From The Corner Of The Fireplace
DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood - The Plywood Floor Finished By The Fireplace
DIY Farmhouse Wide Plank Flooring Made From Plywood

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay



Creating an end grain flooring inlay was something I was looking forward to for months. We installed plywood wide plank flooring in the dining room and kitchen earlier this year and the living room was next on the list.

The flooring in the dining room and living room were going to be laid in different directions and a regular threshold separating the two spaces was going to be – well pretty boring.

While initially doing my Pinterest research on flooring, I came across pins with different floor designs created using wood slices.

That gave me the idea of doing an end grain flooring as an inlay. It was the perfect solution!

I couldn’t wait to try this project.

 

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these products, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. We recommend these products only because we have experience with them and use them for our own projects. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

The Shopping List

Tools List

Here’s a list of the tools we used on this project.

Affiliate links below may be to similar items when exact items couldn’t be found online.

Belt Sander

Palm Sander

Miter Saw

Oscillating Multi-Tool

RotoZip

Hearing Protection Ear Muffs

 

Supplies List

These are the supplies used on this project.

Affiliate links below may be to similar items when exact items couldn’t be found online.

Water Based Oil-Modified Poluyrathane – we used 1 gallon

4″ Polyester Synthetic Brush – 4 brushes to apply the poly

Liquid Nails

What Is End Grain Flooring?

End grain flooring is basically branches and logs cut into slices, then placed in a pattern, in our case, it’s the shape of a river. The slices are glued into place and grout is applied to fill in the spaces between the slices. Then a protective finish is applied and you have yourself an end grain floor!

I call it a wood river, but I’ve seen it called a bunch of different names. Wood slice flooring, end grain flooring, log end flooring, cordwood floor and even cross-cut tree slice flooring to name a few.

Figuring Out End Grain Flooring Inlay Layout

The beauty of doing something like this is that there is no limit to the design you make. It can be as simple or ornate as you want.

Since our house is in the Poconos, in a wilderness setting, we figured a river made of wood would go with the house and its surrounding nature.

The end grain flooring inlay would separate the dining room from the living room. Starting in the corner of the dining room and making it’s way to the corner of the living room fireplace.

We wanted the flooring inlay to start off wider on one side and have it gently curving its way across the space.

We had the idea when we did the dining room earlier in the year and that’s also when I started cutting the wood slices for the river and traced out the shape of the wood slice flooring accent.

We were going to do the living room floors and the inlay a few months later, so that gave the wood slices time to dry.

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Traced Out Using Tape and Filled in With Wood Slices - Seen From The Dining Room
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Traced Out Using Tape

Shameless Plug

If you are looking for a great house to rent in the Poconos, Feels Like Heaven may be the perfect fit for you!

Feels Like Heaven - A Premium 5 Bedroom Vacation Rental in The Poconos, PA

Cutting The Wood Slices

Now that the general shape of the end grain flooring inlay was in place, the next step was to fill it in with wood slices. I got a bunch of branches that had fallen on our property and started cutting them to the width I thought I needed… more on that later.

I cut enough pieces of wood to fill in the inlay, with a bunch of various branch thicknesses. I cut them in May to have them dry up a few months before installing them in the fall.

The flooring was 1/2″ thick and the floors are uneven so I cut the wood slices a bit thicker… at least that’s what I thought….that was a big mistake. It’s important to cut them to the right size right off the bat.

I used a miter saw to cut the slices, it went pretty quick considering how many slices were needed.

Important Tip: When cutting the wood pieces try to cut them as close to the final thickness as possible.

I didn’t do that with this project and it took me days to get the slices down to the right size.

I cut the slices 3/4″ and most of the wood slices needed to be about 1/2″… a big mistake.

That extra 1/4″ was a struggle to remove.



Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Traced Out Using Tape - Seen From The Living Room
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Traced Out Using Tape - Seen From The Living Room

Drying The Wood Slices

I had cut most of the wood slices months ago so those were dry when I was ready to install them.

But I guess I was able to get the wood slices tighter together when I was actually doing the project… so I needed more wood slices.

I found this article on drying the wood slices.

http://theplywood.com/drying-wood-in-oven

Using the oven on low heat (200 F), the wood slices were dry in a couple of hours so it worked really well.

Cutting The End Grain Flooring Inlay Into The Floor Boards

The original plan was to cut each floorboard individually using a rotozip. I was going to cut them outside since the rotozip causes a lot of dust.

Instead, I ended up cutting the floorboards in place using the Oscillating Multi-Tool. That worked really well and it didn’t make very much dust.

After the boards were cut I went over the cut with the belt sander to soften the curves and round off the edge of the boards. That way there aren’t splinters. 🙂

 

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - Where The Inlay Will Go
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - Floor Boards Are All Cut
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - Figuring Out What Floor Boards To Use Next To The Inlay
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Cut Into The Floor Boards and Wood Slices In Place - Seen From Fireplace

Placing The Wood Slices In The Inlay

When placing the slices inlay, make sure to mix up the different sizes. That way it looks more organic and natural.

I secured the wood pieces in place with liquid nails. It just takes a dollop on the back of each piece and applying a little pressure to get it to set. 

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Cut Into The Floor Boards and Wood Slices In Place - The Inlay Cut Into The Floor Boards and Wood Slices In Place

Seal The Wood Slices Before Applying The Grout

I sealed the wood slices before applying the grout by applying a coat of the polyurethane. Otherwise the grout will darken the wood slices. You’ll be sanding everything down later but sealing the slices makes it easier to get them back to the lighter color.

Mixing The Sawdust Grout

I found an article from Bob Villa that talks about the grout that can be used with the wood slices. It’s called sawdust grout.

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/quick-tip-sawdust-grout/

Sawdust grout is a combination of 2 parts sawdust to 1 part polyurethane.

I used a water based, oil-modified fast drying polyurethane for the sawdust grout mix and the finish.

The polyurethane dries quickly and it’s orderless. 

It’s the same one we used on the plywood wide plank floor boards in the living dining room and kitchen.

Applying The Grout

The Grout is a pretty dry paste that can be pushed into all the nooks and crannies between each wood slice.

Using latex gloves grab a small glob of Grout and push it into the spaces between the wood slices.

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The wood slices are in place and the sawdust grout is being applied
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The wood slices are in place and the sawdust grout is being applied

Sanding The End Grain Flooring Inlay

I used a belt sander to sand down the wood pieces.

Of course, that was only after I fixed my huge mistake of cutting the wood slices the wrong thickness.

The sand paper I used was 36 grit. I wanted something that gave the wood pieces a rough texture so they wouldn’t be slippery.

Because sanding is a pretty messy task, I tented off the area, that way the dust didn’t go all over the house.

 

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Tented Off To Reduce The Dust Around The House While Sanding
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Tented Off To Reduce The Dust Around The House While Sanding
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay Tented Off To Reduce The Dust Around The House While Sanding

This is what the wood slices and the sawdust grout looked like after the sanding was done.

I sanded the wood slice inlay to the height of the flooring on either side of it. I also used the sander to knock off the edges of each of the wood slices, removing any hard edges that may be uncomfortable to walk on.

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay After Grout Dried And Sanded Before Poly Finish



Adding The Polyurathane Finish

The polyurethane was the same one I used on the wood board flooring and in the sawdust grout mix.

 I put three coats of finish on the end grain flooring inlay.

Although the poly is colorless, it did give the wood slices a little bit of a yellow tint.

The grout also darken quite a bit when I applied the poly on top of it.

 

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The Inlay After Grout Dried And Sanded After Poly Finish

More Pics Of The End Grain Flooring Inlay

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - cross cut flooring inlay from the dining room
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - The End Grain Flooring Inlay Finished
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - End Grain flooring Inlay from the fireplace
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - Finished - Seen From The Dining Room
End Grain Flooring Inlay Finished - Log End Wood Floor Inlay Closeup
Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - End Grain flooring Inlay toward the fireplace

What Do You Think?

We love the way the end grain flooring inlay turned out.  It’s so much more character than a simple threshold would have given.

What do you think? Do you like the way it turned out? What would you do differently? We’d love to hear your feedback.

Installing An End Grain Flooring Inlay - A closeup of the End Grain Flooring Inlay Finished

Home Theater Design – Home Theater Remote Control

Home Theater Design – Home Theater Remote Control

Designing a Home Theater - Home Theater Remote - Choosing The Right Remote



What To Look For In A Home Theater Remote Control

Although it may not have been in your Home Theater Design, you will need a home theater remote control.

Setting up a home theater buries you in remotes pretty quick. It becomes a 3 or 4 remote task to do anything unless you get a home theater remote.

There are a few different calibers of remote controls. If you only want to reduce the number of remote controls you have, then a basic universal remote would do the trick.

But, if you want a remote control that does more than control the A/V equipment, your choices will be slim.

Features like controlling lights and/or blinds. Or setting up macros/scenes which turn on and off various devices depending on the activity.

In this article, I’ll go over what I looked at when choosing my remote and how I set it up.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these products, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. We recommend these products only because we have experience with them and use them for our own projects. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Why Not Just Use The Remotes You Have

Choosing the right remote control will completely change your home theater experience. A typical home theater will have at least 3 remotes (for the TV/Projector, surround sound, Cable box or DVD Player).

Fumbling between all the remote becomes a pain pretty quickly. Many of the remotes that come with home theater equipment do try to be universal-ish. But they still fall short with home theater scenarios.

The Remote Criteria

The remote I was searching for would control:

  • the projector
  • The surround sound amplifier
  • 4K BluRay DVD player
  • The Cable Box
  • Some way of controlling Insteon lights
A Home Theater Remote that can control all that is pretty sophisticated. And the more features a remote has, the more expensive it gets.

On the low end, they are about $100. These remotes will have a low limit on the devices that can it can control and no macros. On the super fancy high end, there is a complete home automation system. That system can control just about any electronic device, but of course, it’s at a cost. The Savant is one of those systems and runs about $1000 a room.

For my scenario, I already have a home automation system so Savant wasn’t something I had any interest in.

My home automation system is an Insteon based system. A Universal Devices ISY controller (Model ISY 994i/IR Pro) that controls everything. Things like the door lock, the thermostats, lights, and door sensors.

Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home

After some research, it became clear the Harmony family of remotes is the best value for the features. They’ve been in the remote control business for a very long time and they have excelled over the years.

Which a Harmony remote, you base your choice on how many devices you plan on controlling. The Harmony remote I chose was the Ultimate Home. It can control up to 15 devices with up to 15 activities. The activities are basically macros. Press one of the macro buttons, and it’ll turn on all the devices you need turned on for that activity.

Update:  The remote that I chose is now discontinued. The Logitech Harmony Elite Remote is the latest home theater remote from Logitech. It looks a little different but the specs are very similar.

An added bonus is that the Harmony Elite Remote also works with Alexa! 



Designing a Home Theater - Home Theater Remote - Logitech Harmony Elite Remote

Logitech Harmony Elite

Logitech Harmony Elite Remote Control, Hub and App, works with Alexa

Logitech Harmony Home Ultimate Features

The Harmony Home Ultimate (and the Harmony Elite) is a feature-rich remote control.

  • The Harmony App On your Droid or iPhone lets you control your devices using the app
  • Configure macros or activities to set up all your devices with a click of a button
  • Control up to 15 Devices
  • Control devices using infrared, IP and Bluetooth
  • It Syncs the cable providers channel line up with your remote. When the cable provider changes channels around your remote will update itself
  • Save your favorite channels as favorites, which show up as icons in the remote’s screen
  • a digital screen on the remote allows you to customize buttons and activities
  • The hard buttons are all back-lit (very important when you are sitting in a dark theater)

The Parts To The Home Theater Remote Control Setup

There are three physical parts to the remote control. The remote control itself, a Hub and infrared blaster cables.

The hub is the brains of it all, and the remote control communicates to the hub using RF (radio). It’s great for home theater setups like mine, where the AV equipment is in a closet out of sight.

The hub should go where the majority of your electronics are since it’s the one doing most of the controlling.

The AV Equipment

In this setup, there’s a total of 6 devices listed in the MyHarmony app:

  • Universal Devices ISY-994i/IR (Home Automation)
  • Yamaha TSR-7810 (Amplifier)
  • Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB (Projector)
  • Arris DCX3600M (Cable/DVR)
  • Panasonic DMP-UB900 (4K BluRay Player)
  • Windows Computer

Setting Up The Remote For Your Home Theater

Harmony has done a great job with their remote controls. The basic initial setup was pretty straight forward.

You’ll need to install their MyHarmony software and run the setup. You can either install it on your PC or on your phone and it will guide you through the setup process.

During setup, the hub was able to automatically detect the Yamaha amplifier on the WiFi.  For the other devices (cable box, DVD player and projector) I needed to supply the make an model.  Based on the make an model, it knew the full set of remote codes for them.

Much easier than the old days where you had to teach your universal remote the codes for each function.



A Home Theater Gotcha

If you have a theater like mine, you have AV equipment tucked away in a closet close by but out of sight.

The Harmony Hub goes in the closet along with all the AV equipment, but one gotcha is the projector.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if I’d have to run one of the infrared blasters into the theater to get it to turn on/off the projector.

Well, luckily Harmony had already thought of that. In the MyHarmony App, you determine what controls the device, either the remote or the hub.

That’s done here:

  • Go to the MyHarmony App and click settings
  • Click More >>
  • Remote and Hub Assignments

Problem solved. 

Update:  The solution above worked great, but it would only work if you were in the room to turn on the projector. I sometimes use the MyHarmony app on my phone to turn the theater equipment on or off from outside the room.

 
Since the remote controlled the projector, the projector didn’t turn on. In
 
the end, I ran one of the IR blasters from the Harmony hub to the theater, and that worked like a charm.

Getting Harmony To Talk To Insteon

Like I said earlier, my home automation is Insteon based. When I was setting up my home theater I expected to one day be able to control the lights. And maybe even the curtains using my home theater remote control.

Insteon has a user-friendly device called InsteonHub, which Harmony can communicate with natively.

My setup uses a Universal Devices controller, which is more flexible but not as user-friendly. Initially, it didn’t seem obvious how I could get Harmony and Insteon to talk to each other.

At first, I thought I’d have to use some sort of Rest based commands to control the lights using the Harmony remote.

During my googling, I did see something using a Raspberry PI and something called ISY Helper to do just that.

From what I understand, the ISY Helper is the go-between for the Harmony and your ISY.

For my setup, it sounded like way too many moving parts.

Luckily the ISY I purchased had infrared, I think you can also buy the add-on module for the ISY if your ISY doesn’t have IR.

What Insteon Devices Can You Control With Harmony

With the Insteon Hub, I think you can only control the lights. With the infrared module in the ISY, you can control everything that the ISY can control.

On the ISY you would create a program with the things you want the ISY to do. Then assign that program to an IR code.

Let’s say you want to set the temp at a certain level, dim the lights in the theater and lock the front door for the evening.

Create a program with those steps and assign it to an IR code. Now create an activity on your remote that sends that IR code, you’re all set!

Pretty cool! And you have no limit to the possibilities.

Actually, you only have 40 IR codes to play with. But each of those codes can be configured to do a whole lot on the ISY side.

Add ISY To The Remote

Adding the ISY to the remote was straight forward. Add a new device in the Harmony app. And use Universal Devices as the manufacturer and ISY994i/IR as the model number.

As soon as you do that it will add the 40 infrared codes that the ISY uses into the remote.

Setup On The ISY

To add the IR codes on the ISY side was just as easy. Go into the admin console, click the IR tab and click the ‘Import Default IR Codes’ button. That adds the same 40 infrared codes into the ISY.

Using You ISY From The Remote

I wanted to be able to turn off/on Insteon lights using the remote control. Both within Harmony activities and independent of the activities.
 
To add your ISY IR commands on the remotes menus click the buttons option in the MyHarmony app.
 
Under ‘Screen Options’ select your ISY device, in my case, I called it Lights. and click Go.
 
Here you can add soft buttons for each IR command you would like to control directly from the remote.
 
Here’s a list of my configured soft buttons under Lights:
  • High Hat On
  • High Hat Off
  • Screen Light On
  • Screen Light Off
  • Stair Light On
  • Stair Light Off
  • Loft Dim/Off

The ISY Listed as a device on the remote

Designing a Home Theater - The Fixed Projector Screen - The Edgeless Screen
Designing a Home Theater - Home Theater Remote - Logitech Harmony Elite Remote - The Digital Screen with the ISY Commands Listed As Soft Buttons

High Hat Off Program In ISY Admin Console

Designing a Home Theater - Home Theater Remote - Logitech Harmony Elite Remote - ISY Program To Turn Off The High Hats

Setting Up Harmony Activities

This is where the really cool functions of the remote control start to shine.
 
With the Harmony remote you can set up activities. Activities are basically macros with functions for any of your configured devices.
 
An example of an activity that I have set up is “Watch TV”. When I press the button for that activity it does the following:
  • Powers on the projector
  • Sets the projector input to HDMI1
  • Powers on the amplifier
  • Sets the amplifier input to HDMI2
  • Powers on the Cable/DVR
  • Turns of the lights in the Movie Theater

When you are done watching TV and want to turn everything off, just press the button next to the activity again and it’ll turn everything off.

Now if you have a home theater and don’t yet have a remote control with macros, I think you can appreciate how this remote can have everything on, set and ready to go with the press of one button.

No more fumbling with every remote control you have to get things set up just to watch TV.

Before Harmony these were my steps:

  • Get the projector remote, press the power button
  • Get the amplifier remote, press the power button and set it to HDMI2
  • Get the Cable remote, press the power button
  • If the lights were on, get up and press the button to turn them off

A big difference in user experience.

In a way, the remote control is the mortar in the electronic building blocks of your home theater. It changes your experience completely.

Tweaking The Activities

MyHarmony has a GUI that helps you create activities in a pretty intuitive way. To set up a basic activity is not very difficult, it’s just a matter of following the prompts.
 
Once the activity has been created the software will ask you to test the activity. I’d say the majority of what it sets up works pretty nicely.
 
Activities need tweaking with devices that take a long time to turn on or if it uses cursor commands. An example would be clicking left once then up then enter.
 
No matter how complex the activity, after a bit of tweaking things will work pretty reliably.
 
Below are my activities along with their settings.

My Activities List

Here are all my configured activities and settings. The “Lights – IR004” entry triggers the “Turning off the Movie Theater lights” program on the ISY.

The Watch Amazon activity is an example of an activity using cursor movements. The DVD Player has no built-in button for Amazon so I used cursor movements to select the AmazonApp.

I also added mute at the beginning and the volume down at the end because of an annoying ding sound the DVD player made. Every time the cursor in the interface moved there was a ding, and I didn’t like hearing it.

Designing a Home Theater - Home Theater Remote - Logitech Harmony Elite Remote - The Digital Screen with the Activities List

Watch TV

  1. Projector – Power On
  2. Projector – Input HDMI 1
  3. Amplifier – Power On
  4. Amplifier- Input HDMI 2
  5. Cable DVR – Power On
  6. Lights – IR004

Watch A Movie

  1. Projector – Power On
  2. Projector – Input HDMI 1
  3. Amplifier – Power On
  4. Amplifier- Input HDMI 2
  5. Cable DVR – Power On
  6. Lights – IR004

Watch Netflix

  1. Blu-Ray Player – Power On
  2. Amplifier – Power On
  3. Amplifier – Input: HDMI 1
  4. Projector – Power On
  5. Projector – Input: HDMI 1
  6. Wait 10 sec
  7. Blu-ray Player – Netflix
  8. Lights – IR004

Watch Amazon

  1. Amplifier – Power On
  2. Amplifier – Input: HDMI 1
  3. Blu-Ray Player – Power On
  4. Projector – Power On
  5. Projector – Input: HDMI 1
  6. Wait 15 sec
  7. Amplifier – Mute
  8. Blu-ray Player – Internet
  9. Wait 14 sec
  10. Blu-ray Player – DirectionLeft
  11. Wait 2 sec
  12. Blu-ray Player – DirectionDown
  13. Wait 2 sec
  14. Blu-ray Player – OK
  15. Amplifier – VolumeDown
  16. Lights – IR004

Summing It All Up

Having a Harmony Home theater remote control is way better than trying to manage 6 remotes…. but I had no idea how much better the experience was going to be.

The remote control makes it a real pleasure to turn on and off your devices. If you have a home theater getting a Harmony remote control is a must!

The simplicity of use that a remote like this gives you is amazing.

In my opinion, a home theater design is incomplete if it doesn’t include a home theater remote control.

Home Theater Design – The Video Projector

Home Theater Design – The Video Projector

Designing a Home Theater - The Video Projector This is the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB. A fantastic projector that does 4K, HDR 10 and Ultra-wide DCI-P3



What I Was Looking For In A Video Projector

One of the main choices when designing a movie theater (and potentially the most expensive) is the video projector.

I was expecting to spend a good amount of money, to get a good projector. And hoping to get a 4K projector with internet apps (like Netflix), 3D would be nice, multiple HDMI inputs and an image that wasn’t washed out. Because my movie theater has a couple of windows, I wanted something that would still be watchable with the sun coming into the room.

Since I had never looked into projectors before, I was really shocked to see how high prices for projectors go. A lot of the higher-priced stuff is in the $25,000 – $30,000 range.

I was not looking to spend anywhere near that amount, but I did want a really nice projector. After seeing those initial prices, I kind of felt like maybe I wasn’t going to be able to spring for a nice projector after all. Realistically I was expecting to spend around $2,000 maybe up to $3,000.

Luckily there are a few projectors out there that give you great value without breaking the bank.

I wrote this article hoping to help others not feel as overwhelmed as I did when doing projector research for their movie theater.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase any of these products, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. We recommend these products only because we have experience with them and use them for our own projects. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

What I Learned About Video Projectors

So in doing my research, I learned a bunch. It’s hard to remember every aha moment, but I’m gonna give it a whirl, here are some of my aha moments.

The Projector Doesn’t Need Multiple HDMI Inputs

Originally I thought the video projector I was looking for needed multiple HDMI ports. I was looking for about 4. One for the cable box, DVD player, gaming console and PC.

Turns out if you’re designing a home theater, chances are you will be installing a surround sound system.

When using a home theater system, it has plenty of HDMI inputs and you use the home theater system to control the inputs.

In my scenario it made things much easier. I only needed to run one 20 foot HDMI cable from the surround sound system to the projector, all the other HDMI devices were in the same closet as the surround sound system so I could use regular length HDMI cables.

Designing a Home Theater - The Video Projector - The HDMI Cable Layout

Video Projectors Are Not “Smart”

One of my initial requirements was that the project had internet apps. What I found out was that projectors are not really like smart TVs, they’re more like computer monitors… that project the image on the wall.

All the projectors I looked at did not have any “smart” capabilities. So to get NetFlix, Hulu, Amazon etc you need to plug something into the projector that has “Smart” features.

How To Get 4K Content On Your Projector

In my setup, I purchased an Ultra-HD Blu-ray player that had internet apps. The Blu-ray Player is a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player that does 4K and has built-in WiFi.

Update: In trying to figure out a problem I was having with 3D content, I purchased a Pioneer UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player. The Blu-ray Player didn’t fix my 3D problem (my problem was a defective projector – which Epson quickly fixed). But the difference in sound between the two players was big enough that I decided to keep the Pioneer UB900.

The Ultra-HD is vital if you want 4K content from Netflix. If you upgrade your subscription and you are watching Netflix on a 4K capable device, Netflix will have an addition 4K category.

How To Get HDR Content On Your Video Projector

Here’s something I was not aware of.  I figured if it were a Blu-ray DVD, it would play in HDR. That was not correct at all.

To have HDR content play on your projector, first, all the equipment that is playing the DVD will need to be HDR compatible (projector, DVD player, Amplifier).

And second, you’ll need a DVD that is Ultra-HD, not just Blu-ray.

It’s easy to figure out if the DVD is Ultra-HD. On the top of the face of the DVD case it’ll say 4K UltraHD – usually in silver on a black background.

Here’s a link from Netflix with the details on how to get 4K content:

This article contains information about watching Netflix in Ultra HD on compatible devices.

Designing a Home Theater - The Video Projector - Epson Home Cinema 5040UB

Projector Picture Quality

Aside from the option of 1080p and 4K, there are two other things that contribute to the picture quality. The image brightness (measured in lumens) and the contrast ratio (the difference between the whitest white on the screen and the blackest blacks on the screen).

It’s All About The Lumens

The lumens was something that was a factor for me since I was going to have some ambient light in the room. I was also expecting that there would be times where I’d like to watch content with the lights in the room on.

Just about all the projectors I looked at were 1000 lumens or brighter which from what I had read was a pretty decent brightness.



The Contrast Ratio Is Where It’s At

My impression of projectors has always been that the picture was always washed out. I wanted to have something that would do a good a job as possible in minimizing the washed-out image.

What I found out was that the biggest factor in preventing the washed-out image is the contrast ratio.

As far as contrast ratio goes, it seemed like those were all over the map.

My Updated Video Projector Criteria

After doing a bunch of research on the different factors that make a good projector and finding out some of my original criteria were no longer criteria at all. I now knew what I had to focus on.

My Updated Criteria

  • at least one HDMI input
  • no longer needed to be “smart”
  • it needed to at least be 1080p (native 4K looked way out of my price range)
  • Finally, the primary focus was a projector with as high a contrast ratio as possible (to prevent that washed out image)

Choosing The Best Projector For The Money

I looked at a lot of projectors. Ranging from around $700 all the way up to $27,000 (some are even 4 times that price but 27k was a crazy enough price for me).

For $700 you get a projector that is small and portable with a very small foot-print.

For $27,000 you could get a top of the line Sony 4k projector.

I wanted to get the biggest projector screen that I could fit on my wall. Since it was going to be a good-sized screen, I wanted to make sure the projector was at least HD (1080p).

4K would have been fantastic, but $27,000 was way, way, way out of my budget.

Once I narrowed down what I was looking for the best choice for me started to float to the top.

Now I was confirming that there was no other projector that was better than what I found for the money…. and there wasn’t!

Designing a Home Theater - The Video Projector - Epson Home Cinema 5040UB 3LCD Home Theater Projector with 4K Enhancement

My Video Projector – Epson Home Cinema 5040UB

Epson Home Cinema 5040UBe WirelessHD 3LCD Home Theater Projector with 4K Enhancement, HDR10, 100% Balanced Color and White Brightness, Ultra Wide DCI-P3 Color Gamut and UltraBlack Contrast

The Projector That I Chose – Hands Down The Best For The Price

After a lot of searching, there was one projector that stood out of the crowd. The Epson Home Cinema 5040UB is the projector that I went with.

It had fantastic reviews, does 1080p, 3D, HDR with a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and it even does 4K emulation – all for $2,499! The 4K emulation means it supports 4K input and will do some fancy stuff to project it in 4K-ish quality.

When I first started my search, I thought I’d have to stick to 1080p, since 4K was way out of my budget. Although the projector doesn’t do true 4K, 4K emulation made it way better than any other projector – even at twice the price.

The 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and 4K emulation were the two determining factors for me. The other of course was the oodles and oodles of positive reviews for it.

It’s been about a month that I have owned one and I can tell you that the picture is absolutely astounding.

I would love to see what a native 4K projector picture quality looks like. It’s hard for me to imagine that there can be a better picture than what the Epson 5040ub produces.

I find myself often forgetting that it’s a projected image, it really just feels like a 135″ TV screen!

The Epson 5040UB or Epson 5040UBe

There are two models of this projector, the one I purchased is the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB.

The other model is the Epson Home Cinema 5040UBe, which has a wireless ethernet adapter for wireless HD, allowing you to have content streamed wirelessly to the projector.

I didn’t go for the wireless option since it was $300 more, and since I was going into the attic to run speaker wires anyways running an extra HDMI cable wasn’t a big deal.

3D On The Epson Projector – The Problem

3D wasn’t a terribly important criteria for me in my projector choices, but since the Epson projector supported 3D, it was a nice perk. 🙂

The projector doesn’t come with 3D glasses so when you’re ready for 3D, you’ll need to buy the glasses separately.

I’ll write up a separate article on my 3D glasses research later, this part though is crucial if you bought your projector around the same time I did – April 2017.

I’ll just cut to the chase and spare you the details but after trying different glasses, DVD players and cables – the problem ended up being the projector.

I had to look through tons of forum posts to find a new thread where others had a similar problem. They suggested to contact Epson, and they would take care of it. I did just that, and they sent me a brand new projector the very next day.

If you have an Epson projector and the 3D images don’t knock your socks off, contact Epson. Chances are you have a defective projector, and their customer service is fantastic and responsive.

If you are in the US, then you can send an email to [email protected], that’s where I sent my email, and they responded by the end of the day.

More Picture Quality Samples

Designing a Home Theater - The Video Projector - Epson Home Cinema 5040UB Picture Quality No Lights  The picture quality without lights on in the room and some ambient light still coming in. The image is from a Netflix 4K nature show.
Designing a Home Theater - The Video Projector - Epson Home Cinema 5040UB Picture Quality No Lights  The picture quality without lights on in the room and some ambient light still coming in. The image is from a Netflix 4K nature show.

The Video Projector Mount

I’m not sure if there are differences in projector mounts. I just made sure the one I bought was compatible with the Epson 5040UB.

The projector mount I chose was the Universal Projector Mount Bracket.

I have a feeling that most mounts would work with most projectors, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to have a problem with it.

This mount definitely works, although if I had to do it again, I probably would have gotten on that was a bit more sturdy.

Don’t get me wrong; If your projector is going to be out of reach of most people, then this mount will work out perfectly.

In my case, since I have the raised platforms, the projector does stand a chance of getting bumped by someone who is tall and not paying attention to where they’re going. 🙂

The projector won’t fall or anything, but if it’s a substantial bump, it may shift a little requiring a readjustment of the projector image on the screen.



Designing a Home Theater - The Video Projector - The Video Projector Mount

The Video Projector Mount

Projection Screen LED KIT 2018 Version (135-inch Diagonal Screen, 16:9 Aspect Ratio)

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