How to Build a False Wall Part 1

For some reason, I found the design of the false wall to be one of the most puzzling and perplexing aspects of my design. Yes, I read many wonderful construction threads scattered around the Web, but it was still a big fat NO as to whether I had any idea how to design my specific wall.

I’m sure there’s a great article somewhere with a tutorial on how to design a false wall, but I sure couldn’t find it. So I’m going to take a crack at making my own “How To,” describing the general rules one must follow to build a simple wall like mine.

Since my screen wall is already built, let’s reverse engineer it.

To start things off, here’s what my false wall looks like with the screen removed:

home theater false wall behind screen

In the gaping void behind the screen, you get a clear view of what’s behind the wall. Specifically, you’re looking at 1 inch thick OC703, which acoustically deadens the front wall. Although you can’t see them from this angle, the false wall also conceals floor to celing bass traps made of acoustic cotton in the corners.

My false wall is constructed out of 2x2s. So your first question might relate to how far apart to place those 2×2 studs, right?

First, decide if your goal with regard to stud spacing is similar to mine. My goal was simple. I wanted to be able to wrap acoustically transparent cloth behind the false wall so I could staple it, and I wanted the screen to completely conceal the seam. If your goal is similar, make sure the inside studs fall behind the screen so you can wrap the cloth around the studs and the seam will be invisible once the screen is hung.

This is probably a lot easier to show than explain, so check this out:

home theater false wall construction 1

In the picture above, the red lines indicate 2×2 studs. Clearly, you need a top plate and a bottom plate, and there’s generally no mystery regarding where those need to go — the floor and the ceiling, right? In my case, the ceiling is a bit lower than usual due to that HVAC soffit (which I’ve conveniently chosen to hide away behind my false wall), but other than that, the top/bottom plates are easy as pie. Much the same can be said about the left and right outtermost studs.

But what about the other studs? How do you know where to put those? Well, let’s start with the the two innermost vertical studs marked by arrows in the photo above. To determine the spacing for those studs, follow these steps:

1) Measure the outside width of your screen frame. In my case, it was 7’6″ wide.
2) Then, determine how much distance will remain inbetween the outside edge of your screen-frame and the side-wall once the screen is mounted in the middle of the front wall. My room is 11’4″ wide, and my screen is 7’6″ wide, which basically means that I will have about 1’11” on each side of my screen.
3) make sure that the studs in question (the ones marked with the nifty yellow arrows) will end up behind the screen. If I spaced those studs 2 feet off the side walls, they would fall behind the screen quite nicely.

Okay, so how do you determine the location of the other studs? Well, in my case, the top plate ended up falling behind my screen almost by accident, giving me a good place to wrap fabric. Most screen walls will not end up like that, since most screen walls don’t have a handy-dandy HVAC soffit hiding behind them like mine does, meaning that you’ll need to run an additional horizontal stud behind the top of the screen. But the math is similar to what was done above.

Now let’s consider another stud location that I found to be a bit trickier. Check out the stud with the yellow arrow pointing to it in the picture below:

home theater false wall construction 2

The arrow in the above picture is actually pointing to 3 horizontal studs. Why 3? you ask. I’ll tell ya why. It’s because my Carada screen has a bottom mounting bracket which has to be spaced a specific number of inches below the top mounting bracket. And all end user reports have indicated that getting that bottom bracket in the right spot can be tricky, often requiring multiple attempts.
So I used the math in Carada’s installation instructions to determine the “right” spot to put the bottom bracket, and then I gave myself two extra studs worth of leeway in case I needed to slide the bracket up or down.

By the way, it was important that the top lip of the triple-stack end up behind the screen, so I could wrap fabric around behind the screen wall and use the screen to hide the location of the wrapping, just as with the other “inside” studs in the false wall.

And one more point. We need to talk about that center/bottom space for a moment, where the center channel is hiding. You’ve got to make sure you leave enough room there for your center channel because you sure can’t have a stud right in the middle of your tweeter. That center channel area in my false wall allows 3 full feet inbetween the vertical studs. That’s plenty big.