How to Construct a Built in Entertainment Center for Your Home

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Few items of furniture will place the stamp of style on your media room like a built-in entertainment center. Constructing your own built-in entertainment center is possible, without being a master wood craftsman, thanks to a great selection of products generally available at your local home improvement store or from online furniture-building Web sites. What ultimately will determine the success of your result, however, is careful planning.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring Tape
  • Graph Paper
  • Stud Finder
  • Lag screws or bolts with anchors
  • Solid wood products (shelves and trims)
  • Grade No. 1 dimensional lumber (for cleats)
  • Level
  • Power Tools
  • Wood Glue
  • Fasteners
  • Wood plugs
  • Gather all the electronic devices you will house in your entertainment center. Measure each piece and note the dimensions. Weigh each piece. Be sure to add a few inches of “breathing room” around the sides and top of the equipment. Measure any books, CDs and DVDs, or other items intended for storage on the shelves.

  • Find common denominator dimensions. The television will usually represent the widest and tallest item in the entertainment center so the need for a deep, tall shelf will establish at least a portion of the overall design. Other equipment will take up less space: find an average shelf-size to accommodate this other equipment.

  • Sketch the layout possibilities on a sheet of graph paper, to proper scale, using your average shelf size figures to guide this planning process. Remember to factor in any equipment that needs cable connections to other equipment, such as DVD-player-to-television connections. Make sure that connecting cables between devices will be able to span the distance easily with some slack in the cable to spare.

  • Plan for a method to both access and hide cables and power cords. This is a built-in unit: you will not be able to move the unit to reach the back after construction. Plan to run all the cables in such a way that makes access easy from the front, and yet hides or obscures the cabling. Accommodate surge protectors and power strip placement, too.

  • Evaluate the wall space allotted for the unit. If the unit will only have its back against a wall, you will need to construct heavy-duty, weight-bearing side panels to hold up the shelves at the ends. If the unit is placed against a wall and wedged between two side walls, you will use these walls as weight-bearing side panels. Locate the wall studs and adjust any measurements for desired shelf placement.

  • Install 1” to 2” thick wooden shelf-support cleats, anchoring them to available wall studs at the correct height for the shelves. Plan for the thickness of the shelves and adjust the location of the cleat. Bolt the cleats, widest side facing the room, to the wall studs using lag screws or anchors and hex bolts. Countersink the bolt heads and cover them with wood plugs. If the design depends on weight-bearing side panels, construct these side panels, anchoring them into the back wall studs, and then install the support cleats on these panels. Three cleats must support every shelf in the unit.

  • Once the shelves are in place, create the rest of the unit around the shelves with any backing panels, cabinet doors, trims, crown moldings, hardware, or under shelf lighting, and then stain or paint the unit to suit.

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