Its the neatest of tricks: Start with a $300,000-plus ground-up retrofit for a 10,000-plus square-foot home. Complete the job with only four holes that needed to be patched, all of them sequestered in closets.
That result signifies the success of a recent project in Coto de Caza, California, designed and installed by Cinema Solutions. The five-year-old San Clemente company specializes in retrofits around the southern Orange County area. Its a specialty that could come in handy as the U.S. new home construction market continues to slow.
We live in a world with fewer and fewer custom homes being built, where retrofits are the key trade for those who know how to do them well, and quality companies know how to retrofit, said CS president Bill Coblentz. Its an art form, especially for those clients whose homes have plastering and expensively detailed ceilings. Its not that we dont undertake projects for new homes, but we focus on retrofits. Custom home projects can take one or two years; retrofits often can be done in six months.
The tech-oriented Coto de Caza client wanted automation, integration, and control for his 10-year-old contemporary stucco house, which had no pre-wiring, Coblentz said. He wanted to integrate the four HVAC zones, several lighting zones, and the security system on touch panels. He also wanted to control the security and PTZ cameras and to integrate several surround systems as well as his backyard audio and lighting. He had a mix of systems that others previously had installed and we cleaned up a lot of that.
Coblentz, who programmed the system, says his team installed a large amount of thick CresnetD wiring as well as video and speaker wiring, and large runs. The only reason we made the four holes at alltwo in a downstairs closet, two upstairswas to get wiring to the attic.
Because no remaining holes had to be patched, there was no expenditure to the client for drywall work. Double gain rings were also installed so the holes behind the cover plates in the closets can be reused in the future.
This was an awesome house, Coblentz said, recalling the installation. It had a raised foundation so we could get anywhere underneath the house to do wire management to any location including the large runs to exterior locations.
Because the lighting system is Crestrons wireless infiNET, CS didnt have to pull any wires for that. The challenge came in getting wires through to the patio because of the stucco, which can easily chip, the long distance, and the absence of a crawl space beneath the patio. CS solved the problem by pulling extra wire along with the wires they ran for the adjacent library.
The Crestron-controlled system includes touch panels in every room, a mix of TMPC-17-CH and TPS 4000L panels. A six-inch TPS-3100L touch panel in the four- car garagethe client is an avid car collectorallows him to arm/disarm the alarm system, control HVAC, and to activate lighted pathways.
I chose the PRO2 Crestron control system as a base for this project because of its open architecture as well as the number of connectors on the back, Coblentz said. I wanted a separate processorthe MC2Efor the environment controls.
All touch panels also control an extensive intercom system and the front gate, providing both audio and video communication. A Hollovision station installed in the wall by the front entry offers AV communications, and service/maintenance people have their own numeric codes so their keypad entries may then be recorded on a computer database.
In addition, all exterior lighting is set up on an astronomical clock. Touch panels located near exterior doors have the capability to provide lighted pathways; a command for home illuminates paths to the master bedroom or kitchen.
Kaleidescape in the Middle
At the heart of the AV system is a four-zone Kaleidescape player with three DVD readers, each shared by two rooms. The client has a good-sized library but he wanted to be able to watch movies or listen to music anywhere in the home, Coblentz said. Ive used other media servers, but Kaleidescape makes it so easy. This is the only reliable media server out there and that means everything to me.
A spacious game/media room with a bar and Artison speakers has both a 10-inch in-wall touch panel and an 8-inch wireless panel. CS installed a Sharp 65-inch LCD with Artison speakers and the PDRU articulating arm from Chief Manufacturing.
A favorite spot for the client is a nook near the kitchen that features a 17-inch TPMC-17-L widescreen in-wall touch panel. He wanted a small TV, but this solution is better, and out of the way, Coblentz explained. It allows him to watch HDTV and Kaleidescape movies, and he can control everything from there.
In the family room, a legacy rear-projection TV and equipment cabinets took up a good portion of space, so CS replaced the TV with a 65-inch LCD on the wall and moved the gear to racks located in a hallway. A 10-inch TMPC wireless panel controls surround sound for the room and the whole house music system, as well as security and lighting. For the clients personal office, Coblentz selected a TPS4000 tabletop mount for easy desktop access.
Upstairs in the exercise room, a 10-inch 4000L in-wall touch panel provides system control throughout the house and for the pre-existing plasma screen. The client also has a TPMC-4X hand-held two-way remote to control and view feedback from the DVD player, even when he is on the treadmill.
The master bedroom features both a TMPC-17CH in-wall panel and a TMPC-8X wireless for control from bed. The room has the only existing surround system in the house, with an in-wall subwoofer added by CS. Coblentz added Makita drapery control for sheers and drapes. Makita makes a quiet motor, and its easy to customize, he said.
In the master bath, which has a TPS-4000L, a 37-inch wall-mounted LCD provides TV viewing from the Jacuzzi. A WPR-48 waterproof handheld remote offers basic controls of drapes, TV, and music.
Outside, which encompasses about two acres with a pool, Coblentz selected five pairs of Sonance Rock CRK20 speakers, a wireless STX-1700 touch panel for two-way communication, and four in-ceiling Sonance speakers for the patio cover, an extension of the master bedroom overhang.
Coblentz and two installers managed the project. The advantage to operating a small company, Coblentz said, is the personal attention that can be lavished on clients. Being detail-oriented is essential on retrofits, he added. Our team covered each hole at the end of every workday ensuring that no insects or dust could get into the clients home. This gave the appearance that we had never been in the house.
An upgrade for the project will be the creation of a dedicated Meridian theater, either in a new build-out of the home or in the present garage space, Coblentz said. In retrofits, you never know whats behind the wall. You can have a good educated guess, and you can research how the house was built. You have to have the right tools; tools are your best friends. Two people can do the same retrofit totally differently, but one may be cleaner than the other. And thats the point.
Karen Mitchell is a freelance writer in Boulder, Colorado.