Wisen up about paint jobs and home theatres.

Navneet Malhotra is a perpetual student. He loves to break myths and unmask the true cause for bad work by constantly sharing experience… “Path to gaining knowledge is through sharing,” is his motto.




After spending days in dusty conditions and living out of suitcases, we ended up with a horrible paint job. The contractor has conveniently blamed it on the monsoon. Is there any truth in his justification? Why did the paint develop minute air bubbles on the surface, which burst, leaving the surface riddled with craters? The polish, on the other hand, left the surface of the furniture very dull. Is this repairable?    
Rachna Khurana, Pune

Almost all paints are sold as concentrated solutions and have to be diluted with paint thinners, oils or water. The choice of medium of dilution and its mixing ratio is pre-defined by the manufacturer. While some paints such as enamel need a thinner, others like plastic or oil-bound paint need water to reduce their viscosity and improve their spread. Undiluted paint is difficult to apply as it remains coagulated on the brush and does not spread evenly, resulting in poor finish and material wastage. Monsoon brings with it excessive air-borne moisture. This increase in humidity reacts with different paints in different ways. Paints that use oil as a diluting agent or (wood) polish surfaces act as sticky resting sites for water molecules which often carry microscopic dust particles. They neither mix with the oil-based paint surface nor evaporate easily. And when the moisture eventually dries, it leaves behind a rough surface embedded with dust particles. The solution: lightly buff the surface with a hand-held mechanized machine; or, if this doesn’t work, re-apply the top coat after sandpapering the surface clean. Make sure that the weather is dry when you try these options.

With water-based paints such as colour wash, distemper, acrylic emulsion and plastic, the moisture primarily increases the time between two coats by delaying drying. Dust particles have a small role to play. As water molecules get absorbed easily onto the surface, the dust particle gets coated with the paint pigment and gets partly camouflaged. The problem of trapped air bubbles has more to do with excessive dilution of paint than with high humidity. Overly diluted paint has a tendency to create air bubbles when stirred. Such bubbles can also be formed between the bristles of the brush. Additionally, extra-thin paint results in visible brush strokes and drip marks. You have no choice but to do the top coat again, but wait for a dry spell.

In an earlier issue of Better Interiors you had mentioned ‘R-value’ and ‘U-value’ for the same material. What does each value represent, and how is one different from the other?
Atul Nishchal, New Delhi

Based on its cell structure and composition, every material has an inherent property to resist or help transfer heat through its body. Some materials, like most metals, transfer heat easily. They are called good conductors, while those which resist the transfer are referred to as good insulators. To understand and evaluate materials with good insulation properties, scientists test a large number of samples of a particular material in controlled conditions with an equal rate of heat flow and time applied, and compare the results. Through this, they derive a rating, called the R-value, for each material. Thus, R-value of a material is nothing but its thermal resistance per unit area. As the composition of the material is assumed to remain constant for a given surface, the R-value is implied to change proportionately to the thickness of the material. So, doubling the thickness would double the thermal resistance of the material. This is why industry standards specify R-value per inch (or cm) thickness. U-value, on the other hand, is the inverse of R-value. U-value describes the heat transfer co-efficient of a given material or how well a building material conducts heat (U = 1). So while a higher R-value describes a higher resistance of a given material to heat transfer, a corresponding low U-value will also give you the same information.

I would like to create a formal home theatre in my large basement. I am planning to hire a specialist, but I’d prefer to be aware of the basics. Can you list out the dos and don’ts and the design factors to be kept in mind? We’re looking to seat about ten people.
Sadhna Mehta, Gurgaon

Home theatres in the basement are a great place to hang out with family and friends. As you have already decided to seat ten people, the size of the theatre will depend on the sort of seating you need — several rows of theatre-type seating or a couple of couches and recliners. The size of speakers and woofers is directly proportional to the size of the room. There should be enough space to accommodate furniture and ensure a reasonable viewing distance.

Avoid a square or long, narrow rectangular room. The deep bass sound waves tend to pile up in such shapes, by which we mean that some areas will have no depth in bass and some will have too much. If the room allows it, consider seat risers or steps for unobstructed view of the screen. The seating distance from the screen depends on the size and type of screen. If you plan to pick a projector and screen combination, you can fit one that measures 2.55 mt (8 ft 6 in diagonally) to give you a theatrical experience. Remember, using a front projector needs a completely darkened room, otherwise the projected image will look washed out. This shouldn’t be too hard in a basement. A compact DLP or LCD front projector is affordable and convenient, and has stunning picture quality.

You can mount the projector on the ceiling, while the screen hangs on the wall. More expensive installations feature a retractable option, wherein the screen disappears into the ceiling. You can also paint the wall to create a projection surface, but the texture of paint may become an irritant while watching a movie. The other option is to use a high-quality, high-definition TV with rear projection DLP or LCD sets. The size and cost may become limiting factors (the screen size goes up to 60 in or 5 ft). The advantage is that they can deliver very bright images in a lit room, so a dark room is not essential.

To enhance audio quality, focus on two key elements of acoustics — sound absorption and soundproofing. Properly insulating the room should effectively isolate it from the outside world. If the floor is concrete, cover it with a wooden sub-floor and carpet to provide absorption. Plastered walls can have wood panels with drapes. Upholstered furniture, carpets, drapes and heavy cushions provide enough sound absorption. To achieve good soundproofing, use acoustic wall panels along the side walls. Avoid reflective materials like glass and mirrors and other hard vertical surfaces. This may lead to poor dialogue clarity and harshness in the treble. With all this, other sounds of the house, such as that of the generator, can also taken care of.

Steer clear of placing sound-absorbing tiles or absorbent material of any kind on the ceiling. Leaving it bare allows the sound waves to reflect around the room so that they can get absorbed wherever required. As with all things in life, too much of a good thing isn’t good, and in case of acoustics, too much absorptive materials will dampen the audio.

Like a real theatre, LED rope lighting could be installed to illuminate the floor and guide the people from the door to their seats. There could be lights under the chairs too. You can use dimmers overhead to control illumination as the ‘show’ begins.

Coming to the equipment, you will need speakers and a receiver along with a media centre PC or a Blu-ray player. Surround sound greatly enhances the viewing experience. It draws viewers into a deep interaction between the movie and the mind. The best option is the 7.1 surround sound, which uses eight channels of audio to envelop you in a sound bubble: two main speakers at the front, one channel in the centre and four surround speakers on the sides and the rear. The eighth channel, dedicated to bass, comes from the sub woofer. Also, there are small bookshelf speakers, large floor-standing speakers and wall-hung speakers. Speakers have their own cabinets and are engineered to perform best in a freestanding location. Do not conceal them in cubbyholes or shelving. And the last tip: resist the urge to install a speaker on the ceiling. The surround speakers should be about 6 ft tall (1.8 mt). The Dolby website has excellent tips on the angle and height-placement of speakers.

For choosing loudspeakers, selecting the right receiver is very important. The receiver is the brain behind the entire system and is responsible for taking sound data from a Blu-ray movie disc, or a media centre streaming a movie, and piping it to the speakers. The surround sound 7.1 channel AV receivers are available at a competitive cost. The final step is to implement a way to take control of everything without juggling four different remotes. Buy a universal remote that is compatible with multiple devices.

Lastly, a movie experience cannot be complete without posters and popcorn. Inexpensive reproduction prints can be found online. Morph your face on your favourite cinematic idol! And, of course, popcorn and beverage vending machines with a mini-bar will be the proverbial cherry on the cake.

Steer clear of placing sound-absorbing tiles or absorbent material of any kind on the ceiling. Leaving it bare allows the sound waves to reflect around the room…

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or navneet@aadesign.in