If you are redoing a room in your home to have a home theater, you may be wondering how to maximize viewing space to allow users to watch the screen without obstructions. Lucky for you, there is a simple solution that I have implemented myself.
Risers are one of the most overlooked, but helpful and professional upgrades you can give your home theater. Home theater risers can be affordable, can be made to fit your room perfectly, and add a level of practicality that will make you and your guests movie-viewing experience much better.
Many who have never built home theaters before might find risers to seem intimidating. In this article, we are going to explain all the need-to-know elements of home theater risers – like what they are, costs, and alternatives. Let’s take a closer look.
But before that, check out my compilation of best home theater seating ideas that I’m sure you’ll love.
What Are Home Theater Risers?
The term “home theater riser” does not often make sense to people immediately. This is almost a foreign concept unless you have experience creating a home theater or have been inside of another person’s well-built home theater.
Home theater risers are platforms that raise the rows of seating in your home theater. These help to create a traditional cinematic experience but are also practical. With each row on a higher riser, this helps prevent viewer obstruction. Risers can also have features such as lighting or speakers.
If you have looked at layouts of home theater rooms, you may even take note of the fact that home theater risers can really bring your room to the next level. Being that they are both aesthetically pleasing and practical, it would seem foolish not to at least include these in your future plans for your home theater.
In essence, home theater risers permit you to build vertically in your home theater. Instead of having to view the back of the row of recliners in front of you, or your best friend or family member’s head that is directly in front of you, home theater risers help to add in height differentials to remove this roadblock.
With home theater risers, you will take your home theater to the next level- quite literally. The number of layouts that will become more realistic for you will abound. You will no longer be on a flat surface, but you will have multiple layers to place your furniture (and thus your guests) on.
Home theater risers not only add practicality to your home theater, but they show that you are serious about the home theater game.
Not only will this help your friends and family members to enjoy their experience in your home theater room, but it could potentially help with the upsell of your property if you were to move in the future. The impact that these can have on your home theater is remarkable.
How Tall Should Home Theater Risers Be?
An often debated subject is how tall home theater risers are supposed to be. While everyone will have an opinion and preference, it can really vary quite a bit.
Realistically, it will come down to the specifications of your home dimensions, so providing an exact measurement can be tough. Still, though, there are some pretty good rules of thumb on this.
How tall should your home theater risers be?
It depends on many factors like the height of the ceiling, the number of seat rows, and the height of the screen. In general, your home theater risers will be between 7 inches and 12 inches, with leeway on either end for special cases.
If you have a large room for the home theater, you may be trying to fit multiple rows in the theater. If you have a low ceiling, you could have trouble standing up from your seat on the riser without crouching. It is most important to know your room and measure properly in order to make this choice.
Although not everyone will have space for taller risers, if you are able to afford a 12” riser for your rows, this option is what we suggest doing. Many people find that this is the most standard option, and since it is tall enough that it allows almost every person to not worry about obstructions it can make a great fit for most home theaters.
Another point to consider with 12” home theater risers is that it is also not so tall that it will cause an awkward look or feel to your room – keeping it aesthetically pleasing.
When you are putting time, money, and energy into creating the perfect home theater, you want it to look and feel great. Adding risers that are tall enough to do what they are designed to do- especially while looking good- is one way to truly transform your home theater.
Cost of Home Theater Risers
One of the first concerns people raise when they are searching for home theater risers is the cost of purchasing them (and potential installation charges). This is understandable, as nice home theater risers are often very expensive for what seems like not much more than a box for chairs to sit on.
Once you get down into the features, you will see that home theater risers can be affordable, and the expensive options may be merited for the right room.
How much do home theater risers cost?
The cost of home theater risers can vary drastically, and ranges anywhere from $25 all the way to $2,500. The average cost is about $300-$400 per riser, as most people opt to make them themselves or purchase more affordable options. If professionally installed, fees vary based on the contractor.
While this may seem expensive at first, home theater risers are well worth the money, even on the lower end. The variance in price is largely due to the ability to build or buy a simple box, versus purchasing a riser with chairs and built-in lights and speakers.
If you are looking at the price tag and beginning to re-think your decision, consider the overall investment that you are willing to put into your home theater room.
When you consider the costs associated with the other technology, furniture, and decor that you have used in your home theater, adding home theater risers can seem like such a worthy (and cost-relative) investment. Here is a more thorough breakdown of what you are paying for with home theater risers.
Cost to Buy Home Theater Risers
When purchasing home theater risers as opposed to building your own, you can expect to pay a bit more, but it may be well worth it.
On the more affordable end, you can find basic, sturdy home theater riser platforms for as low as $75. This is a great deal if they are the right size and color for your needs, as this usually includes them being carpeted.
Of course, many people find that they would rather build their own at this rate- especially if they have specific dimensions that they would like to be included. However, building your own is not always an option (or a preference), so it might be worth it to invest a bit more into a higher-end home theater riser.
If you are in the market for high-end home theater riser platforms, you may consider paying more for the increased capabilities. The most expensive types are actually built into theater-style seating. This means you are really purchasing rows of chairs that are differing heights.
Check out my top recommendations for home theater chairs.
While this seems excessive, it can add a professional feel to your room and can offer its advantages. These chairs are usually recliners, with built-in cup holders, phone holders, and even speakers and lights.
Realistically, when you consider the cost of other home theater seating options, you might be able to fit home theater risers into your budget more realistically than you previously thought. Instead of them becoming an additional cost, they are just adding a slight expense to your previously known cost of home theater seating.
Cost to Make Home Theater Risers
Here is a video on how to make a home theater riser.
If you are more handy, or money-conscious, building your own home theater risers may be the best option for you. Personally, this is what I have done, especially early in my learning process. While this can save you money (wood isn’t that expensive), it can also have some awesome practical advantages.
Some of the advantages of building your own home theater risers are customizing the carpeting (or another source of flooring) to match your room perfectly, adding LED lighting on the sides for a very low cost, and customizing the specific dimensions to meet your home theater room’s needs.
When choosing the sizing, buying a home theater riser can really become difficult as they may not have the length, width, or height that you need available for purchase at the time that you are searching. So, if you are able to make your own, you can make them to be a perfect fit and style, optimizing the professional feel of your home theater.
Keep in mind, though, that you will get what you pay for here. So, if you are not handy, or you only pay for minimal and non-sturdy supplies, then you can expect this to show in your home theater risers. For those who would rather trust a professional for their home theater, then investing in high-quality home theater risers can truly be worth it.
Hiring Someone Else to Build them
If you are looking for a good in-between option of the above two, then hiring someone else to build them for you is a possibility. While it can be difficult to find someone who is willing or able to do this at a reasonable price, it can be well worth the effort.
Going this route is perfect for someone who wants to save some money, but is not handy or does not have the proper tools to get the job done. Hiring a local contractor (or their assistant) can be a perfect way to get a less expensive, fully customized, home theater riser that is professionally made.
When choosing to go down this route, it can be a good idea to show your contractor what you are looking for. Even if you are not sure of the specific dimensions that you will need (as this is what you hired someone for, right?), you can still show them a few pictures of other home theaters to help provide accurate expectations for both you and the contractor.
During this discussion, your contractor will be able to help tell you if your dream for your home theater is realistic, how much it will cost to build the risers, and what other features they might be able to incorporate into the risers such as lighting or specific flooring options.
Are There Alternatives to Home Theater Risers?
Oftentimes home theater risers can be desired, but may not be practical yet. This can be due to a number of reasons, but commonly it comes down to a time or money issue.
While you might have the capability of investing your time and money into making your home theater exactly what you want it to be from the start, you alternatively might have to wait until your budget resets to add in this feature.
Another reason I have experienced personally is having mismatched seating that does not need a consistent or fancy riser underneath.
Mismatched seating can actually help here when you want to have different seating options available for your guests- you will just have to accept that these might not have good height differentials that are optimal for viewing the streamed media.
Either way, here are some great alternatives to purchasing home theater risers.
Using Bed Risers
When I was living in my first apartment after my undergraduate studies, I had two couches in the front living room. In order to maximize space for the move, I had the couches facing the same direction. Once I realized I could use my bed raisers to get one couch higher, my roommates and I turned it into my first home theater.
As you can imagine, it definitely did not look like a professional home theater. But, it did get the job done.
My roommates and I were able to hoist up the back couch into a higher seating position, so everyone in the room was able to view the live sporting events being played by our Alma Mater. And, when it was not game day, then movie nights inevitably commenced with our friends.
Clearly, as I was just beginning my career, I was looking for a great, affordable option for a home theater riser. This option (using bed risers) is practical for anyone who is looking for an easy riser situation and does not care about the aesthetic appeal as much.
I do suggest making sure the legs of your couch will fit inside of the bed risers before you go spend money on them.
Getting a Dance Floor
Oftentimes, you can find old, small dance floors for sale on the varying marketplace or secondhand selling apps. This is a great option if you just need one riser and you have room to work with. Since they are usually larger (at least 8ft by 8ft), it is good to know ahead of time the largest box you can get and make work in your home theater space.
Of course, getting a dance floor might also distract from the overall decorative appeal in your home theater space. But, if you get creative, you can actually make this work pretty well.
Just be sure that if you are looking to bring a dance floor into your home theater as a riser, it needs to be tall enough to make a difference in your seating heights. Otherwise, it is not worth your effort.
Looking for an Old Platform
Similar to the dance floor idea, old churches that are selling or renovating may be using portable platforms. If you are able to find an old platform, they are often sectional (or can be easily cut into sections) and are made to last and hold heavyweight.
This can be an incredibly inexpensive option (depending on where and how you acquire the material and any transportation costs associated).
Along with that, this option can be customized when you begin to cut it into sections. Again, you will want to make sure that it is tall enough (or can be cut to be tall enough) to make the effort worth your time.
Purchasing Differing Height Seating
Purchasing differing height seating is a commonly done option for home theater seating. If you have a theater with tables, you can have some taller tables in the back with barstool style seating, and lower seats and tables in the front.
If you are able to get some bean bag chairs (Amazon link) or similar things for the front, you could then use a couch for a second row. The options here are limitless and can allow you to cheaply stagger seating in your home theater as you find the appropriate seats.
Just be sure that your guests on the floor will be able to stand up comfortably after having been on the floor for so long during a movie night.
Also read, 10 Cheap Home Theater Seating Ideas
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.