Home Wiring Project
Mon May 31st 2004, 4:17pm
Here are some photos and some commentary on my recent efforts to wire up my house with ethernet, phone, and video in every room. The whole point of this was to be able to move my wireless access point downstairs (where I was hoping I'd get a better signal), to provide phone for our current Tivo series 1, and to provide network for my Xbox, a possible future Tivo 2, and whatever future home media appliance I might install.

As these things always go, it was a LOT more work than I thought it would be--in fact, I expected it to be more work than I thought it would be, and it was even more work than that! :-). Really the hard parts came down to the physical labor--it's easy to visualize what I wanted, but actually implementing it is another story. I'm not even sure how much money this cost me, or how much time it took. I had to buy a lot of supplies, and they were more expensive than I anticipated, and of course there are the one-time expenses of all those tools you need but don't already have. As far as time, I spent several weekends and nights after work getting all this done.

To make things easier, I broke the project into several phases:
  • Phase 1: Identify desired locations of wall jacks and cabling routes.
  • Phase 2: Purchase required tools, equipment, and supplies.
  • Phase 3: Cut/drill holes.
  • Phase 4: Run cabling, manage cabling.
  • Phase 5: Wire up and install wall jacks.
  • Phase 6: Mount wall bracket, wire up patch panel, mount switch and shelf.
  • Phase 7: Run phone and video into attic and splice in.

Phase 1: Identify desired locations of wall jacks and cabling routes.

The first task was fairly easy, given I already knew where I wanted what, and that was driving this whole project. I wanted to install network and phone behind the entertainment center in the family room (there was already video), and I wanted to install all three behind the piano in the living room. What finally occurred to me after a while of agonizing over the near-impossibility of drilling down two stories from the attic, was that both these locations share a wall with the garage, and that the closet in the office upstairs (where I wanted to run everything) is right above the garage. So I realized, forget the attic--I'll run everything through the garage and just try to make it as neat as I can.

Wiring the master and both bedrooms upstairs will have to wait for another time (soon, hopefully). For these I will want to drill down from the attic.

Phase 2: Purchase required tools, equipment, and supplies.

I had most of the basic household tools, hammer, screwdrivers, electric drill, etc, but I needed to obtain some more hardware supplies:
  • Drywall saw
  • Drill bits of various sizes (1/2", 3/4", and 1")
  • 12" drill extension.
  • Junction boxes
In the networking department, I needed:
  • Lots of Cat6 cabling, at least 300-400 feet.
  • Plenty o' modular wall jacks.
  • Several 4 port wall plates.
  • A 19" wide, 12" deep, 4U wall-mounted bracket.
  • A 12 port patch panel.
  • A rack-mountable, 12-16 port switch.
  • A shelf.
  • Plenty of zip ties.
  • Lots of adhesive cabling mounts.
  • Wire stripper.
  • Punch tool.
  • Electrical tape.
I took this picture early on, so some things I used are not pictured (like the 12" deep wall bracket--I returned the 4" deep one pictured, and I returned the electric blue ethernet cable and bought white):



A bunch of this stuff I bought at Fry's because it was a Saturday when I wanted to get started, and none of my favorite shops were open (Beach Wire and Cable, Graybar). This ended up being a mistake, not just because Fry's is such a nightmare, but also because I ended settling on a couple items (wall bracket, cabling) and paying more than I could have off Amazon (Dlink switch). Fortunately, and I'll give Fry's credit, they took these items back with no questions. Afterwards I bought everything I needed from Beach Wire, where I got exactly what I wanted.

Phase 3: Cut/drill holes.


Here's the first location in the family room, behind the entertainment center. If I'd been more on the ball I would have done this before we had the unit installed, but that's how things go. Since there's only 3-4" of open space behind it, I really had no choice but to put the wall plate right in the middle. I figured the TV will cover it so that's okay.
I just made the first cut, and it's at this point--when you begin destroying your home--that you really hope you know what you're doing :-). This was a difficult cut to make since I was shooting blind, hoping I would have a clear path to the garage wall, some 3-4 feet away, passing through an open space within the walls of the house.
Aww, @%$#! What's this behind the wall?! Turns out I ran right into a large wall of concrete. I need to be more to the left, but there's a large stud blocking my path. I'll need to make another cut more to the left. Too bad, since I really wanted the jack to be more to the right, so it would be less visible in the room.
Okay, second attempt made, and the goof from the first attempt partially patched up. This cut however proved to be successful, I was able to run this long, wooden stick into the garage. Hooray!
Other end of the stick coming from the family room.
The cut in the living room ended up being much more straightforward, as the garage was clearly on the other side of the wall, just 4-6 inches away.
Garage side of the living room cut. No issues.
Here's the hole I just drilled into the floor of the closet in the office upstairs, the hub to where all the cabling will run. Afterwards, with the 12" drill extension, I was able to successfully drill down through the ceiling of the garage.
The garage side of the cut from the office, with an outlet box frame installed.
The whole idea is to run cabling from the family and living rooms through the garage up through that hole. You can see the water heater to the right (with the wooden stick coming from the family room). The run from the living room (behind us) will pass overhead.
There was one more hole to make in the office closet, and that is through the ceiling to run phone and video cabling up into the attic, where they can splice into the cabling that I know exists up there. That'll be my last phase though.

Phase 4: Run cabling, manage cabling.


Since I only had one box of cabling, I had to run one to figure out the length, pull it back, cut however many I wanted to length, then pull them all again. Here's the first run.
Horray, success! I was able to fish the cable up into the office.
I now have four cables cut to length and am fishing them through.
Here you can see how I've tried to neatly manage the cabling (view the enlargement). I used these adhesive 1x1" square mounts, with little slots to run zip ties and hold your cabling, and put them every 18 inches. They worked pretty well.
Here I've started zipping down the run from the living room. I put it behind this beam we have in the garage to try to hide it.
Here you can see both family and living room cable runs tightened down and running up the hole to the office.
At this point, I just have a bunch of cabling spilling out of the floor in the office.
Lots of excess cabling. I certainly didn't want to run short :-).

Phase 5: Wire up and install wall jacks.


Here you can see I'm stripping the cables and punching them down into wall jacks. The blue jack is for the cable that will be phone.
All done, and it looks good! Also, you can see I've finished applying spackle to the goof on the right, with a little bit of paint and sanding you'd never know :-).
So at this point, I'd been working on this project for a while, and really wanted to get some payoff. So I crimped one of the cables upstairs, plugged it into my switch, and did a few tests with my laptop.
Wow! Everything looks great! In the right window I'm doing tcpblasts to a system on my network inside a while (1) loop, and on the left I'm watching netstat -i 1 to look for any errors. None found--everything looks great!
So finally, and triumphantly, I moved my Airport Extreme wireless access point downstairs, and began enjoying better signal strength (actually, this didn't end up being the panacea I'd hoped for, and leads to a different story which I'll post later).

Phase 6: Mount wall bracket, wire up patch panel, mount switch and shelf.


At this point I took a break for this project a while, since at the moment I had working access downstairs, never mind the waterfall of cable in the closet. However I was already making plans to put my own personal, wall-mounted rack above the closet shelf.
Here I've centered and mounted my rack mount U bracket. Just behind it you can see a slightly larger piece of pressboard I obtained from the good people at Lowe's, who cut for me a custom-sized piece from some 1/2 inch scrap they had lying around. I painted it, then attached it to a stud in the wall with 4 wood screws, then attached the bracket to it, which will make everything quite sturdy.
Here I've cut to proper length and begun punching down the cabling from the family and living rooms into the patch panel.
I've finished punching down the cabling, and now I've attached the switch and a 10" deep shelf. Unfortunately the genii at Dlink spaced their holes incorrectly so I had to fudge it a bit. The shelf will hold my cable modem and NAT router.
Here's the finished product. A neat and organized network hub for my house. I need to clean up those nasty cables on the right, and probably get shorter patch cables than those blue ones (6" ones would probably do), but I'm working on it :-).
While I was at it I mounted a convenient power strip just above.
Here's a view of it from a step back. You can see those nasty cables on the right run to systems in that room, and the cables on the left will be going up into the attic in the next phase.

Phase 7: Run phone and video into attic and splice in.

I don't have any pictures from this phase, all I did was run those loose cables on the left in the last picture up through the hole in the ceiling of the office closet into the attic. Up there, I spliced each into the phone and TV cable that was conveniently running just above. One thing I must point out to anyone thinking of working in their attic: be sure to wear a protective filtration mask. I spent about 5-10 minutes up there, crawling around, stirring up fiberglass dust from the insulation, before I could stand it no longer. I came down, blew my nose and all this black stuff came out :-). So I went to Lowe's and bought a mask, and was able to spend the required 20-30 minutes up there with no problems.

Summary

It's been a lot of work, but I finally have network, phone, and video everywhere downstairs like I've been wanting for a while. Still to do is wiring the master bedroom, to accommodate the Tivo we have in there. This will require drilling down the walls from the attic, and already I know from my time up there it's going to be cramped and difficult. To be continued.



Visitor comments
On Mon May 31st 2004, 9:21pm, erikburrows posted:
Good job Steve, it looks great! I especially like the mini wall-mount rack/cabinet thingy you used. Very clean, very professional. Houses should be built like this!


On Mon May 31st 2004, 10:49pm, Steve Kehlet posted:
Thanks Erik! I also think the wall mounted rack was the highlight of the project. If I had to do it again I'd probably get a taller one to accommodate more shelves, wire management, etc--but then again 4u is nice and compact. I agree, all houses should come prewired like this. Unfortunately for me, while we bought our house new five years ago, it already had all the drywall up before we ever saw it, so there was no way to add network cabling then. I've heard that many modern tracks are doing this though (e.g. Ladera Ranch)--lucky them.


On Fri Aug 27th 2004, 9:16pm, Kindigulous posted:
Steve: I enjoyed reading all about your project here and the details that you included (e.g., the part where you encountered the concrete!). I learned about a new place to get network hardware (i.e., Beach Wire & Cable). How much did you spend on the cable? Where did you get your Cat 6 Patch Panel? What was the frustration you encountered with the AirPort? I bought an AirPort Express the other week. I had originally thought about purchasing it for a number of cool features (e.g., range extension, streaming music to our Bose stereo, and possibly connecting a photo printer). However, I guess I didn't read enough of the details. You MUST HAVE an existing 802.11g network to extend the range of your existing network. All the other features are backward compatible. Nice little box, too. OS X 10.3.5 is a little slow on The Cube, but thinking that I might invest in a faster (and larger) HDD and some additional 133 SDRAM. I purchases two external LaCie HDD: one for audio (13K+ songs) and one for visual (iMovie and iPhoto). I'm scanning all of our family photographs and distributing them to verious family members. In iTunes, there is an additional field called "Grouping." I use this field as a sub-genre (e.g., go to http://www.allmusic.com/ and see the field called "Styles." This way, I can narrow playlists down a little further (e.g., Classic Rock, Trip-Hop, Neo Traditionalist, etc.) It's something even the folks at Ubernet.org can't do. Hurray Apple! *smile*


On Sun Aug 29th 2004, 1:18pm, Steve Kehlet posted:
Hey Kindig! Glad you enjoyed the post. It really was an adventure (and a lot of work!) getting the downstairs wired up, but it's been extremely worthwhile. I no longer have any problems with wireless reception since being able to place two base stations downstairs. The frustration I encountered with my Airport was when I found that moving it downstairs improved, but did not completely remedy my interference problems. I then went out and bought a cheapy Linksys WAP54G and was a bit chagrined to find it had a consistently better signal than the Airport, at less than half the cost! Of course, it's not nearly as stylish as the Airport :-), which actually fits in my living room as a piece of furniture; in the family room I've hidden the ugly Linksys behind the TV set. Now with two stations downstairs, the signal is excellent throughout the house. Beach Wire is a great place, the guys there are friendly and can help you pick out stuff you need over the phone. Only downside is the place doesn't have an on-line catalog. I think I paid about $120 for 1000 feet of high quality Cat6. The Cat6 patch panel I picked up at Fry's, though you could certainly get it at BW. The Airport Express looks pretty cool.... very handy little base station. I think I also read that (without some hacking) it can only extend the range of other Airport base stations. I love Apple's i-apps too, glad to hear from a fellow Apple user enjoying his Mac!


On Mon Oct 22nd 2007, 7:16pm, Visitor posted:
juat make your house wireless it's more easier then cutting holes


On Thu Nov 15th 2007, 6:48pm, bisbebri posted:
Could you list a parts list, specifically the rack mount.


On Sun May 11th 2008, 4:18pm, Link posted:
I got something very similar to this in my house.. but a little more advanced, because I live in a pretty large house lol.. cost a fortune though, and took about a week or two.. I don't exactly remember since it's been a while.


On Sat Jul 12th 2008, 8:25am, Visitor posted:
Fiber Optic Pacthpanels Features -- Technical information --
http://fiberoptic-cable.blogspot.com/2008/02/fiber-optic-patch-panel-19-rackmount.html


On Fri Oct 23rd 2009, 12:14pm, James posted:
I dont like beach wire much. If your in orange county I usually go to www.Discount-Low-Voltage.com


On Fri Oct 23rd 2009, 12:16pm, Visitor posted:
I like www.Discount-Low-Voltage.com a bit better than beach or graybar. Especially if your in orange county