Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
The Internet Upgrades Hardware

Wiring a House While It's Still Being Built? 172

digitalamish asks: "Back in 2001 Slashdot had this Ask Slashdot about wiring a new house for networking. Some of the comments in that discussion talked about running fiber vs cat5e. It's more than two year later, I'm starting to build a house, and I'd like to update this topic. So, what's the current state of people's thinking. Is good old Cat-5e still good enough, is fiber a better option? What about other options like Cat-6? Or with the state of wireless, is wiring a house even worth it any more?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Wiring a House While It's Still Being Built?

Comments Filter:
  • Some thoughts... (Score:5, Informative)

    by eric2hill ( 33085 ) <eric.ijack@net> on Friday March 12, 2004 @06:50PM (#8548076) Homepage
    1) Put one or two strands of CAT 5 and 1 COAX cable to each room for phones, TV, etc.
    2) Run CONDUIT everywhere. I can't stress this enough. DO NOT PUT ANY CABLES IN PLACE WITHOUT CONDUIT!!!
    3) Make sure and put conduit (empty is fine) in ceiling locations as well. You never know when you might want to install a multi-room audio system.
    4) Use 3" conduit in your entertainment room. You will want high-quality audio cables for a surround sound system, and they can quickly fill up a 1" or 2" conduit.
    5) Think about running your empty conduit to locations near power, so you don't have to run a bunch of extension cords.
    6) Fiber is an option down the road ('cause the equipment is so damn expensive), so don't do any tight conduit turns. This is pretty easy in a 4" stud wall.
    7) Run string in the conduits and tie it off on both ends. Running new cable is *really* easy pulling a new cable and string with an existing string. Repeat after me - "string is cheap".
    8) Run all your conduit to a central location (probably in the basement). You'll want a nice (rack even?) open area that you can mount equipment as well as patch panels, etc. Wire ties are your friend.

    Hope this helps!
    • by eric2hill ( 33085 ) <eric.ijack@net> on Friday March 12, 2004 @06:53PM (#8548102) Homepage
      Oh yea.

      Label *everything*. All gang-boxes should have a number corresponding to a number in the wiring closet. Every piece of cable you run should have a number or letter or color or whatever. When it's time to hook up a new phone or TV, you just look for wall plate 6 wire 4 downstairs and you're done.
    • That's even more complete than my message composed in the mysterious past... I like it!

      Empty conduit has the most bandwidth of all, except for that metaphorical station wagon loaded with backup tapes, of course.


    • Re:Some thoughts... (Score:5, Informative)

      by lambent ( 234167 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @06:58PM (#8548143)
      hear hear ... well said. As for string ... string dessicates. It will become brittle over time. Just use plain old insulated wire, instead.

      Also, keep in mind the fact that insects and rodents can't seem to resist those tasty tasty wire casings. There may come a time when some segments fail inexplicably.

      • Re:Some thoughts... (Score:3, Informative)

        by MikeDawg ( 721537 )

        I don't see why don't put any string down the conduit; with a run as simple as your conduit, simple electrician fish tape would be able to easily run along the conduit.

        • by lambent ( 234167 )

          If the conduit is mostly straight, yes. If, however, you have to do a 90 angle ... fish tape may work, then again, it may be a huge pain in the ass. Pulling is always easier than pushing.
          • Re:Some thoughts... (Score:4, Informative)

            by wayne606 ( 211893 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @09:47PM (#8549218)
            We had some work done and the contractors installed conduits as I requested but didn't put in pull-wires. There were some really awkward bends and I spent an hour trying to push the wire in using fish tape but I could never get it. Luckily there were some redundant paths and I gave up on that one. But the moral is to always get them to put in the pull wires for you...

            Also, I found that by default, contractors seem use cat5 wire for phone connections. Keep in mind that 10base-T uses only 4 of the 8 strands and phones use 2. So if they forgot to wire up a room for data but did put in a phone jack you can easily convert that into a (slow) data connection and 2 phone lines.
      • by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Monday March 15, 2004 @03:34PM (#8570977) Journal
        Also, keep in mind the fact that insects and rodents can't seem to resist those tasty tasty wire casings. There may come a time when some segments fail inexplicably.

        Good point. You should definitely keep sharks out of your conduits. []
    • Re:Some thoughts... (Score:4, Informative)

      by wfeick ( 591200 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @07:13PM (#8548263)

      What do you need in the next few years? Put that inside a conduit. Make sure the conduit is large enough that it'll be easy to add and/or replace cables down the road.

      I think fiber doesn't like to be bent 90 degrees, so build the conduit such that it makes gradual rather than sharp corners.

      Houses last a very long time relative to networking technologies, so you *will* be changing the cabling down the road. In 10, 20, or 30 years, 100T and probably fiber will be about as useful as RS232 is now.

      Of course, if current trends towards wireless continue, you'll end up abandoning the cables anyway. :-)

    • by ArmorFiend ( 151674 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @07:20PM (#8548315) Homepage Journal
      3) Make sure and put conduit (empty is fine) in ceiling locations as well. You never know when you might want to install a multi-room audio system.

      I'm torn on this. On the one hand I like being able to hear everything, on the other hand I like it to not sound like crap.

      Y'know when you go to a outdoor sports game and there's a lot of reverb to the announcer's loudspeaker-blared voice? That's because there are a lot of speakers and sound comes out of all of them at essentially the same time, but then travels to your ears along longer or shorter paths, causing you to hear fuzzed up sound.

      Obviously, it'll be better in a house, which should have more sound absorbers such as rugs and sofas, and unless you're building a mansion, we're not talking about little-leauge-field proportions, however, if I were an audiophile I'd stay far away from this.

      Or another though occurs: have motion sensors throughout the house which only turn on the speakers in rooms where people were last detected. That way if you have 8 rooms wired but only 1 person home, you get sound that follows you around, and no reverb.

      you can recycle the motion sensors for home security or MrHouse []
    • 5) Think about running your empty conduit to locations near power, so you don't have to run a bunch of extension cords.

      You don't really need conduit for power wiring; Romex is just fine and pretty cheap (where legal), and if you've already got a run of Romex to a box what do you need conduit for? However, you never want to run power wiring in the same conduit as copper data, video or audio cables (optical fiber is another matter). Aside from shorts and fire, cross-talk has the potential to put noise wher

      • Most local electrical codes require outlets every 6 feet along the wall anyway, so running empty conduit just for power would be unnecessary. I'd just make sure there are at least 4 seperate circuits coming from the breaker box to each room and insist on 12/2 for everything except for what 14/3 and 12/3 is meant for: 3 way light circuits. It's funny how people buy all */3 then wonder why it's against code to have 2 seperate circuits on 1 neutral.
      • Methinks you missed the point. He wasn't saying that the conduit would carry power. He was saying that the outlet for the conduit should be near a power outlet. It doesn't do any good to have the conduit come out 20 feet from the nearest outlet...
    • In addition to the fine advice presented above, I'd suggest avoiding 90 degree angles within your conduit. Flexible conduit would be even better, but it's sometimes cost prohibitive. One thing that I plan to do when wiring my house (looking to build later this year), is to choose strategic locations for wireless access points which will be in the ceiling of the house and garage as well as the front and back porch (please use encryption). Think about putting power into your attic or into closets which bor
    • Re:Some thoughts... (Score:5, Informative)

      by jungd ( 223367 ) * on Friday March 12, 2004 @09:48PM (#8549223)

      I just finished wiring up my new house before the drywall went up. So I though I'd add some tips.

      Firtly, I went crazy with Cat5 and thought - I'll never use all this, but just-in-case. Well - I after living in the house a few months - I don't have enough of what I want where.

      The suggestion about the cunduit is spot on - that's what I did also

      9) don't forget good 'ol coax. I've always had cable and switched to sattellite for the first time after moving. The first thing the installer needed was 3 coax cables running from outside into my distribution box. How many do you think I had? 2. So I still had to make another hole in the wall. Put plenty of coax in anywhere there isn't conduit.

      10) don't forget cables (or conduit) provision for IR. I had all my TiVo, cable boxes etc. in a central distribution closet. I had planned to have IR recievers wired to a single IR xmitter in that closet. What is the first thing my wife wanted after moving in? To watch a DVD in bed. Well, the DVD player was one thing that isn't in the closet (on account of needing access to put DVDs in). I had assumed just watching DVD in the living room would be fine. Nope, so now I needed a way to get composite video from the living room to the closet and out to the bedroom & to get IR from bedroom to living room). Luckily I had enough stuff in place - but only just. Make sure you run conduit to several places in rooms you use heavily. For example, to at least three walls in the living room.

      11) Also, I ran conduit over the fireplace so that I can connect surrount speakers without cables going around (in the future).

      12) If you're using X10 for automation, don't believe their claim of 1 signal booster per 1000sq/ft. I've had to buy 4 extra (at $99 each!).

      13) Don't forget you probably want video/phone/net at convenient places along the kitchen counter tops (for web recipes, TV while making dinner (so you don't miss anything) etc.)

    • That hit the nail on the head. If you do the conduit right, with nice big
      junction boxes at *all* corners, conduit running to multiple locations in
      every room, and so on, then you can run whatever kind of cable you want at
      any time in the future very easily. Audio cable, video cable, fibre, Cat12b,
      you name it, you'll be able to run it. What kind of network cable will you
      (or whoever lives there) want in fifteen years? Fifty years? You have no
      clue, right now. But you know it'll be easy to run it; take a sc

    • Make the string into loops that go up the conduit and turn around and go right back down. Give a few feet of slack on each end. Pull new cables with an assistant at the other end. The cable comes through like a dumb waiter on a pulley, and you don't have to figure out how to replace the string because you didn't just pull it all OUT to get the cable fed through.
    • Re:Some thoughts... (Score:5, Informative)

      by walt-sjc ( 145127 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @04:18AM (#8550577)
      The modern residential standard is 2 RG6U quad shield, and 2 cat-5e cables to each room. Some rooms you may want 2 sets of jacks for flexability in placement. When you think of all the issues with fiber and expense of termination, it just isn't worth it. Cat 6 is much harder to work with as the tolerances are much smaller. The gain over cat 5e is minimal.

      Careful about using 3" conduit, not to mention that you can't run it horizontally in a standard 4" wall. You are better off with multiple runs rather than one big one. Flexible PVC conduit is really nice because you don't use elbows, there are no splices, etc. Nothing to snag on and no sharp turns. Some code may require firestop putty at the ends of your condiut. Check your local building code.

      Second, keep your low-voltage cable at least 4 inches away from AC wires. Code says 2" minimum, but it's better to be safe. When you need to cross an AC wire, do so at a 90 degree angle to minimize interfearance and keep far away from flourescent fixtures.

      Use electricians pull string and Not standard string. It lasts longer, is very strong, and resists shreading.

      Wireties are nice, but don't cinch it tight. Velcro is better.

      Try and do all your runs on interior walls - it makes things easier when you don't have to deal with insulation and you don't puncture the vapor barrier. Use low-voltage boxes - these generally don't have backs to allow room for wires to get pushed back into the walls without kinking and to maintain a minimum bend radius. Leave about 18" of extra cable at each jack as a "service loop" - this is where not dealing with insulation Really helps.

      Take Pictures of your walls with all the cables / wiring / plumbing before the wallboard goes up! It makes changes MUCH easier later...

      Finally, check out Leviton's web site - while you don't have to use all their stuff, they have some products that make residential structured wiring easier.
    • by tf23 ( 27474 )
      A few comments on your advise...

      1) Put one or two strands of CAT 5 and 1 COAX cable to each room for phones, TV, etc.

      We've found that's overkill. We have rooms where none of the cable's been used. However, we ran 2 cat5e and one coax line to, minimally, all upstairs rooms. The upstairs are the hardest (IMHO) to do after the drywall's up. The first floor is easy because there's a basement under everything.

      If you're going to use the cat5 for your normal phones, be sure you have a seperate run of cat5 for
    • 1) one or two strands of CAT 5 and 1 COAX cable to each room - At least. Make it 3 or 4 for Cat-5.
      2) Run CONDUIT everywhere. - Agree.
      3) Make sure and put conduit in ceiling locations as well. - Agree. In our case, they put the wiring boards in the attic.
      7) Run string in the conduits and tie it off on both ends. - Agree, but use cable or something else that won't rot/break.
      8) Run all your conduit to a central location - Definitely agree. Having a centralized location for a patch panel means we
    • So...uh...should he use conduit? :-P
  • Seriously, wire it with anything you can afford to put in. Stick in Cat5e or Cat6 for now, as well as fiber for later. If you have the money, add in a nice a/v network (composite, s-video, and component drops to every room, as well as whatever else you like). Want to stream music to every room? No problem! Of course, you'll also want to run coax and normal phone line to every room, as well. It sure as hell beats running wire after it's been built. Also, stick everything in wiring ducts, so if you overlooked
    • normal phone line Can't you just run another Cat5 pair to handle this?
  • by El ( 94934 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @06:54PM (#8548105)
    Run wiring for 802.11g to all rooms now!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 12, 2004 @07:21PM (#8548320)
      Funny, obviously, but this may actually be worth considering. Depending on your building, you could have trouble reaching all rooms with good wireless coverage. Antennas dispersed throughout the house mean you get high speed connections everywhere and you can also lower the signal strength, which means you're less likely to attract freeloaders and you reduce radiation risks. Not that many geeks are afraid of a little microwave radiation, but you never know.
    • by lizrd ( 69275 )
      while the OP is being kind of silly, it's not something that should be ignored. It's pretty obvious now that local wireless is going to be something desireable for the forseeable future. As a result you're probably going to want network cabling to places where you might not actually like to have a PC. When my house was built 50 years ago it obviously didn't occur to the builder that I would need a data cable from by study (where my router and PC are) to the ceiling of the laundry room (where I get the best
  • Fibre? (Score:2, Informative)

    by NanoGator ( 522640 )
    How long do you plan on owning this house? Optical networking is just starting to trickle in, I wouldn't expect it to be common place for a few more years. Even when that happens, Cat5 will die a slow slow slow death. By then, you'll probably be using wireless anyway.

  • I have not actualy tried this, but it sounds good in theory. Don't just lay the wires in the walls, but actualy place them in pvc piping or some other type of tubing. Why? Because down the road when you want to remove the old wires, you can just pull them out and have them not snag on anything like nails or wall studs. Even better, you can attach your new cables to the old ones with tape or something, and as you are removing the old wires you will be pulling the new ones inside the pipe to immediately take
    • or you could do what the first post said, many times, and emphasied, many times. Use conduit :P
    • PVC = Bad Idea (Score:2, Informative)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 )
      its a good thought, but PVC has three main problems.
      1: it is heavy
      2: it likes to give off nasty fumes when burning
      3: its expensive
    • Re:PVC Piping? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Myself ( 57572 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @08:26PM (#8548784) Journal
      Bad idea. PVC fittings are made for liquid, not cable. They don't have a smooth internal surface, so things will snag up as you pull them.

      Secondly, the bend radius of small PVC fittings is so tight that pulling any moderately stiff wire will be awkward past just 2 or 3 bends. Conduit can be bent with much gentler sweeps for easier pulling and less cable damage.

      The stiff blue flexible plastic conduit is ideal for this, because it automatically sweeps corners as you install it.

      Handy installation hint: You can buy "cable lubricant" which makes long pulls go smoothly. Liquid hand soap works just as well.
  • conduit (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fat Cow ( 13247 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @06:59PM (#8548161)
    No great insights, but here's my opinion on a subject close to my heart.

    Wireless or wired? wired will always be better for security, bandwidth and robustness than wireless. Any encoding tech that is developed for wireless can be reused for wired in a better environment. The main disadvantage - installation cost - doesn't apply to your situation. Of course you should have wireless as well :)

    Fibre or Cat 6? Cat 6 - still the best price/performance. Notice that fibre didn't take over in the last 2 years, it probably won't in the next 2 either. But put in conduit so that you can pull anything relatively easily in future. Also, since you're at a point in the building process where it's easy to do, put in twice as many potential outlets as you think you'll need. It's so easy to do now and so hard to do later. Believe me - I've done it later :)
  • The answer is neither...or both...or something entirely different.

    Use smurf tube! []

    Instead of confining yourself to what's available right now, have your contractor run conduit through the walls for all your wiring except electricity. That will make it easier to swap out your cat5 for fiber or pull your POTS line when you go to VOIP.

    • Out here in Ohio, *if* they'd be willing to do that, they'd charge you *thousands* for it. Heck, they wanted $50 for each cat-5 run, and that's w/o conduit or anything special.
  • Do it now! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Überhund ( 27591 )
    When considering what cabling to run, just remember that it's way cheaper to run it now than to rip the walls open later and pay a carpenter to patch it all up.

    Basically, the cables will cost the same, but installation is relatively free right now.
  • I was just in Phoenix, AZ looking at model homes. Some of the builders offer networking packages. The ones that did only offered cat5 to some or all rooms. I'm going to move down there soon, and my house will be built with the networking package. After adding gigabit ethernet equipment I think I'll be good to go for at least a few years. They also offered stereo wiring, among other things us geeks dig like extra outlets, etc.
    • by tf23 ( 27474 )
      Have extra *circuits* done. Our 4th bedroom is on it's own circuit, and it's heavy duty too.

      That way I can have a number of computers on in here and not worry about blowing a fuse.
  • Cat5e is fine. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @07:11PM (#8548254)
    Just go with Cat5e; it supports gigabit speeds (GigE over Copper is dropping in price very fast), which is more than fast enough until you switch to wireless.

    Wireless is advancing at a pace that wired solutions never did; in just a few short years we've gone from 11mbit to 108mbit, with faster speeds and longer ranges in the cards for the future. By the time gigabit ethernet isn't enough for you, I'm certain wireless will be the solution you adopt.
    • Or, if Cat6 is cheaper, by all means go with that.
  • Run all your transports outside the wall interior to the rooms. Blue pipe for outgoing water, red for incoming. Plastic channel surface mounted raceways for communication links. Gray electrical conduit. Black mat painted hvac. Choose your own colors. Run things in parallel. Come together. Fan out. Make a statement.
  • Conduit (Score:2, Redundant)

    by billh ( 85947 )
    Run conduit. Everywhere. Run it all to the basement, if available. Run it to the attic, just in case. PVC is cheap, buy a lot.
  • by rudog ( 98586 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @07:19PM (#8548304) Homepage
    In -A LOT- of locales it is illegal for the soon-to-be-homeowner to do anything to the structure of the building during the construction phase. Cat5/Coax/Fiber communications cabling of any sort requires a low-voltage contractors license.

    TRUST ME, it is worth your time.

    There was a famous (ok semi-famous) case here in Phoenix where a guy went through all the work of getting Cat5+Coax run with conduit through several rooms of his custom home over the weekend. He came back the next weekend to finish the job only to find that the drywall was up in most of the rooms and everything he installed had been removed and junked by the General Contractor.

    Being just a little upset, he decided to try and sue the General Contractor to have them pay for his time and materials and to have the General Contractor hire a sub-contractor to put in everything after the house was done.

    The General Contractor filed a counter-suit for the cost of time and materials to remove all of the cabling the home-owner had installed, AND for the time and materials to replace all of the studs and beams he had drilled through to install all of the conduit.

    Not surprisingly the General Contractor won. Why?

    Because the home-owner wasn't. The house isn't actually yours until the final papers are signed on your final walk-through of the finished home.

    The funny part is that the Judge fined the soon-to-be-home-owner several thousand daollars for trespassing on private property and performing electrical work without a license etc. ON TOP OF awarding the General Contractor the damages they requested.

    Bottom line? He ended up paying about $24-thousand more for his house. And the General Contractor -refused- to allow a sub-contractor to install new cabling.
    • Cute story, and I'm sure that General Contractor is still doing brisk business after the story broke on the local news. NOT! It still sounds like a contrived story. Even if you don't "own" the house yet, the contractor is still getting paid with YOUR money. Many construction loans are structured such that the owner must approve each release of money from the bank to the contractor. If the owner is not happy, the contractor gets no money. Now, usually the contractor does ok just by sticking to the terms of t
      • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @01:41AM (#8550134)
        While I agree that the story sounds contrived, if the installation jeapordized an inspection's passing, the contractor would have been well within his rights to do what was described.

        Licensure isn't required, but you do need to have an agreement with the contractor to do work in the house before it is completed.
        • > if the installation jeapordized an inspection's passing, the contractor
          > would have been well within his rights to do what was described.

          True, but then again, with the exception of a few markets, I'd say passing inspection is a hell of a lot easier than it should be. I've seen stuff in my own house pass inspection that wasn't acceptable to ME, let alone an inspector. Yet it passed without mention.
    • not in my world (Score:3, Informative)

      by citmanual ( 2002 )
      Live in MI and just getting finished building my father's new house. My cousin, a licensed electrician, did all the electrical and I did the data. Low voltage in MI, at least, requires no permit, no inspection and no license.

      What this story is about is a guy who didn't bother to get along with the GC and was probably buying a spec house, not a custom build.
    • This is why the country is all messed up. Sure the homeowner doesn't 'own' the house yet but he's still using HIS own money ( borrowed or not ).
    • "...communications cabling of any sort requires a low-voltage contractors license."

      In union states. Always check local laws first as this is not always the case but you don't want to piss off the union if it is.
  • Power (Score:5, Informative)

    by cft_128 ( 650084 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @07:26PM (#8548354)
    As a side note, be sure to have enough power (circuits and outlets) in every room, even rooms where you have no plans for power hungry devices. Spare bedrooms can turn into a server room before you know it.
    • What he said. And double-check that hot is hot, ground is ground and that all are correctly wired. You will be needing more power than you suspect in each room, so you might as well wire it out while you have the chance. Put some 220 circuits in the garage, too, since you might want to use them in the future. Retrofitting is expensive.
  • cat6 (Score:5, Informative)

    by jjshoe ( 410772 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @07:27PM (#8548362) Homepage
    I say cat6 just because it is the latest. I use to think I would NOT have any phone outlets because I would use a multi handset phone system however I told myself i did NOT want wireless internet. Your big decisions should be wiring everything vs. wiring everything. Dont forget to look at re-sell prices when considering.

    As far as facilitating growth use metal studs on non-load bearing interior walls if you can, they have cables channels in them stock. If your past this point in the build conduit is your friend but make sure you talk to your building inspector to find out what the legal % of full limit is on conduit (for ex. %66 full). As someone else mentioned you should pull several strings with each chunk of wire so you can easily run more, just remember to run new string when pulling more cable! When you pull string it's important to bundle your wires together every 8" with the string NOT in this bundle. All to often folks run string but it runs through the middle of the bundle.

    For ethernet I recomend a 110 block. [] Label your ethernet on BOTH ends of the cabling using something like a p touch labeler [] and be sure to label your wall jacks AND the wall field. Dont be afraid to use the same wall field for phones.

    I have never done anything with running large amounts of coax or fiber so best of wishes there.

  • Central Vacuming (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JANYAtty. ( 678934 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @08:01PM (#8548633)
    While your at it, put in a central vacuming system. I know this is a little off topic, but since we're running tubing all over the house... You can add a vacuming kick panel in the kitchen- sweep dirt right into it.
    • Re:Central Vacuming (Score:2, Informative)

      by WeeBull ( 645243 )
      Mod parent up. No, seriously. I mean it. A friend of the family had to retro-fit one of these systems to their house after one of them developed a nasty asthma (or some other lung disease, can't rememeber). The central vacuming gets rid of the dust MUCH BETTER than a traditional vacum does, and thus makes your hourse a much nicer place to live for everybody - especially those with breathing problems!
    • We have a pretty good NuTone central vac in our current house. We're selling the house and it's a big selling point with some people, but frankly we never used it. I don't know if other systems are like this, but the NuTone systems have electrical power that runs to the vaccuum "head" via a cord running down the vac hose. The whole thing is extremely bulky and heavy -- the inconvenience of lugging it around is not really offset by the convenience of not using a regular vaccuum cleaner.

      Other systems may wor
  • by UserChrisCanter4 ( 464072 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @08:26PM (#8548789)
    I once worked for a company who worked exclusively with low-voltage systems like you are describing; essentially, we ignored electrical systems and focused on networking, home theater, automation, etc. My advice would be the following:

    Ignore fiber for now. Consider that CAT-6 has a reliable throughput at 1000Mbps. Cat-5e will allegedly also do 1Gbps, but CAT-6 is now almost as cheap, so I would definitely run with CAT-6. Now consider that unless you're running some sort of ludicrous colo system from your house, the most stressful load you'll put on that infrastructure is probably streaming HDTV. Over-the-air HD is ~27mbps, D-Theater (the stuff recorded on D-VHS tapes) is about 37mbps, so even at that we're talking about well over 20 simultaneous streams moving out of a central file server, assuming you have something that can sustain 1Gbps reliably. Run plenum-coated cabling, even if it isn't required in your area; again, it isn't too terribly much more expensive, but the safety issues aren't worth saving $200 on your project.

    The second problem with fiber is that you won't really know what type to run or how to terminate it. Unless we're talking about doing 1000 base-FX connections for existing equipment, do you run glass or plastic fiber? Multi-mode? Perhaps 1394b? What sort of connection should you terminate it with? Without any sort of consumer equipment to even build towards, your guess about any of those questions is as good as mine or anyone else on /. For these reasons, any suggestion that pushes you towards running conduit with pull string is one that needs to be modded up.

    One other recommendation about the CAT-6 or CAT-5e : Run way more than you think you'll need. In addition to serving as POTS pairs, lots of cool, esoteric devices out there can use CAT-5 for things you might want further down the road. I've seen KVM over Cat-5 systems, video distribution over CAT-5 (essentially, feeding a single video output from, say, a DVD carousel to a crapload of non HTPC-equipped TVs), and audio distribution systems (same idea as the video, but for whole-house audio). Using CAT-5 for some of that isn't the best solution by any stretch, but if you decide 5 years down the road that you really, really want whole-house audio and decide not to go conduit-pulling, it may make your life easy. Additionally, if you decide to do a PBX-style system (they have a lot of nice benefits, and there are some cool OSS implementations), most PBXes will need to use star topology systems like an ethernet setup, rather than daisy-chained systems like most POTS will be run.

    Pull some RS-232 to video source locations (ie. where you might put all your home theatre equipment), lightswitch boxes, and computer locations. X10 is some bootleg home automation equipment, but some of the serial controlled stuff isn't actually all that expensive, and setting up a home automation system is a really fun geek project.

    I would also recommend that you not neglect good quality Coax layout and runs in your eagerness for CAT-5 and Fiber fun. Satellite and OTA HDTV will both be easier to setup and rearrange if coax is home-run to the same point as everything else. Use RG-6, preferably Tri- or Quad-shielded cabling. Consider devoting a large-ish closet or basement area (if your region has basements). If the HVAC guys haven't come through yet, try to get them to put an AC and return air to a closet if that's where you want to put some stuff; that nice linux firewall box, mythTV server, networking equipment, and Home theater gear (if you decide to hide it) will thank you later.

    Someone else mentioned the issue of doing it yourself, and that's definitely one to be aware of. If you are buying your house from a large production builder (Pulte, David Weekley, etc.) they will not let you do any of this. You don't own that house until you close on it, and they can't risk your stuff not being up to code, or you suing further down the road. They WILL tear your work out. If you're usi
    • What the hell do you mean by RS-232?! While I can see some serial cabling, usually a little belden cable is all that you need (single twisted, unshielded pair).

      The whole idea of structured cabling is to provide a single cable that will do as much as possible... just putting in a 9-conductor cable that can't do anything else is a waste.
      • The experts say that RS232 actually doesn't like twisted pair cable, RS-485 however Does. This is why Cisco equipment ships with flat ribbon cable for the console cable. Saying that, I worked at a company MANY years ago where we used cat3 and cat5 cable to run hundreds of serial terminals hundreds of feet away from the terminal servers. We didn't have any problems at 38K.
      • I didn't mean to actually pull a fully-terminated-terminated-with-DB-9-connectors cable, just something that can usefully propgate a 232 signal over about 300' (the longest run a typical house under 4000 sq. ft. will have). Most of the time that does mean a proper 9 conductor cable, though (unless you're absolutely sure that every device you're ever going to use will only need to see a certain pin for data, and then you can ghetto-rig your crimp).

        I would probably disagree hairs with you about the idea of
  • Watch the money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bluGill ( 862 ) on Friday March 12, 2004 @10:38PM (#8549438)

    All the advice above is okay, but you can easily ad $30,000 in extras by following it, and you will never get it back when you sell.

    Figure out what you want and put it in. I'd go cable TV to each room, and a two runs of cat-5/6, one for phone, one for network. Wireless works great for a lot of purposes, use it!

    Put surround sound jacks in the rooms where you will use it - family room, and perhaps living room.

    Run two cable runs to the attic for future satellite and antennas. Hook them up if you want latter.

    Forget about conduit, it sounds nice, but will you ever use it? Even if you will, will it help? For a single story house it is easy to come up from the basement/crawlspace where you need wires. Even for a two story, do you really think you will ever want more wires in the bedrooms? For that matter I've been in houses that have been completely re-wired a couple times, and you can't tell from the inside. Wall spaces are empty, meaning they serve double duty as conduit.

    BUT WATCH THE MONEY. All these add ons cost money, a little planning will reveal that not much is likely to change, so why spend extra money planning for a change that won't happen? Instead plan for todays needs, and the obvious needs of the future, and counts on the far future taking care of itself.

  • Wiring is cheap at this point in the building process. Pull some Cat5e and fiber and be done with it.

    Or do you want to make it easier for your neighbors to spy on that nasty little pr0n habit you have? While those signals will have trouble getting from one corner of the house to the next (especially between floors) you can bet someone will be able to eavesdrop easily. Wireless security [] isn't very secure. Parabolic antenna not included. Quiet Ashcroft, I'm typing here...

    Sorry, anyway. Wired is more secure
  • What to do (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @12:09AM (#8549818)
    - Three RG-6 to every bedroom. You can use these to run Dish, DirecTV, or Cable. You want two in case you want a dual-tuner DVR. You can put HDTV (antenna) signals on the same wire as the satellite signals with an inexpensive diplexor. Digital cable doesn't play nice, so run a 3rd line just in case.

    - Four RG-6 for the main TV room. Two for a DVR, one if you want to add HDTV, one if you want digital cable.

    - Four Cat5e to every bedroom. Three for networking (gigabit), one for phone

    - Five Cat5e for the main TV room. Four for devices (XBox, DVR, Media Viewer, HTPC, etc.), one for phone (you can split it for multiple devices).

    - Terminate all lines at an MDF (wiring closet). If you have cable installed, have the line run here - you can use that line for your cable modem and/or conenct it to the RG6 lines for (digital) cable. Have your phone wiring run here - you can run it all over the house through your extra cat5e lines; you can also use it if you want DSL. Run lines from your satellite dish here; you can put your multiswitch here (it is indoors, climate controlled, has power, and every RG6 line terminates here - what more do you want) Make sure you have power here two; a 15A grounded outlet should suffice. If you have the room, you may want to put a file server here as well - make sure you have shelving that will support your gear. This wiring closet should have ventilation and heat like any other room.

    - Run all of your wires through 2" or 3" conduit. Avoid tight bends. Run string through for pulling future wires. You may want to upgrade later.

    - Label everything. Every plate should be numbered, every jack should be lettered. Use a letter to differentiate between coax/fiber/UTP. For example, plate 5, UTP Cat5e, jack 1 could be labeled 5UA. Plate 5, RG6 Coax, jack 1 could be labled 5CA. Punchdowns should be labeled accordingly at the MDF.

    - If you have a computer room or den, run extra cat5e. Perhaps up to five. Beyond five, it makes sense to put a switch in your den.

    - If you have notebooks, get an 802.11b (or 802.11g, if you want the bandwidth) access point. You can put it in your MDF.

    Because we wired our house like this, it was easy to switch the entire house from cable to DSL. No rewiring required. We could even switch from DirecTV to Dish or cable without much hassle.
  • I recently moved to another house. This place might as well have been built in the 16th century, because that's the last time the previous owners seem to have done anything to the place.

    If you walk into the attic, you can see the retrofitted electrical system running to various parts of the house. Which would be OK, except that none of it is modern or grounded, except for the kitchen, which is on a separate circuit.

    So I work off my laptop in the kitchen. My desktop is sitting in the corner collecting dust
    • I have really come to hate being in the kitchen like this. At least one parent is always doing something to piss me off. I need to be away from them.

      You're 18. Move out. Simple, eh?
  • Okay, I'm sure this comes off as a terribly silly question, but this has been a "pet problem" of my own. I've spent some time trying to figure out a easy way to make a house rewireable (just a mind game, not actually doing it at the moment), and figured that the best bet would be PVC or something similar in the wall with about a quarter removed and hid behind a waist-high panel running through all the rooms in the house.

    Once you have a bunch of cables already in conduit, how do you thread more? Wouldn't
    • by calyxa ( 618266 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @01:00PM (#8552060) Homepage Journal
      I always liked this story:

      Rattie, Judy Reavis's trained rat, is being used to string computer cables
      in hard-to-reach places in California school buildings. The rat clenches
      string in its teeth, and then follows the path of least resistance inside
      the walls, along ceiling panels and under floors. The rat goes to an exit
      point identified by tapping sounds and is rewarded with cat food. Computer
      cable is attached to the string and pulled through the path used by the
      rat. Dr. Reavis, a biophysicist and physician, was volunteering for NetDay
      2000, the school computer project, when a co-worker mentioned a failed
      effort to train a rat in wiring. Dr. Reavis thought of her adopted
      laboratory rat and built a maze of plastic pipe in her Benecia, California,
      home to train the rat. It took about 20 minutes a day for three months to
      train Rattie to negotiate the maze, avoid dead ends, and travel toward
      tapping sounds.

      Frederick Rose, "Need an Electrician? Here's One Who Works Both
      Fast and Cheap" The Wall Street Journal, May 6, 1997, B1
    • The conduit starts empty except for the pull-string.
      When the pull-string is used to pull a cable through, it also pulls a second pull-string through, so there is always a pull-string in the conduit.

      Yes, you do want an accessable junction box at every corner.

      Yes, eventually to conduit may be so full that you can't pull more through, but by then you probably want a bigger house anyway :-)
  • What I Did (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JediTrainer ( 314273 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @02:23AM (#8550254)
    I just moved into my new house just over a month ago.

    The builder allowed me to run network cable, after I signed a waiver (if I hurt/kill myself it's my fault).

    Anyway, the catch was that the builder, while nice enough to let me run network, specified that I was *not* to run conduit, nor any coax, nor any 'telephone cable' (yes, I know).

    In any case, what I did:
    -each of the 3 upstairs bedrooms got 2 boxes with 2 wires each; one cat5e, the other cat6.
    -family room also got 2 boxes with the same pair of drops each, PLUS speaker wire running from where the TV is to the place behind where the couch is going (note kitchen and family room are essentially the same room, and can share one of those boxes)
    -one box in the dining room with the same pair
    -one box in the living room with the same pair
    -all of the above came out of two 1000' spools. It was more than enough for my ~1700 sq.ft. home.

    The catch?
    -builder cut my speaker wire on both sides in the basement (bastards). Claimed it got in the way when they were installing the air-return duct. I have no recourse (since it was on their property at the time, right?)
    -network cable all went to the basement. ALL of it got unravelled and thrown in tangled heaps everywhere. ALL of it got unlabelled. No joke, I still have 5 wires that I need to identify. Again, no recourse.

    Moral of the story? Get an agreement from the builder to allow you to put stuff in... but don't expect that they won't mess with your stuff.

    On the other hand, while it is tedious to have to identify all the cable (and irritating that I have to splice my speaker cable), having the wires in the wall was the best thing I could have done. I'm reasonably happy with the outcome, and though I wish I could have gotten conduit in, I don't think I'll really need it - I'll probably move before I need upgraded cable. And yes, I DO plan on using my spare wire to run telephone (although the builder doesn't know that that's possible, don't tell them).

    Thus far I've only bothered to wire all of the upstairs cat5e drops. I presently don't have the need (nor the equipment) to run anything faster. I'll get around to the cat6 drops eventually. I keep the cable modem and the Linksys router in the basement.

    As for the lack of coax? No problem - I don't have TV service right now (nor a TV... yet). Don't have it, don't really miss it. However, once I do, I plan on having a nice MythTV setup, and since the server will be in the basement, having coax in the rest of the house should be unnecessary (though by default I *did* get coax installed by the builder in the family room and master bedroom).
  • How we do it (Score:4, Informative)

    by kengibson ( 761935 ) on Saturday March 13, 2004 @03:28PM (#8553046) Homepage
    Running in Conduit is nice...but very expensive. The stuff to use is around here referred to as Smurf Tubing due to its light blue color. I ran conduit all over the place but it is packed so tight that I will never get anything in without an amazing amount of work. In hindsight I would recommend running the tubing only to and from the attic and crawl spaces. This makes it relatively easy to make the long runs outside of conduit. One thing in favor of conduit is that in my house all of the walls (including interior) are insulated. Running cables through it without conduit is damn near impossible.

    Run 6 RG-6 quad shield cables to where the satellite dish would.should go. Think about when you want the cables to come out of the house in order to avoid eaves, etc... HDTV over satellite I hear needs 4 cables alone and running these cables after the fact is horribly ugly.

    In the house run Cat 5E for phone and data. In fact use RJ-45 female plugs for both phone and data. If you do things right in the wiring closet you can switch any jack from data to telephone (and vice-versa) without needing to punch stuff down. Running non-terminated fiber would be nice but when you need it 10 years from now who knows if the cable will be useful. I've seen houses wired with old Thick Ethernet ahead of time only to find out that its useless in a Cat 5 world.

    Locate your wiring closet somewhere in the center of the house and on the second floor if you have one. Put your WAP here for ideal coverage. In your wiring closet plan for some ventilation in case you are planning on putting a house server in it. A cheap bathroom fan on a timer to such the hot air out into the attic is usually enough. Avoid carpet for wiring closet as well due to static electricity. Doing a build-your-own rack is not expensive and looks nice. Just buy the rack-rails and have the framer build your opening.

    If you are going high-speed via DSL have the folks wire in the DSL filter in the home run. This keeps you from putting additional DSL filters on the line which can hurt performance. Leviton makes one for about $20.

    Wireless is great and should be considered during construction but it won't ever replace a physical line. Think about telephones. The cheapest hard-wired phone sounds better and clearer than the most expensive cordless phone.

    And finally, try and leave it to the pro' least the running of the cables. What you can and cannot drill is not obvious and the builder is likely going to jack the price a bit if you want to get in there and do it yourself. Cable jockies can run it faster and cheaper than you ever could and they pay much less for cables, jacks, and tools than we do. $3,000 to $4,000 built into the price of the home gives you a stunning amount of jacks and capabilities.

  • by DaRat ( 678130 ) * on Saturday March 13, 2004 @09:11PM (#8556463)
    Whatever you do cablewise, take pictures of all walls after the cabling has gone and and before the drywall goes up. With the pictures (properly labelled and identified), you'll be able to tell what is behind/in every wall in case you need it. I took pictures before my house's drywall went up, and I've found the pictures very helpful several times.
  • Get a 240V circuit installed if you plan on ever doing anything like this, and it will add to the value of a garage. 240V tools are much better and don't dim the lights - nowhere near the amperage draw.

    I'm looking at getting a TIG welder, I have a small MIG, and I'm going to need 240V. If I get a milling machine or lathe, more 240 needed.

    Something to think about that's not networking related.
  • If you are undecided on what to run ( id say stick with 2 cat-5 and 1 coax, that will be good for the next 5-10 years ), at least run a cable conduit ( the plastic ribbed stuff, not metal ) to every wall in the house. ( not each room, but each wall.. people do move furniture around )

    Then stick a box inside each wall to terminate the hose at at. And terminate the other end of the hose in the garage or basement..

    that way you can add as needed.. ( remember, soap is a great wire lubricant.. )

    Oh ya, DOCUMENT
  • Don't do it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Monday March 15, 2004 @01:17AM (#8565903) Homepage
    I had my house pre-wired in 1980 (back then, everyone, including the builder and electricians, thought I was nuts).

    My advice? Don't do it.

    For the cost of installation (in 2004 dollars), I could have upgraded my wireless infrastructure about a half-dozen times. Not to mention all the time wasted on the terminations, debugging dead lines, protection gear (all that wire is one big antenna), and interface equipment.

    With Ultra-Wide-Band offering gigabit speeds in a few years, it won't matter anymore. The components (video, speakers, stereo, etc.) can all be wireless. There's more than enough bandwidth with today's technology, and it's cheap.

    Get your price quotes for conduit and Cat5E/6 and all the rest, then compare it to what it will cost for a really good wireless implementation. You'll find that you can save quite a bit -- and use it to upgrade when the technology improves.

    This wasn't an option when I did my network, burglar alarm, media cabling and termination. Rather than go through the cost of upgrading that outdated cable, I moved most everything to wireless. I'll never go back.
    • You aren't doing the topic justice. What you should do is list the pros and cons of each choice. Wireless isn't perfect for everyone. It has cons: security and interference, for example. Yes, both can be addressed, but they are a non-issue with wire.

      I installed CAT 5e for next to nothing when my house was built and I am very happy with it.
  • "Service loops" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SomeGuyFromCA ( 197979 ) on Monday March 15, 2004 @03:37AM (#8566442) Journal
    Skimmed the discussion so far and didn't see this:

    Especially with long long cable runs, leave service loops - extra wire at each end - of maybe 2-10 extra feet of wire, depending upon how much you tend to use up when repairing a busted jack/plug/punchdown.

    There is nothing worse than having to run a new 50' line because the person who did it first ran *exactly* the amount needed, and then someone tripped over a patch cable and ripped the cable out of the jack and the jack out of the wall and there's no spare cable to fix the punchdowns on the jack...

    (Now, mind you, what I did *that* time was to put a new plug onto the in-wall wire, then attach a short length of spare cable to the jack, put a jack on the other end of *that*, and plug that into the in-wall. Kludge city.)

    sgfc, CCNA

  • Combo cable! (Score:3, Informative)

    by stungod ( 137601 ) <scott @ g l o b a l s p y> on Monday March 15, 2004 @01:48PM (#8569779) Journal
    When I build my own home (in a couple of years, I hope), I'll install this [] to all rooms. Instead of pulling a bunch of different cable, why not do 2XCat5, 2X Coax, and a fiber pair? This stuff is kind of expensive, ($1/foot at Home Depot) but when you consider what's contained in a single jacket, it makes sense. I would probably run extra service to the living room to accommodate the extra AV and computer gear, but a single run of this cable to each room is probably enough for most people.

    Honestly, I'm surprised nobody else has suggested this yet. I get a woody every time I see this stuff.
    • I was going to use this, but it's about 50% more than the cables by themselves. I only put 2x RG6 and 2x Cat5, and it was about $.50-.60 per foot. The one you linked to has fiber also, but I didn't feel it was necessary.
      I put in approximately 1 mile of cable including audio to every room, voice, data, and video.
  • If you are planning on supporting your company network from home, you will need to get your company approval before you can put their data on your home wireless network. Just because you have the technology at home doesn't mean that you have the right to broadcast company data all over. This is especially true if you work in a medical environment with HIPAA. JHMO.
  • by Adam Schumacher ( 267 ) on Tuesday March 16, 2004 @11:29AM (#8578333) Homepage
    Cabling isn't our core business, but is a service we offer and that I have been trained to perform. So, here are some points you may want to consider:

    1) Conduit, conduit, conduit
    It's been said before, and I'll say it again: install conduit, and lots of it. At least 1" to each single-gang box. If you have an unfinished basement or drop ceiling, it's always easier when you can run the conduit straight down, and put a box at the bottom to act as a pull point. Pull string. String is cheap, save your money.

    2) Don't overwire.
    Once the conduit and string are in, installing extra cables is a trivial task. People here are saying to run 3 or 4 cables to a room even if you don't foresee using them. That's wasting money. Why drive up your capital costs unnecessarily? What if the cable specs change before you need the cable? What if you never use it? What if you want to pull in a different media, but the conduit is full of Cat5e you'll never use? String is cheap, save your money.

    3) Don't clump.
    Unless you are planning to have the Mother Of All Multimedia Systems, or otherwise know for a fact that you will need a dozen connectors running to one piece of furniture, resist the urge to use a two-gang box. If you do this, you will more likely than not end up running patch cables halfway around the room. Instead, put two single-gang boxes on different walls. With a good modular termination system, you should be able to fit 6 modules on a single-gang faceplate.

    4) Don't use Cat5e for phones.
    Cat 3 is cheaper, and more than sufficient for telephones. A 1000' box of 4-pair Cat5e costs $150 CAD. A 1000' box of Cat3 costs $50 CAD. If you haven't already decided the purpose for a cable, don't pull it. String is cheap, save your money.

    5) Invest in a good modular termination system
    We use Panduit [], but go with what works for you. Avoid IBDN, they're bloated and expensive.

    6) Avoid combo cable
    It's a waste of money.

    You may want to have the cables and conduit professionally installed, or just the conduit, or do it all yourself. I would personally recommend at least having the electrician install the conduit, but whatever you choose, make sure you specify exactly what you want, where you want it, and inspect the work before the walls go up. Particularly if you have the electrician pull the cables, some of the less reputable contractors tend to "forget" to install conduit, since they assume you won't look in the walls until it's too late. (No offence to any electricians reading, I'm sure 95% of you are good honest workers, but there are enough bad apples that it's important to see the work for yourself.)

    - Adam

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian