Dos and Don’ts of Cable Routing (Part 1)

Michael Brown

As I mentioned in a previous blog post , I’m in the process of building a new house. Since I’m starting from an absolutely clean slate, I’ll be incorporating many home-automation features into the design. Much of this technology will be wireless ( Intermatic Z-Wave lighting controls, for instance), but I’d be crazy to not string Ethernet cable throughout the house, too.

I would have loved do this work myself, but since it’s not something I do every day, I’m not very efficient at it. Besides, I already have a day job, and I didn’t want to delay the construction process. So I brought in a professional: Allen Wilson of Premier Telecom Systems. Allen is doing all the low-voltage work in the house: Ethernet, telephone, coax (for satellite TV), and speakers. I recently visited the job site to document his progress—and to pick his brain about professional network installation.

No matter how large or small your network is going to be, you should have a home-run location where all your cables will terminate. This Leviton Structured Media Center can be flush mounted, as seen here (when the drywall goes in, the opening of the cabinet will be flush with the finished wall) or installed atop sheetrock. This cabinet is 28 inches tall, which should be large enough to accommodate my current and future needs, and it includes a knock-out panel for a power receptacle at the bottom.

Many people install their home run in the garage, but since I intend to use my home as a practical product-testing lab for my work for Maximum PC , I’m locating this one in the closet of my home office.

The black bundle of cables is coaxial cable for satellite TV, most of the white cables are telephone lines, and the blue cables are for data. As is typical, Allen is using CAT5e for both data and voice traffic.Since he needed to run many more data lines than voice lines (we’re installing four independent phone lines, even though I might never use more than one), he cheated and used some of the white cable for data.

As you string each cable, label it so you know what it is (especially if you’ve mixed your color scheme), which room it goes to, how it should be terminated (with an RJ-11 jack, for tele

phone, or an RJ-45 jack, for Ethernet), and which patch block it will occupy at the other end. A Sharpie pen, with its indelible ink, is the perfect tool for this job.

Allen separated the coax cable, which will be used to carry video, from the data and voice cables. In addition to installing an enclosure that’s larger than I’ll need right now, Allen drilled an extra hole in the top plate so that he could install a third conduit in case I ever decide to run even more cable into and out of the enclosure. (Note: The bright light in the background of this shot is from a skylight that has not yet been boxed in.)

There’s much more to cover on this topic, so I’ll pick up where I left off in a future blog post.

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