Wiring Cost - Need Input for Builder Negotiation - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 10-20-2013, 08:13 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm in the process of building a new house and have been through alot of hassles with the builder already on pricing of various options (not necessarily A/V related). On the A/V front, the builder is forcing me to use his electrician who is not necessarily an A/V expert, but I'm hoping to save money where they will just run speaker wire to certain drops and I can buy/install the speakers myself. I have communicated 20 speaker locations to the electrician, all using 16/2 wires run back to a central location within 50-100 ft, and will expect pricing back on this within the next couple days. I don't need exact numbers, but would really appreciate a few opinions on how much you think is reasonable to charge on a per unit/speaker basis. I would just like some sort of baseline for negotiating with the builder because I'm confident that he will come back with something outrageous.

Just a a reference, in the initial contract, the builder was going to charge $500 for 2 speaker drops on the lanai without the speakers or any sort of volume control. I'm just imagining that he'll try to extend this pricing out to charge $5000 for the 20 speaker drops proposed and I think that sounds exorbitant. I'd love to say that I have several independent sources saying the cost should be closer to XX/speaker.

Separate, lower priority question -- included in the contract is Cat5e/6 and RG6 wiring to every room. I'm of course pushing to get at least 3-4 Cat6 runs to every room. Obviously there is extra materials cost, but wouldn't the labor be a relatively minor increase since you a just duplicating existing runs? Curious about opinions here too.

Thanks in advance for any replies! I'm sure I'll be coming back for more advice on the components once I get the infrastructure figured smile.gif
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post #2 of 7 Old 10-20-2013, 09:25 AM
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You don't give your location, which will be a big factor in the cost...

Your best bet will be to contact other builders, especially tract-home sales centers, to get local quotes for single LV wire "upgrade" costs. I've seen them locally and from folks on the forum range from $75-125 per wire run. $500 to do pre-wiring for 5.1 surround is not uncommon, either (though that's high for simple stereo WHA pair).

Pulling multiple category wires to the same location does take more labor than a single wire - and pulling 3-4 will require 3-4 spools to do correctly, which takes effort. No, it's no where near the effort of doing 3-4 separate runs, but I wouldn't expect the builder to say it's free, labor-wise - but a >50% discount on a per-run change would be reasonable...

On your speaker runs, are they going to loop through a keypad location? Do you have cat5e/cat6 runs planned to keypad locations?

In the end, though, you're probably going to be stuck - telling them they're overpriced compared to the competition or what you found on the Internet isn't going to matter much. As LV wiring was very important to me, I avoided this issue by discussing the topic long before any contracts were signed. And while I did some wiring work myself, I provided a full punch list to the LV contractor and asked him for a simple labor-only quote "for the lot" (not a per-wire price). He gave me a very reasonable quote and I supplied all the materials.

I'd also suggest you have a backup plan - prioritize the runs based on what's inaccessible after the drywall is up, and also ask the builder how much to install flex conduit to many of those locations. Lots of folks have reported the conduit costs to be similar to a single wire run - so if they can't negotiate multiple wires - just run them yourself afterwards using the conduit!


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post #3 of 7 Old 10-20-2013, 11:02 AM
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The price is ridiculous. I'm in the Washington DC area, which is one of the more expensive areas, and it's about $120 per speaker run.

FYI - At speaker run distances you are typically using, I would recommend 14/2 or 14/4 wiring. 14/4 is far easier to manage at the equipment rack overall since you are dealing with half the wire runs. Jumper from one speaker to the next one using a single wire instead of two separate wires. It brings down labor costs and overall should bring down wire costs.

But, I would think that outside the builder adding 20%+ to the cost, this should run about $80-$100 per wire.

I know that's how much I paid per wire run when I had my last house built about 8 years ago. ($80 a wire, including trimout of phone/network boxes)

I have personally worked on homes built by other builders and you can ask them, or go to management, about other options for your low-voltage wiring. It was actually a conversation I had prior to even sitting down with the builder on my last home to ensure they could run the wires I needed and the cost associated with it. They delivered which was nice, but I keep hearing horror stories from builders that don't deliver, don't budget, and have zero common sense.

Also, electricians are typically (not always) clueless on this and you really want to consider conduit, and your entire home system and ask questions here and describe your setup so you can get some decent advice for what you are hoping to achieve so you can get a good plan together.

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post #4 of 7 Old 10-21-2013, 08:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks so much for the input ... this is exactly what I was expecting and provides a good baseline for my discussions with the builder. I do like the idea of using 14/4 wires, so will likely push for that. I was talked out of the keypads and into just using tablets or extra smartphones for remote controls. I know this isn't ideal, but we are trying to control costs and this could be a decent opportunity for savings. On the conduit question, I am getting pricing for runs from the central A/V closet to at least 2 of the main zones. My main thinking for that was for running HDMI or similar cables, but it is a great point that this could provide savings on speaker wire runs possibly too.

Thanks!
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post #5 of 7 Old 10-21-2013, 03:30 PM
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I am fairly sure the op is in Hawaii.
If that is the case, then the pricing will be higher per run due to the increased cost of shipping to Hawaii.

But $500 is a touch much imo.

Maybe also get some pricing from a local a/v company as more info in your talks with your builder.
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post #6 of 7 Old 11-14-2013, 07:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Update - the electrician came back with a much more reasonable quote on speaker wires at about $75-80 per wire. Now I have to decide on the Cat 5e/6 wiring which is $115 or $70 per wire respectively. Based on all of the input here, I was planning on doing 3-4 Cat6 runs per tv location -- 2 for tv/hdmi, 1 for LAN, and 1 for extra. But now I am questioning whether I truly would need hard wired network access at all the locations and pay for the extra "future proof" cable. I'm now thinking just two Cat6 lines to each room that should suffice for just tv or possibly tv and data. On my most critical run, I will also have a conduit as a backup plan. We're talking about 6-7 non-critical locations, so this could save me $700-1400 now that can easily be used on more immediate needs. Am I being penny wise and pound foolish? Why wouldn't 2 Cat6 cables work for most rooms (e.g., kids rooms)?

One other question -- 2 of my tv locations are outside and they are long runs from the central closet so I was planning to run hdmi over Cat6. I really have no need for LAN jacks outside, so do I need to play it safe with 2 Cat6 drops per tv, both reserved for hdmi?

Thanks again for all the help!
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post #7 of 7 Old 11-14-2013, 10:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dst View Post

Update - the electrician came back with a much more reasonable quote on speaker wires at about $75-80 per wire. Now I have to decide on the Cat 5e/6 wiring which is $115 or $70 per wire respectively.

I assume he's charging more for cat6, correct? The tradeoffs between running "more" cat5e vs. "less" cat6 is a tough one. I would probably lean towards more wires, but a mix of say one cat6 and the rest (to each TV location) as cat5e might be the best compromise. I don't see, IMO, anything on the horizon in the next 3-5 years that would require cat6 in your house. Longer term than that, I doubt it, but predictions out much further than that become guesses... My reasoning is that most folks have been installing cat5e for a decade, anyone building a product to work in anything other than future-new-construction had better make it work on cat5e if they expect to sell any of them...
Quote:
Based on all of the input here, I was planning on doing 3-4 Cat6 runs per tv location -- 2 for tv/hdmi, 1 for LAN, and 1 for extra. But now I am questioning whether I truly would need hard wired network access at all the locations and pay for the extra "future proof" cable. I'm now thinking just two Cat6 lines to each room that should suffice for just tv or possibly tv and data.

If you're planning to distribute HD soon, 3 cables would be a good minimum. If that's just a future plan, 2 is probably enough (assuming HDBaseT and one other use). You should absolutely plan for hard-wired networking, though, as it will always be cheaper and more reliable than any wireless solution(s).
Quote:
On my most critical run, I will also have a conduit as a backup plan.

Good.
Quote:
We're talking about 6-7 non-critical locations, so this could save me $700-1400 now that can easily be used on more immediate needs. Am I being penny wise and pound foolish? Why wouldn't 2 Cat6 cables work for most rooms (e.g., kids rooms)?

For non-critical locations, I would first make sure you have good coverage in the rooms with cat5e. Meaning, can you get to any area/wall in the room big enough to hold furniture with a cable strung from the outlet without crossing a door frame. From there, adding more wires at the display locations would be the next priority.
Quote:
One other question -- 2 of my tv locations are outside and they are long runs from the central closet so I was planning to run hdmi over Cat6. I really have no need for LAN jacks outside, so do I need to play it safe with 2 Cat6 drops per tv, both reserved for hdmi?

I would recommend you keep your wiring consistent at all display locations. "Long" cables in most houses aren't really that long - under 100' won't push you to cat6 requirements by itself.

Jeff

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