So I just finished a whole-house wiring project (3000 sf, 27 CAT6, 17 RG6, 9pr Speakers), and I wanted to write the idiots tip list that I wished I had when I started.
I am NOT a professional, and the following 20 tips are just classic lessons learned by doing and reading and making stupid mistakes. I hope it helps someone!
1. Protect all exposed wires. Stuff it in the wall, cover it with a plate. I left a wire sticking out of the floor for a port in the kitchen island. It was trampled by the contractor's guys, who assumed it was Romex and indestructible. It was finally and fatally nicked by the flooring guys. Stuff it in and cover it
2. It takes two. You cannot do long, in-wall runs of wire with just one person. I had to re-run 3 lines because they got nicked in the pulling. Get a friend.
3. Oversize the holes. Check with your contractor for the rules, but make the biggest hole that is legal. I started with 5/8 holes and eventually just did 2" wherever I could and 1" everywhere else. Again, there are rules, so you can't just take drill any size, anywhere, but learn the rules and make the holes big.
4. Plan your runs. If you are building the house from the ground up, PLAN ALL YOUR RUNS! The unpleasant combination of steel beams and slab foundation made it cripplingly difficult to get runs from one side of the house to another. Had I run a few lengths of 2" through the slabs, it would have cut my time by 2/3 and I would have had better runs.
5. Talk to the electrician. I let him wire first, presuming that he would not be sensitive to my needs. Unfortunately, I did not talk through my runs, and he ran romex down both sides of every joist bay in some areas. I helped him re-route to give me a path, but I could have marked a few main runs and saved both of us a lot of trouble.
6. Think plywood, not structured media panel - I am using a Leviton panel inside a small wiring closet in the basement. I wish I had just mounted plywood. I am spending a small fortune on mounts and such and would have had an easier time buying standard patch panels and screwing it to the plywood. The closet has a door, so I don't need a recessed box. If the area is exposed to the room, the structured wiring panel is a great option.
7. Use speaker drilling brackets. Many manufacturers have brackets you can install prior to drywall that serve as a template for in-wall and in-ceiling speakers. I used them in the kitchen, but otherwise thought they would be a waste of money. That was a mistake. When the walls are open, you can resolve issues of lining up openings around the room in a way that accommodates existing framing or make modifications while the walls are open. Once the walls are closed, cutting a hole for a speaker is trivial. Placing the holes to avoid the framing is a royal pain.
8. Run empty smurf tube - I did all my wiring directly through the walls, then I ran flexible conduit next to the major runs. I left the conduit empty with mule tape inside. I have already used it, and the house isn't even done!
9. Get a powerful right-angle drill. I cheaped out and got the mid-range Milwaukee. $40 more would have helped me get through some very hairy runs.
10. Selfeed drill bits are a miracle. They are like a gift from the lord himself. Learn how to sharpen them, as I did every night.
11. Get a spool holder, and buy your wire on a spool. Box wire is harder to run and bound more often for me. The spools were beauty.
12. Mark everything immediately. Your labelmaker and a few extra tape cassettes are vital. You forget immediately!
13. Mark wires about 1" below where they enter your enclosure or wiring area. That way you can trim them without having to relabel.
14. Don't staple or tie if you don't have to. Run loose and use hangers. Plastic zip ties are lousy hangars, as they bind when pulled.
15. Think about power in your home run. I ran a separate circuit, and I have four outlets in my enclosure. I need more!
16. Run two grounds - one to the panel, one to the service entrance where cable and phone enter the house.
17. Remember nailing plates - I don't know if that is the real name, but buy a box of the metal plates with spikes that you nail to the studs where you have drilled close to the edge. These prevent drywall screws from penetrating your wires.
18. It is amazingly labor intensive. Don't tell your wife it is a "two day job". In fact, just tell her it will take forever, and that it is best that the kids are told that Daddy loves him and hopes to be there when they graduate college.
19. If it is concrete, it gets conduit. Terraces, decks, walkways, and driveways. Run a big conduit under any hard surface that you can't get under later so that you can use it for outdoor speakers, control wiring, satellite, etc. Then run another because the electrical contractor will love your first conduit, and he'll get there first.
20. If you have gotten this far, the last tip is take good notes. You will need it when you write your own "20 tips"!
21. Consider 4xCat6 (or CAT5e) per room instead of 2xCat6 + 2xRG6. I have miles of RG6 and I have terminated exactly two of the wires. The RG6 from service entry to the wiring panel is essential. For distribution I find it very questionable. You can run almost anything on CAT6. (1/20/11)
New add - 1/20/11:
21. Wear the most comfortable shoes you own. I'd much rather have dirtied a nicer pair than the ones I chose. (yobrigidey)
22. Bring a gallon jug of water. This will save you a trip. (yobrigidey)
23. Up and down ladders and stairs all day have put my calves into shock. Consider training! (yobrigidey)
24. Take lots and lots of pictures of everything while the walls are down. Take pictures with a measuring tape in sight so you know exactly where the wires/conduits are running within the walls. (mohitk)
New add - 8/20/12:
25. Never, ever run only one cable to a location. Do at least two.
26. Use Cat5 even for thermostats. Two wires not enough.
Edited by archbid - 8/20/12 at 10:33am