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snaking ethernet cables in a house

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
I really hate the relatively new search engine for AVS now... so if anyone knows the thread to seek, please let me know.

I have a 2 story house. It's a newer home (5 years) and was prewired for Ethernet/CAT6. However, because we only paid for the base package, they only actually ran wire to 5 of the rooms even though they said the entire house was "prewired". To actually have all the rooms wired, we'd have to pay for the deluxe package which at the time was costly and we didn't think we'd need it. The wall jacks are still there. just no wire connecting them.

Now I actually want to wire up all the rooms (please don't suggest using wireless) and was wondering if there's a good guide on how to do that? The breakout box is upstairs near the master bedroom. I'd like to fish at least 2 long Ethernet cables from 2 of the downstairs bedrooms to the breakout box upstairs. Now, one of the downstairs rooms is near the back of the house while the upstairs room is near the front of the house. Also, the other downstairs room is in a separate casita (a guest house totally separate from the rest of the house).

Now, both downstairs room are connected to the breakout box. I know this because in the breakout box, there are coaxial cables for those 2 rooms as well as ethernet phone cables for the land lines.
post #2 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlysublime View Post

I'd like to fish at least 2 long Ethernet cables from 2 of the downstairs bedrooms to the breakout box upstairs. Now, one of the downstairs rooms is near the back of the house while the upstairs room is near the front of the house. Also, the other downstairs room is in a separate casita (a guest house totally separate from the rest of the house).

You'll have to identify a pathway to get from point A to point B. Attic, HVAC chase(s), crawlspaces, etc. You should know up front that fishing wires (not finished cables) through multiple floors is usually not simple, and is probably best left to a pro - just for the "tricks of the trade" knowledge based on your local construction styles.
Quote:
Now, both downstairs room are connected to the breakout box. I know this because in the breakout box, there are coaxial cables for those 2 rooms as well as ethernet phone cables for the land lines.

If they're connected with wire - you can repurpose those wires for Ethernet. Either consume the phone line (go cordless base station instead), which is likely the cat5e cable they installed, or look at the MoCA Ethernet-over-coax adapters for a much easier solution than tearing into multiple walls and possibly ceilings...

Or go wireless. biggrin.gif

Jeff
post #3 of 31
Thread Starter 
argh... I was hoping to avoid a professional exorbitant cost...

a lot of the terminology you're using is over my head. i guess it's time for more googling...

but you just made me think of something. since there are some cables going from the bedroom to the breakout box, can i just attach the new cable to the current cable and then pull it through?
post #4 of 31
Quote:
can i just attach the new cable to the current cable and then pull it through?

Possibly, but how hard it is will depend on whether thy used conduit or not and if the exisitng cables are stapled to the studs. Are you sure they didn't run wire and just not connect it? I found that there wer a lot of rooms wired for cable in my house but they were never connected either at the wall or the box. I manged to connect some of them up and I had to have other new ones run. I used a pro and he found a path in 5 minutes that I spent hours trying to figure out.

Think about how the house is layed out and can you use the inside of exisitng closets to get from floor to floor? Can you use the garage under/above a room? It might be easier than you think.

Good luck!
post #5 of 31
I won't suggest wireless, but power line enet works great and let me avoid what you're going through.
post #6 of 31
It's not that hard. I did it in my house. I'm assuming you're referring to the patch panel when you say breakout box? See how many open jacks you have on your box. The panels are usually in groups of 8, and most newer homes use Cat5 to wire up telephone (they'll show on the patch panel as "voice" or "data"). The nice thing about this option is that you can easily switch a phone jack over to a data jack at the panel without any additional wiring. If you have a phone jack in the room already and aren't using it, this might be your solution

If not, you'll basically want to do some home runs from the panel to each one of the rooms. If your panel is in your master bedroom, the easiest way would be to run new lines up into the attic and then come down through the top plae in each room to fish down to the jack. If you're not interested in pulling the wires yourself, I wouldn't pay more than about $35 an hour for someone to do it. Considering that the interior walls aren't insulated this should go pretty quick for someone that knows what they're doing.
post #7 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tlogan6797 View Post

Possibly, but how hard it is will depend on whether thy used conduit or not and if the exisitng cables are stapled to the studs. Are you sure they didn't run wire and just not connect it? I found that there wer a lot of rooms wired for cable in my house but they were never connected either at the wall or the box.

Think about how the house is layed out and can you use the inside of exisitng closets to get from floor to floor? Can you use the garage under/above a room? It might be easier than you think.
Good luck!

thanks for the tips. My brother took off the wall plate and tried to feel around for any unconnected wires and he says there aren't any. I'll check myself just to confirm.

I've never ever navigated any space besides the actual rooms. I haven't even been in the attic. There's a little attic space above the master and above another upstairs room. Other than that, I'm pretty clueless.
post #8 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mn_hokie View Post

It's not that hard. I did it in my house. I'm assuming you're referring to the patch panel when you say breakout box? See how many open jacks you have on your box. The panels are usually in groups of 8, and most newer homes use Cat5 to wire up telephone (they'll show on the patch panel as "voice" or "data"). The nice thing about this option is that you can easily switch a phone jack over to a data jack at the panel without any additional wiring. If you have a phone jack in the room already and aren't using it, this might be your solution
If not, you'll basically want to do some home runs from the panel to each one of the rooms. If your panel is in your master bedroom, the easiest way would be to run new lines up into the attic and then come down through the top plae in each room to fish down to the jack. If you're not interested in pulling the wires yourself, I wouldn't pay more than about $35 an hour for someone to do it. Considering that the interior walls aren't insulated this should go pretty quick for someone that knows what they're doing.

thank you for your advice. please be patient because this terminology is new to me.

yes, the box I was talking about is the patch panel. I'd rather not convert a telephone line to a data line as it would be a nice option to still have the land line option. but if I were, would it simply be a matter of cutting off the ends and putting on new connectors?

as for running lines, that's what I was trying to figure out in terms of the general concept of how to run wires and what things I have to buy to accomplish the goal. I'm really clueless on how a house is constructed. I see a tiny attic space above the master closet. and another attic space above one of the bedrooms. I'm not sure there are any other access spaces. The closet with the patch panel has the attic space above it.

In terms of hiring a guy to do it, what type of guy do I call? and is it cheaper for me to buy the cables, wall plates, etc. and provide it for him? or is it better for him to handle everything? and how much time do you think it would take to do 5 rooms? it's a 4000 sq house.
post #9 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlysublime View Post

thank you for your advice. please be patient because this terminology is new to me.
yes, the box I was talking about is the patch panel. I'd rather not convert a telephone line to a data line as it would be a nice option to still have the land line option. but if I were, would it simply be a matter of cutting off the ends and putting on new connectors?
as for running lines, that's what I was trying to figure out in terms of the general concept of how to run wires and what things I have to buy to accomplish the goal. I'm really clueless on how a house is constructed. I see a tiny attic space above the master closet. and another attic space above one of the bedrooms. I'm not sure there are any other access spaces. The closet with the patch panel has the attic space above it.
In terms of hiring a guy to do it, what type of guy do I call? and is it cheaper for me to buy the cables, wall plates, etc. and provide it for him? or is it better for him to handle everything? and how much time do you think it would take to do 5 rooms? it's a 4000 sq house.

Typically, converting a phone jack to a data one in newer homes is as simple as moving a cable at the patch panel. For example, my office has two jacks in the wall. While the builder planned for one to be phone and one to be data, I can simply move a cable on the patch board in my basement and turn them both into data or both into phone. It basically works how the old phone operators did where they would unplug one cable and plug it in somewhere else to "patch" the call through.

As far as materials, you can order them online. Check out monoprice.com or parts-express.com for cat5 or cat6 cable. A spool of 1000 feet should run you about $100 or so. If you're looking for someone local to do it, I would check angie's list. Most electricians will be able to this, but anyone with low voltage experience should be able to handle it.

Worst case, you'd have to cut a hole in the wall where a junction box would go. The cables come out of the wall into a wall plate that contains a keystone jack. It looks very similar to a standard phone jack, but bigger.

If you take a look up in your attic above the panel, you should be able to see where the cables come in. My guess is that they're in a conduit (builders are calling them 'tech tubes' these days so they can charge extra for them). You'd simply pull your new cables up through the tube and into the attic, then drill a hole down through the walls where you want the cables to go. If you're not comfortable with this, hire someone out to do it. If you have 2 rooms that share a wall, you'd just run the cables down the same hole and install a box on each side in the room.

I ran about 600 feet of cables over 3 floors and 4700sf in my home. Most of it was cabling for the theater space in the basement, but I ran 10 new runs up to my 2nd floor. I have a conduit in place from the attic to the basement. These 10 runs took maybe an hour to pull - tops.
post #10 of 31
You're in a 5 bedroom 4000 sqft house and you're carping about costs? And you've never even looked in the attic? That doesn't garner a lot of sympathy, y'know?

If you're going to DIY you're going to have to sack up and start figuring stuff out. Like how your current wiring has been run, and deciding if you want to continue that way.

Running wire isn't rocket science, it can be as simple as just putting a few holes down into the top plate of the wall, from the attic space above. The trick is knowing the right place to do it and recognizing the wrong places. As in, you don't want to drill down where there might already be electrical wires or plumbing. But once you know the path the wire needs to take it's just a matter of some pretty simple steps to getting it installed. You don't really even need much in the way of specific tools for it either. But there are few that do make it easier, like fish tape and rods, possibly a flexible auger bit, a stud finder and wood drilling bits (paddle, auger or forstner if you know you're clear of nails).

My thought would be to get up in that attic and see how the wire is being run from a place that you KNOW already has cabling. Then see if that same sort of stuff was run down into the other rooms that don't have it. It's entirely possible the wire was run and your brother just missed it. But you'd know for sure by checking the wall from above (assuming that's how the pre-wired room has them).
post #11 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by mn_hokie View Post

I ran about 600 feet of cables over 3 floors and 4700sf in my home. Most of it was cabling for the theater space in the basement, but I ran 10 new runs up to my 2nd floor. I have a conduit in place from the attic to the basement. These 10 runs took maybe an hour to pull - tops.

Ok, this has to be hyperbole. There is no way it took you only an hour to do that, unless you mean that you pulled 10 wires through conduit that was already installed, and that's all you mean you did. I installed cable, phone (at the time, I didn't realize how cheap wireless phone systems would become), and cat 5e (now, cat6) though my much smaller house. It took months of weekends, and there's still wiring in the attic that's not installed. Granted, I installed 4/5 wires to individual outlets throughout the house. I did all the research to buy and install a box where everything is connected and all the corresponding connectors, and I installed all of the outlets everywhere through the house. But I also cut holes in the walls for old work boxes, cut holes in the top plates to route wires to the holes in the walls, etc. And then I had everything inspected.

Just the work required to install one box takes several hours. You have to find the studs in a wall, cut an opening for the box, then measure carefully to ensure the hole you drill in the top plate will actually align with the box, climb in the attic, measure carefully again, remove insulation, cut a hole in the top plate, then fish a fish through the wall to someone who's waiting to receive the fish. Heck, getting the fish to hit the hole sometimes can take 15-20 minutes, especially if your hole isn't at the correct spot. Then you have to pull the wire and route it through the old work box, properly seal the hole in the top plate, tack down the wiring in the attic correctly, etc. Then you have to route the wiring to your whole-house point.

That's ONE box and some wires, and you haven't even connected the wires to the proper connectors (many of which take specialty tools).

Personally, given the original posters level of experience, if I were him, I'd pay to have it done. It takes a lot of time to determine how to do this and the tools to buy, etc. Just paying someone will be cheaper in the long run.
post #12 of 31
Pretty sure I'm aware of how much time it took to do this in my home, but thanks. The fact that you mentioned it took you hours to install a single junction box might clue you in. Don't assume everyone is at the same skillset level, but absolutely make sure you know the person before you attempt to call them out on something.
Edited by mn_hokie - 11/18/12 at 9:50am
post #13 of 31
This will take a lot of time to research, and accomplish. I was in the same boat as the OP several years ago, when I moved in. But, I found a new LV hobby, and have pulled dozens of retrofit cables since, and learned a great deal about my house.

If you don't want to put a lot of time into the project, hire someone.

There is no way I'd hire some random LV installer for my house. Find someone insured, at a minimum; not sure if homeowner's would cover a flood from a drled pipe. Experienced often means more expensive.

One can go to great lengths to avoid drywall repair, and take a lot of time to do the install. Or cut drywall, and work much faster. Drywall repair and painting is pretty cheap. The pro will cut more drywall than you would, but it will save time and money. If DIY, you have the luxury of time.
post #14 of 31
Thread Starter 
thanks to everyone that took the time to reply and for trying to help me! it's very much appreciated, and you guys are teaching me a lot. besides what you guys are telling me, it also helps me know how to phrase my search to make googling a bit easier.

@mn_hokie... I looked at the patch panel and the ethernet phone cable is coming out of some big tube and then it ends with a bunch of wires, punched down into the phone block. not a nice rj-45 end. so I guess I can't just plug it into a router and use it for data.

@wkearney99... the 2 attic spaces are really tiny and don't even extend the length of a bedroom. I'm going to see if I can see where the wires are going as you and others have advised me on this. also, I took off the plate and felt around for other cables and couldn't find any. I also took a flashlight and looked around and didn't see anything.

@neurorad... are you saying that if I hire someone, they're going to cut a hole in the wall to get back there?
post #15 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlysublime View Post

thanks to everyone that took the time to reply and for trying to help me! it's very much appreciated, and you guys are teaching me a lot. besides what you guys are telling me, it also helps me know how to phrase my search to make googling a bit easier.
@mn_hokie... I looked at the patch panel and the ethernet phone cable is coming out of some big tube and then it ends with a bunch of wires, punched down into the phone block. not a nice rj-45 end. so I guess I can't just plug it into a router and use it for data.
@wkearney99... the 2 attic spaces are really tiny and don't even extend the length of a bedroom. I'm going to see if I can see where the wires are going as you and others have advised me on this. also, I took off the plate and felt around for other cables and couldn't find any. I also took a flashlight and looked around and didn't see anything.
@neurorad... are you saying that if I hire someone, they're going to cut a hole in the wall to get back there?

You're in luck! That tube is most likely a conduit from your tech box up to the attic. The best thing to do in that situation is to go in the attic (you'll see the tube coming up out of the ceiling) and drop your new lines down into the box. The other (and harder) part would be running the lines down through the top plate in the walls to the rooms you're talking about wiring up. If you're not up to the task, definately hire it out, but with the conduit in place, the workload becomes MUCH less.
post #16 of 31
This is a great basic guide for retrofitting cables, from Wayne Pflughaupt:

http://www.hometheatershack.com/forums/home-theater-design-construction/6038-how-wall-wiring-your-home-theater.html#post47983

Maybe you can save some money, and run a few of the easier ones, if not most.

I prefer fiberglass fish sticks/rods/stix to fish tape. I rarely use the tape, and you can probably avoid buying it.
post #17 of 31
Go on Angie's or call ur Home theater store or electronics and see if u can get a referral. Get 3 names if possible, CHECK their references and ask them out to ur home for a bid. This way u meet them, they see the job and go from there. Hint: the cheapest price isn't always the cheapest. Or u can do it urself and hope for the best.
post #18 of 31
Thread Starter 
alright, sorry for the long time away. things got really hectic. such is life...

okay, I went back up and poked my head into the attic space above where the patch panel was located in the bedroom closet. I did not actually step up into the attic space (I'm kind of scare of heights and I've never been in an attic before). this is what I saw:







it doesn't seem (from my distant view) that any wires are in the orange tubing. so looking from these pics, would it be fairly easy to snake wire to the downstair bedrooms (and whatever rooms I need to go to)?

is it fairly easy to walk in the attic space? i'm scared of heights and the worst thing would be for me to plummet through the ceilings to my death.
post #19 of 31
Your conduits should be empty. It looks like you have three. Where do they run to? Usually builders should leave a pull string in them to help, but its still fairly easy to pull new cables.

You won't die of you fall. Worst case, you'll blow a huge piece of your drywall out smile.gif you'll need to juste sure you walk on the ceiling joists and keep your head low so you don't hit the nails with your head.

If you're not comfortable with it, I would call someone. The hard part is already done.
post #20 of 31
Thread Starter 
I thought the wires should be inside the conduits. if they're supposed to be empty, what's the purpose of having them? and I have no idea where they lead. I just stuck my head through the attic opening.

Well, if the joists (those are the beams?) are strong enough to support my weight and are easy enough to walk on, I wouldn't mind, I guess. I just can't step between the joists, correct?

And if I'm to do this, I would take the ethernet wires and start at the attic and drop it one end down into the panel box area and then follow the path of all the other wires and drop the wire where the other wires are going?
post #21 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlysublime View Post

I thought the wires should be inside the conduits. if they're supposed to be empty, what's the purpose of having them?

For when someone wants to run more cable after the walls are up. Kinda, um, exactly what you're doing! biggrin.gif

The original cables are run outside the conduit because (a) they aren't required to be in conduit to begin with, (b) they'll never be removed - worst case - abandoned in place, and (c) running new cables is much easier in an empty conduit compared to one with other cables in it.

One look at that picture tells me that house was built with some A/V or networking futures in mind... Consider yourself quite lucky.
Quote:
and I have no idea where they lead. I just stuck my head through the attic opening.
Well, if the joists (those are the beams?) are strong enough to support my weight and are easy enough to walk on, I wouldn't mind, I guess. I just can't step between the joists, correct?

Yes, stay on the ceiling joists. The insulation / drywall below will NOT hold your weight and yes, you could fall through and hurt yourself. Again, if you're not comfortable, hire someone.
Quote:
And if I'm to do this, I would take the ethernet wires and start at the attic and drop it one end down into the panel box area and then follow the path of all the other wires and drop the wire where the other wires are going?

Since you've got conduit, probably easier to start at one end, pull the cable up the attic, and continue it down the other conduit. If you start in the middle, you'll have to spool off enough wire to make it to the other end, then cut the wire. If you cut it too short, you'll have to start over.

From the photo, it appears there are pull strings in the conduit, tied off or slit into the end of the conduit. Attach a nylon string (or wire pull string, you can get it at Home Depot) to your wire when you pull it through, so that the next time you want to add a wire, you've got a new pull string to use.

This job is much easier if you have someone else to help, by the way. Someone to help feed the wire into the conduit at the other end, and/or pull the string.

Jeff
post #22 of 31
Thread Starter 
thanks for the reply, guys! very much appreciated.

okay, so it appears I have to find out where these conduits terminate at.

since everyone is using the term "pull", I guess that means I start at the ground floor and fish this wire up toward the roof? when I removed the plate in the rooms on the ground floor, I couldn't see any of the conduits. I stuck my arm as far in as the hole in the wall allowed and couldn't feel any conduit tubing.

so I am supposed (once I find out where the conduits end), use the string in the conduit at the ground floor to tie to the ethernet cable on the ground floor and then pull it up from the conduit in the attic via the string that's in the attic?

I guess if I walk out on the joists, all this talk will make more sense to me.

and before I forget, happy holidays! biggrin.gif
post #23 of 31
The conduits may or may not go to the unwired rooms. Stick your head up there again, and spend some time figuring out where they should be going, based on their locations. Then, check wall plates again.

No, you'd pull the cables down, when you can. Use gravity.

I see 3 conduits, 2 of which end near the attic access hole you stuck your head into. Looks like 2 of the conduits end up at the home run location, 1 of which ends near that attic access. Is there another access point to that attic, at the other end?

Reading back to your original post, when you pull the wall plates in those first floor rooms, you say you have coax and category/Ethernet cables for the land lines. Are using those for phones? As someone else said, they could be repurposed for LAN.
post #24 of 31
Thread Starter 
there is another attic entrance in another closet upstairs at the other end of the house. This attic area doesn't seem to connect to the first attic area above the patch panel. I looked up in it and didn't notice any cabling. Now that I know what I'm looking for, I'll give it another shot to try to find them.

the ethernet cables running to the rooms are not currently being used for phones (well, actually, 2 rooms are being used for phone but the others aren't). the ends of those phone lines at the patch panel do not have RJ45 ends. they simply split into individual wires and are punched down (hopefully I'm using the right terms!) individually into their respective spots. So if I was to repurpose them, I'd have to put them into RJ45 ends. I'd rather put in the work and increase flexibility for the house rather than be locked into a particular configuration.
post #25 of 31
I bet one of those conduits runs to the other attic. I have similar disconnected attics, that are really connected.

If you're young, energetic, have the time, and like to get your hands dirty using a drill, then this might be a fun project.

Snaking cables down from that attic to the 2nd floor is the easy part. You said you need them down another floor.

Repurpose those phone line category cables, or hire someone.

If drilling the top plates of exterior walls, and no floor, you should bring up a couple small pieces of plywood to work on.
post #26 of 31
One option that I might suggest is to use one of your cables that does come from the basement, and put a gig switch upstairs in addition to the switch in the basement. Then you go from that gig switch to the other ports in the upstairs.

This is only if you cannot run more cables from downstairs to upstairs.

But if you are afraid of heights, and afraid of going into the attic, I would suggest hiring an expert to run the cables for you. If you have not done this before, it is something that you do not want to do yourself.
post #27 of 31
Thread Starter 
well, I don't have a basement. I have installed a wireless access point downstairs so that I can get a wireless signal but I still want hard wires to as many rooms as possible especially since there are a couple of devices I have that are not wireless and cannot be outfitted with wireless.

Yes, I hate heights but I hate the unknown more. Like I didn't know you could stand on the joists. Soon, I'll actually climb into the attic and check things out. I see a bunch of insulation between the joists. Can I just lift this stuff up?
post #28 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlysublime View Post

Yes, I hate heights but I hate the unknown more. Like I didn't know you could stand on the joists. Soon, I'll actually climb into the attic and check things out. I see a bunch of insulation between the joists. Can I just lift this stuff up?

Can we go back to the part where you have a cat5e line to a phone jack you're not using in that room that you could simply re-purpose for Ethernet?
post #29 of 31
Quote:
well, I don't have a basement. I have installed a wireless access point downstairs so that I can get a wireless signal but I still want hard wires to as many rooms as possible especially since there are a couple of devices I have that are not wireless and cannot be outfitted with wireless.

I had this issue when setting up my Blu Ray player. It was not wireless. For the same cost of buying the wirelsee dongle, I bought a wireless dual band extender with ethernet port. Then I could plug the player into the ethernet port so it THINKS it's wired. My wireless router is on the top floor and the extender on the middle floor. I've been able to stream netflix through a Roku in the basement and on the deck with no issues. Laptops connect throughout the house, too!
post #30 of 31
A solid wifi network is extraordinarily helpful, but hardwired is best, as you know.

Pick up the phone, get it done. Have them run some extra while they're at it. Add some WAPs.
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