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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I received a lot of help from this forum so I thought I'd contribute what I learned from my experience. I decided to install the low voltage wiring in my home under construction. I thought I had a good idea of what to expect, but I learned a lot more during the process. So here is a summary for those who are considering taking a similar task. The specifics are as follows:


Two story home (3200 sqft), (70' wide by 45' deep), basement

Three bedrooms 2nd floor w/ master 1st floor

Library and Family room on 1st floor

Kitchen


Every room above got 2 data and 2 coax cables

Two bedrooms, master bedroom and library got 2 additional data cables

Six coax to satellite dish location

Note: Did not wire the basement (will be done at a later date)


Major Materials


2 – 1000' rolls of Cat5e from Home Depot for $59 each

3 – 500' rolls of RG6 Quad from Home Depot for $59 each

3 – 10' sections of 4" PVC drain tile from Home Depot for $5 each

11 – Low voltage junctions boxes

Note: I used ALL of the wire to complete the install


Wire Routing Plan


·Second floor cables went up into the attic and down to the basement via a central point. In total there were 6 coax and 10 data wires (once bundled about 11/2 inches in diameter)


·4" PVC pipe was run from the attic to the basement and capped on both ends for future wiring needs


·First floor cables were run directly from the rooms to the basement, which consisted of 8 coax and 12 data wires


Installation


Day 1 (1 person)

4 hours walking through the house to determine where the PVC pipe and drop will be located

Day 2 (1 person)

4 hours installing the PVC pipe. Took longer because I didn't have a straight shot to the basement and I had to build a wall around the pipe on the second floor.

Day 3 (1 person)

1 hours attaching the junction boxes for each drop (11 drops)

4 hours drilling all of the holes for the wires and attaching wire hangers in the attic

Day 4 (2 people)

7 hours running the 2nd floor wires

Day 5 (2 people)

5 hours running the 1st floor wires

Fire caulk holes drilled through horizontal studs

Note: no terminals were connected to the wires during this stage


Labeling


I labeled the wires using colored electrical tape during the installation. Since all of my wires were the came color I had to differentiate between the same types of wires coming from a room. Red and yellow were used to differentiate between the two coax and data wires coming from the same location. Then I assigned a color to the room and wrapped all 4 wires together with that color. Here is an example:


Bedroom #1 (Green) - Coax #1 (yellow), Coax #2 (red), Data #1 (yellow), Data #2 (red)

Bedroom #2 (Blue) - Coax #1 (yellow), Coax #2 (red), Data #1 (yellow), Data #2 (red)


Securing wires


There is some metal strapping with holes in it that plumber's use to secure pipes to studs. I bought the plastic version ($1.10 for 25'), cut it into strips and used 1" roofing nails to secure the wire bundles to the studs. This stuff is wider that the plastic ties so it probably won't crush the wires.


Wire lengths


I left 2' of wire at each outlet in case I have trouble connecting the terminals

I am not 100% certain where my equipment closet will be located so I ran wires to a central point and added and extra 20'


What did I learn?


·Cat5 wire will kink if you are not careful (you don't want any broken conductors)


·The "Pull Pacs" that Cat5 come in are crap. I could never get the wire come out of the box smoothly.


·1" drill bit is more than wide enough for 2 data and 2 coax cables. ¾" will also work.


·It's difficult to find a location in you house where you have a straight shot between floors to install the 4" PVC Pipe. You may have to build a wall around the pipe.


·It's called "Pulling Wire" but you really don't pull the wire. You are actually fishing the wire, which takes a lot more time.


·Pulling wire is a 2-person job. Otherwise plan to spend a lot of time up and down ladders and stairs.


What would I do differently?


Definitely use bundled cable (2 data & 2 coax in one insulator) where possible. I ran each wire separately and this was a pain in the butt. I would have been nice to pull one bundled cable and be done. I decided to go with separates to save money (about a $60 savings for 500') but the a) time savings, b) fact that the wires are color coded and c) due to the size of the bundle the data wires are less likely to kink would have been worth the money. You would still need separates for locations that don't require the 4 wire combination in the bundle.

Note: I just noticed that the price for bundled cable went up so the price difference between bundled and separates is $100.


I hope this helps you better plan your install because I spent too much time running back to Home Depot to get material and tools.
 

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Thanks for your story, Robert! I'm doing the same thing on a multi-level house (a little over 2000 square feet) in August, and I'm doing my best right now to research and figure out how I'm going to run all the cabling.


First of all, did you use a spade bit or auger bit when drilling your holes? I've read conflicting recommendations in my research.

Quote:
2 – 1000' rolls of Cat5e from Home Depot for $59 each

3 – 500' rolls of RG6 Quad from Home Depot for $59 each

3 – 10' sections of 4" PVC drain tile from Home Depot for $5 each

11 – Low voltage junctions boxes
When do you expect to move into your house? I'm looking at getting all of my wire from Home Depot, too, and was curious what the finished quality is going to be like. Is the CAT5e from General Cable and the RG6-QS from Leviton? That's what our Home Depot carries.


Also, what exactly is a "low voltage junction box"? Is that different from a standard electrical box?

Quote:
4 hours drilling all of the holes for the wires and attaching wire hangers in the attic
What exactly are wire hangers, and how do they work? They insulate the attic after the wire is run, correct? I'm a bit confused on exactly how you've routed the wiring in the attic.

Quote:
Fire caulk holes drilled through horizontal studs
Once again, a question. This is on the studs that divide the floors (first floor, second floor, etc.), right? What exactly are "fire caulk holes"? I've read about this, but am unsure what they are--I just figured I'd learn later. :)

Quote:
I left 2' of wire at each outlet in case I have trouble connecting the terminals
Did you just leave the wire hanging out of the boxes, or did you roll it up inside?

Quote:
Definitely use bundled cable (2 data & 2 coax in one insulator) where possible.
I wish this was in my budget! Most locations will be getting 2 RG6-QS and 2 CAT5e, but some (such as the family room) will be getting as many as 4 RG6-QS and 3 CAT5e. And, unfortunately, the budget is already stretched, and I can't stretch it much further.


I can't do final planning on wire routing until all of the electrical utilities are installed (probably within the next month) since they aren't sure which end of the house the utilities will come in on. This, of course, affects grounding and the location of my wiring closet. Thanks for any help that anybody can offer!


Michael
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by EmDub
I'll try to answer some of these in case Robert J is busy building his house :)



First of all, did you use a spade bit or auger bit when drilling your holes? I've read conflicting recommendations in my research.



I used spade bits. I bought a set of Skil bits from HD for $15 bucks. It included about 10 different sizes. The bits will dull pretty quickly so be patient and don't try to force the bit through. Let it do the cutting for you.




When do you expect to move into your house? I'm looking at getting all of my wire from Home Depot, too, and was curious what the finished quality is going to be like. Is the CAT5e from General Cable and the RG6-QS from Leviton? That's what our Home Depot carries.


As long as the cable meets "cat-5e" and "RG6QS" standards, any manufacturer should do.



Also, what exactly is a "low voltage junction box"? Is that different from a standard electrical box?


They are backless boxes.




What exactly are wire hangers, and how do they work? They insulate the attic after the wire is run, correct? I'm a bit confused on exactly how you've routed the wiring in the attic.


I can't speak for Robert J, but I don't have many wires in the attic at all. My central closet is in the basement, so everything comes down, not up. If you are having the more common blown in insulation in the attic, then the wires will be covered. But if you go in later and add decking, then your wires will be underneath. Also, if you plan on adding decking, don't drape your wires across the ceiling joists, as you'll have to move them later. That may be why Robert suspended them above.




Once again, a question. This is on the studs that divide the floors (first floor, second floor, etc.), right? What exactly are "fire caulk holes"? I've read about this, but am unsure what they are--I just figured I'd learn later. :)


There aren't "fire caulk holes". There are holes that you have your cable going through that you apply fire caulk to, in order to seal. You can use fire caulk (about $13 tube at HD) or you can stuff the holes with rock wool insulation. All holes that are horizontal and could allow fire to move up the house have to be sealed in this manner. Holes that are in vertical studs do not. One thing when drilling holes. If the hole is more than 1 1/4" from the edge of the wood, you'll also need to install nail guards, so that drywallers won't penetrate the area with a screw and nick your cable. This is a code requirement.




Did you just leave the wire hanging out of the boxes, or did you roll it up inside?


Here's my suggestion. First, all wire must be secured to the stud within 8" of the box. Another code req. After securing the wire, I would leave enough slack outside of the box in the stud cavity so that you can pull it through later. I wouldn't suggest coiling it up in the box, as alot of drywallers now use zip routers to cut the holes and these can quickly damage the wire inside. By leaving it behind and outside the box, you'll be able to pull it through with no marring later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Quote:
First of all, did you use a spade bit or auger bit when drilling your holes? I've read conflicting recommendations in my research.
I used the spade bit with a 12V cordless drill. I didn't want to spend the extra money for an auger bit because I don't expect to use it again.

Quote:
When do you expect to move into your house? I'm looking at getting all of my wire from Home Depot, too, and was curious what the finished quality is going to be like. Is the CAT5e from General Cable and the RG6-QS from Leviton? That's what our Home Depot carries.
I hope to be in by October but I should be able to test the system in August. I did purchase the wire you described but it bothered me that I couldn't get it in differend colors. This would have made labeling a lot easier. Also, I couldn't match the model number of the cat5 that HD sells with what General Cable has on their website. Maybe my HD has some older stock

Quote:
Also, what exactly is a "low voltage junction box"? Is that different from a standard electrical box?
A low voltage junction box is just a box with no back and the sides are not as deep. I think the advantage is that it is easier to direct the wires into it without exceeding the bend radius of the cable. I had to go to 4 Home Depots to find the low voltage junction boxs for new construction. I'll try to get you the brand and model number.

Quote:
What exactly are wire hangers, and how do they work? They insulate the attic after the wire is run, correct? I'm a bit confused on exactly how you've routed the wiring in the attic.
Wire hanger is just my way of describing anything you use to support and secure your wire. I used the plastic stapping I described in my note but I also considered plastic ties, cutting section of pvc pipe and securing it to the rafters. Any thing will work, even a bent nail, but I liked the plastic strapping because I could cut it to any size I needed, it was cheap, and it was about 1/4" wide so it didn't have to worry about it crushing the wires. As for routing though the attic, I ran the wires 3' up into the attic and across, so it would be away from the electrical wires, wouldn't get stepped on during insulation, and so I could see them after the insulation goes in. If you go in an older home, your probably see the telephone line just laying on top of the roof rafters where the can be stepped on.

Quote:
Once again, a question. This is on the studs that divide the floors (first floor, second floor, etc.), right? What exactly are "fire caulk holes"? I've read about this, but am unsure what they are--I just figured I'd learn later.
Yes. Any hole that passes from one floor to another must be sealed to prevent a fire on a lower floor getting into the wall and working its way to the next floor through these openings. So when you drill a hole and route the wire through it, you have to seal around the wire with Fire Caulk. This is a special caulk designed to prevent fire from passing by. It's about $10 a tube and can be found in either the painting or electrical isle. I used 2 tubes.

Quote:
Did you just leave the wire hanging out of the boxes, or did you roll it up inside?
I left it in the wall. After drywall I'll just reach in a pull the wires through. Another forum member suggested not to coil the wires and put them in the box because the drywallers may damage the wires when they cutout the opening for the box.

Quote:
I can't do final planning on wire routing until all of the electrical utilities are installed (probably within the next month) since they aren't sure which end of the house the utilities will come in on. This, of course, affects grounding and the location of my wiring closet. Thanks for any help that anybody can offer!
I don't know if I made a mistake with my planning, but my wiring closet will be no where near the electrical panel. I hope I won't have a problem with grounding. I recalled someone saying not to put your low voltage panel near the high voltage panel because it will be difficult to keep your LV wire runs away from the HV wires.


I hope you have as much fun as I did.


Robert
 

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Robert x 2--


Thanks so much for your replies. Robertmee--I was actually researching a post of yours earlier today regarding whole-house video distribution, so don't be surprised to get a PM from me. :)


Sounds like the spade bits are the way to go. Home Depot has a 3-pack (1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, and 1 inch) for $7, whereas a single auger bit is around $12. At $7, I can throw them away if they dull.


Robert J: More information on the low voltage boxes would be great. Thanks!


Regarding leaving the cables in the wall... I head read somewhere to make sure you don't leave slack in the walls since some (!) drywallers are careless and could damage cables if they get pinned between the side of the stud and the drywall. I'll definitely secure the cable within 8 inches from where it enters the box--I'm just not sure where exactly to leave the cables in the wall so I can grab them later. Don't suppose either of you took pictures. :)


Lastly, I've looked at the cable staples (both metal and plastic) at Home Depot. Since I'll be running several cables together, can I just use one wide staple to hold them all down, or do I need a staple for each cable? I would think I can use one big fat one to hold them all to the stud.


Lastly, I'm not entirely sure how much wiring will have to go in my attic. The wiring closet will be in the basement, but half of the house is on a concrete slab. In other words, I only have a half-basement. The builders are running 4 phone lines (that's all they'll do for free), so I'll just see how they've run their wires so I can follow similar paths. I made sure to have them wire phones in the hardest-to-reach rooms to make my route planning easier. :)


Thanks for the help, guys!


Michael
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by EmDub
Robert x 2--


Regarding leaving the cables in the wall... I head read somewhere to make sure you don't leave slack in the walls since some (!) drywallers are careless and could damage cables if they get pinned between the side of the stud and the drywall. I'll definitely secure the cable within 8 inches from where it enters the box--I'm just not sure where exactly to leave the cables in the wall so I can grab them later. Don't suppose either of you took pictures. :)


Michael
Actually, I took hundreds of pictures and I recommend you do the same. I took still photos and videotaped all the walls after the wiring but before the drywall. I had a lot of speaker wire in the wall that I wanted to know exactly where it was when I installed my in-walls. Unfortunately I don't have a color scanner or anyway to post any of the pictures. But, looking at the pictures, just leave a loop of cable behind the box. If need be, secure with a loose staple, loose enough that a gentle tug will release it later. You'll leave about 4" to 5" sticking out of the box to pull with, but you won't care if this get's damaged by the Drywallers, because you'll have another 4-5" to pull out if needed.
 

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Michael, run your cable down the stud past the box along the footer and depending how much extra wire you want up the next stud secure with staples. Only tap the staples in make sure the cable will slide tru any staple you use. Trim time reach in and pull out wire. Some will almost always be pinched. Drywallers are brutal. If you have a pinched wired pull out as much as you can and cut making sure you are cutting the right end.


Check your code on fire caulking. Where I live fire caulking is only required

on commerical and multi dwelling units. Also in my area the securing close to the box is for eletrical wires not low voltage.


Mike
 

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Mike--


Thanks so much! The suggestion about running the wire along the bottom and up the next stud (if it's that long) is great--I'll use really loose staples and then just pull it out. Great!


I'll also check on fire caulking. I figure it can't hurt, though. Depends on the code and the budget.


Michael
 

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I would be very surprised if fire caulking or rock wool wasn't required. One good test, is check the holes drilled by the electrical contractors. I assume you are pulling in your wire after the electrical contractors are done with their job. Check to see what they did as far as sealing holes.


While the NEC specifically addresses the need to secure electrical wire within 8" of the box, I would strongly urge you to do the same. 1) it insures that your wire doesn't flex out of the stud cavity and get pinched behind some drywall, and most important 2) Most inspectors are old school and treat everything as common electrical runs...Save yourself some time and grief and secure your wire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Emdub

Quote:
Robert J: More information on the low voltage boxes would be great. Thanks
The box I used is a Pass & Seymour P1-00-ND ( http://www.passandseymour.com/pdf/M03.pdf ) that I found at Home Depot. Other forum members recommended a device called a mud ring but I was unsuccessful at locating it.


On comment regarding passing inspections. The suggestions mentions by other members regarding securing wires and fire caulk are good steps to take to ensure a safe install. Your probably will not have to worry about passing an inspection because most builders won't let you touch a thing until all of the pre-drywall inspections are completed. He'll probably give you a small window (like 2 days) to get your work done before the drywallers arrive. So make sure you have a clear install plan and all of your material.


Robertmee
Quote:
I would be very surprised if fire caulking or rock wool wasn't required. One good test, is check the holes drilled by the electrical contractors.
It's strange how some inspectors will let things slide. I know for a fact that rock wool is required in my area but the HVAC contractor passed inspection buy using standard pink insulation around his cutouts. Now if I did that the outcome would have been different.
 

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As always, great replies. I most definitely plan on using fire caulk--looks like it's around $10/tube at Home Depot. Definitely safer than sorry.


Also, I'll be doing wiring after the electrical inspector has gone through. So I'm not real worried about passing inspection with cable staples, etc. However, I still plan on using them to keep things clean and keep cables from getting pinched between the studs and drywall.


Speaking of inspections, a question. I'm under the assumption that there's another electrical inspection after the drywall goes up. Is this correct? I plan on wiring up the wallplates before this point (or at least putting the faceplate on the wall to cover up the opening). If I leave the other end of the cables unattached in the wiring closet, is this a problem? For example, there's really no reason to connect to a hub (CAT5e) or to a cable splitter (RG6) until I need to after I move in. I'm also considering a Leviton Media Center, but would like to wait until I'm actually in the house to set it up. What do you all think?


Michael
 

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I can only speak from the experience of my installation.


For final inspection, all the boxes were made up, but all the cables at the headend were left coiled up. I installed the media boxes and terminated everything at the headend myself after the move in.


Now, one caveat. I worked with my electricians and did 90% of my low voltage wiring before the rough inspection. So, the inspector new what to expect on final. If the inspector does a rough, and then a month later does the final, and suddenly there are 20 or so new outlet boxes, and a sh*tload of lv wiring, I'm not sure what the reaction will be.


I'm not trying to disuade you at all, just be aware.....
 
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