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  • by AJ Peck (usacomp2k3)

     

    My wife and I bought our house earlier this year. It is a 3-year old house, but it didn’t have proper communication wiring. There are a handful of phone lines run to various rooms (which we don’t use because we are a cell-phone only house) and another handful of coax lines. Unfortunately, only 1 of the coax lines actually had signal, for various reasons. The previous homeowner had run a separate wire around the outside of the house and drilled in through the exterior wall to try to get a signal to the living room, but even that didn’t work.

     

    So when we bought the house, i knew that I wanted to redo the wiring to put in what needed to be there. Well I finally secured some funds from the budget and set out to start my project.

     

    Equipment:

    • 6 x 10’ 1.5” PVC piping (Lowes)
    • 5 x 90° 1.5” PVC elbows (Lowes)
    • 4 x low-voltage bracket (Lowes)
    • raw RG6 cable (family)
    • raw cat5e cable (craigslist)
    • 4 x wall plate (Monoprice)
    • 3 x cat6 keystone jacks (Monoprice)
    • 4 x f-type keystone jacks (Monoprice)
    • 1 x 12-port cat6 patch panel (Monoprice)
    • 13 x blank keystone inserts (Monoprice)

    I chose the keystone system because it was modular and allows me the flexibility down-the-road to add more features. The 13 blanks I bought allow me to quickly add more connections in the various rooms. I put in 4-port wall plates in the 2 of rooms which are not expected to have many requirement changes down the road) and 6-port outlets in the 2 rooms in which I plan on expanding.

     

    So now on the actual work. We have a 2000 sq. ft, 4-bedroom house for my wife and I. The master is on ground level and shares an interior wall with the living room. Directly above the master is the guest room. Also on the 2nd floor, but on the other side of the house are the 2 remaining bedrooms, one of which is my wife’s craft room, and the other is our library. I have the commandeered the closet in the library to be my “datacenter” as you’ll see later.

     

    I decided that instead of running the bare wire in the walls to each location, I was going to put in conduit. This allows me the flexibility of running more wire down the road with minimal effort. I also did much of the construction from the attic, which meant I only had to cut 2 small holes in the interior walls, one in the master and the other in the guest room. In the library closet, I decided to run 2 separate, dedicated runs of conduit. The first would go from the closet to the wall between the craft room & library. The second would go from the closet to the guest room. I cut the 2 holes in the ceiling of the closet and ran 2 conduits upwards. These each then angle over towards where they needed to go, and then dropped vertical to go down the wall. I used a hole saw to cut through the ceiling boards and various 2x4’s. I didn’t want to go any bigger on the conduit size because I didn’t want to compromise any structural integrity when making my cuts. All holes that were cut were through horizontal pieces of wood, so no load-bearing beams should have been affected. Here are some pictures of the 2 runs in the attic. (Side note, it gets really hot in attics in Florida, even in the “fall” when it is 90+ degrees outside)

     

    The 2 vertical runs from Closet:

     

    The 2 vertical runs from the closet

     

    To guest room:

     

    looking down the length of the house towards the library Aboe the guest room Down into the guest room wall

     

    To Craft Room/Library:

     

    Over to the Craft Room/Library

     

    In guest room wall (ignore the hairy arm and notice the hole from the 2nd floor down to the 1st):The wall inside the library

     

    Now here are some shots of the wall plates and the ports:

     

    Living Room:

     

    The ports in the Living Room

     

    Guest Room:

     

    The ports in the Guest Room

     

    Library:

     

    The ports in the Library

     

    Craft Room:

     

    The ports in the Craft Room

     

    Now the last leg was connecting it all together. In the conduit run from the closet to the guest room there were 2 x rg6 and 1 x cat5e. In the other run was 2 x cat5e and 1 x rg6. I took my little shop-vac, stuck it into the wall where the conduit ended and then sucked a length of yarn from the closet through the conduit. I then pulled a piece of string through and used that to pull my wires through. It worked magnificently. Even pulling the wires wasn’t that difficult.

     

    I then installed the patch panel, wired up the 3 cat5e cables to it, ran short cables from the patch panel to the gigabit switch, wired the switch to the router and wired the router to the cable modem. I then took the incoming cable from the street, brought that down into a 3-way splitter. One of those goes into the cable modem, and the other 2 go to the guest room TV and then living room. When I get around to it, I’ll either replace the 3-way with a 5-way, or daisy chain another 3-way to connect the TV for the craft room, as well as have the runs for my Media Center (which is not the primary TV source right now).

     

    As you can see, it is a mess of cables. Not everything is 100% complete yet. In my library, I have 2 tower speakers and a 24” LCD mounted to the wall. Once I get the library cleaned up (you’ll see the mess below), that monitor and the speakers will be connected directly to the Media Center for movies and music. I have a receiver in the closet that has the Media Center as its input, and I’ll run the speaker wires through the conduit to connect up the speakers. I’ll also run an HDMI cable through the conduit for the Media Center to connect to the monitor. I have my work laptop that I bring home every evening. In the event that I want to be able to get some work done from home, I have a shelf that I’m going to put in as a fake “dock” for the laptop. I’ll connect it to the receiver for audio and also run a db15 analog video connection through the conduit to plug in to the monitor. Lastly, I want to run a USB cable from the Media Center to the monitor (which has a built in USB hub & card reader) so that I can plug in a keyboard mouse. Either that, or I’ll just buy a wireless set.

     

    Here’s a picture of the wiring in the closet:

     

    Lots of Cables

     

    My library:

     

    Library MediaLibrary books

     

    In the living room, here’s my equipment (top to bottom, left to right):

    • 42” Westinghouse monitor
    • Sony receiver
    • Scientific Atlantic HD-DVR (Uggh)
    • 5-disc CD-changer
    • VCR
    • HD-DVD add-on for xbox360
    • Laserdisc player
    • xbox 360
    • Magnavox Blu-ray player (I have no use for BD-Live)

    Living room entertainment setup Wiring behind Entertainment center

     

    Coming out of the wall is the network which is plugged straight into the xbox. Also the RG6 cable is connected straight into the DVR.

     

    All the audio for the devices goes through the receiver which is hooked up with a 3.0 “front surround” speaker setup. (There is no rear wall so I haven’t figured out how to hook up the surrounds and I don’t have the budgetary approval for a sub. However, I can’t live without a center channel). My receiver doesn’t have any HDMI inputs, so all of the video goes straight to the TV, with the exception of the analog feeds from the VCR and laserdisc player which go into the receiver. There is a run from the receiver to the TV for those. We use the HD-DVD drive for playing DVD’s and HD-DVD’s and the Blu-ray player for Blu-ray’s.

     

    I haven’t quite gotten around to ripping my DVD’s most due to being indecisive about what format I want them to end up in. Once I get the media center up and running, I’ll then be able to use the xbox360 as an extender and that will help make that decision for me. However, I’m a bit of an HD snob, so I’m not going to go to media center until I can get HD into it, so I’m one of the many people anxiously awaiting the Ceton Cable Cards (although I’m one of the lucky few who have ever seen one (two actually) and held it in my hand at CEDIA).

     

    I hope that gives a bit of an overview of this little project I embarked on and was able to successfully complete phase 1 of. My wife is glad that there is no longer a 50’ coax cable running down the wall for the TV. I’m happy to have a dream of mine starting to be realized. Now I just need to finish cleaning up the library and it will be a nice relaxing location for listening to music and reading (as you can tell in the picture above, we love our books). I tend to try to tackle too many things at once (I’m also in the middle of walling off 1/3rd of the garage for a woodworking shop for me) and thus am slow at finishing any of them, so it is very fulfilling to have reached this stage. The total time expended was probably about 15 hours of work over the course of about two months.

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    I like his idea to use the conduit, however I would have not connected the conduit together in the atic. If you look he has seveal elbows and turns and unless he has alot of extra pull wires already ran it will be come difficult to "fish" for later adding more cable runs. Since this is the atic and no one is going to see it I would have brought the conduits up through the atic and left them (cables) exposed and run them around the perimeter of the atic, ticking them with cable staples.
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    Nice posting. The pictures really help explain what you did. I'm in the early stages of retro-wiring an older home (built in 1941) for cable and cat6. This article provides some additional ideas and tips, as well as confirming that it really can be done by a well-prepared DIY'er. Congrats!
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    @jcrus. That is a good point. I can totally see that. I didn't glue the pipes together, so if something got stuck, you could always just pull them apart and fish it manually and then reconnect. I have 2 reasons why I didn't do that. 1, the half of the attic that is above the guest room and living room is nice and tall and has a light mounted. The other half, which I would have to get to for ever routing, isn't that easily accessible and you need a flashlight and to crawl around on your hands and knees. Not something I want to be doing in an attic in Florida with any frequency. 2, I wanted something where I didn't have to go into the attic at all. I can simply fish through another string and pull a cable any time I want to. The bends didn't seem to cause any problems when I was pulling any of my runs.
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    nice job. i just did some coax wiring for my friend's guest house. unfortunately there was no attic so i had to run the cable through the crawl space. he didn't want ethernet cable but i ran some 5e anyways since i know at some point he's going to want it and i don't want to spend a day crawling under there again.
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    Hey AJ, nice writeup, however quick question - what necessitated running the cabling through PVC? I cabled our entire house for the cost of a single drum of CAT5 (approx $80 AUD, plus a handful of CAT5e outlets and wall plates) ... I've never even contemplated the PVC - to me it adds an additional cost that isn't really that necessary....
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    Well the PVC was $1.50 (approx) per 10' length, so all total it only added about $10 to the cost of the project. And the benefit I'd get for being able to pull cables simply without having to manually go and crawl in the attic and staple them to the roofing beams was well worth it.
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    @usacomp2k3 ture, but i think the coax would still come in handy if you ever decided to have a media center at each pc instead of an extender. with the coax there, you can now have a ceton tuner at each tv!
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