If you think of a house as a person, the steel would be the bones, the concrete the muscles, plumbing the blood vessels, and the electronic/electrical cabling the nervous system. This post will focus on your home’s nervous system and how to set it up for whatever the application, be it electrical power, video/audio, data, etc. While many applications are adopting wireless solutions, some things still require or works best with physical cabling. Cabling is a trade skill and as such a lot of attention should be put on quality and aesthetics of work. If the cable guy from Flow or Digicel came to your house and did a sloppy job setting up the cables you’d kick them out of your yard and try to have them fired! From my experience in the field myself, I’ve learned some tricks of the trade I’m willing to share.
Tools and Material:
- Tape measure
- Power drill
- Wall plugs
- Hack saw
- Screw driver
- Pipe conduits/Trunking
- Tie straps
- Saddle straps
Part 1: Planning And Design
The first rule of thumb is that cables should never show. We don’t want cables running all over our homes like the arm on some jacked up power-lifter.
Fun fact: this is an actual picture of my biceps on arm day at the gym.
Jokes aside, this why the run cables within walls. If you want to add additional cables after construction, running them through the walls may not always be possible or feasible. Luckily, there are surface-mount solutions that can still leave your project with a neat and professional look. This post will primarily look on surface-mount cabling solutions. The three most popular of these are using cable clips, trunking or pipe conduits.
PVC Pipe Conduit
Cable clips are rather limited in use since they expose the cable, it doesn’t provide any mechanical protection, and it may stick out if not painted to match the walls. However it is excellent for quick indoor use, so long as you don’t mind spending hours hammering. Pipe and trunking (raceways) come in several different material types and sizes depending on their application, but for most home projects their PVC variants can get the job done just fine. Pipes are typically recommended for outdoor installations, and trunking typically indoors although they can be interchanged to some extent.
The next thing to consider is where your end points will be installed to determine your cable route. These points can be electrical outlets, network/phone jacks, audio/visual jacks, cameras just to name a few. The route you take is very important because it determines how much material you need to buy and how neat the presentation will be. As I said before visibility is everything, so ideally choose the most inconspicuous path out of sight. If that’s not possible try to run along the corner edges of your walls, either along the ceiling or along the floor.
After you’ve chosen your route the next thing to do is to measure your run distances. Fortunately, this does not need to be accurate to the inch, and in fact is not recommended. This can be found if you have a plan of your home/office. This plan be sketched if you do not have access to a building plan. You can also manually find these distances. Having a tape measure is invaluable here, however if you don’t you can always use you feet and count steps to measure distances like when you were in primary school. For vertical runs you can use wall tiles, furniture or anything that you know the length of as a reference. Once you know your total length its good practice to add-on ‘fat’ to give yourself a generous estimate. Its cheaper to be a foot over than an inch too short. With enough experience you can estimate by just eye balling the route.
Now that you have decided whether it’s an indoor or outdoor installation, and your route length its time to draft a material list to take to the hardware store. You may not be able to get the exact amount as estimated since most times the stores will quantify their cables in reels of certain lengths, or pipes/conduits will be of certain standard lengths (typically 10 ft). For this reason expect to have excess material.
Part 2: Installation
Before we continue, having another person to assist you for the installation would be highly recommended as some of the steps listed below are difficult/tiresome to do solo (however not impossible).
It’s usually a good idea to start by marking where your end points will go and then mount your raceways to meet it. Based on your prior planning to get the estimate you should have an idea of where you will be laying your cables/raceways. Whichever method chosen for laying your cables (pipe/trunking/cable clips) you need to make sure your route is level with a bubble level (or laser level if you can afford) before mounting to the wall.
For cable clip installations align your cable along wall, level and straightening it, then hammer down cable clips every 2 -5 ft apart. Be sure to hammer straight, otherwise the nail in the clip will chip the wall.
For piping raceways, similarly align & straighten and use saddle straps to hold it down the mounting surface. The distance apart will vary depending on how much structural integrity you need. Run cable through the pipe(s) and if necessary join more lengths of conduits with pvc conduit couplers.
Trunking may be the easiest type to work with as all you need to do align it to where you want it to go and remove the adhesive on the back to make it stick to the wall. For good measure its recommended to nail it to the wall with at least 3 nails per 10 ft length. Then simply place your cable(s) in the trunking by removing the cover.
Once all your cables and raceways are in place you can connect your end devices and enjoy the fruits of your hard work. This tutorial may not cover every possible scenario but it should at least equip you with knowledge for many home cabling projects. Stay tuned to see some more projects that will draw on techniques used here: Cabling house for video Surveillance and Cabling UPS circuits.
Amazon Links to purchase some of the speciality tools used:
Screw Driver set: Performance Tool W1727 39-Piece Screwdriver Set with Rack