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This seems like a good place to ask this. I'm sure many of you have done this in the past.

I am getting a home built and will soon be making decisions on all the pre-wiring.

I know I want to run CAT5 for the phone lines and CAT6 for Ethernet connections throughout the house. I am also a DirecTV user, so I plan on having the cables ran straight from the attack to the rooms. I am trying to make sure I don't have to have any installers if I ever decide to switch from DirecTV to cable or something.

I think the central location for all the end points will be the attic, does that make sense?

I plan on running 2 coax, 2 Ethernet and a single phone line to the living room. Also, 2 coax, 1 Ethernet and 1 phone rec room and master for dual tuner DVRs. Then, I plan on having a single Ethernet, phone and coax connection in each additional bedroom.

Is this enough? I don't know the general rule of thumb for this kind of stuff.

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1  
Straight from the *attic –  Joe Philllips Aug 14 '09 at 20:31
    
Thanks. Silly mistake. –  Jab Aug 14 '09 at 20:33
5  
Yay! Fiber To The Toilet (FTTT) initiative GO! –  EBGreen Aug 14 '09 at 20:34
    
I'd also suggest going one-size up on your power - if code is 12ga, I'd run 10ga, personally. Lets you run 20A circuits rather than just 15A :) –  warren Aug 16 '09 at 1:31

5 Answers 5

up vote 21 down vote accepted

The Attic is usually very warm, even hot. You will want at some point to add hardware such as Ethernet switch, a sever, and so on. I would pick a central location like a closet.

Also I woudl recommend running your cables through conduit. It makes it much easier if you have to pull more cable latter.

Also don't forget to put in extra power outlets.

Last, run twice the cable you think you will need.

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2  
and use bigger conduit - not smaller! if you can fit 3" pvc, for example, pulling more cable later will be a LOT easier than through 1" –  warren Aug 16 '09 at 1:29
    
Also, run the initial wiring alongside the conduit, not inside of it. Then run conduit next to the initial wiring. That way, when you need to add more later, you won't have to fight half-full conduit. –  tnorthcutt Aug 20 '09 at 13:24

You could always run "smurf tube" to each room with some pull-lines for pretty much any future cables.

And go ahead and run speaker wire for 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound in your living room. It looks so much prettier than having six or so speaker wires running around the perimeter of the room. I use the Dolby Home Theater Speaker Guide as a reference for the speaker placement/height/angle/etc.

This has also been discussed ad nauseam on Slashdot, and there are many good pearls of wisdom within the comments.

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When I bought my house, I was the first (and apparently only, as the builder has since gone out of business) to request the pre-wire option.

No one (on their end) really knew what they were doing; I didn't get all of the cables I specified, didn't get the condiut I specified, they didn't bring them out of the walls where I wanted, and even though I have a coax and two cat 6 cables coming out in each room, and a grand total of ~20 UTP and coax coming out in the "server closet" area, they were all brought out of their various walls through one box each.

Short version, whatever electrical contractor actually did the work didn't grok low-voltage, so, I'd strongly recommend that you make sure you get the opportunity to approve the rough work before the drywall contractor does their thing; it's much simpler to correct mistakes at that point.

Beyond that, +1 to Jim C and Kevin L; run more than you need, and since you're going to the effort, plan for speaker cables too.

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I ran low voltage for two years in a residential setting.

Go for Cat-5e for both phone and ethernet, one cable for each. Cat-5E handles gigabit perfectly well, and unless you have a ginormous house(read: greater than 300ft from outlet to closet) you won't have problems.

Let's talk wiring closet locations. Avoid the attic, seriously, it sucks. It's hot, you can't work with your equipment, bad news. Go lower, the basement. Try for a central-ish area, but generally tucking it all into your furnace room is a fine idea, unless it's tight for space. Ensure that where your wires all come out has adequate power built-in, it'll be easier that way. Also, if you can afford it, a decent patch-panel for your ethernet, and a phone punch-down block are very good choices, it will make maintaining and upgrading much easier.

Lets talk labeling. Mostly, just do it. Label both ends of every wire. If you don't run the wires yourself, make sure whoever does writes up a paper on what and where every wire is and goes. 20 years down the road, I might have to fix something, and it takes longer if I don't know where things are. Remember, I charge by the hour, and I'm not cheap.

Let's talk routing. Generally you don't need to worry about conduit, it's a bit of a hassle for low-voltage is usually unnecessary. Don't use staples except for a single wire, near the end of it's run. A pinched wire or a staple through a jacket can cause problems. Do put one or two 3-4" solid PVC tubes from the basement to the attic. These arn't for your current wires, leave them empty for future.

Lets talk future wiring. Depending on the house you have, you might not have to future-proof as much as you think. A standard unfinished(exposed ceiling) basement, two stories, and an accessible attic are all you need to easily add wires down the road. Using those PVC tubes, you can run wires to the attic, and then down the walls to the 2nd story. Drill up from the basement for the 1st floor. You may need additional "conduit" depending on your situation. Use flexible "smurf" blue tubing as another poster mentioned. It's cheap, easy to run, and works fine. If you need some flexiblity in an area that will be finished, consider putting an electrical box with a few tubes and pull-wires in it, and then cover it with a blank plate. Down the road if I need to run wires, and can't find another way, I start checking those blank boxes, and usually find a way to make it work.

Lets talk cable. Usually all you need in each room is one coax drop. Insist on RG-6 or better. RG-59 is not suitable for long runs of digital signal. Most competent installers will guide you to this anyway. Run them all to a single point, and have an amplifier-splitter from your main feed. Unless you have a dual-tuner environment, you shouldn't need two or more wires, although if you do, be sure to grab them.

Lets talk other accessories. Consider the following

  • Whole House audio or video(From Russound or Crestron, etc)
  • Single Room audio/home theater(It's pretty easy to stash all your av components into a closet, and hang the tv on the wall. A wireless universal remote can be had for around $120 to control it all. It looks very clean)
  • Security(Burglary, monitored Fire alarm, monitored Carbon monoxide, cameras)

For most of these things, talk to a specialized company in your area. They have specialized requirements that are too numerous to mention here. Let them know your situation, and they are generally grateful to visit the construction site and do their own pre-wiring. Saves them lots of time later on.

If you have questions about anything specific, feel free to ask!

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I think that is sufficient for most of your needs. Just think of any place that you may want to hook up. Garage maybe? Also, remember you will need a switch big enough to support all these ports. Wireless can also make up for any of those areas you may want to add in the future and be flexible with no installation.

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