Network my house
July 14, 2010 6:05 AM   Subscribe

My house house has been gutted and I have a chance to rewire everything before the new drywall goes up. Other than the electrical service, what cables would you install to make my house ready for the present and the future?

Additional info. My cable and data service is provided by Verizon Fios.
posted by otto42 to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I would got ahead an run Cat6 cable if you can. I just finished adding it to my house and it's great having it in every room.

At the very least, I would run some sort of line you can use to pull new types of cable through in the future. In the past we ran conduits with twine labeled at both ends. That made it easy to attach new cable and pull it through. Find something that's easy to attach to cable but doesn't kink or bind too easily. Run three or four of these so you've got plenty if you need it.
posted by beowulf573 at 6:12 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and you may want to do this some distance away from your electrical. You can get interference from long parallel runs of electric and data. I think one foot is the minimal separation but I would confirm that.
posted by beowulf573 at 6:14 AM on July 14, 2010

I can't help you on the types of cable, but I'm envious of your opportunity to put in electrical outlets wherever you want. Some ideas you may not have considered... put them inside a few cupboards/cabinets to help reduce future counter and cord clutter. For example, put one where your bathroom cabinet will go so you can charge your electric toothbrush without leaving it next to the sink. Think about which cabinet might work as a charging station and put a few outlets on the inside there. If you know where your desk would logically go, put the outlets higher on the wall so the cords don't dangle down behind... and conversely, if an outlet is likely to be used for a floorlamp, place it as low as possible. Think through bedside outlets, which might work best on the floor if it's a good time to install them too. In general, outlets are cheap to install now and more is better.
posted by carmicha at 6:15 AM on July 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yeah it looks like between networking and the new HDBaseT standard, everything's going to be running on cat6.
posted by Partial Law at 6:19 AM on July 14, 2010

Also you may find this recent question helpful.
posted by Partial Law at 6:20 AM on July 14, 2010

Speaker system (or at least wires to connect to external speakers); cable/data plugs on opposite ends of each room.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:25 AM on July 14, 2010

Definitely coax for cable tv (FiOS uses coax once it's inside the house).

If you want to hang your TVs on the wall, add HDMI cables as well, where appropriate.
posted by dforemsky at 6:29 AM on July 14, 2010

Run conduit everywhere, so you can run that overlooked new cable standard later.
posted by chengjih at 6:39 AM on July 14, 2010 [9 favorites]

Think through bedside outlets...

How about bedside switches (like they have at hotels)? That is, assuming you have only one good place to put your bed in your bedroom...
posted by StarmanDXE at 7:00 AM on July 14, 2010

If you're going to mount a flat panel on the wall, put a quad-sized box behind where the TV will go with a large conduit running to it so you can add any cables down the road. The conduit should go to another quad-size box where your components will sit. Even better, from there run another conduit down to the basement.

When I was planning my house people told me to put conduit everywhere. In the end we ran some Cat-5 and some coax but no conduit. I mean, how many extra cables are we going to run? The only conduit we put in was a 2 inch pipe running from the attic to the basement so we would have a way to run something from the panel up to the attic. The idea was that anything on the first floor could be run up from the basement and anything on the second floor could be run up the conduit and then down from the attic. If we ever do have a reason to run an extra cable, adding it then will be less effort than running a bunch of random conduit now. It's also pretty hard to predict just where you're going to need a cable down the road. The exception is if you have a workshop / office / studio where you know you'll be running a lot of cable in the future.

The one thing I wish I had done was run some speaker wire for surround sound. Even if I never got to adding it the wire is cheap (as long as you don't fall for the Monster Cable scams) and it would have been trivial to add it then but not trivial now that the walls are covered and insulated.
posted by bondcliff at 7:00 AM on July 14, 2010

Here's another recent question that may help you.
posted by Night_owl at 7:09 AM on July 14, 2010

If possible, wire/plumb things so that you can have your washer/dryer on the same floor as your bedrooms. No more hauling clothes up and down the stairs!
posted by Jacqueline at 7:13 AM on July 14, 2010

You can't predict what will be great in 15 years or even 5. Run some infrastructure that will make it simple to add new hardware later. Conduit pipes should be cheap to buy.

Run them all to one utility room, hub-and-spokes, with a few speculative trans-endpoint lines.

Think of how cool it will be to tie a lead tether to a pingpong ball and blow it to some other room and have a new line in a few minutes of tugging it through the walls.

When the cheap solar cells come and the room-temp superconductors are invented, you'll be set.
posted by cmiller at 7:43 AM on July 14, 2010

I haven't used it, but this wiring housing product may be helpful for future upgrades: eXapath from Homepath.
posted by yoga at 7:47 AM on July 14, 2010

Can you run conduit with lines rather than cables? Then you can pull any wire you want later.

Otherwise, I'd suggest cat6 x 2, (you can always terminate with RJ45 or RJ11 connectors) and Coax x2
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:53 AM on July 14, 2010

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posted by eXapath at 8:18 AM on July 14, 2010

Nthing speaker wires in any room you might want surround sound. Think big as big as you like-- up to 9.1. Or how about just doing in-wall and/or in-ceiling speakers while you're at it?
posted by supercres at 8:19 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm replying from my DH who used to design structured wiring for a living: definitely agree with the central hub/spokes idea. Run lines from there to places where you might want alarm/automation/control panels and sensors (eg: next to beds? entry doors? centrally located positions on each floor? thermastats? motion sensors? video cameras?). All should be Cat6 and power cable if you're running wire, otherwise place conduit. Even if your Verizon requires coax, for example, you should run the Cat6 or conduit in case you change your system.
posted by kch at 8:29 AM on July 14, 2010

So you've got a couple of options, most of which are mentioned here.

But running through your needs.

Internet connectivity - Most of the time this is handled via wireless these days. Your ability to do so will depend on the layout and/or makeup of your house, but most houses these days shouldn't really need cat5 or cat6 for internet these days, unless you have a dead zone where you'd want a wireless access point in which case you'd want cable from your main router to your additional AP.

Most cable needs these days are going to be for multimedia (TV and Sound). The difficulty here is that these cables and connections tend to change pretty regularly, which is why most people here recommend running conduit (a pipe which you can easily run new cables through) as opposed to running a specific type of cable. That being said HDMI is generally what most TV systems are running these days. If I had a gutted house I'd lean towards putting together a dedicated multimedia closet (maybe in the basement) where I keep most of my TV "boxes" so I can keep just the clean profile of the HDTV in my rooms. You then run coax to the closet (cable box and cable modem) and HDMI/wifi out of it. To get this to work you need to run an IR blaster from your TV install to the closet to get your remote to work (an IR blaster is a little IR receiver that grabs your remote input and sends it to the closet via a wire run).

My expertise is more TV related so I'll let someone else maybe do a dream audio system, but I'd love to have some sort of whole house speaker setup to have music throughout.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:37 AM on July 14, 2010

Even if your Verizon requires coax

It doesn't, in most senses of that.

In a normal residential fios install, the router talks to the ONT over coax, and the router talks to the set-top boxes over coax.

But there's no need for other devices to talk to the router over coax; you can just have the router talk to a hub which runs ethernet to all the rooms. If anything, staying all coax will be more difficult because then you'll need a MOCA adapter for room you want hard-wired, and there's a relatively low limit on how many MOCA adapters can coexist on the same network.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:17 AM on July 14, 2010

most houses these days shouldn't really need cat5 or cat6 for internet

I assure you that you'd want it for streaming hi-def video.

The low-bitrate 720p stuff on netflix works okay over our wireless g.

But moderate-bitrate 720p avis/mkvs, while watchable, almost inevitably stutter at a few points in the movie, almost always while something interesting is exploding. 1080p avis/mkvs are a complete non-starter, to say nothing of bd images.

(wireless n wouldn't matter as the ps3 is only wireless g)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:26 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wireless G should handle most cases of video streaming its max throughput is 54Mpbs and even 10Mbps should easily handle the vast majority of video streaming use cases - most of that Netflix stuff comes in way under 5. I have a Roku (wireless N) that (anecdotaly) doesn't have the same issues. But hey its wireless there's a ton of variables, If you're pumping full 1080 HD around the house then yes feel free to run cat5 or cat6 around. but I'd still rather pipe most of that to something like a Roku/PS3/Media Center PC that would be centrally located then run HDMI from there to the rooms then run ethernet cable all over that I'll only use in certain ultra-high bandwidth applications. YMMV
posted by bitdamaged at 11:00 AM on July 14, 2010

Conduit would be the ideal choice, but if that is not possibile for some reason you could run a composite cable, something like 2x Cat6, 2x RG6, fiber (I've no specifics on the link, they were just first in line at google).

A friend ran a similar product from his house to an outbuilding "just in case".

posted by cftarnas at 11:23 AM on July 14, 2010

Opps, botched the composite cable link above. I should really read the live preview better.
posted by cftarnas at 11:24 AM on July 14, 2010

All that being said this article makes me like cat6 better... ;-)

TV business kisses HDMI goodbye
posted by bitdamaged at 11:27 AM on July 14, 2010

This is a very interesting and comprehensive thread. Here are a few emerging technologies that may impact how we wire our homes. It's never easy to predict the future but having big names behind the D part of R & D makes for compelling thought:

Check out Light Peak from Intel...apparently coming soon.

Another one to monitor is a new home wiring scheme based around Categorized UTP (unshielded twisted pair copper cables) seems to be targeting the HDMI cables we've all recently begun to adopt. HDBaseT
posted by eXapath at 11:29 AM on July 14, 2010

I'm not talking about stuff like netflix. That's already been compressed to hell and back to fit into ~5Mbps, so it pretty much works over wireless g. It also looks like 5Mbps.

I'm talking primarily about streaming downloaded mkvs/avis, or x264 backups of discs you have from a PC somewhere to the display device. Even the 720p files commonly have peak bitrates of ~15Mbps, and the 1080p ones commonly hit 20Mbps at some points. In practice, getting 15Mbps of actual transported data over wireless g is something that happens only when the air is cooperative.

Not to mention actually backing up the .ts's of bds, where the bitrates can easily hit 50Mbps of video+audio.

Installing cat6 runs at this point is cheap, gigabit-speed insurance, and it means you can fling whatever data you want around the house without worrying about it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:32 AM on July 14, 2010

Wireless might work for you, but every house is different, and the advertised speeds of all wireless networking products are something you typically will never see in practice. Wire it up.
posted by cellphone at 12:00 PM on July 14, 2010

I'm a big fan of WiFi for basic data...can't beat it for convenience and ease of is always a question and has much to do with set up and administrator knowledge...set up well it works well.

With streaming media, quality of service begins to become more important. The data rates for HDTV and 3D HDTV push the performance envelope of WiFi...even for the latest 802.11n WiFi, if more than one device is connected the bandwidth of WiFi is shared and the effect is nonlinear. Cat 6 will remain a pretty strong performer so long as link lengths are kept short (<5>
The new Intel Light Peak stuff is interesting because its basic data rate starts at 10,000 Mbps (10 Gig) and is scalable to 100 Gig...over great distances...and is completely immune to EMI and RFI interference.

This will be interesting to watch develop.
posted by eXapath at 2:51 PM on July 14, 2010

"The data rates for HDTV and 3D HDTV push the performance envelope of WiFi .even for the latest 802.11n WiFi rates"

This simply isn't true at all.

Most HDTV your cable box receives comes in between 8-20Mpbs,and from what I've heard 3DTV doesn't add significant overhead. Theoretical max for wireless G is 54Mbps and Wireless N is 600 Mbps [1]

Most streaming video providers (Netflix/Amazon) are pushing out HDTV over the internet at somewhere under 5mpbs.

Blu-Ray bitrates max out at 54Mbps (but usually practically fall in the 48Mbps range) which pretty much maxes out Wireless G. Regardless Wireless N should have plenty of headroom with its 600Mpbs cap.

I'm really not saying wireless is your answer (and if you did I'd go with wireless N) but saying N can't hold up on because their isn't room under the envelope isn't correct.
posted by bitdamaged at 4:21 PM on July 14, 2010

I don't disagree and am learning as I go, so thanks for clarifying. I believe the 802.11n standard (at present) allows up to 300 near perfect transmitting conditions, and with a theoretical upper limit of 600. Please correct me if I am wrong.

The main point I was trying to make is that the WiFi AP, when used by multiple devices shares its bandwidth and the effect is non linear. By that I suggest that if the WiFi AP has perfect signaling at 300 Mbps and is shared by two devices...the result is not 150 Mbps per device but, rather, a true data rate of something much lower. Therefore, having many devices (as many households adopt WiFi enabled devices today) cold result in less than satisfactory results.

In addition to shared bandwidth, WiFi is not what I would prefer for streaming media, especially high resolution content. This, in my opinion, is where quality of service comes into question. Operating at either 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz, WiFi is susceptible to external noise sources such as microwave ovens, cordless phones, bluetooth, etc. Not a big problem for low speed data streams but potentially problematic for the increased speeds necessary for high quality video and audio.

For streaming media I would prefer a wired (Cat 6) solution or possibly coaxial. I am intrigued by the notion of Intel's Light Peak approach and look forward to learning more about it.

In any case, consumer electronics technology will continue its unceasing advance...having a way to easily upgrade low voltage wiring within the walls is desirable.

posted by eXapath at 6:05 PM on July 14, 2010

Somewhat related to the question of wiring...if you're going to go the home theater route, might be worth it to try to eliminate every possible point in the walls where metal can rattle. Plumbing running through joists, switch boxes secured with nails, etc. When I crank up my subwoofer I can hear stuff rattling in the walls, a nuisance that is pretty much impossible to eliminate.
posted by P.Westermanii at 9:07 PM on July 14, 2010

Tightening up hardware inside the walls is a great point. Here's a though:

If you're in the walls and able tighten things up, have you considered adding insulation to dampen noise transfer from room to room at the same time?

There are quite a few sprayfoam insulation products and services on the market today. They're not cheap, but if you're going high-end on your AV system and the walls are open it may be worth checking out. Beyond the insulation properties (Great R-value and air infiltration elimination) they're excellent at sound dampening...particularly the Open Cell foams.

Due to the nature of the expanding foam, loose things tend to get tightened up as the foam infiltrates and cures.

Here's a link to an applicator I'm familiar with locally...good info on their site...many more like them around the country.

US Insulation
posted by eXapath at 6:12 AM on July 15, 2010

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