CAT5 cabling in the house
July 17, 2017 2:26 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to run some CAT5 cabling in my house. I really came unstuck last week because I ordered some CAT6 cable thinking it would be a good idea to over-engineer. Unfortunately the CAT6 was (duuh!) too thick for my staple gun and everytime I tried to staple the cable to the wall I put a staple through the cable itself.

Suffice to say I gave up on that plan pretty quickly. I would really like to order some CAT5 but I'm getting confused now between the flexible CAT5 I've used before (seems to bend quite easily into corners, don't think it's shielded at all?) and how I would then terminate that CAT5 versus the other stiffer type which I guess is either made from stranded or solid cores. Can anyone offer me some pointers? For the most part I'm not actually going to be using the CAT5 for home networking - I'm going to be using it for a home telephone system (I do need all 4 pairs). But in places I will be running it for ethernet networking, too. I have a crimp tool so I can either crimp on RJ45 plugs or terminate into sockets. But I gather stranded and solid core have to be terminated differently? Lost! Thank you!!
posted by dance to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You want Cat5e anyway (more twists/cm -> better interference resistance) if you’re going for Cat5 over Cat6 cable.

Solid core Cat5e is better for long runs (lower attenuation of the signal), but has a lower minimum bend radius & it doesn’t like being repeatedly flexed due to fatgue cracking of the copper. Hence the rule of thumb that you use solid core for your runs from patch panel to wall sockets & stranded cable for your patch cables.

Wall sockets are usually designed for terminating solid core for this reason, although I imagine you can get ones designed for stranded cable if you need them.

Also, you don’t want to use a staple gun to attach a cable directly to anything - cat5 or cat6 - because it will pinch the cable & pinching the cable disturbs the internal positioning of the cables which will cause crossover interference between them. One way round this is problem is to staple zip ties to the wall & then use the zip ties to attach the ethernet cable. (Or use the staples that have plastic bits sized to go round your cable.)
posted by pharm at 3:00 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]

You can buy a special staplegun, which takes special staples that are curved with a yoke between the shoulders, to fit over your cable.
posted by adamrice at 6:10 AM on July 17

No, you just need the correct type of staple gun. If you're pinching the cable, you've got the wrong kind of staple gun. For Cat5/5e, a T-25 staple with a proper depth adjustment is fine. Many of the guns don't have the depth adjustment capability. This T2025 does:

See the side of the stapler and the depth adjustment. You can actually use these to loose-hang cables (not gripping the cable at all, just holding it, so that you can slide the cable back and forth). So it is totally doable, you just need the right tool. Definitely works for Cat5/5e, probably for 6, doesn't for 6A. Not recommending this, but for those of us who already have the right tool, easily done. And the staples are stupid-cheap.

But there are good options for plastic staples as well. You can find the inexpensive version of GB's Cable Boss stapler in many home improvement stores and MPS-2100 staples for this type of job. This is a tool that's pretty ideal for this type of task. Hard to mess up and as long as you follow the directions, works fine. The staples come in multiple sizes and you can definitely use one of the sizes for Cat3, 5, 5e, 6, 6A, RG6, speaker cable, etc. We used to have to carry multiple staple guns for various cabling tasks. Now we don't.

You are probably better off keeping the Cat6 and getting a decent staple gun for it. Should be about $30-$40 for the GB stapler and staples.

In general, stranded wire needs to be terminated at a crimp, and solid needs to be punched down with a punch tool into an IDC terminal. There are specific "problem solver" versions of both (crimps for solid, jacks for stranded) but these should be avoided if possible.

If you are more comfortable working with stranded wire and crimps, you have the option to do your wiring with stranded, terminate at a crimp, and then use a Keystone RJ45 coupler.

The biggest problem with this, other than it's "not professional," is that the stranded cable is a lot more saggy than solid core, so when you're stapling it up, it will tend to sag over time (possibly immediately).

For solid wire punchdowns, if you're going to do more than a few, you probably want to acquire a 110 impact tool.

I know that many of the consumer-pak wall jacks come with a little plastic tool that looks a little like that, but they don't do a great job.
posted by jgreco at 6:16 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

jgreco - thank you - I have a T18 tacker and it takes either 3/16 x 3/8 leg or 3/16 x 7/16 leg crown staples. Sounds like I need a new gun. Thank you so much for your post. Thanks to everyone. But particularly jgreco!
posted by dance at 9:10 AM on July 17

A T18 is not suitable for the task. It's useful for things like 4 conductor HVAC (sometimes), 4 conductor telephone station cord, 2 or 4 conductor alarm wiring, or other narrow cable applications.

You can probably "make" a T18 work for about 97% of staples on a typical Cat5 (thinking specifically with a good product like Lucent Systimax) and if you're experienced that jumps up to more like 99.7%, but without the depth guide it will suck and even if you're really in command of the tool, accurately gunning it without also getting some pinching is unlikely until you've been doing it a long while.

The voice of experience says that this is not a skill worth learning. Until you have experience, you will inevitably nick the cable with a staple and then spend the next fifteen minutes pulling the last several dozen staples you did as you deinstall the damaged cable, and then have to start over. Why bother.

The downside to the plastic staples is that they are monstrously large compared to the elegant little T25's. Can't argue with the results from the plastic staples though.

Also, I should have mentioned (intended to) that you can use plastic Romex or RG6 "staples", which you actually hammer in.

This may be a cheaper solution and you can do nifty tricks in tight spaces. I like to predrill holes for the nails to ensure they go in straight. More time-consuming, but also a great solution.
posted by jgreco at 3:41 PM on July 17

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