Run the cat through the wall, or dont bother?
December 30, 2003 7:47 AM   Subscribe

My house was completely rewired a few years ago by a previous owner. In doing so he put in the power, but left some rather large openings in the walls around the plug boxes. I have not repaired these, as I thought I would eventually get around to running some Cat 5 cable and phone jacks to every room. My question is, is it worth doing anymore? I can think of a few places I might want a hard connection to my network, but my WiFi set up makes me think this is no longer worth the trouble. The land line is not going away anytime soon, but it no longer seems worth the trouble either. Is there anything I should consider installing before I lock down the walls and lose my easy access?
posted by thirteen to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
If its possible, i would suggest installing conduit through the house. That way you can earily pull cat5, or fiber, or whatever new technology comes out through it.
posted by Davidicus at 7:53 AM on December 30, 2003

posted by crunchland at 8:21 AM on December 30, 2003

Response by poster: Would I just install a blank plate over the opening?
posted by thirteen at 8:30 AM on December 30, 2003

I would install a end box, (whatever they are called), and yes, a blank plate, that can be replaced with rj45 connectors, or whatever later, (when you actually pull cable) if they are colored the same as the other faceplates, they wont be obtrusive (or you can coverthem with wallpaper, if they are going in a wallpapered room, and if you line up the print carefully, they will be almost invisible)
posted by Davidicus at 8:41 AM on December 30, 2003

If the conduit pipe isn't already there, then installing it will be a collosal PITA. If it is, of course, you're golden. I've pulled cat-5 under my house to a couple of other rooms, and now I regret it because the next owner will probably regard those plates as redundant--if WiFi had been a credible option at the time, I would have done it.

Likewise, there's little need for more than one phone jack per line these days--you can get multiple satellite handsets that all tie into the same base station. Funny how these things come full-circle.
posted by adamrice at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2003

i'd put in cables for speakers (i'm thinking of posting a question here asking how fussy you have to be about balanced lines etc) so that you can have the hifi play on speakers in different rooms. i'd also make sure there was ethernet between the computer and the (central) wifi doodah. then i'd fill it in. in fact, that's exactly what we're doing in our new flat...
posted by andrew cooke at 12:27 PM on December 30, 2003

I'm not sure I'd get all bent out of shape over speaker cables any more, either. Three years ago I was all for wiring a house with multiple runs of power, ethernet, telephone, dsl, speaker wire, etcetera. Now wireless seems to be of-age, and I expect audiophile-quality wireless speakers to be The Next Big Thing.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:20 PM on December 30, 2003

FWIW, I wired my house with CAT5e and was really glad I did. I have pretty much one ethernet drop at each phone jack, and two by the TV. This is all run off of a 16 port switch in my wiring closet. Currently I have two computers, a rio reciever (audio), a PS2, and a router connected up. Speed is great, and the convienience is fantastic. Total cost was about 60$ for 1000 feet of wire and 80$ for a 16 port switch.

I did all of this after I already had a wireless setup. My reasoning was that I needed the speed (100Mb) for data transfer (I work a lot at home with huge (~1GB) image files). It is quite possible that in the future these jacks will be seen as a waste of space, but for now it is great.

I wired the house under the assumption that in the future, everything in the house will be networked (i.e. speakers, tv, telephone). I (pessimistically) assumed that wireless space would get increasingly crowded (more devices, neighbors, microwave ovens, wireless phones). Putting something on the wired network ensures that it will work, as well as secures the connection. In addition it frees up more wireless spectrum for you (and your neighbors) to use.

I have not used my wireless connection since I put the cable in.
posted by phatboy at 3:07 PM on December 30, 2003

If you do wire it, do so with CAT 6. CAT 5e is not, in fact, great for GigE (as in, lots of line noise -> lots of dropped packets), whereas CAT 6, while not yet a formalized standard, requires testing at actual gigabit speeds. Personally, I wired my parents' house with CAT 6 when we were laying hardwood floors, and can now install a central fileserver which will provide higher end-to-end bus capacity than a single ATA drive will be able to provide for another 5 or 10 years. Wifi is, of course, woefully inadequate as a LAN implement where sharing speed is of any concern, because 100baseT is an order of magnitude faster.
posted by azazello at 1:22 AM on December 31, 2003

Oh, and CAT 6 costs, like, 30% more than CAT 5e by now. I bought 1000ft for $60 this summer. Good 8-port GigE switches cost $150 now, while cards go for about $20. Then, if you want to actually benefit from it, you get a cheap fast noisy PC with on-board RAID, 2 or 4x7200RPM 200GB drives, and voila.
posted by azazello at 1:27 AM on December 31, 2003

(you stick that PC in the garage or some other place you can't hear it of course)
posted by azazello at 1:28 AM on December 31, 2003

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