Installing cable in rooms without cable ports
October 30, 2006 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Can I add a cable outlet in my house without running more cable?

I'm moving to a new house, and Comcast cable will be installed in the living room, where there is already an outlet. I and some other roomates want cable in our rooms as well, but per the landlord we've just been told we are not allow to physically damage the walls/ceilings... in other words, we can't have new outlets physically put in any other rooms. In addition, because the house is already wired for cable, the landlord vetoes physical installation of any alternative, i.e. a satellite dish.

The most primitive solution would of course be to run a lot- and I mean a lot- of cable from the base house line to the rooms, but that means cable across the walls, up the staircases, in and out of rooms, etc. I'm wondering if there's an alternative solution to that, like a wireless system or something that sends the signal through AC outlets (like those things that let you add an extra phone jack via your power outlet).

To answer some potential detail questions: this would be standard coaxial cable from Comcast. The living room line would be to a box and a cable modem but the split lines to the rooms only need to carry the analog cable signal. No, I'm not violating any laws; Comcast confirms you can split the analog line to multiple rooms. No, I'm not asking how to steal cable; we are paying for service.

Is this dream of additional outlets possible, or are the only two choices cable running everywhere or begging the landlord to let us drill? In short, how can I get cable in multiple rooms and floors without physically damaging any part of my new house?
posted by XQUZYPHYR to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
You can't really do it wirelessly. Cable TV uses too much bandwidth to easily transmit any other way. Satellite systems and digital direct broadcast systems use digital compression to get everything into less bandwidth and that equipment is expensive.

The stock answer for how to run cable without making a huge mess is to pull the baseboards up and run it under there, or run it along the top of the baseboards. Yes, it will take miles of cable. But it will work and not be all that ugly - my house phone wiring is all run along the top of my baseboards, which I learned to ignore after a while. But it should be straightforward to install that way. And it's pretty much out of the way. A little paint and 90% of people would never notice it. The landlord probaly would though.

One other alternative is to have multiple TV tuners in the living room and some sort of single-channel wireless broadcast device attached to one there. But then you'd need IR repeaters for the remote controls and I doubt it would work very well. Most of the devices I've seen to broadcast a video signal work in the 2.4GHz band (so could interfere with WiFi), have mediocre quality and you probably could only have one, as they don't have a channel selector for the wireless channel.
posted by GuyZero at 10:01 AM on October 30, 2006

Also, running cable inside the walls is not really that hard... maybe the landlord would agree if you got a proper electrician to do the job (as I assume he wouldn't trust you to do it) and you paid for it? A competent contractor can make something simple like this look pretty much flawless.
posted by GuyZero at 10:09 AM on October 30, 2006

Instead of simply begging the landlord, can you talk business with him. Get an estimate of the cost of removing the additional outlets and put that amount of money in an escrow account separate from the regular security deposit. It may be cheaper than buying and running cables.

Also, the FCC has ruled that you have the right to a satellite dish whether your landlord agrees or not. Check with your local dish company and they can probably give you more info on this.
posted by saffry at 10:19 AM on October 30, 2006

I appreciate the ideas about "negotiating with the landlord" but please if possible believe me when I say that's not an option. Barganining to fix it afterwards is out, ripping up the baseboards are DEFINITELY out... I feel like there's more than one "talk to your landlord about building" already which I tried to stress is simply not an option, and I really want to steer away from that and instead get any advice on possible remote systems, wireless options, etc.

GuyZero- you mentioned wireless devices- do they make something that transmits the signal that can be controlled by a remote from another TV? I saw a link to this system called LeapFrog, but I'm unsure if this lets you independently change channels or if it interferes with wireless internet... is this what you were talking about?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:45 AM on October 30, 2006

I think the closest you'll come is an A/V sender (the leapfrog product you mentioned). Unfortunately, this does not transmit the "raw" analog signal out of a cable, but connects to the video and audio out signals (RCA cables, usually). These usually include something called an "IR blaster", which allows you to use a remote in the other room. If you go this route make sure you buy it from a place that lets you return it if not satisfied. I understand that the quality of these gizmos is spotty, and it might interfere with your WIFI signal.

I have an old-generation sender that operates over household phone lines, and it does an okay job. Unfortunately, I don't find any of these currently for sale.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:56 AM on October 30, 2006

...and no, it won't let you independently change channels on the same cable box. You'd need an additional cable box at the source to be able to do this.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:59 AM on October 30, 2006

Yeah, the LeapFrog is what I was sort of thinking about - it's actually better because it has an integrated "IR blaster" aka a remote extender.

So, that thing works in the same 2.4 GHz band as 802.11b/g - it won't stop it, but it might interfere with it. You could always buy an 802.11a wireless router, which works in the 5GHz band.

I checked the manual on that model - there are 4 channels, so you could, in theory, have 4 of them in the same house. Assuming you wanted 4, you'd need to have 4 cable boxes in the living room plus 4 of the transmitters down there, then a receiver wherever else you wanted to receive the signal. Not exactly elegant, but it would probably work fine.
posted by GuyZero at 11:16 AM on October 30, 2006

You CAN do this. It'll take some work and probably be suboptimal, but it is entirely possible.

More later...
posted by FauxScot at 11:21 AM on October 30, 2006

e.g. ;

Extender with remote extender:

remote extender only:

posted by FauxScot at 11:24 AM on October 30, 2006

e.g. ;

Extender with remote extender: >

remote extender only: >
posted by FauxScot at 11:25 AM on October 30, 2006

FauxScot, unfortunately that looks like the same thing as LeapFrog, which I think GuyZero is right about in that it doesn't actually send a new cable signal but only the video output from the cable box.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:31 AM on October 30, 2006


I read your post too quickly. The issue is not just providing a single cable connection to multiple TVs, but providing multiple, independent cable connections to them....

In that case, I agree with GuyZero... can't be done with anything that I know about.

Good luck, though. Sounds like a thorny situation.
posted by FauxScot at 11:52 AM on October 30, 2006

I think your best bet is to go with lots of cable - they come in different colors, so you won't necessarily be stuck with large black cables running along the floor and walls. I would split one off at the wall (so there is only one visible wire running up the wall) and run that upstairs and split again (they have some splitters that have 3 outgoing lines or more). If you have digital, you will need additional boxes in every room, otherwise you will only get the basic cable. The person that Comcast sends out should be able to tell you how many splits you can get without lowering your picture quality.

If you are concerned about the expense of all that cable, you could get a roll of wire and create your own custom lengths off of that - someplace like Radio Shack should be able to sell you the necessary tools.
posted by blackkar at 12:11 PM on October 30, 2006

Thanks, all- blackkar, I think you're closest to what the final situation is going to have to be. In my last apartment, Comcast was very conciliatory with splitting the cable... they literally ran wire along the baseboards of the entire north side of the apartment because the jack was in the middle bedroom and had to run around to rooms on each side. This situation would call for actually running the cable up the stairs and then around the entire outer perimeter of the upstairs rooms to get into all the bedrooms. I'm hoping for a deal package that includes free installation....
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:16 PM on October 30, 2006

You really can't have cable professionally installed, even if you foot the bill? Would the landlord even notice, if it's done properly? I can't understand that one, but I'm not the one dealing with your landlord. So,maybe do what we did in university, and string the cable wires out windows? Also - buy good quality splitters. The cheapo ones work fine if you're only splitting the line once or twice, but you'll notice a huge improvement in picture quality if you are doing more than that, and use decent splitters.
posted by cgg at 1:03 PM on October 30, 2006

I had a similar situation in a college apartment. We ended up installing the cable in the drywall and patching it up ourselves before we left. However, to follow your guidelines, I would do the following:

Purchase the following from CableWholesale:

1. RG6 Coaxial Cable White UL, Pullbox, 18 AWG, 1000 ft $89
2. A coax crimper
3. Male and female F-Pin Connectors
4. A few 2GHz splitters
5. Cable-Clip White RG6 (100 pieces per bag)

Run a single wire to a central location, and split it the minimum number of times (anything more than 3 splits will result in a very poor signal). Run individual wires along the edging/baseboards to each room.

In another house I lived in, we ran a single cable up to age homain splitter on the 2nd floor, and had 6 cables running to individual rooms. We attached the cables near the baseboards with Cable-Clips mentioned above to the drywall. With the white cable and the white cable clips, the wire was not very noticeable. Also, the clips do not put noticable holes in the drywall.
posted by brianafischer at 5:16 PM on October 30, 2006

Skip the crimper and go with twist on ends (some people get antsy about this, but is is pretty silly).

Also, quit stressing about your landlord and break out the drill!
posted by Chuckles at 8:47 AM on October 31, 2006

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