New Home Networking
February 3, 2004 12:19 PM   Subscribe

You are building a new home. What networking will you provide between your office/computer/router and a media closet in your living space? Between your office and a living room desk? Between that desk and the media closet? Details ?

The media closet in your living space is one story below your office. The desk is in the living space near a bookcase. The bookcase is adjacent and below the office.
The desk stands free in the living space and is served with an in-floor (exposed concrete slab) power outlet. A computer at the living space desk will be connected to the internet and maybe a printer. It is 10' from the media closet.

It is not convenient to physically move from the office to the living space although it is easy for one person to talk to someone in the other space. You currently use wireless and wired networking. You use a Mac, an iPod and will play your entire music collection through the stereo in you media closet.

You do not need specific equipment recommendations right now. You need general thoughts on what aside from electricity might be hard wired, requiring a conduit under the slab.
posted by Dick Paris to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I am not a cable installer nor network engineer by trade, but if I were trying to spec a new house, I'd go with a star configuration radiating from a primary machine room:

Plan a patch panel in the machine room, with four or more runs of UTP from the patch panel to each room in the house. Bring incoming telco/cable voice, telco/cable data, and cable/sat video to the machine room.

If you're planning DBS video, toss in a run of coax to each room for decoders & Tivos and such.

Hang a basic 16 port 100bT switch from the patch panel, and patch the rooms to it. Uplink to your border router/bastion host/cheesy Linksys/DMZ router.

Punch analog POTS voice to a few ports of panel, and distribute accordingly.

A little extra hardware and you could distribute analog audio or composite video quite easily down the unused UTP to various rooms. Cat5/6 may or may not be ideal for the purpose, but it should be sufficient.

The key is the star configuration and patch panel. You can always add more fancy functionality like audio channel switching or distributed remote control, but if every room terminates at the patch panel, you don't have to do anything drastic to reassign the purpose of any given run of cable.
posted by majick at 12:55 PM on February 3, 2004

When we built a new house 18 months ago, I ran Cat5e cables throughout the house and terminated them at a patch panel in the wardrobe in one of the bedrooms. Every room has at least 2 RJ45 outlets and the phone lines coming into the house also terminate at the patch panel (with each line connected to 4 sockets to allow for multiple phones on the same line). This means that a computer and/or phone can be located in any room of the house simply by patching from either the network switch or the phone sockets to the appropriate outlet on the patch panel. This has worked a treat and I am glad that I ignored those who said it was a waste of time and those who said "just buy a wireless router", because, unless you use only mobile computers, wireless is too prone to interference and other problems to be a first choice for a fixed network.

A few tips, some of which I am glad I did and some I wish I had:
You need to think carefully about what use you could make of each room and place the sockets accordingly - if in doubt, put more sockets in.
If you are not sure where the best location is in any room, either add extra sockets or at least run the cables and leave them inside the wall if you don't want to have too many plates looking ugly.
Never ever assume that you can run cables where you want them later.
Locate the sockets next to the power points and use the same brand of wall plates so they match.

Apart from the network thing, I took around 400 photos of the house at every stage of construction (both wide view and detailed shots for specific areas), meaning that I know where every pipe and cable runs inside the walls, in the ceiling and under the ground and I know where all the framing is inside the walls. You only get one chance to do this and it has already proven valuable when landscaping to know where the pipes run.
posted by dg at 2:32 PM on February 3, 2004

IMHO, in 5-10 year be ready to install optical cable, at least to the "main server". As long as you leave some room to add/replace cables later on, you will be fine.
posted by MzB at 7:40 PM on February 3, 2004

Response by poster: Wow. Thanks.

Cabling is an issue in the design because of the relationship of the office to the home. While it is within the volume of the home, it is separated through some oddities in the architecture. Most rooms are easily accessed with cabling from that point but the downstairs bits I have mentioned are not. I will need to reconsider the path the conduit follows to those spaces not easily accessible.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:23 AM on February 4, 2004

If you do it while you are building, there is always a way - even if it means running a conduit under the floor slab. once the house is built, you have missed your chance forever. As your desk is free-standing on a concrete slab and you will be using an in-floor power outlet to service it, I suggest you do the same with a separate conduit. Don't try and run UTP in the same conduit as electricity, as you need at least 300mm separation for cables running parallel to avoid interference. As mentioned above, allow for newfangled things like fibre by making sure the conduit is large enough and the bends are of a large enough radius to run fibre. Again, this is your only chance to get it right, so think carefully and do it well before the concrete truck arrives.
posted by dg at 5:53 AM on February 4, 2004

There's always wireless networking. That way, in eight months time, you can move your TV / Media Station / Playstation / PC, and not worry about where the network points are. It'd probably be cheaper too.
posted by seanyboy at 9:09 AM on February 4, 2004

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