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Home network wiring? Who's done it?

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by jpa, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. jpa

    jpa CLM

    May 28, 2001
    Las Vegas NV
    So after the third time in one night of my pit/boxer mix tripping over the patch cable snaking across the living room floor and knocking my linksys router on the floor, I decided I want to network my house. I'm tired of wi-fi competing for signal with the neighbors' routers and constantly dropping connections, so my ultimate goal is to be almost completely off wi-fi save for maybe a netbook or something. I've already got an idea of where I want to place the jacks and I know an unemployed electrician who is willing to help pull the cable. So here are the details of my planned install.

    I want to put 2 jacks in each of 3 bedrooms (on opposing walls), 1 in the bathroom, 2 in the living room behind the TV and another 2 on an opposing wall in the living room, 1 in the kitchen/dining room and 1 in the garage for my workbench.

    I have a tivo in 2 bedrooms and the living room that will take one of the jacks, my room also has my PS3 connected and the blu-ray player in the living room is networkable. The PCs to connect are my mom's macbook in her room, my desktop in the spare room, laptop in my room, and her desktop in the living room.

    So has anyone here undertaken such a task? I'm curious as to how it went and what issues if any you encountered. My big questions are...
    Where to place the wiring closet? Obviously ventilation, power and location are a consideration.
    What kind of hardware did you use? I'm thinking a managed or unmanaged switch will be fine. I'll use the router as my DHCP server and to connect to the cable modem.
    Did you notice any gains in speed? I'm thinking of using Cat 6 and a gigabit switch just to try to future-proof my work but I know I'm going to be limited by the speed of my router and cable modem connection.
  2. AAshooter


    Nov 1, 2000
    These folks have some good information in their knowledge base on whole home wiring. Definitely worth reviewing.

    Here is a link to an index from their older site: some of the information may be dated.

    One comment: wire is cheap, try to put the wire in place (or a way to pull additional/replacement cable) to take care of future needs.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010

  3. kc8ykd


    Oct 6, 2005
    i've got a lot of wiring over the years, mostly in a datacenter environment but a little in a home and some in commercial settings.

    wiring when the walls are already up is a pain and i never liked doing it.

    that said, you're project shouldn't be too difficult if you get the right tools and take your time.

    you'll want a good set of crimpers and wire cutters, good cable and good connectors. you'll also want fishtape to fish the wire through the walls. i'm assuming you have access to the walls from the top or bottom.. really, that's the hardest part.
    also, a staple gun meant for wiring and appropriate staples is very helpful as well for tacking down cable runs. (a gun with a guide so you don't pierce or crimp the wire)

    the the residential wiring i've done, i've used Panduit plates and a panduit patch panel in the 'closet' and short patch cables between the panel and the switch. whatever you get, follow the wiring guide for the wall jacks. they aren't always intuitive and don't always follow at&t standards that most people use. the patch panel will also allow you to easily insert cross-over cables if necessary if you decide to connect a hub or a switch to one of your new wall jacks that doesn't support automatic crossover.

    also, pull a few feet more extra wire than you really need. (what's that saying? 'i cut it twice and it's still too short')

    ***come up with a wiring plan, document what you've done, and label your cables***

    label the ports on your patch panel as well. what wire goes to which drop/jack. if you go with a managed switch, label the ports in there as well. the more you document and label, the less headaches you'll have if you run into a problem down the road.

    using cat6 will be good and using a gige switch isn't a bad idea either. you might also consider getting a 1/4 wall mountable rack to put everything in, depending on how much equipment you're going to be putting in it. (if you do this, consider getting a shelf or two for things that aren't rack mountable, like your router (i'm assuming) and cable modem).

    placement of the 'closet' is entirely up to you. power availability and space to work in should be your primary concern. making sure the space can handle a few extra degrees of heat should also be taken into consideration.
    without knowing the layout of your residence, it's incredibly difficult to suggest a place to put it. you also might want to think about space to put a UPS for the gear, especially if you're using VOIP for your home phone service. if you don't go with a ups, at least use a good quality power strip, APC, Tripplite. if you go with the 1/4 or 1/2 rack, you might want to think about a rack mount power strip.

    netgear makes some very robust 10/100 and 10/100/1000 non-managed switches that are pretty low cost. they also come in 19" rack mountable form factors and have varying amounts of ports. always buy a switch with more ports than you need currently. it looks like you'll be pulling about 12 ports worth, or so, personally, i'd buy a 24 port switch.
    this one might be a good choice for your needs:

    if you're not interested in vlanning or pulling snmp stats or anything like that, you won't need a managed switch and it's associated expense.

    you can always upgrade to a gige switch later on if you want, and gige isn't going to make a difference at when it comes to your internet connection, vs. 100m. you'd see a difference when moving traffic from device to device, like say, moving files between two computers on the network (that both have gige network cards).

    i have a full rack in my house in the basement and only a few wired connections to devices, probably 4. in addition, i have in the rack a 1u linux machine that does dhcp and snmp monitoring/logging/graphing (and some other stuff) and a windows box in a 4u case that does some other things. a 24 port catalyst 2924xl for switching and on a shelf are my 1721 router, linksys wrt54g for wireless (used as an access point, no routing), and an aironet AP for servicing some 802.11b devices.

    i use that windows box (with a dual nic) and a vlan on the switch to grab stats from my dsl modem directly. unfortunately it doesn't do snmp, but i can access it's built in web server to view them. this requires some unusual mac and routing settings on the windows machine since it's on a 10. network natively and i run 172.17.1 and .2 internally (in addition to whatever testing i'm doing at the time).

    also in there is an old shelf of scsi disks and a machine to run them, another 2924xl switch and cisco 1602 for lab use.

    i also have a panduit rack insert that has a bunch of plastic fingers on it that is for cable management. with the amount of cables you're considering running, i'd recommend getting one to help prevent the area near your switch from looking like spaghetti.

    your project is totally doable, but like i said, it will be time consuming and will require patience and the right tools.

    if you'd like, post a rough (mspaint quality is fine) diagram of your house+basement and we can figure out a good place to locate your gear.

    also, you can give wireless another go, perhaps changing the channel and a couple of good omni-directional antennas might improve the performance in your environment.

    with wireless, antenna type and placement and channel usage are key.
    you can do a quick survey of the spectrum conditions in your location using this software:

    it's free and incredibly easy to use.

    it will show you signal levels of your wireless along with those signals near by. installed on a laptop and walking around with it, you can use it to determine if your coverage is good, or lacking and if you need to change the wireless channel you're using.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010
  4. hamster

    hamster NRA Life Member

    Feb 22, 2010
    I have some clients who were having issues with wireless in their private homes. I got them powerline networking kits. Basically it is a device on one end you plug into your router, and a device on the other end that you plug into the receiving computer. The network signal is transmitted via your powerlines at up to 200mbps. I've tested it in my own home and can confirm the reliability and throughput is MUCH better than wifi.
  5. I considered at one point wiring my old house, but we decided to have one custom built and we had a room designed to house and keep electronics cool, sort of a media closet if you will where all the UPS hardware is kept, the incoming cable, phone, T1 line and home server, along with the home security system and it's DVD+R recording machine. It was amazingly not that much more expensive to have the home pre-wired from one central location. I'm certainly glad I didn't have to run all that cable through the house lol, I most likely would have called my brother in for that as that's what he does for a living.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2010
  6. jpa

    jpa CLM

    May 28, 2001
    Las Vegas NV
    KC8YKD, thanks for the info. I'll try to throw together a quick sketch of the house, but it's basically a 3br 2ba single story home with no basement but there is a crawlspace above. I'm thinking of closing off a section of the space in my closet to use for the rack since it seems to be the most central room with power access. Ideally I'd like a managed switch so I can gather stats and such...I found a netgear 24 port on newegg for $250. I'm leaning towards Gig-e both to future-proof the install and also for the added throughput across the network in the house. With 3 Tivos installed, a PS3 and a pretty large MP3 and video collection, I expect to be transferring a lot of files back and forth. The extra bandwith will come in handy.

    hamster I've seen those powerline devices. While they seem nice for a temporary solution, I've been itching to learn how to pull cable and do a good, clean network install.
  7. kc8ykd


    Oct 6, 2005
    no problem :)

    the crawl space above the house is probably the easiest way to run the cable down to the walls. you'll need a drill and a bit big enough to accommodate the cables going through the top plate of the wall(s).

    when you run your cables through the 'attic', make sure to try and not run them parallel to any electrical, it's ok to cross at 90 degrees, but long parallel runs can cause interference on the wire.

    leave your wires a bit loose in the attic, don't pull them taught and leave a bit extra in the closet area. use the staple gun to tack them down in the attic as well.

    this is a good gun to use since the wire guide is built into it and it's adjustable for various sizes of cables:
    you'll also want to make sure you get staples long enough to accommodate tacking down ethernet cables.

    the idea being, that the staple won't crimp or cut the wire, just hold it somewhat snug. the adjustable depth guide on this particular gun is incredibly helpful in accomplishing that task as you can adjust it for big coax cable down to thin 2-pair phone cable. the only thing i don't particularly like is that it's handle is not rubberized. i think i've got some of that dip-pvc stuff around somewhere, i might have to dig that out and take care of it myself, come to think of it...

    that's not a bad price for a managed switch, and going gige isn't going to hurt either. just remember, you need gige interfaces on your devices to actually use the gige capacity of the switch.

    pulling cable isn't difficult, it just takes time to get it right the first time.

    if you don't have any crimpers already, i'd recommend against the cheap side-insert style sold at most diy centers.

    bad crimps can cause serious headaches, especially if you move cables around as the individual wires can come loose and you'd have to waste time tracking down the source of the problem.

    also, when you've got all the wires coming into your closet area, you'll want to bundle them up to keep them neat and sane, don't use zip ties, use velcro.

    for monitoring the switch, you should check out MRTG (with RRD Tool) or Cacti. Cacti is easier to setup than MRTG, but it's more resource intensive on the machine running it (basically when you're accessing the web pages, but even then, it's still not bad at all).

    to be able to monitor the switch, you'll need to set an snmp community string on it (you just want to set a RO (read only) string) which is like a password, but not really. this word is transmitted clear text (ie, insecurely) from the monitoring device/machine to the switch to gain access to the statistics. the RO keeps the device from being configured via snmp, even if someone has the RO key. and, all being inside your internal network, you should be fine as long as you're using proper security on your wireless connection, if you're using one.

    this shouldn't be too dificult to do, the manual for the netgear should be pretty decent and describe the process to set up the switch.

    unfortunately, i'm not familier with netgear's configuration interface as i've only worked with cisco, foundry networks, 3com, hp and nortel.

    either way tho, the terms and concepts are all the same, so the interface doesn't really matter. i should be able to help out if you run into issues getting it configured.

    also, you should check the specs on your router, if it's got snmp capabilities, you can monitor that as well, using MRTG or Cacti.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2010
  8. Sgt. Schultz

    Sgt. Schultz Annoying Member

    You certainly will be after crawling around in the attic. :rofl:

    As kc8ykd said ... wiring plan, use the right tools and take your time.

  9. kc8ykd


    Oct 6, 2005
    omg, i totally forgot about that part of it, ugh !

    long sleeves, gloves, a respirator or mask and a nice cold shower afterwords...

    the only thing i hate more than working on ladders is working in and around insulation. :puking:

    some knee pads, a headlamp and a construction flood lamp might night be bad to have either. oh, and a decent tool belt and or vest. and some nice work gloves too (i personally prefer ironclad brand, their cold condition and general utility lines have served me quite well since i started using them 6 or so years ago). good protection with lots of dexterity, available at your local lowes or home depot for relatively cheap.

    i know someone makes nice plastic runners that fit between joists so you don't have to worry (as much) about making new skylights while you're up there.
  10. kc8ykd


    Oct 6, 2005
    i almost forgot, you should probably use some of this:

    to seal the holes where wires enter the wall from the top to prevent fire from traveling through the penetration point into the attic if one starts within the wall.

    this may be a code requirement, but i'm not sure. i'm sure your electrician friend will be much more familiar with the codes in your area.

    i'd suggest getting all your cables run and tested before sealing the holes, just in case you need to make a change or swap a cable or something unforeseen.
  11. inthefrey

    inthefrey Moved on...

    Jul 3, 2009
    Western Pennsylvania
    While I have not read the entire thread, practice making a few CAT5e or CAT6 ends before you cut your wire. ALWAYS LEAVE A SERVICE LOOP in the wall - usually about 6-8".

    Terminating the ends is not the hardest thing but, it will serve you to practice making a few.

    If there is a problem when you're done, it's a bad crimp or swapped wire. a cheap cat5 cable tester is worth every penny when you're touubleshooting.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2010
  12. Linux3


    Dec 31, 2008
    From cablestogo order one of these for each room you want an Ethernet connection:

    The cat 5E cable connects to the back of the plate via punch-downs, like phone wire and they even give you a punch down tool. Just strip the wires and punch them into the connectors following the diagram included.

    Buy yourself some cable. You will need more than you think:

    Connect a cable from each room to your closet or where ever you are putting your router.
    Then buy one of these:

    So, at each room you put a wall plate and one end of a cat 5E cable is punched into the plate. Color coded, you can't go wrong. No special tools needed.
    The other end of all the cables gets punched into the patch block. Again color coded and you can't miss.

    You run a patch cable from the wall plate to your computer.
    You run patch cables from your patch block to the router.

    Note 1: Buy short patch cables between the block and the router.
    Note2: DO NOT loop the cables either in the wall or on the floor to the computer or between the block and the router.
    There are a very limited amount of bends you can make in Cat 5E cables before you start to attenuate the signal. Make your runs as straight as possible.
    Note 3: 100BaseT and 1000BaseT (aka gig Ethernet) are connected differently. Make sure you are using the gigE aka 1000BaseT connection.

    Should be the default but check.
  13. Y-NotG23


    Jan 8, 2009
    Woodstock, GA
  14. kc8ykd


    Oct 6, 2005
    i'm really more of a fan of these panduit connectors, all you have to do is insert the individual wires into the clear plastic piece (following the onboard color guide) and snap it into the jack: 1044 3001219

    the jacks snap into the wall plate, easy as pie.

    on the other end, the same jacks snap into this patch panel (or you can terminate the wire or punch it down, whatever): 627 3001611

    personally, i'd just use the left over cable to make my own patch cables. no sense in buying them pre-made if you've got the cable already.

    i'm not aware of normal bends affecting cat5 (or cat6), i never ran into it.
    tight loops near the end, sure, but it's not like fiber, well, fiber isn't like that even, really.

    one of my crowning achievements was 2 ~430 foot runs with some really nice bends from one suite to another, in buildings that were connected via 10 feet of conduit. and the building was laid out in an l shape. L basically, they went from the top of the l to the bottom right, through mechanical rooms and along common hallways.

    i watched those wires like a hawk after i got them run. i usually picked up a couple crc's a week and that was about it. i had 2x ethernet connections on one wire, and on the other a singular ethernet, a pair for a voip phone and another pair for an isdn line. and the ethernets were configured for 100/fdx, and usually pushed 75 to 80% utilization during the day.

    one last thing, what do you mean that 100m/1000m connect differently?

    the switch i believe jpa's looking at is 10/100/1k across all ports.

    oh, for fun, this is about half of a 40' cable that jumbled up into about an 8' run, across all sorts of power adapters and other fun things. (the other side is less jumbled, but only by a bit) then, it connects to a small 10/100 switch that has a ~50' run to my central switch.

    the laptop it's occasionally connected to, transfers data across it at about 97.8Mb/s-98.3Mb/s (as monitored by Net Meter on both ends).

    Last edited: Dec 9, 2010
  15. jpa

    jpa CLM

    May 28, 2001
    Las Vegas NV
    Yes, the switch I was looking at was 10/100/1000 on all 24 ports. This is the one I'd probably go with. The original one I saw was this but now I see only the uplink ports are Gig-e capable. I think spending the extra money now would be worth it as opposed to buying the one now then upgrading later.

    I gotta thank all of you guys for your great advice, lots of good information is coming. I'm glad Y-NotG23 caught my one port placement...I figured if I'm going to wire the house, I'm going to wire the WHOLE house. I've thought of getting a touchscreen PC and mounting it on the wall in front of the crapper...maybe I'll do just that! :)
  16. Linux3


    Dec 31, 2008
    There are too many ways to screw up making up connectors. I know some really experienced techs....
    Punch downs are the professional way to go IMHO. I can buy short patch cables from cablestogo so cheap and done so well I would not waste my time making them up.
    As for the 100BaseT and 1000BaseT. Go for the gigE, aka 1000BaseT connection. It is backwardly compatible. See this:

    As for bends... Max run length of cat5E, if you care about attenuation and crosstalk is 100 meters, or 328 feet if you prefer. Sure people have pulled it longer but as a network engineer I would never trust such a setup. And the maximum number of bends is 360 degrees. Do you want to do a quality job correctly or do you want to make a mess that just maybe might work?
    Length and bends see here:
  17. kc8ykd


    Oct 6, 2005
    it's incredibly difficult to screw up those panduit connectors, the only way to do so is if you don't insert the right color wire into the corresponding slot (ie, not following the color guide which is on the part of the jack the wires get inserted into). we used those type jacks to wire our call center with at least 400 ports in it in one office...

    using pre-made patch cables is a great way to make a mess too. if you only need a 6" cable, just make a 6" cable. it's not rocket science :) and, in my department of ~40 engineers, we all made our own cables. a messy datacenter is no fun. in mine, i had a catalyst 5509 with a sup3 engine with 2x 1000fx ports and 7 24 port 100m port blades in it, most of which downlinked to other 24 port switches. the only times i ran into cable issues was when one of my systems guys tried to make his own cables using 20$ crimpers from home depot (and he always cut the sheathing back too far). i probably ran 7k or 8k feet of cable in that datacenter over the years.

    i mean, imagine wiring a pop with 30 pri's, 5 ethernets, a ds3 mux, a router and a couple total control chassis. would you run that with premade patch cables? that would be a total mess. just grab a box of cable and make it look nice by running what you need. (yes, i've done this, a lot, and have the calluses to show for it)

    or, wiring a rack of 1u machines with a switch at the top of the rack and another in the middle. using pre-mades would be a total mess, excess cable everywhere.

    and, making those long runs didn't make a mess. punchdown blocks at either made for a very professional look (and easy to modify the broken out cables and trace). i use those as an example that the specs for ethernet are simply recommendations. i snmp monitored the switches at both ends and with the CTO of the tier 2 isp i worked for in my office, believe me, i would have heard about it if there was problems. as a Senior Network Engineer at my last position, i trusted that i if i took my time, it would work just fine, which it did.

    (and that mess of a cable i posted a picture of is in my own house, again, as an example)
  18. kc8ykd


    Oct 6, 2005
    one thing, since you're going for GigE, that you want to look for in the specs is "Jumbo Frame support". using JF's will allow for more efficient transfer of of data at 1000m speeds due to larger packets (and thus requiring less packets to transfer the same amount of data) and will lower the cpu utilization of the switch (and the hosts).

    management capabilities are really going to dictate the price for you, an unmanaged 24 port gige (all ports) from netgear is only going to be about $220: switch unmanaged

    where as a 10/100 only, would be about $80:

    i do like that first switch you linked to, that 70$ instant savings helps a lot too. know that, to configure it the first time, you're going to have to use the serial interface, which means you'll need a serial interface on a computer to connect to it. one of those usb->serial adapters would work fine as well. and, that switch supports jumbo frames as well, very nice.

    the price between the unmanaged and managed is only about $400, that's not bad. but, if you don't need vlans you might think about whether snmp-based traffic graphs are worth the extra money..

    oh, i've also seen companies that make touch-screen retrofits for netbooks. if you want to get adventurous, you could get a netbook and the touch screen adapter, take it out of the case and mount it in the wall, behind the touch screen. iirc, the touch screen adapters were less than $150 or so..
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  19. Question to all you wired guru's. Will there be any loss of performance due to the signal moving through a long cat5 cable?

    Thanks in advance
  20. Sgt. Schultz

    Sgt. Schultz Annoying Member

    How long? The max run for cat5 is 328 feet.