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Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 183
jay8 Offline OP
I am looking for some info on what is currently getting installed in the better homes for structured cabling, just basic voice/data/video. Is a pair of CAT-5E and a pair of RG-6 to a two gang box in every room going to be good enough, with anticipation for future technology?
Are there any standards on this? info would be appreciated.

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Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,370
Likes: 1
Cat Servant
You really need to chat with the final customer as to their plans. In my (limited) experience, it seems that every room gets at least two 'drops'. Location - area as well as heigth - can be critical.

Now, sometimes that information is not available. OK, in that case, here's what I do:
- In insulated walls, I run at least two lengths of 'smurf tube' down the wall, from a point I can later access.
- No wires get pulles until I KNOW what's going there. Cat 3? 5E? RG-6? Speaker wire? If the run is a difficult one, I might also put in a pull string (secured at either end with large locknuts.)

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,788
Likes: 14
The network option in my wife's $500-850k homes is a CAT5e in every room that they want one. The TV prewire is a RG6 in each room. I think there is a basic number and a per-outlet price above that but there is a lot of flexibility for throwing something in for free in this market.
They homerun to the garage where the utility Dmarks are.
The customer places these on the pre-drywall walk and the electrician puts a 120v receptacle next to each of them.

Greg Fretwell
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 18
In better homes? That's kind of a relative term..

I'm currently home running cat5e for telephone and networking along with RG6 per bedroom, kitchen, living room and den.

That's just the standard.

I meet with the clients and work on upsales to keystone plates (easier for me), whole home audio, home theatre wiring, conduits from basement to attic, conduits around fireplaces for plasma mounts, etc..

Most standard production builders just do cat3 looped around the house for 2x phone, home run RG6 for 2x cable, and no network.

What I recommend is 2x cat5e on RJ45s along with an RG6 run to an F81. Bundle all of these into a single keyplate.

Terminate all the cat5e to a patch panel inside a metal box in the basement. This allows the HO to patch each jack around the house to either a telephone bus or a network switch.

Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 745
The homeowner WON'T patch things around. They spend tons of extra money for these "boxes" but when it comes to troubleshooting or reconfigurations, they don't have a clue. It's like them paying for each single branch circuit in their house to be terminated on a NEMA plug into a bank of NEMA receptacles. It's a great idea, but a bad one even more.

The concept of more than one RG6 coax run to any location is pretty silly to say the least. RG6 is used for cable TV or satellite receivers and it's extremely rare that more than one run will ever be required unless the original run wasn't installed properly and it fails.

As for CAT5e, this is also a gross misconception. NO telephone service requires this type of wiring. It is overkill, simply a buzz word. Telephone lines arrive to the premises via "CAT ZERO" wiring (there isn't really a CAT zero rating, it just has no rating at all). Telephone lines overcome miles of various conditions before they arrive at the network interface device (NID). You are not going to improve the customer's telephone line quality by over-installing the in-house telephone wiring.

To do this, you are effectively running 8-2 Romex for your lighting circuits. Such a terrible waste. Of course, you can charge more to entertain this buzz word requirement, but unless you really know what the term "CAT" means, using just this wire does not constitute a proper installation. There are many pieces of hardware required to provide a true "CAT5e" installation that can be certified.

Yes, this wiring is necessary for a data communications network, but it has nothing to do with telephone lines. If a customer expresses a requirement for data communications, bear in mind that this has NOTHING to do with cable TV, DSL or phone lines. It is a separate in-house network of certified home runs (CAT5e minimum) installed, tested and terminated properly.

Think about this from your own usage perspective. Would you ever need two cable TV outlets and two telephone outlets in each room? Of course not. More importantly, why in the world would you need them in the same outlet box? Call me crazy, but I don't know of anyone who keeps their phone connected at the same side of the room where the TV is.

One more thing. Cable modem service for Internet only has to go to one place, not every room in house. It goes to a single RG6 outlet where the cable modem is installed. Same thing applies for customers using DSL. The output from this modem is sent into a customer-provided router and possibly a switch (hub). Then, and only then does this service extend to other rooms and it is done either wirelessly or via certifiable CAT5e runs from the router/switch/hub location. This IS NOT the location where the telephone company or cable TV service enters the building.

You are not doing your customers a favor in bringing these cable runs to the location of the electric service or to the NID location. This is a very unique industry that isn't as simple as it appears. I know that I am probably not making many friends here in spreading this information, but I have to tell it like it is.

If you really want to learn more about this industry, sign up at this site
and many of us (who are also members here) will offer you guidance.

[This message has been edited by EV607797 (edited 01-08-2007).]


"But the guy at Home Depot said it would work."
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,788
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Call me crazy, but I don't know of anyone who keeps their phone connected at the same side of the room where the TV is.

That may be true unless you have a satellite box, TiVo or Replay TV that needs to call home to check it's activation status. There are also "one computer" families who have their PC connected directly to the cable modem and still want the phone there for backup dial access.

Greg Fretwell
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 18
EV607797 not sure who that message was directed at.. but let me address a few things.

I am well aware that cat5 offers no better quality connection for telephone service inside a house.. But the builders sold it as a standard, so that's what I install, and get a few extra bucks for. This does also provide the option of the HO turning those runs into network connections later on.

And yes, some home owners will patch stuff. The majority of those people are in IT and like the flexibility. Those who are not generally do not need it in the first place and therefore wouldn't think of it.

Running multiple RG6s to a room is becoming more common.. especially for those that have both sat and cable TV. That RG6 can also be used for a camera feed, which is also becoming a popular option.

And home running everything to the electrical panel in a new home post closing is also a popular option because there is no where else to run it to.

In the million dollar homes I run it to a room they specify, usually a utility room in the basement, and spec out all the requirements for structure and power.

In the $300K homes, this is not an option unless it is all done post closing. Everything by standard ends up at the service entrance.

Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 886
We are all used to installing wiring for power and light that will have no problem lasting the life of the building but that ain't going to happen with this stuff.

Everybody seems to think they have the answer. From customers who think they know what they need, builders who "upsell" CAT5 to make a buck, manufacturers who push "structured wiring" systems, to the installers who have to sort it all out and try to understand all the current technology and try to anticipate where and how it might be used in a home. There are so many different things going on, each with their own ever changing wiring requirements.

No matter what you install today in a few short years something like CAT5e will be replaced by CAT6, CAT7, fiber- but most likely nothing. As an example, wireless networking is making big inroads in residential since most users have laptops or notebooks. I predict you can expect so called "structured wiring" to be relegated to the trash heap along with other ancient technologies of a few years before.

My advice is to install what you want now but don't make a big deal out of it. Most importantly you need to make it so that it can be easily replaced (or abandoned) later. Smurf tube, conduit- whatever works for you and the job. Provide at least two locations per room back to a suitable location for any equipment that may be necessary. That location should not be outdoors or to any kind of manufactured "structured wiring" panel, rather to a space that is accessable and large enough to provide a backboard.


Joined: Dec 2005
Posts: 7
Junior Member
Hi everyone.

This is the type of work that I do everyday. Being an A/V guy, there really is no standard to how a house gets wired; it's usually up to the homeowner or builder. The basic pre-wire that I do (for cookie cutter homes and apartment buildings, or condos) consists of a cat5e used for phone and an rg-6 for CATV home-run to each location. Usually in this type of a pre-wire, the cat 5 and the rg-6 are pulled to the TV location, and a "jumper" of cat 5 is "looped" to a location near where the bed is going to be for a phone jack. There are tons of other types of pre-wires, including "structured cable" (consisting of (2) different colored cat5e cables, and (2) different colored rg-6 cables) which I believe is what Jay8 is referring to. The nice thing with structured cabling is that you are covered (for the most part) as far as everything is pulled to one location in one pull (phone, data, CATV, satellite or terrestrial antenna of fm antenna). Even using structured cabling sometimes just isn't enough. I just finished a retrofit pre-wire that had structured cabling, lots of speaker wire plus 9 different colors of cat 5 all totaling about 5 miles worth total.
Hope this helps!

Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 745
I rest my case. Even a "structured wiring solution" wasn't enough. It just can't be done. Use inexpensive flexible conduit to every outlet and leave it up to the professionals to pull in what is required for the application. They will appreciate the fact that this luxury has been provided.

No builder will ever be able to second-guess or fully understand the evolving techologies (changing daily, I might add) that their customer needs. There is no uniform standard in low-voltage systems and I doubt that there will be one in our lifetimes.

Empty conduit has been the cure-all for over a century. Smurf tubing and PVC innerduct have been available for at least 20 years. It can be purchased on rolls and installed just like cable. Why not stick with the tried and true instead of trying to figure out what is and isn't needed? I think it's cheaper in the end for the builder to provide this AND it affords the owner/occupant maximum flexibility.

There is no such thing as "future-proofing" new construction anymore. Structured wiring systems that builders are upselling as "state of the art" are actually more than a decade old for the technology system providers who are forced to use them.

"CAT5" is so ten years ago. Regardless, just running a piece of category 5 RATED cable does not constitute a category 5 installation. Unless individual home runs are made and tested with very expensive equipment, the customer is just buying wire and jacks that can be used in a CAT5 installation.

Multiple RG6 runs to outlets are also outdated. There is so much technology out there that allows CATV, SATV, CCTV and MATV to share a single cable at a much lower cost than multiple cable runs.

Some very close friends of mine just bought a "McMansion" built by a national builder. They elected to pay the extra $600.00 for four additional "CAT5" telephone outlets. These ended up being just continuous loops of an existing piece of CAT5 cable. Still the same loop of cable, simple 4/C cheapo import screw terminal jacks, etc. Once a cable leaves one outlet to another, there is not and CANNOT be any further "CAT" rating ever. Not to mention that the cable was secured by simply banging down Romex staples on it so tightly that it couldn't even be moved beneath it! Same with the extra "RG6" runs they paid for. One more hammer blow would probably have cut the cable.

OK, OK, OK, every builder and EC swears that this never happens on their jobs, and in many cases, this is true. My company must be one of the few that seems to find all of the incorrect installations. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

Still, until everyone is following uniform installation standards (and there is a national uniform standard out there), it's not truthful to sell a CAT5 cable outlet just because the cable that was used was rated to be used in installations requiring category 5 performance. NEC Article 800 isn't the only place to look for proper telecommunications wiring standards.

CAT5e is and has been the normal minimum for some time now in the data communications industry. The bandwidth and performance of these systems is much less-tolerant of many of the wiring practices usually demonstrated in new construction. It never has been and won't likely ever be required for voice (telephone) service.

Imagine this (I speak from experience since I encounter this daily):

An electrical contractor installs the structured wiring "system". EC and builder pick up a few extra bucks for the upsell. Five years later, the homeowner calls the phone company complaining that their service doesn't work. Phone company says too bad, so sad, not our problem anymore. Homeowner calls a telephone equipment service company. Bad module in the "product of the month" being sold at the electrical supply house ten years ago. Contractor can't find these specialized parts since the manufacturer has been merged, bought, traded and renamed so many times that nobody even knows what they are doing anymore. Repair guy just bypasses the failed "structured wiring" component, installs an industry-standard connecting block and provides the customer with a permanent (and universal) solution.

Moral of the story: Stick with industry-standards and trends and you can't go wrong. EC's chuckle at the thought of "The Clapper" or battery-powered closet lights being sold on TV infomercials, yet why doesn't anyone want to embrace the fact that just because it can't kill you, low-voltage wiring can be done by anyone?

Look, I am not looking to start any arguments here, just trying to shed light on a lot of misconceptions about misunderstood industry. The mere use of the term "RJ45" has been technically wrong 99.99999% of the time since about 1985.

Electricians understand that you can't use extension cords to wire your basement, but many people think that this is perfectly OK;

Plumbers understand that you can't use a pair of garden hoses to feed a new sink in your basement, yet many people think that this is perfectly OK;

HVAC contractors understand that you can't use dryer vent tubing to install another heating outlet in a room, yet many people think that this is perfectly OK;

So why is it so acceptable to deny the requirements of the professionals who service and install systems using low-voltage wiring? It's a very difficult and rapidly-changing industry. When in doubt, place empty conduits and walk away from the responsibility from doing it incorrectly. Chances are, they will offer the customer a discount for providing them with an avenue to make doing their installation easier.

By the way, looping cable from outlet to outlet has been out of style for at least 20 years. As I mentioned earlier, this practice completely voids the cable run's ability to be rated since any tap or splice in a cable run is not permitted. Call it and sell it as whatever you want, but the cable run officially becomes "category nothing" in these types of installations.

I truly hope that I haven't offended anyone here and hope that perhaps I have been able to convey some useful information with my posts. There are so many misconceptions and assumptions out there that almost always leave the low voltage guy holding the bag.

[This message has been edited by EV607797 (edited 01-08-2007).]


"But the guy at Home Depot said it would work."
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