What network cabling should I get?


A client wants help in running network cables through his house.  He wants to run the cable behind the walls and through the ceilings.  The home is about 70 feet long from one end to the other and 40 feet wide.  It's single-story.

What standards can you recommend?  Where should we purchase the cabling?

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JohnConnect With a Mentor Business Consultant (Owner)Commented:
For the cable that you do run, consider CAT6 at this point. CAT6 terminations are a bit more and CAT5e might well suffice. But since this is new, consider CAT6.

Consider putting in backbone type wiring and using Wireless Router (Access Points) at specific points on all floors. This is more flexible in the long run. My Cisco RV220W in the basement serves the my whole house (2 stories plus basement). So you do not need wired connections everywhere.

For Routers and Switches use basic commercial grade gear. I have a Cisco RV042G VPN router as the main entry point, a 3Com (HP) Gigabit distribution switch and a Cisco RV220W wireless router. This is what I mean by basic commercial.

Put Ethernet sockets in the wall with top notch terminations. You do not want these to be  point of failure.

Where to get cable. Any good electrical/electronics distribution company. Belden cable or equivalent.

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Bird DogCommented:
If the cable is in any open air situation you should use a plenum cable since it is non toxic if catches fire. I usually install the plenum cable in all homes that I wire unless requested not to by the homeowner.
CAT5e is plenty good for a home install.  You can get it at Home Depot or Lowes (a 500' box should do fine).  Make sure you buy solid cable and not stranded.  I would use good quality Leviton wall plates, keystone sockets for the wall plates and a good CAT5e patch panel for the central termination point.

You'll need some decent tools also.  A punch-down tool with 110-style die with cutting edge and a jacket stripper (the folks at Home Deport or Lowes can help with this).

As welmore said above, plenum jacket is a good idea in a home for safety reasons - it costs a little more though.
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AkinsdNetwork AdministratorCommented:
Max length mentioned in your statement is 70ft.
Cat 5e would suffice for that (up to 100ft for twisted pair)

Cat6 is unnecessary unless the user plans to use a server or has a device that transmits data over 100Mbs
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
@epichero22 - As people say that CAT6 is not necessary (and I allowed that myself), when my house was built, CAT4 was the standard of the day. That would be woefully inadequate today. I use CAT5e myself (but my wiring is replaceable).

So do think out 20 years.  

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Gary CaseConnect With a Mentor RetiredCommented:
Use Cat-6 !!    Period.

There is an insignificant difference in the cost of Cat-5e and Cat-6.   Perhaps $25 per 1000 feet !!    When you consider the cost of the labor to install the cabling, this is a very insignificant cost differential -- and it is much more "future proof".    And I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't use a Gb router or switch these days ... so it's virtually certain that the improved performance and reliability will be well advised (Yes, Cat-5e will work with Gb, but Cat-6 provides higher net bandwidth and is more reliable at those speeds).
I'd invest in Cat6 plenum cabling since you're starting fresh. You'd be completely up to date, have no issues with gigabit connections, plus would prevent you from wanting to replace the wiring for a long time to come.

Hardware stores and electronic stores are you best bets for purchasing the cabling and tools that you'd need.
Bird DogCommented:
one other thing I don't know how much wiring you have done but with whatever wire you decide to use stay as far away as you can from any electricity wires, lights, plugs, etc. crossing over or going to close will degrade your signal. If it is a clean run you can get gigabit with cat5e but I would also recommend cat6 plenum like everyone else. any electrical supply stores can provide you with the wire, ends, plates.I like the panduit ends myself never had one fail.
Cat 5e or 6 should get you good speeds for many years to come.
You should use either Riser (CMR) or Plenum (CMP) rated cable if the runs go from one floor to another. That's a fire-safety issue.

Here are some other supplies you'll likely need.
Low voltage rings - http://www.homedepot.com/p/Carlon-1-Gang-Low-Voltage-Old-Work-Boxes-6-Pack-SC100RR-CP/202077426
Trace inside the opening, then cut outside the lines with a drywall saw... once you punch a vertical and horizontal start in diagonal corners, a sawzall makes short work of it, though if you don't have a sawzall the hand saw will still do the job. Either way a helper assisting with a shop vac and crevice tool will keep things neat.
I try to align the holes with either the electric outlets, or light switches, which makes them blend in better on the walls.

The covers I use most are the 4 jack (near the router) and 1 jack, though occasionally 2 jack covers are handy for 2 RJ45's or else 1 RJ45 and 1 coax (one less hole to make in the wall if you can get the network cable to an existing coax outlet, then just replace the cover with a 2 jack).
These cat 5e jacks or cat 6 jacks fit those covers fine.  Those jacks are a very tight fit in Leviton covers, so stick with the CE-Tech covers wherever possible (you *can* make them fit the Leviton covers with a few strokes on each side of the jack opening with a 4'' flat file or 8'' slim taper file).

Once the outlet hole is where you want it, you can go down through the sill plate or up through the header using a Flexible Drill Bit Kit... the handle slips inside the hole to guide the bit straight down. A lighted inspection mirror lets you see when it's lined up so you don't come back through the drywall, or into the next room. Runs through basement joists and up through interior walls are the easiest. If you need to go up through the header to get to the attic or into the joist space of the floor above, you'll often hit blocking (again, the lighted mirror helps you drill through the center of it). Wire fishing rods like this Jameson 24' set can be bent to feed into the opening, then the lighted mirror and the flexible drill guide will let you get them through the holes so you can tie the cable to them then pull it out through the low voltage rings.

After you've done a few of those you'll better appreciate the job your dental hygienist does while looking in that little mirror all day. :)

When you're done running the cables, seal all openings you made in the sills or headers using Fire Stop Caulk. There's also a foam type that's applied like polyurethane filler (e.g. Great Stuff), but I do not recommend that (it's more flammable than the PVC jacket on CM cable)... spend the extra few minutes with a caulk gun and firestop the holes correctly. It could mean an extra 10 minutes for someone to get out of the upper floors of a burning building someday.

This punchdown tool is nearly identical to the one I use to terminate the jacks... I line up the edge of the 110 blade (shown mounted in the tool in the picture) with the outside of the jack before I push it down, and it clips the tails off as it snaps each wire down into the grooves. This Keystone holder is a handy way to hold the jacks steady while doing the punchdowns, by the way.
epichero22Author Commented:
Thanks for the opinions, and it seems I should definitely go with CAT 6, so I'll look into that.  

Since I am running cables, I would think it's a good idea to have four cables per run.  Do you think that would be a good idea?  The reason being is that now everything's running on Ethernet and I can avoid the need for a powered switch.
One area of clarification.  CAT5, CAT5e and CAT6 all have a 328 foot maximum run (100 meters).  Your 70x40 area is no issue but do keep in mind that any termination takes some feet off of that maximum length depending on how well you terminate the ends.

If you're planning on 1GbE or higher speeds (yes you can get 10GbE out of CAT6 if you're really careful terminating the ends), make sure you keep the wire pairs twisted as tightly as possible.

Also, make sure you terminate the keystone sockets the same on both ends, i.e., T568A on both ends or T568B on both ends (most keystones will have color codes for both B and A, B being the more common).
JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
four cables per run.  ....  I can avoid the need for a powered switch.

It seems like a lot. I do not avoid strategically placed switches (no need from my perspective) and you might want a wireless point where you might place a switch.

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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
The cable itself is a relatively small part of the cost -- the labor to install it is the significant expense; but nevertheless I'd think 4 cables/run is a bit excessive :-)    Two makes sense -- never hurts to have a backup, and you may have some need to have a separate network;  pulling a lot of extra cable just to avoid the possible need for a switch doesn't seem to be worth the trouble.
> make sure you keep the wire pairs twisted as tightly as possible.
To clarify that... do not change the twist rates on any of the pairs...  just maintain the twist rate (each color pair has a different number of twists per foot/meter) until as close as you can to where they enter the punchdowns.  

The specification is to maintain the twist to within a half inch (12mm) of the end of the wire (on jacks and plugs), but closer is better if possible.
epichero22Author Commented:
OK Here's what I bought:

But I think I may return it and go with this instead:

Anyways, the reason I want so many cables per run is because everything has an Ethernet connection now: TV, PlayStation, Blu-Ray Player, DVR, wireless access point, media center PC, etc.  Plus, I'd rather overdo the runs now rather than wish I would have made more later.  Regarding getting a switch, I'll consider that, but I think that needing a switch would be the result of poor planning at this point.  Your thoughts?
Darr247Connect With a Mentor Commented:
I would stick with the Cat 6a, which will be good for 10Gb when they're ready to upgrade in a few years.  Especially since you already bought it.  It's a lot easier to replace the terminations (if necessary) in a few years than to redo all the cable pulling.

I would make 2 pulls to each location, at the most.  And I have personally done that only once in all the runs I've done... (you will get loops in the network if you go making multiple paths between the same switches, unless you're going to set managed switches with spanning tree and loop protocol features).

Set a simple 5 or 8 port gigabit switch at the location[s] where you have multiple network devices. The TV, PS3. BD player and DVR have only 100Mb NICs in them (at the most), so it would take 10 of them all transferring at once to saturate a single gigabit run.

> but I think that needing a switch would be the result of poor planning at this point.
No... that's not necessarily correct.  That's like saying it's poor planning to put multiple duplex outlets on the same circuit breaker. I've never seen a house with a big enough breaker box and enough wiring to have a dedicated circuit for every outlet. It would be poor planning to put all the outlets in the same room on a single circuit, in my opinion, though.
epichero22Author Commented:
OK, fair enough, but I'm planning on a single 24-port gigabit switch:


So that's why I would prefer to use all the ports throughout all the rooms according to sensible needs:

*Master Bedroom: 4 (TV, WAP, DVR, +1)
*Living Room: 6 (TV, WAP, media center PC, gaming console, blu-ray player, +1)
*Office: 4 (PC, MFC, +two expansions for when I upgrade my other printer, for example)
*Guest Bedroom: 4 (TV, +2 for a PC / printer combo in the future when the kids grow up)
*Kitchen: The remaining 5 ports available here for the laptop and another WAP plus whatever else we need.

Anyways, yes it may seem like I am doing this overkill, but in my experience, I have upgraded clients to 24 port switches regardless if they use all the ports or not, primarily because they usually have a lot of cabling already in place and having to piggy back smaller 16/8/4-port switches was ultra-annoying since finding an additional power source, space, and cable management for said switches...sucked.

OK enough ranting :)  Your thoughts?
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
As I noted earlier, pulling 2 cables might be reasonable, if only because you (a) have plenty of cable [ :-) [, and (b0 if for some reason you end up with a topology where you want two distinct networks, you'd be all set for that.    (It also provides a backup run in case a pair goes bad -- rare, but it does happen)

However, you've planned for wireless access points in multiple rooms => that's fine, and certainly provides a VERY high quality signal throughout the house;  but note also that many wireless access points have built-in 5-port switches !!   So you'll already have switches in those cases that you can plug any wired devices into.

The one good reason for doing multiple runs is if the physical locations you need the jacks are in different locations in the rooms, and you don't want cable running along the floors.   If you're pulling cable anyway, it really doesn't matter where the switch is ... in fact, in that case, I'd agree that a "home run" to your 24 port switch is reasonable, since home-run setups have by far the most flexibility for any future re-arrangement of the network topology.

Be sure that the wiring closet where the switch is located has plenty of room for adding additional devices => that advantage of a home run is somewhat diluted if you can't collocate all of the needed equipment there.
AkinsdConnect With a Mentor Network AdministratorCommented:
There's way too much theory and deliberation just to lay a cable.

You are the architect, you now have enough information about the types of cable and the benefits of both.

You have all the information you need. How you arrange your furniture is your prerogative. If you set this up against your taste, remember you are the one who lives there, not any of us posting
I put a similar switch to the one you chose - a  TRENDnet TEG-S24DG 24-port gigabit - in the wiring closet near the center of a ~6600 square foot office building, but some 4/5/8 port gigabit switches are also deployed near end use points there.
Here are the smaller unmanaged switches I typically deploy
TRENDnet TEG-S50G 5-port gigabit
TRENDnet TEG-S80G 8-port gigabit
Those are all wall-mountable with 2 T slots underneath, too, by the way.
TrendNet 5-port Bottom (click for larger)TrendNet 8-port Bottom (click for larger) (since newegg doesn't include any shots of the bottoms.)
You can leave the rubber feet off if you want a tighter wall-mount.
epichero22Author Commented:
How you arrange your furniture is your prerogative.

That's some great advice right there.

I just wanted to check if I was making any errors.  I was originally going to go with 5e, but glad I was talked out of it.  I guess the number of runs I want is ultimately up to my own subjective preferences as it doesn't make a difference if there isn't that much traffic on my network.  Planning ahead falls into the same category.

JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
@epichero22 - Thanks and I was happy to help along with the others here.

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