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How to wire your home with Cat5e or Cat6 Ethernet cable
While wireless is easier for many people, due to media sharing, bandwidth on a home network, and paranoia about wireless security, you might want to use a wired solution for home networks. Having a wired network at home allows you to have a high-speed private network for internet access, file sharing, media streaming, online gaming, cameras IP security, etc.
Phase 1: Initial Considerations and Planning
A few design considerations should be taken into account depending on your needs.
Which room(s) do I want to be wired into? I have a two bedroom apartment so I knew I wanted both bedrooms wired.
I also have a TV alcove where my cable TV sits, so that seemed like a good location for wiring as well (especially for things like video game consoles). Having cable TV in each of these locations, it seemed logical to treat the network the same.
How many ports do I want in each slot? With multiple game consoles and a network-enabled Blu-Ray player plugged into my TV, I knew I wanted at least three connections behind my TV. Since the wallplates come in 1, 2, 4, and 6 outlet configurations (for a single strip), I simply opted for 4.
Why run one cable when it's almost as easy to run 4, right? Instead of varying the number, I ran 4 drops in each slot to provide maximum flexibility without the need for local (in-room) switches. Three slots with four ports each = 12 ports total.
What is a good distribution location? For me, the logical location was my laundry room as my cable TV already fits in there and is divided into each bedroom.
It's important to note that my internet connection also enters the house here (cable), so if I move my cable modem here, it will be able to provide internet access to the entire network. Another thing to consider is the amount of space needed to mount a shelf to hold networking equipment.
Which route should the cables take? This is probably the most difficult consideration. For me, my condo is on the second (top) floor and I have access to my attic.
My cable TV goes into the attic, so this seemed like a good solution to get my home network working from there as well. For one-story homes with lowering, the basement may be the best route. For multi-story homes, you may need to get creative. Outside could be an option, or through an old laundry chute. (I won't go into detail on all the possibilities, just my situation.
) The other factor to consider when routing cables is cable length. The maximum cable length for speeds up to gigabit over copper UTP cabling is 100 meters (~300 feet). This should provide great flexibility for most home applications, but be aware of this limitation.
What network speed do I need? This will mainly affect the type of pass to be made.
I used a 10Mbps switch because I got it for free and it's still faster than most home internet connections (you can probably buy a really cheap, or even free, one in a used computer store). But if you plan to do anything on the network, like playing games, transferring files between computers, or something like that, we highly recommend buying a gigabit switch. If you're buying a new switch, it's not that expensive these days, so there's no reason not to upgrade to gigabit.
Step 2: Tools and materials needed (and costs)
Your tools and materials (and costs) can vary greatly depending on your needs and what you already have. I've borrowed several of the following tools, but here's a very simple and esteemed breakdown:
Ethernet crimp tool (only if plugging into ends).
Cost: $13 on Amazon.
Drill (mainly for drilling upper wall plates, but also allows for faster screwing). Cost: variable (I already had one)
Blade saw or hole saw (dimensions vary depending on the number of cables you use). Cost: Usually around $20.
Sharp handsaw (this makes it easier to cut holes for boxes/wall plates). Cost: Usually around $15.
Strong clamping or fishing tape. Cost: $30 on Amazon.
Punchdown tool (optional).
I used a small screwdriver instead.
Laptop or cable tester (to test every drop). I used my laptop.
1000' reel Cat5e or Cat6, Cat6 recommended (more or less depending on your needs). Cost: $105 in Monoprix.
Single gang retrofit boxes (the type that mounts to drywall, with an opening in the back). Cost: $0.25 each.
RJ45 sockets and plates (take what you need, maybe one or two more). Cost: $0.
35/flat; $14 for 12 shots.
RJ45 sockets (optional). Cost: $5 for 10.
Plastic grommet (optional, makes wiring professional). Cost: $0.
Patch panel (optional, another professional touch). Cost: $33+ on Amazon (I took it out of the dumpster at work).
Ethernet switch. Cost: $32 for an 8-port gigabit switch.
Router (optional, may be required by your ISP). I already had one, and probably most of you do too.
Velcro strips for cable management (optional). Cost: $3 per roll.
Short patch cables (optional).
Cost: $5, but varies by length.
Step 3: Mount the wall plates
Since I knew the path my cable TV took and it was in the same places I wanted my ethernet outlets, I just spotted my cable tv outlets to start with. Using the pin finder, I was able to determine which side of the cable socket the pin was on. The studs are 16 inches apart in most homes and I knew I wanted my Ethernet to go in the same cavity as the cable TV.
Once you have decided where to mount the box, you need to trace the lines up the wall to fit the new box and cut the plug with the sharp handsaw.
The point saw should be able to pass through drywall fairly easily without the need to drill starter holes.
Once you have drilled the hole in the wall, you can insert the single assembly box into the hole and screw the clamps to hold them in place securing them to the back of the wall dried. Repeat for each position you want to run.
Pictured above: a hole to insert the eyelet. It's a nice professional-looking touch.
We'll leave the wall plates for now.
At this point you will also want to make a hole in the wall of the distribution room. Here you want to drill a hole where the plastic grommet will fit.
Step 4: Measure and route the cables
Image above: Hole drilled in the top plate of the wall. The wire fell with a bolt attached to it so you could pull the cables.
There are several ways to do this. You can estimate, measure from floor plans, make one, etc. I used the run one method. To find the lengths required for each run, I ran a cable into each room from the distribution room, pulled it out, and made three more similar ones. After that, you can do all four of them together.
We also recommend labeling both ends of each cable with a marker. This way you can label the ports on both ends.
Before that, however, you need to drill the top wall plates so you can run the cables through the walls where you drilled the holes. Finding the right place to drill into the top plate (to ensure you have the correct 16" space between the pins) can be tricky. This is another reason I decided to use TV coax cables forcible.
I traced the cable TV through this attic, then drilled new holes in the top plate right next to the cable TV holes. For this you will need a powerful drill and a drill bit or a hole saw. The hole saw is simpler but the paddle tip is cheaper. I used a 1 1/4" paddle bit and it was hard to control and force the drill at times. You can also choose to drill multiple small holes and use one for each bead, although that makes performing a little harder as you can't glue the package together.
Once you have drilled the top holes, you can pull a cable out to measure the amount for each stub, then cut three more equal lengths per stub and rewind the cables. Be sure to make them long enough to have extra stripping and crimping accidents. It's always easy to slip extra length into the wall.
Next step: making the connections.
Step 5: Connect cables to jacks and patch panel
Pictured above: RJ-45 jack diagram.
Now that we have routed the cables, we can run them down to the patch panel and outlets. I noticed in the materials that a patch panel was optional. You can pull the raw cable straight out of the wall, insert an RJ-45 jack, and connect it directly to the switch. But for a permanent installation I find it much more professional to mount a patch panel.
Pictured above: cables attached to the back of the patch panel.
It's quite easy. Most patch panels and outlets have color schemes for the common T568A and T568B wiring standards. Actually, I don't know if both would work. I've seen "A" used for ISDN before, but looking at the color guide for the T568B, I recognized it as being the same as tons of patch cables I've made before. So I went there.
Make sure to use the same on both ends. You can use the punch tool or a small screwdriver to punch out the individual wires.
Once all the cables are connected, you can mount the patch panel on the wall and click the sockets into the respective wall plates on the other ends. You can also screw the wall plates into the mounting boxes.
In the photo above: short connection cables to the switch.
The aluminum is the bottom of the shelf where the switch is.
Now we can make sure everything works!
Step 6: Check your connections
In the image above: test 1,2,3 ...
Before you start connecting most components of the network, you want your connections to testify to make sure things work. This can be done in several ways.
If you actually have a network tester, you probably know what you're doing. You are alone. The method I used was slightly different.
I connected a short patch cable from the mypatch panel to each port of my switch and turned it on. Since this is a managed switch, I set each port to "up/up" and "auto-negotiate.
"Unmanaged switches won't have to configure anything.
The next step is to take another patch cable and a laptop and plug it into each port in each room. Check the switch after each port and verify that the "link" LED is on. Being able to establish a link tests the physical layer (e.g.
no broken cables, all tight crimps, no crossover cables), as well as the data link layer (i.e. the negotiation between the network card and the switch port). No IP address or anything else needed for testing.
Image above: The neat and tidy labels for each port actually go where they say they do.
MB=master bedroom, SB=second bedroom, etc.
This is also a good time to make sure the label matches on both ends. For example, you can make sure "Master Bedroom Door 2" on the patch panel goes to the second master bedroom door.
Now to the Internet and beyond!
Step 7: Connect to the Internet
In the photo above: the cable is divided into: 1.
Main TV, 2. Cable modem, 3. Secondary splitter. The second divider goes into each chamber. I worry less about signal degradation there, but the runs are short enough that you don't need amps.
Now that we have this amazing network, we want to connect it to the internet, right?
First: the configuration of the cable modem. Since I moved my cable modem from my second bedroom (office) to the distribution room, I had to change the way my cable was split. Instead of splitting the main house cable three ways, I split things up a bit differently. I first split the incoming cable with a three-way splitter: one to the main TV, one to the two-way splitter for the TV in the bedrooms, and one to the cable modem.
I connected the splitters using a male-to-male barrel connector.
Now that the cable modem is in the right place, we can continue configuring our network. Depending on the internet service provider, some of these settings may vary. (I will only discuss the specifics of my environment, but will provide suggestions for others where possible.)
From the cable modem Ethernet port, I connected the "untrusted" port on my router / firewall.
From the "Trusted" port, I connected to the firstswitch port of my switch. If your switch has one, plug in the port labeled "Uplink" instead. Depending on your switch or cable modem and/or router, you may need (or already have) crossover cables for these connections. With my router/firewall configured as a DHCP server, I can now give each port access to the internet. In addition, my entire network is protected from outside access by the firewall.
Top left image: firewall, cable modem, wireless access point, 24-port 100 megabit managed switch, cable management and patch panel.
Although not an integral part of this instructable, I also connected a wireless access point to my switch so that I could have wireless access as well. Since my wireless network is encrypted and has MAC filtering, I feel comfortable with the "trust" in my firewall. If for some reason I wanted to provide open wireless access while securing my network, I would need a different configuration connection. (I won't go into the details of these changes, but wanted to jot them down based on your network goals and how they might incorporate wireless access.
In summary, my firewall gets my unique static IP from my ISP's cable modem. It also acts as a router and provides DHCP IP addresses to all other hosts on my private network through the switch and cabling we just installed.
What do we do now?! ?
Step 8: Make your nerd friends drool with these great options
You can make some great additions to your home network that will make your nerd friends jealous.
1. File server or NAS. I added and mounted a 1U file server in the distribution room which holds all my media files.
This includes mirrored RAID with 1TB of storage for music, movies, TV shows, and more. (RAID is not a backup, but I feel better not losing my media files if a hard drive is downloaded) With this I can stream media files to any computer on my network! Even a SOHO NAS device like Netgear's ReadyNAS performs well here, but I've found that their network performance (NAS devices, NOT specifically the ReadyNAS I've heard of is the bomb) doesn't come close to the gigabit speeds that their interfaces are network can negotiate. *Editor's Note: Learn how to turn an old computer into a NAS here.
XBMC. I have my two Xbox software mods (yes the originals, not 360 yet) with XBMC loaded on them. They're also set up with Xbox remote DVD receivers so you can control them from Harmony. This allows me to stream all the media files from my server to one of my TVs! It's no longer possible to watch Hulu or other media limited to just my computer screens.
*Editor's Note: Find out everything you need to know about creating a truly awesome XBMC media center here.
3. Gigabit switch. I've covered this before, but upgrading to a gigabit switch allows for lightning-fast file sharing between machines on your home network. It's probably overkill, but so is a Bugatti and we all want one.
If you can't assign one with enough ports for the whole network, you can separate two networks. With the patch panel, you can connect ports one and two of each four-port slot to the gigabit switch and the other two to the slower switch. But come on, might as well waste the money and have the whole shebang!
4. DVR everywhere.
With a file server configured, you can also install a set of DVR cards on it. Each card can record multiple shows from your cable and save them to the file server. You can then watch your recorded shows on any home TV with XBMC. Assuming you have routing and/or VPN access configured, you can access these shows from a laptop with decent bandwidth anywhere.
*Editor's Note: Not sure which TV tuner is right for your DIY DVR?
We can help .
5. IP Phones: Some manufacturers make IP phones that can connect to the Internet. Who still has a landline!
? ! But if you need it, you can at least avoid the phone company bill.
6. IP cameras.
You can place security cameras in any room where you have network drops and save them to your file server. You no longer have to worry about the babysitter shaking your kids or snooping around your room.