Best time to wire new-construction house for ethernet?

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Old 10-16-12, 09:44 PM
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Best time to wire new-construction house for ethernet?

Hey everyone,

I'm an infrastructure specialist for a large organization and I do a fair amount of installation/retrofit at work, but because I'm in-house I'm not a licensed contractor.

A friend of mine's daughter is buying a new-construction house that's currently being built. We're considering wiring for Ethernet but don't want to run into any issues with the GC or the inspectors, so we're trying to figure out the ideal time to install the wiring, and once it's in, how to mount the boxes, if we even do, to avoid problems.

Right now we're thinking about waiting until the high voltage inspection is done, then doing it on a weekend. I had planned on installing boxes and having them stick out the customary ~0.5" from the stud, but my coworker suggested that the contractor might raise hell if he sees 'em since the sheetrock crew would have more work to do cutting for the boxes, and then there's getting in to finish them.

I'm wondering if I should flush-mount the boxes with the studs and mark a diagram with where they are to come back to cut out the sheetrock for them later, or if I should just leave the cable there, hanging, and then use a low-voltage open-backed box at that time. I'm considering putting the cables on the other side of studs that the electrical is installed on anyway, so finding them again probably won't be that bad.

I'm afraid that if we go for official permission from the GC that it'll be both denied and that they'll actually check to see if we've cabled the place in defiance of their denial.
 
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Old 10-16-12, 10:51 PM
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There are a few potential issues. First is whether or not your LOCAL jurisdiction requires permits and licensed contractors for the installation of low voltage and communication cabling. If it does then you absolutely will need to follow those requirements.

Second issue is the GC and electrical subcontractor. You really should get their blessings BEFORE attempting any work. If you don't then the building or electrical inspector may raise heck with one or both of them. If the drywall sub wants extra money because of extra boxes it is best to know that up front and include that cost to the GC.

Third, rather than running cables, which may become obsolete or may be overkill for some of the locations I suggest running flexible non-metallic conduit from a central location to every place where the owner might possibly want a comm or data receptacle. The conduit is cheap compared to the cost of unused cable. Run the cable AFTER the owner is certain of where she wants the services. This also allows for changes in the future. I personally would suggest double-wide (2-gang) standard plastic electrical boxes with conduit connections but backless "rings could be used. Absolutely nothing less than 3/4 inch conduit and if you use a "star" topology increase the conduit size as you work back to the central hub.

Definitely DO NOT "flush mount" any boxes to the studs with the idea of going back and cutting the drywall. You want the boxes to actually enter into the drywall if not having the open ends flush with the face of the drywall. Be certain to caulk any sill or top plate penetrations with caulk, foam insulation or firestopping caulk as required in the LOCAL code.
 
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Old 10-16-12, 11:04 PM
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Low voltage here doesn't require permitting, as far as I can tell. At work we're in the middle of a huge cabling project with several vendors all at work and I haven't see any indication of permitting occurring, and no inspections. The local phone company (Century Link) is the GC, and if any company would know to go through permitting, I'd think they'd know and would actually follow the rules.

Yeah, that was a brain-fart on my part to not remember conduit. Maybe we'll take that approach instead and install hard-pipe and flex-pipe now, and simply leave it empty until the house is complete. We could even run some conduit to the utility demarcation point so depending on what service she goes with she could have coax or cat5e run to the ISP's routing device. I'll ask my friend to get ahold of the GC and find out if that'll be acceptable. That would probably increase our window of opportunity (ie, we wouldn't necessarily have to wait for inspection and sneak in) and maybe the GC wouldn't mind if there were a dozen more holes needed in the sheetrock.
 
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Old 10-19-12, 08:48 PM
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Just got a call from my buddy, he and his daughter called the GC to discuss conduit, and they actually gave their blessing to installing all the low-voltage cable and boxes that we can and they'll cut all of the sheetrock for them no problem. We have to do it on Sunday, so I'm getting my gear together, and tomorrow either he or I will go to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store to get some plastic single-gang and double-gang boxes.

Depending on how much time it takes we'll install Cat-5e, RG-6, and some 16awg speaker wire. We may as well pre-wire the sound system, and I'm going to suggest putting in eight possible speaker positions, front-center, front-left, front-right, rear-center, rear-left, rear-right, and side-left and side-right.

We'll coil up the cable in the boxes and tape the coils, so that when they texture and paint it doesn't get all over the wiring. I'm looking forward to it.
 
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Old 10-19-12, 08:56 PM
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It all sounds good. One recommendation that I do when prewiring for future surround sound is I map out the room. I leave the speaker wires in the wall/ceiling but I measure and know right where they are. If you put boxes in now and blank them off and never use them it looks tacky.
 
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Old 10-21-12, 06:39 PM
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Well, it's done. It was a bit of a pain, but that was more in attempting to organize what's going on with so many otherwise unskilled "helpers".

The GC had installed two coax and two telephone lines. Apparently they charge $150 each for those. OUCH.

Seven Cat-5e Plenum, four RG-6, and nine speaker wire pairs for two systems were installed. One of each of coax and ethernet ran from the demarks for cable and phone to where the ethernet cabling comes together so that if she chooses DSL or cablemodem she'll have service. She only wanted wiring where TVs will go, so they can be hardwired for broadband in the bluray players, she'll use wireless for the laptops.

The two-story house uses an open floor truss system to support the second floor, we pulled all of the cabling in the first floor ceiling in the open trusses. That part worked very well, and we firestopped all of the penetrations when we were done. Nothing is hanging below where the ceiling will go, and everything is stapled or otherwise secured. I also labelled like crazy.

The hardest part was that everyone kept getting in each others' way. It almost would have been faster if just a couple of us had been working. Oh well.
 
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Old 10-22-12, 01:30 AM
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So you just ran cables to some very specific locations? I can almost guarantee that six months after moving in the owner will want something different. The conduit would have allowed for that at a much lower initial cost.
 
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Old 10-23-12, 08:57 AM
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Well, the cable we pulled was all from discarded remnants, and she's never had wired ethernet, she still lives with her parents (her father is one of my car-club buddies), so I don't see it really being a problem. Her only real cost so far was a bunch of boxes for a quarter apiece and lunch, and later she'll have to buy some faceplates, some keystones for coax, and some blank keystones for one of the doublegangs.

There wouldn't have been ANY of this if I hadn't installed it when I did, so I'm not too concerned. Odds are good most of it won't ever be used anyway.

Though if it'd been my house I would have pulled either conduit or else a lot more wire. I'd have put two ethernet jacks and a phone jack on every wall, and I'd have strongly considered where to pull fiber and coax to as well, and I'd put in conduit I'd have left pullstring or mule tape for future changes. But, she didn't want to go that far.

It also gave me an opportunity to compare construction techniques on this house versus my house, built in 1979, and to see how some things are done, like where ducting penetrates floors, using a cylindrical duct in a square-shaped space. Obviously her house, as a tract home and new isn't built the same as a custom home from more than 30 years ago, but it has given me some ideas. I'll probably try to drill for and pull ENT conduit into my house in as many places as it's possible. There's a crawlspace in the attic above the ground floor that runs the length of the house like a Jefferies Tube in Star Trek, so I can run a lot of my cabling through there and drop it down into the walls below for those rooms. We'll just have to see.
 
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Old 12-05-12, 08:36 AM
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Cat6 is not enough better than Cat5e to justify using it to me. Both do gigabit and neither does 10G terribly well. I'm going with Cat6A when I do my house.
 
 

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