Tips for running wire through existing walls

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Old 01-04-17, 01:10 PM
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Tips for running wire through existing walls

Hello all,

I want some tips for routing wiring through walls for new hardwired contacts or even a new install. Will it be easy? hard? I'm a newbie so any help would be helpful!

Thanks!
 
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Old 01-04-17, 02:40 PM
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A lot depends on the structure of the building. Modern houses are typically more difficult, as there tends to be more bracing and insulation in even interior walls. If you can easily get at the floor plate from below, or the top plate from above, you are halfway there. Otherwise, fishing wire is as much art as science.
 
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Old 01-04-17, 02:53 PM
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When I installed my system I took a clothes hanger, straightened it out, taped my security wire to it and pushed it thru a hole drilled big enough to accommodate both.
 
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Old 01-04-17, 03:52 PM
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When I first went to work for an electrician I traveled around to different new construction sites. The only way to be able to fish wires thru walls and throughout the house is to see one being built. Try to find a house being built in your area. Bring a bribe like coffee and donuts and you'll get a personal tour. Bring lunch and they may come to work for you.

You must learn wall construction. You need to see why the wiring can't just go up thru the wall. You need to see how the walls interact with the floor and the ceiling.

I learned many years ago from different electricians. Now I install high end alarm systems too. We don't hard wire doors and windows any more in an existing home as the labor to run the wire is now offset by using wireless devices. We do hard wire the keypads.
 
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Old 01-04-17, 05:16 PM
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We don't hard wire doors and windows
So when I replace doors and encounter the hardwired sensors, it is likely they are being replaced by wireless?? I always tuck the wires, capped or taped, neatly back into the hole in case they are needed later. Come to think of it the client did have wireless magnetic breaks above the door. Live and learn.
 
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Old 01-05-17, 06:13 PM
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What do you do if you run into a stud though? How do you drill through a stud when you have the hanger / fishing device?
 
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Old 01-05-17, 06:51 PM
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So when I replace doors and encounter the hardwired sensors, it is likely they are being replaced by wireless??
Not at all. If the house was hardwired then those switches should still be being used. I'm talking about a built house with no pre-wiring. Then wireless is a viable option.

When you look at a wall...... there are studs running parallel that are nailed to a top and bottom plate. You can drill from the attic down to the second floor. (blue line)

You can drill from the basement up into the first floor wall. (pink line)

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Some problems....
Finding blocking in the wall that needs to be drilled.
A low roof creating an almost impossibility to drill down.
ALL outside wall will be insulated doubling the effort to run wires.
 
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Old 01-06-17, 02:23 AM
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They make long flexible bits for this sort of retrofit work. They take a little practice to use well, but are very effective. You have to be careful to scout out any likely electrical, or other obstacles that might be in the way.

As previously stated, wire fishing isn't as much difficult, as it is tedious, and requires a little understanding of building structure, and a lot of forethought.
 
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Old 01-06-17, 05:58 PM
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My suggestion is ..... if you think you can learn enough about hardwiring a house here in a DIY group, you'd better think twice. I don't know how handy you are but even those who turn out to be good at it, make dozens of mistakes while in training with an experienced installer. There is no way that you will not make some serious mistakes and there's somewhat of a potential of making a few lethal mistakes if not very expensive ones.

Wire snaking and drilling holes in a home for behind the wall installation of wires is an art and a skill that is developed over a period of time. You are going to put a lot of effort and likely expense of tools into a project with a pretty steep learning curve and potentially bad results. It would seem to me to put your money into getting a pro in to at least do the pre-wire and then you can follow up with the component mounting and getting the system on line.

But ............ ALSO .... if you DO take my suggestion, make sure you get an "EXPERIENCED" hardwire installer. Now days, so many who refer to themselves as "alarm installers" are only experienced in the "lick and stick" installation of wireless transmitters and devices and actually have very little experience with drilling doors a windows and routing wires in a two story home or homes with no basements or inaccessible attics. Get someone who's been around for awhile.

If you try this on your own, I can predict that the first thing your going to say when your done is,
"I shoulda let an installer wire it"
 
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Old 01-06-17, 06:14 PM
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Good reply Jimmiee.

I am a pro installer so I can relate to everything you wrote. I've been wiring in houses for 40 years. We've been finding it almost impossible to wire a customers home after it's built for an alarm system due to labor costs. The people just aren't willing to pay for that type of install anymore. Commercial is different.

I never liked the wireless equipment but I'm using the Bosch stuff.... Innovonics wireless.... which is a little more costly but the range is tremendous and the equipment is extremely reliable.

Just to get off the beaten path a bit.

My friend installs data, cameras and sound systems in houses. He was using one of those long fishing bits down a wall and couldn't figure out what it was stuck on. He went downstairs into the bedroom to find the dresser drawer partially open. He looked behind the dresser to see his bit come out of the wall and into the ladies underwear drawer from the back.
 
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Old 01-06-17, 06:25 PM
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Addendum to my previous post
With no building experience you have no idea of how electricians or plumbers or HVAC contractors run their wires pipes and ducts. Can you tell the difference between drilling into a nail or a pipe? How about a piece of PVC pipe? Think you could tell if you were drilling up though the plate to the attic or through the roof? While drilling down to the basement from a first floor window, do you think you could control a 5 foot flexible drill so that it didn't drill outside through your shingles instead of into the basement? Could you tell if you were drilling through a piece of copper heating pipe instead of a hard 2x10 box frame into the cement sill? I'll bet there's not a pro in this group that hasn't experienced at least one and probably all of these events in their careers. And you think you really think you want to take the chance of any or all of these and more things happening and think you can "learn" how to do it by asking questions while people take years to perfect their skills. ?????
 
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Old 01-06-17, 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by chandler
I always tuck the wires, capped or taped, neatly back into the hole in case they are needed later.

If the wiring goes to a sensor, the better method would be to twist the bare copper ends together then, cap them.

Most of older wired systems have devices wired in series and cutting the wire effectively ruins the remaining devices in that zone unless spliced back together.

Sometimes people will replace a door/window, seal the wire behind the drywall and then mark where it is. That is almost useless -- Too hard to fish out.


To the OP -- These days you can buy tiny inspection cameras for cheap to help see inside walls. The cost of the proper tools will be your biggest obstacle.
 
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Old 01-13-17, 01:17 AM
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I wouldn't say its quite as nearly impossible as some of the comments have made it sound, but I would agree with their advice on being darn careful as to knowing what EXACTLY maybe running through any section of wall you'll be attempting to fish anything through first-mainly AC wiring! Notice I didn't say "hot AC wiring" because even if you figure out where (if any) the AC runs are in that section of wall and de-energize them, you still could damage them in one way or another and then figure that damage was done later, "the hard way"!!

I'd second the advice on the tools you'd need and to look for certain things, like the long drill bits and the extension bits for them online, where you can often find them under $10 ea, vs I think $30-$50 per long bit at Lowes, HD, etc although then you're getting a name brand like Klein that's probably higher quality vs cheap online bit, but since you're not looking for pro grade tools to last forever, the cheaper bits may serve you just fine.

The "peeking camera" tool (with bright LED on it for sure!) would probably be your first purchase, assuming you already have a good stud finder w/AC detector (just don't bet your life on the AC detector in that stud finder) you can use the "peek a boo" camera to take a look inside of your walls and obviously exterior walls are most likely going to be full of insulation, but then you can start to get an idea if they have the horizontal boards, maybe meant as fire blocks or anything else surprising inside of the walls and based on what you see, make a decision if you want to attempt the hard wired route or go wireless.

One other idea is over the years I've learned a good amount about fishing wires for low voltage stuff by watching and occasionally helping the electricians I've hired to do the real wiring in the various renovations I've done and several times when I've had a really tough spot for running some cat5/6, coax, etc I've called them to fish the wire(s) that I just couldn't do myself, but it helps when I've already got a working relationship with them, then its more of a "sure I'll stop over Tues night" and I'll get a good deal on it. Not sure what they'd charge if you have to cold call an electrician just to fish a few alarm wires!
 
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Old 01-15-17, 01:39 PM
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This response may hit a tender spot, however I just couldn't let your reply go without comment.

I've been in this trade for 47 years and never once has an electrician been considered someone who can snake a wire good.

I have been the source of relief of many an electrician who found it impossible to get a wire where they needed it but didn't have the snaking skills to do it. Sure, an electrician can snake a wire from a first floor wall outlet to a basement but when put up against trying to get a wire to the middle of a ceiling for a fan or to an outlet on the mantle of a fireplace, their "shortcut" method is to break holes in the sheet rock and then tell the homeowner to call in someone to do the repair.

I've never once met an electrician that wasn't amazed at the snaking a "good" alarm installer could do. As I said in an earlier post, the "newer' installers don't have a clue how to snake wires.

You're experience is obviously different.
 
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