Building a New Home - What to Do?

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  #1  
Old 04-23-03, 05:46 PM
kpantz
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Question Building a New Home - What to Do?

Hi all,

We're in the process of building a center hall colonial, and I'm being given a decent amount of leeway by the little woman in wiring the place

Anyway, I'm confused on where to really start (only 25, and not very knowledgeable about such things). I'd like everything to be centralized and distributed to any rooms we deem appropriate.

Data

I've heard a lot about cat 6...is cat 5 heading for obsolescene? Regardless of the type of wire, I plan on "starting" the whole gig at the cable entry point, since we'll be going with cable modem. I figure we can wire up to a few rooms, and then send a line up to the attic (or an upstairs closet) for a wireless hub. Has anyone done something similar, and are there any tips/tricks/pitfalls of which I should be aware?

Voice

Here, I'm pretty much clueless. I envision a phone line or two, and would like to take advantage of centralizing the whole deal. I don't know anything about VoIP, but would like to learn a bit and see if any opportunities exist. Can anyone point me to a good source?

Audio/Video/Cable/Satellite

Again, clueless. What do people do for this? Cable is pretty self-explanatory, but what kind of possibilities exist for piping audio and video around the house?

Are there any other types of media I should be including? Can all of this exist in the same central control panel either in the basement or in the garage?

I've only been perusing this site since this afternoon, so forgive me if I'm asking seemingly dumb questions. I'd appreciate anyone's brain dumps on the subjects at hand...any ideas you can throw at me would be great.

Bottom line: I want to wire this home to be as functional as possible at a reasonable cost. I also want to make sure I get as much done as possible befor the sheetrock goes up!

I should note that the electrician will likely do much of this work, but I'm willing to sneak in and do some of my own. Has anyone done something similar? How easy are electrical contractors to work with?

Thanks in advance for any help!

-Ken
 
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  #2  
Old 04-23-03, 06:14 PM
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Here's what I did

http://www.chris.fite.com/cat5.html

Hope this helps.

I don't see the need for cat 6 yet, but others may feel differently.

An electrician may be the last person to do this type of work. I would look for someone who does this very thing professionally.
 
  #3  
Old 04-23-03, 06:56 PM
kpantz
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Most ambitious...

I like what you've done, and it seems that you've got the data and voice stuff taken care of nicely. Seeing this and reading your story makes me think that I'd be crazy not to do this while the walls were open!

This might be my telecom ignorance showing through, but I'm not sure what's really happening with your phone lines. Can you perhaps tell the story of a phone call as it comes in (you can use a byte of data if you're on a modem). That might help me get an idea of how the signal is traced and what value this concoction can truly provide.

Regarding the electrician...the house is being built by a private builder who subcontracts all this stuff out to preferred providers. I'm not sure how much flexibility I have in terms of bringing other people into the mix...y'know?

One more question (more ignorance!): What advantage does the punchdown block provide for the network? How do you get the 4-to-many to actually work? Is it really a four-to-many? Perhaps another "day-in-the-life" of a byte would help here.

Thanks for your help! Hopefully someone can also chime in on how the audio/video/satellite stuff might come together.
 
  #4  
Old 04-23-03, 07:08 PM
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I agree with Chris on both points, Cat6 is a little ways out still and very expensive (even compared to Cat5.) And you definitely don't want an electrician wiring your phone, data, cable, or A/V (or basically anything other than 12/2 or 12/4.) You start adding all those wires and they get confused

I myself wire for security and sometimes phone/cable, so I'm not an expert on the subject (I prefer not to do any wiring actually.) But, for a basic structured wiring system, you'll want 2 data and 2 cable lines going to every room. Phones should be just a single Cat5 line. Basically, what this gives you is a Data In/Data Out. Same with Cable. All of this is wired back to your wiring closet (btw, put it in the basement, not the garage.) The reason you run 2 of each is this: for data you have your cable/DSL connection going in to your server/router/etc. then back to your network via the wiring closet. Or, you can do like Chris did, and just put your modem, router, and any hubs in the closet, then wire to your network from there (highly recommended.) The cable is done this way so that you can connect a receiver in one room and use it in other rooms (In to receiver/Out to wiring closet and other rooms.) With phones you don't need an In/Out.

Audio is not really my area. I could wire a house for A/V, but I couldn't really sit down and tell you how to do it. But, take a look at <a href="http://www.russound.com">Russound</a>, they are definitely the best in the business.

Also, be sure you take a look at Chris's setup, he did a nice job with it. It will give you a good idea of what to do.
 
  #5  
Old 04-23-03, 07:32 PM
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Read the next post "A Couple of Queries" for a detailed discussion of this very topic.

Well, tell the builder that running cat5 and running electrical wires aren't the same thing for the same reason that framing is not the same a cabinetmaking. If the cat 5 installation is messed up, you're stuck. Proper installation of cat 5 is more delicate and unforgiving than pulling 12 guage romex.

The phone line comes in and is shared along the blue and white wires on the punchdown block. To add a line, punch down a piece of cat5 with the two wires and run it to the other punchdown block.

Look at the telco punchdown photo, the wire in the upper left with the green and brown and such wrapped around the stud is the incoming line.

See the cat5 with only the blue and white wires dropping down toward the bottom of the photo? These are connections from the incoming line to the rooms. As it is shown, there are four telephone lines currently connected in the house.

Look at the network punchdown photo and see the cat5 coming in from the right about the center? The one with just the blue and white connected to the punchdown block? That is the phone line connected to the cat5 cable run from that point to its termination in the house. The phone signal is riding on the blue and white wires, if you will.

The RJ11 phone jack will plug into the 8p8c wall connector and tap those wires with the signal for the phone. Pretty slick, huh? All the cat 5 connections in the house can carry data or phone, as connected.

The punchdown block is a key to the flexibility of the design. It is properly designed for use with Cat 5 cable and is the key to interconnection, such as with the telephone line from the telephone punchdown block to the network punchdown block to the individual terminations in the rooms.

They enable expansion of the system, cross-connecting one outlet in a room to any othe outlet in any other room, connecting the data lines as needed, and connecting the telephone lines as needed.

I am afraid that I don't understand what you are asking about "four to many". Try me again. I may be missing something.

Hope this helps.
 
  #6  
Old 04-24-03, 01:02 AM
magister
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In addition to the resource of this forum and the willingness of it's participants to help talk you through anything you might be considering and btw, I got sidetracked with a couple of other projects, but I hope to be sounding-out my idea of media distribution within this space, relatively soon. But in addition to this forum and because you are starting from scratch, you might want to look at the following;

Both <A HREF="http://www.leviton.com">Leviton</A> and <A HREF="http://www.squared.com">SquareD</A> offer multiple packaged units which if you were to read their literature, it could give you some terrific ideas for a DIY. And, if you do decide to install a packaged system instead, you could install them whole or in part and since your builder is probably going to be installing products from these companies anyway, it may be easier to get him to accomodate their solutions, if that's the way you want to go.

(To access the materials about the <A HREF="http://www.leviton.com">Leviton</A> solutions, choose "Product Information" on the mainpage and "Integrated Networks" on the resulting page. To learn about the <A HREF="http://www.squared.com">SquareD</A> products, click "Residential" under "Customers and Markets" and then choose "Structured Wiring" from the left-hand menu.)

If you look at the above, you'll get a good idea of the possibilities and of course most of it could be jury-rigged for considerably less money than a package. But again, a package would come with a guarantee, product support and it may be easier to get your builder and finance company to include them. Though of course, most everyone in this forum have probably elected to replicate, rather than purchase, as I am trying to do and as Chris has done.

Also and I mean no offense by this, but because you do seem to be desirous of taking advantage of as many things, as is possible and you aren't exactly sure what this may include; There is a book included in the famous series called "Smart Homes for Dummies" by Danny Briere which though I haven't seen it, the reviews say that it mostly consists of ideas of what is possible; It is available from Amazon, Borders, Walmart.com, Barnes & Noble; ISBN# 0764525395

And finally, because you are starting from scratch without any walls to retrofit, the popular thing to do in this situation would be to run the wires within the walls through PVC pipe, so that when the time comes to upgrade to CAT6 or whatever is beyond that, or if you decide you want to add something to your existing system; It's a lot easier to fish the cables through the PVC, especially if you leave a couple of strings in there for just such an eventuality.

Hope this Helps;
We're Here to Help;
R
 
  #7  
Old 04-24-03, 06:45 AM
kpantz
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Thanks for all of your help! Reading all your suggestions has given me a much clearer picture of what's involved. I really appreciate the help.

I just got off the phone with the builder, and they're not allowing anyone but their electrician to do the work. Apparently, they've been bitten one too many times by someone coming in and doing a bunch of work, only to have it damaged (or used by the plumber in the case of PVC piping) and having to take the blame. Sigh...

The good news embedded in this is that this electrician has done plenty of "smart" homes and knows pretty much everything about structured wiring (at least for what I want, anyway). My concern now, though, is cost. I have a feeling that I'll be paying through the nose for his work.

Does anyone have a ballpark figure as to what I should expect to pay? I plan to have voice/data/video home run from about 8 rooms (2-story colonial...about 2500 sq ft). I know that it's tough to estimate, but can anyone give it a shot? I'd be happy to provide any additional information if you'd like.

Thanks!
 
  #8  
Old 04-25-03, 10:17 AM
magister
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To be honest, we're at a loss as for judging pricing because most everyone who has been active in this forum lately, DIY's. You may be able to discover someone else's pricing info by using the little drop-down list on the previous page, or the page listing the threads in this forum and expanding the time-frame which it lists. I was going to add this notation to my list of possible resources, so I got it out there anyway and back when I went through the entire history of this forum, I remember some had discussed professionally-installed packaged systems; I just don't remember who or the details.

Perhaps someone else though, may come along who has some pricing info and hopefully, they will post the data for everyone's benefit.

A good rule of thumb might be to price-out the packages that you may be interested in installing, including the wiring and interfaces, then double it. But, because home automation is such a new field, the old rules may not apply.

I did read a wire-service feature article a few months ago, profiling a fellow who pre-wires new construction running everything through PVC and he told the interviewer that he gets about 2g in labor for the average home. But, I can't find the article to verify whether the 2g was only labor and it should also be noted that the profile was syndicated nationally, so I don't know in which market he operates. Also, he operated a specialized company and more than likely, he had paid someone to do publicity for him, so his price could easily be higher than what you would pay in your local market to someone who does this kind of work in addition to the regular wiring.

Hopefully, somebody will come along with a better answer, but in the meantime, you'll at least get a minimum ballpark by pricing a package and doubling it. (Of course, this would be assuming that your electrician would opt for a prepackaged unit). And, because neither of the sites I suggested above does include pricing, you would need to take their model numbers and run them through Yahoo! to find on online retailer to get the additional info and of course, you also shouldn't ignore what is available at the home improvement centers because there's half a chance that your electrician is going to install what he can find, locally.

Sorry I couldn't be more help;
R
 
  #9  
Old 04-25-03, 11:58 AM
kpantz
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Nah....you've been a great help. The more educated I am going into the pre-wiring walkthrough, the better off I'll be. Your info is useful, even if it's just for awareness' sake. Thanks!

I obviously wish I had more latitude with the wiring, but someone already ruined it for the rest of us. I'll just make sure I get what I want (and not pay TOO too much for it).

If anyone's interested, I'll spec out whatever gets done and give pricing info.

Thanks,
Ken
 
  #10  
Old 04-25-03, 12:34 PM
magister
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A pricing follow-up would certanly be appreciated, not only because some folks may elect to go the same route, but some of us are doing the upgrades to increase home values and an idea of what it would cost to start would certainly be helpful in establishing value at the other end.

If your fellow will be installing the pvc pipe and/or putting-in the Leviton wall or faceplates that are designed to be used with their Quickport Snap-in Connectors (you can actually see them on the shelf at Lowes); Then it would be real simple for you to go along behind him and install additional features. If that's the situation, theoretically you could get him to run the bare minimum and snap-in your additional desires.

If I'm not mistaken, the Leviton product comes with the capacity for either four or six (maybe eight) quickports and they sell ethernet, coax and rca receptacles at Lowes. Others may make something similar; (I'm going with the Leviton product and you can probably guess where I'm going to buy it) Though, because the wallplates and piping would be the most expensive items outside of the cost of the prepackaged distribution modules for the wiring center, so I'm not sure how much it would save you; But, this could be a cost-cutting measure that you may want to consider; Let him put in the backbone and you fill it later to your heart's content and of course, you could fill it out with something less expensive than the prepackaged solutions.

Hope this Makes Sense;
Keep Passing Open Windows;
R
 
  #11  
Old 04-30-03, 04:45 AM
kpantz
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The walkthrough is happening tomorrow (Thursday). I believe I heard the builder mention that his electrician uses Leviton products (it's definitely a packaged solution). I went and Sharpied up the studs with my preferred locations for various things. I labeled where I'd like the structured wiring to go, and as an alternative, I put the individual things I'd like to route to each room (for price comparison).

Can I run structured wiring to, say, a family room on one side AND have a run of telephone wire to the other side? Is that just a waste of money (meaning I should either deal with the phone on one side or run the phone line around the room) or have people done that?

I'm also thinking of running one additional network line upstairs for a wireless hub/router/access point. Can that be done without the need for another run of structured cable? My gut tells me yes, but I'd rather hear it from someone else. If "yes," I suppose the previous telephone question would be answered the same way (but I'm sure this idea is more practical).

I'll come back with the estimates I get; I'm sure they'll be on the high side, but that's what I have to deal with!

-Ken
 
  #12  
Old 04-30-03, 06:31 AM
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I would run Cat 5 everywhere that could possibly matter. It will be cheaper to do it now. Who knows what applications may arise in the coming years?
 
  #13  
Old 05-02-03, 04:58 AM
kpantz
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Hey all,

So here's the deal: I did the walkthrough with the electrician, who came armed with a book that had the Leviton catalogs and a pricing sheet made up for use by my general contractor with his clients.

The package I chose came to $1650, and it included the following:
  • Structured Media Center
  • 4 Home Runs of Structured Cable (included 2 CAT5e and 2 quad-shielded RG6)
  • 2 Additional Home Runs of CAT5e
  • 10/100 Hub
  • All plates and jacks installed

Each additional home run of structured cable was $205, and each additional run of CAT5e was $80.

I needed one more run of structured wire (+205), but countered that by knocking off the hub (-100) and one of the CAT5e runs (-80), so I kinda came out even.

I knew it was going to be costly, and I have mentally prepared myself for $2000, so I'm not completely floored.

He's also putting in a pipe for me from attic to basement.

The other thing that got me into trouble was that I couldnt trade my provided telco and cable outlets (3 and 5, respectively), as they were prenegotiated between the developer and the utility companies. Since I have them, I just need to figure out where I can augment what I'm putting in. I've already figured out where the phone lines are going, and I think I'm just going to put the cable outlets on opposite sides of the bedrooms from the structured ports.

I'm not going to ask if I'm getting ripped off, as there's nothing I can do about it in this situation, and I don't think the cost is all that bad. Could I run it myself for a lot less money? Probably. Fact is, though, I'm not allowed to, and if something were to go wrong, I'd have nobody to hold accountable but myself. I guess this is the best option.

...so there's your pricing information. Hope it's helpful. Le me know if you have any questions; the electrician and I discussed some other wiring options (like audio, video, etc), so I still have some of that in my head.

-Ken
 
  #14  
Old 05-04-03, 09:55 AM
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To be honest, that's about average, maybe slightly on the high end for Leviton. I'm on the Atlanta area (which is slightly on the high end for structured wiring) and that's about the same as pricing around here. You can expect to pay up to and around $2k for Leviton in an average size house. Leviton is not expensive, but it's not the cheapest option either. Data Comm makes a good system that starts around $120 for Phone and Cable/Satellite. It's all pretty much comparable when it comes down to it. OnQ is a big name in structured wiring, but it's extremely pricey and just not worth it, IMO. Not to mention, you have to be a certified dealer to buy and install OnQ (don't count on that with your electrician.)

BTW, I won't get into what I think of an electrician running structured wiring. He may have done thousands before, but that doesn't mean he did them right. Anyway...

Part of my point here is this, even if your electrician is wiring everything for you, that doesn't mean you have to go with their system. The structured panel is not an item required for closing or final inspection. As long as blank plates are installed over all open boxes, you should have no problems. You could potentially save hundreds by "trimming-out" yourself. Not to mention you can use whatever equipment you want that way (and probably save even more there.)

Good luck! And let us know how it turns out.
 
  #15  
Old 05-04-03, 10:02 PM
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Sorry I got in on this a little late. Price seems fair. I would have ballparked $2000.00, and this is something my company offers. The add-on drops seem a tad high.

I agree 1000% with Safewatch. I have seen alot of electricians installing Cat5 & RG6, but the type of cable is the only thing done right. About 10% know what they are doing. And the builders rarely have a clue.
Make sure of the following:
- no low voltage in the same holes as the 110 wiring.
- Low voltage should be run seperate (at least a foot or two) from the high voltage. They can cross at 90 degree angles, and sometimes have to run next to each other for a couple of feet, but no long runs.
- no tight staples or bends.
- watch during trimout - don't untwist the cat 5 pairs more than a 1/2 inch (and thats a lot).

We use Channel Plus' OpenHouse and OnQ. They offer more than the basics, which is more where Leviton is in this field.

What I recommend is something along the lines of the following:
Tel/Data/ 2 TV to the Entertainment center(s), and MBR TV.
Tel/Data to the MBR bed, and Family Rm (etc) sofa (laptop on the network option)
Tel/TV/Data to Kitchen
Tel/TV to Laundry(?) & Garage(?)
Tel/Data/TV to each BR
Tel to each BR bed
Data behind appliances. (not so future use)
Sat to Entertainment centers & MBR
Cat5 & coax to front doorbell location (door canera, intercom, etc.)
The Data is the in home network, and for future use in the entertainment center & MBR tv.
2nd tv is to distribute video from sat, dvd, etc
Both data & tel are cat-5's. TV & sat are RG6. Conduits give the option to add fiber optic cable, if & when it's needed.

Not everyone does all this, some more, some less. And if someone suggests using wireless instead, ask them 2 things. How many times have they complained about cordless phone noise, range, interference, other conversations, etc? And what do you think all these radio waves are doing to us? I use cell & cordless phones, and microwave ovens, etc. But I'm also aware of the effects of these things in high or prolonged doses. Can't be healthy. Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.
 
  #16  
Old 10-06-05, 02:04 PM
spoma
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getting in real late

I am getting into this topic real late. Like a couple of years. I was curious in seeing how Chris did his setup at http://www.chris.fite.com/cat5.html but this link does not seem to work anymore. In all honesty I am not even sure that he is still a part of the forum.
If possible maybe Chris could activate this link or post the updated link.

Thanks.

Any other examples of what people did would be appreciated. I am currently contemplating what I want to do. I know just enough to be dangerous so I need to make sure I don't get out of control.
 
  #17  
Old 10-22-05, 06:16 PM
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Did mine recently...

I just finished building a house myself, I simply ran 2-CAT 5e to every room in the house, and 1-coax connection, some rooms I did more than one wall outlet configuration, this allows the flexibility because CAT 5e can also be used to run phone lines or computer (depends on the method you punch it down). Leviton products have a lot of flexible outlet configurations and you can find them at your local home-depot. I home ran all of this to the basement and put in two panels, one for phone/lan, and the other for audio/video.

In addition, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND, that you get flex tubing and run it from the site of your pannels back up to your attic and basement (if it's not already there. This will allow you to pull additional cable at anytime to almost anywhere in the house. I used a 2" flex tube from mine.

You'll also want to consider running coax (probably at least 2) to any exterior satellight dish location (may not need it now, but you never know). If your going with a cable modem, I also highly recommend vonage for your phone system. That should cover you, you'll also want to make sure that your electrician wires an outlet for that wireless router you want to put in the attic....
 
  #18  
Old 10-24-05, 06:28 PM
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For satellite nowadays you need at least 4 to the dish, and two to each TV location (for DVRs and such). It is suggested you double things up for youe main HT system.
 
  #19  
Old 12-22-05, 06:47 AM
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"Make sure of the following:
- no low voltage in the same holes as the 110 wiring.
- Low voltage should be run seperate (at least a foot or two) from the high voltage. They can cross at 90 degree angles, and sometimes have to run next to each other for a couple of feet, but no long runs.
- no tight staples or bends.
- watch during trimout - don't untwist the cat 5 pairs more than a 1/2 inch (and thats a lot)."

Funny how some people think this is too complicated for electricians. Are electricians really too dumb to learn fewer than a dozen additional rules in order to properly rough in home automation wiring. I guess some figure his mind is already too cluttered with the thousands of codes he must know in order to be an electrician. A few builders around here use "specialists" to install Tel/Data/TV. If we do the entire package, even though we are just electricians, we integrate the entire job, taking into consideration the guidelines heretofore mentioned (and a few others not mentioned). If the "specialists" do their rough-in before the electrician, how do they assure that there aren't any proximity or cable-crossing problems? Nowadays, with so many boxes in a room, it looks much better to integrate receptacles with Tel/Data/TV ports. And if they are not integrated, care must be taken to align Tel/Data/TV boxes with receptacle boxes.
 
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