What Cables Should I Install When I Rewire My New House?
f you’re moving house and want to know what cables to install in the new place so it’s all up to date, or if you’re planning on having a re-wire in your existing house. You may want to consider what AV/ Data/TV cables to install so you’re future proofed as best you can be with the best possible connection. Sure and more and more things are moving to wireless but you can't beat a cable! In any case if you're having building work or a re-wire, it makes sense to get all the other cables in that you might need. There is nothing worse in my opinion of having to drill holes in walls, chase cables on a building/ decorating project that has just been completed. Read this article for all you need to know, within we discuss what cables to install for various services with advice on what types are best without further ado, let’s begin!
Cable Types To Consider Installing In Your Home
There are so many different types of cables for home entertainment and connectivity that I can’t mention them all. In this blog I discuss the most common types. To summarise the cables mentioned and the services these can be used for, please see below.
Twisted pair data cables (Cat5/6/7) – Ethernet/ internet/communications – Telephone/voice – Video/ HDMI distribution systems - CCTV
Coax Cabling – TV Aerial/ Satellite – Home AV – CCTV – Video Distribution
Speaker Cabling – Home audio – Surround Sound - Multi-room Audio
Cable Distribution Area
It make sense to bring all of the cables back to a single location, for ease of maintenance, accessibility etc. This could be the loft or understairs cupboard or something similar. Although it is common practice to collect TV aerial/ satellite cables in lofts, this isn't always an ideal places as the loft is not always the most easy place to acess. I have first hand experience of having to climb through spiders/ past wasp-nests/ hornets in darkness and with mouthfuls of dust, so if you can bring all the cables to a more accessible location it may be a good idea. Especially if you're going to be installing home entertainment equipment here which may required regular access. Whenever I refer to a central location within this article I am referring to your cable distribution area.
Network Cabling/ Data Cables
I think installing Network cabling in houses can be really beneficial. It’s becoming more and more common and advantageous. I have already written a separate blog on whether you should install network cabling at your house so I won’t delve into all the reasons here, I recommend that you read it when you’re done here. In brief, network cabling can:
Provide a fast, reliable Ethernet connection around your house.
Can be used to extend your home WIFI connection in large homes.
Can be used for other purposes like telephone and voice cabling, USB, home AV/ HDMI distribution systems and CCTV.
Recommendations on Network Cables
When it comes to choosing which data cable to buy, Cat5e is usually more than adequate for most domestic networks and can support gigabit over short distances but for a small extra cost you might as well just install Cat6 instead which can support a faster connection. If you have a very large property with very long cable lengths you may want to install Cat6a which can serve longer distances. Improvements exist still like Cat7 and Cat8 or even fibre optic cabling, in my opinion this is overkill, won’t necessarily improve your connection speed and will cost more money, these are really for very large networks.
A decision you may want to decide upon is whether to install Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) or Foil Twisted Pair (FTP) cables (There are actually other types also which I will go into in a separate post). The twisting of the pairs inside a Cat5/6 cable helps minimise interference pickup. In a UTP cable this is it but a FTP cable also includes metallic screen surrounding the four pairs which helps protect it further. FTP is a better choice, but it costs more and it to be worthwhile everything else should be screened also like the RJ45 modules and your patch panel. Regardless what cable you choose it’s a good idea not to run the cables immediately beside/ parallel to mains electrical cables as this can impair the performance of the cable.
Suggestions on Where To Pull Cables
When it comes to how many cables you should pull, it’s up to you how far you want to take it. I would suggest pulling at least a couple to each fixed PC position or places where you’re likely to use a laptop to give you a hardwired internet connection. If you have a home office, pull a few there so you can connect printers, VOIP phones too. I would also pull a couple to each TV position as this be used for a wired Ethernet connection which is the best way to connect Smart TV’s or for HDMI distribution systems. If you intend to install ceiling mounted access points, home CCTV cameras/ door entry systems you will want to pull cables to these positions also. I discuss CCTV cabling etc later on. In ideal world all cables would be brought back to a patch panel which would allow you to label and connect/ disconnect each cable easily at will. If you install this inside a data cabinet, you could also install a rackmountable network switch and home AV in this location also.
TV Aerial/ Satellite Cabling
The cable that is used to connect TV/ Radio aerials and satellite dishes to TV’s and STB/ PVR’s is called coaxial cabling. There are a wide variety of types of coaxial cable including 50 ohm coax used of some network applications and 75ohm coax most commonly used for TV systems. You want a 75ohm coaxial cable often referred to as RG-6. Please note that in the UK there is a cheap cable marketed as “RG6” which you do not necessarily want to install. When it comes to choosing a good coaxial cable you will want one with all copper conductors, this includes a solid copper centre conductor, copper screen and copper braid. This costs a bit more than other types of coaxial cable that do not have all copper conductors but it’s worth the extra cost. If you have a lot of internal cabling in your house you should install a Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSZH) cables.
Suggestions on Where To Pull Coax Cables
I recommend pulling a couple of coax cables between your cable distribution site to each potential TV position in your house. Even if you’re not 100% if a TV will be installed in this location these can be tidily terminated into a coax wall plate. By installing two cables to each TV position allows for a twin feed satellite connection which could be a wideband connection for a Sky Q box or the new Freesat wideband system, or they could be used for a standard twin feed satellite receiver like a Sky box or a Freesat+ box. Although not possible with wideband connections (but possible with dSCR),the same satellite cables can be integrated with TV aerial, FM and DAB connections so all of these services could be provided with two coax cables separated with a Quadplexed wall plate.
You should also pull at least one cable to your aerial position, if you intend to connect radio aerials also you could pull extra cables or these can be combined together as TV/ FM/ DAB each uses different frequencies. You should pull at least four coax cables to your satellite dish position. As a satellite dish points south, dishes are most commonly this is installed on a south facing wall, but it could be installed on your chimney if you’re already installing a TV antenna there. Four coax cables allows for a connection in a multi-switch amplifier meaning with these connecting into a amplifier you could easily extend this to feed 32 satellite points (or more). You may want to pull a couple extra cables for a wideband LNB if you’re thinking at having Sky Q at a later date which you may not want to integrate into your main TV system because of the cost of doing so. If you going to be installing multiple satellites/ LNB’s you will most likely want to pull extra cables for these also.
If you’re thinking about installing CCTV at your home, it will be a good idea to get these cables in too. I recommend pulling cables to each potential CCTV camera position or somewhere near so that the cable can be easily connected to a camera. Good places to monitor are front, back entrances, garage, view of car, gardens and so on. At the DVR/ NVR end of the cables, you will also want to consider getting a wired Ethernet connection to this position so that this can be connected and allow for remote viewing/ access of the CCTV system when away from home. This is most commonly done via a Smart phone/ tablet but can also be configured for access via PC/ internet browser.
Cable Choices & Advice
Regarding the cabling you install it depends a bit on what type for CCTV system you’re going to install. For network/ IP cameras you will need to install a twisted-pair data cable like Cat5e or Cat6. For analogue based system like HD TVI systems this requires a coax cable, usually an RG-59 cable but you can also use cat5e/cat6 if you install video baluns either end of the cable. Personally I prefer using video baluns and twisted-pair data cable and this way it could be nicely integrated with your home network – if you’re installing one. I recommend reading our previous blog on Cat5/6 and CCTV for more information.
Telephone/ Voice Cabling
You may want to consider installing some telephone sockets around your house. With wireless DECT phones and the fact that Sky boxes no longer require a telephone line connection, telephone extension sockets are not as common as they used to be but you may want to still consider some. Going forward it’s likely in the not too distance future that conventional telephones will be replaced with a VOIP phone system.
Advice on Telephone/ Voice Wiring
To install telephone extension positions around your home. Traditionally domestic telephone cabling uses 2 or 3 pair cabling but this itself is restrictive. I recommend integrating your telephone/ voice this into your home network cabling as Cat5e or Cat6 is a good choice of cable and can be put to other uses, like an for an Ethernet port if you do not need a telephone socket. Telephone extensions sockets can be looped wired or “daisy-chained” as it is sometime called between socket to socket, whilst this can speed up wiring and use less cable I recommend “home-running” all the cables direct to a central cable distribution area as this makes fault-finding, maintenance and alterations to your system significantly easier.
You will also want to install at least one cable (cat5/6)between your telephone master socket position and where you intend to install your broadband router or cable distribution area. You could even move your telephone master socket to a more suitable position.
HDMI Distribution Systems/ Video Cabling
You may want a set up where all of your TV/ home entertainment devices are all installed out of site in a single location, in which case you will need to think about HDMI/ video cabling. You have a few options here, for short distances you may find routing long HDMI cables will be fine for your needs. For long cables you may need a HDMI repeater amp to “re-clock” the HDMI signal. For longer distances you will be best to install Cat5e/Cat6/Cat7 etc., cabling and use HDMI to twisted pair distribution equipment, there are many different types to achieve this depending on how many devices you want to feed how ever many TV’s which include HDMI baluns, HDMI amplifiers and HDMI matrix switches. This is a blog itself and most likely my next so please return soon to read this.
Depending on the resolution you want to send and the distance you want to send it depends on what cable you should install. This means that if you want to send 1080i resolution over 30m, Cat5e may be fine but if you want 4K over 50m it may not. A lot depends on the equipment that you have and the distances it supports but I recommend erring on the side of caution and just installing Cat6/ Cat6a to be on the safe side. Again, the advantage of using twisted pair data cables is that is can be terminated into a patch panel and integrated with your home network cabling.
Most HDMI to Cat5/6 systems work over a single data cablelike HDBaseT or HDBaseT Lite but I recommend installing a couple of data cables to each TV position as some HDMI distribution systems two data cables, some equipment will even provide an Ethernet connection down the same cable.
Speaker/ Audio Cabling
You may want to have wired speakers around your home, this could be part of a surround sound system or multi-room audio system. In which case you may need to pull some speaker cabling to your speaker positions. There are a few ways of wiring speakers, in parallel, in series etc,. but I recommend for multi-room audio systems you will typically have one or two speakers per zone/ room. It is a good idea to bring new cables direct from your speakers to your multi-room audio system (Certain types of system may require to wire differently).
For surround sound systems you will need to identify your speaker positions and install speaker cables from here to your Home theatre system/ AV amp. 5.1 surround sound utilise front right, front centre and front left speakers together with rear left and right. 7.1 audio systems are the same but with the addition of centre right/ left speakers. Both systems have one subwoofer, sometimes this requires a different type of connection to your speakers. Subwoofer location is not so important as the low-frequency sound direction is not so discernible so you can install this in a convenient location.
Advice on Speaker Cables
If you want to connect your TV volume into your set up consideration will need to made for this also. What type of cable you need to install depends on your equipment but usually this is done via a HDMI or optical Toslink cable. Regarding what choice type of speaker cable you need, I recommend reading this article. There are various types as you would expect the longer the cable length the better cable you need. I recommend installing something like 79 strand speaker cable, but for short runs something like a 42 strand may be fine.
This blog wouldn’t be complete without a mention of electrical cabling, if you’re going to have a re-wire no doubt you will want to pull some electrical cables. Although you must consult an electrician you identify power need and requirements, how to balance these across circuits and what cables to install, as a rough guide typically the following cable sizes are used for the following circuits.
Final Final (Main) – 2.5mm Twin +Earth
Kitchen Ring – 2.5mm Twin +Earth
Lighting Circuit – 1mm-1.5mm Twin +Earth
Electric Shower- 10mm Twin +Earth
Cooker – 6mm Twin + Earth
It is a good idea to separate circuits, so you may want to have an upstairs ring, downstairs ring, upstairs lighting, downstairs lighting and so on, but I again I recommend consulting a qualified electrician before you consider circuit loads and design.
Power Cabling Suggestions For You AV System
With regards to your home entertainment needs, you will want to install mains electrical points nearby your AV/ telecoms equipment. This includes TV positions, router positions and locations for set top boxes etc. In your lounge, it is likely that you will have multiple devices that connect to your TV so you should install at least a couple of mains points in this position. For wall mounted TV’s you will most likely want to have a mains electrical point also up behind wall mounted TV positions to keep the cables hidden. This could be a 13amp socket or fused spur to keep get TV close to the wall. If you’re going to connect a soundbar to your TV and wall mount this also, you may want to install a double mains electrical socket behind the TV to power both pieces of equipment. If you have a lot of equipment in your cable distribution area you may want to consider putting this on it's own circuit.
If you're going to have a lot equipment on your TV/ AV systems it might be a good idea to earth your set up. Depending where on the planet you're this may even be a legal requirement. There are various ways this can be done, most TV aerial splitters/ amps have an earth connection and data cabinets can usually be easily connected to an earth supply. The CAI has guidance on earthing for more than 5/6 pieces of equipment where the touch current can build-up which could cause a dangerous situation and advises earthing in this situation. It's not common practice but maybe it's a good idea to do things right the first time.
Other Wiring To Consider
Depending on your needs you may want to consider installing wiring for other types of service like door entry systems, access control, alarms, smart lighting, and home automation. To be honest I do not delve that must into these systems but many of them utilise twisted pair cabling like Category 5 or 6 or something similar so you may be able to introduce this into your network cabling set up.
Questions? In Blog Comments Section Only Please
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Until next time,
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