There a multitude of reasons you may want to avoid going wireless and instead go with a Cat5 installation cabled network. Sharing with multimedia devices, bandwidth on a home network, and security concerns about wireless networks are all major conerns. And for those reasons (or others) you’ve decided to wire your house for Ethernet. Great! Installing Cat5 is fairly straight forward and is something you can do yourself as long as you keep a few things in mind.
A Little Background
Category 5 Cable, commonly referred to as Cat5, is cable used in structured cabling for computer networks like Ethernet. Cat5 is a twisted pair cable, this means that within the cable there are two conductors that have been twisted together in order to cancel out electromagnetic interference from external sources.
First Things First
Diagram your building. You will need to know where you want to run your cable to and how much cable you need to run. Nothing beats actually pulling out a tape measure and measuring out wall lengths as well as the length of the wall to the devices you want connected. While figuring out approximately how much cable you need (measuring long is preferable to short) also decide how many jacks you will want in each room and how many ports you want each jack to have.
Faceplates come with anywhere from one to six ports (and even more), but most people are fine with only four. Ideally try and keep the cable at about 295 from your telecom closet or distribution box to the intended wall jack. You will also need to determine where your distribution box is going to be located. The distribution box is where all your cables are going to come together in order to connect to the outside cable or telephone line.
Where Is The Cable Going?
You’ve done measurements, and you know which rooms and areas you want to have Cat5 access, now you need to think about the literal path the cat5 cable is going to take. Will you be going through walls? Through floors? Will this involve drilling a few holes or do you intend to take down dry wall and pull up subfloor?
Your level of confidence in doing your own minor house work may determine the exact path the cable will take. The more direct the path, the less cable used and less cable is better. If you start to exceed 300 feet (about 90 meters) you risk losing bandwidth. And while you do what the cable loose, excessive cable also increases the likelihood of kinking the cable. Damaged cable won’t work properly, if at all, and nothing is worse than trying to trouble shoot cable issues AFTER install.
You did your diagramming and measuring. You are ready to order the cable, and possibly tools. Now you have to decide what speed you need. Your internet speed will be determined by your switch, and your switch is the central hub all the media devices will be attached to via the Ethernet network. For working with Cat5 a 100 Megabit switch is perfectly fine. If you want speeds approaching 1 Gigabit you may want to upgrade to Cat6 cabling.
The cost of all materials will vary based on the resources on hand. One thousand feet of Cat5 cable can be purchased on Amazon for as little as fifty bucks. You will also need an Ethernet crimping tool, jacks and faceplates, a router/firewall, switch, single gang retrofit boxes. There are also a variety of other materials you can look into to make your install look more professional. Make sure all materials are Cat5 compatible. You may also need drills, saws, and specific drill bits and hole-saws depending on what you decided to do when you mapped out your install
Before you start drilling holes in walls you want to be aware of where all the studs are in your walls. What many people do is follow their television cables. Doing that allows you to avoid any extra work with studs. I recommend this method. Once you have an idea of where you want your Cat5 connection to come out at go ahead and cut a hole in the wall. This should be big enough to hold the gang box, but small enough that that faceplate will cover it. You’ll also need a hole in the wall of the room where the distribution box/switch will be located.
Now that you have holes cut into your walls it is time to run the cable. The easiest way to do this is to run the cable from your distribution box and up into an attic space, then follow the cable television lines, drilling holes as needed. Following the cable television lines is still ideal if you don’t have an attic space, but may require drilling small holes into walls in order to figure out where those cables are exactly. Drilling holes is still less work than pulling down drywall.
Now you can start feeding Cat5 cable through these holes. It is easier to run the cable down and then catch it at the bottom. This way gravity helps guide it. Once you have the cables guided into the first room begin pulling it through until you have the desired length. Be careful! Cat5 only has about 20-25 lbs. of pulling strength. If you pull with any more force than that you risk damage the cable, also avoid bends that are tighter than two inches in radius. If the cable becomes damaged replace it.Do not try and splice in a repair.
With your cables in place it is only a matter of crimping, stripping cable, and attaching the jacks. With the jacks and the cables in place connect the Cat5 to your switch/distribution box and connect the box to the internet. Then before you put on face plates, or fix any holes in your walls make sure to test the system. Attach your computer or laptop and determine that you have are connected and that it is at the speed it should be.
If everything works then you are all set to clean up and make everything look nice. Cat5 installation requires a bit of planning, but if you do that planning this project can take less than day. With a little research anyone can do it.