Network Cabling Project

Gigabit internet is rolling out in Austin this year.  My “fast” Wifi won’t be able to capitalize on such high speed.  In order to take advantage of that significant speed bump, we need to run wired connections to key points in the house.  I have also grown tired of the relative instability of wireless connections, as they easily drop out, slow down and otherwise behave weirdly at the most inconvenient times.  Power-cycling my wireless router – not just this one, but all the ones I’ve ever owned – has been a weekly ritual.

I had also been wanting to do this project for a long time, but until now I had scared myself out of it.  I feared damaging drywall, drilling in the wrong places, painting myself into a corner, etc.  It wasn’t until I methodically addressed those fears that I gained a sense of control over the project.

The project itself has so far not been difficult, it’s just many steps.

Mission

My primary goal is to bring wired network connectivity to a “bonus room” that is completely across from where my cable modem and wireless router live.  On a good day, I can eek out 50 megabits/second in a wireless LAN test from the bonus room.  Yes, I realize that’s blazing fast for the casual Internet surfer and that I’m trying to solve a first-world problem.  However, gigabit internet is not for the casual Internet surfer…

Planning

Conventional wired networks are typically arranged in a star pattern, which basically means there’s a central termination point for all of the connected devices.  My first step in building the network was choosing that central point.  I wanted to pick a place that was concealed most of the time, yet easily accessible.  Although it’s not the physical center of our house, the master closet was the best choice.

The next major piece of planning is choosing where to make the network “drops.”  The bonus room was already at the top of the list, because connecting that room was the original goal of the project and the room that I judged to be the hardest.  It’s difficult because there’s a vaulted ceiling with no direct attic access.

I’ll choose subsequent drop locations later.  Logical choices include the bedrooms and the living room for hard-wiring the Roku.

Budget

From my research and conversations with colleagues, labor is the biggest component of contracting out a project like this.  Since I plan to do the work myself, I expect to save a lot of money on labor.

All told, my desire is to keep the total cash outlay at under $1,000.

Supplies

The majority money that I am spending will go toward these supplies:

  • 1,000 feet of Category 6 network cable
  • 24-port patch panel
  • 24-port gigabit ethernet switch
  • wall jacks and plates
  • fiberglass glow rod – a thin, rigid pole that helps fish cables behind walls and ceilings
  • drywall repair (sheet rock, joint compound, tape, texture)

Initial Progress

Cuts in drywall.  Fiberglass fishing rod is in visible in center of the larger hole.

Cuts in drywall. Fiberglass fishing rod is in visible in center of the larger hole.

So far, I’ve made minimial cuts in bonus room drywall to route the fishing rod into the cathedral ceiling.  The next step is to go into the attic to scope out and hopefully grab the pull string that is attached to the rod and use that to pull cable runs into the attic and down to the patch panel.

So far, the difficulty of the project is about what I expected.  I’ve never patched drywall before, so that will be exciting to do.  As long as I don’t trip in the attic and step through the ceiling, I’m hopefully in for a fun home improvement project.

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