Scott Hanselman

Wiring the new house for a Home Network

October 23, 2007 Comment on this post [24] Posted in Musings
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UPDATE: Here's a Bundled Link of the complete "Wiring your house for Gigabit Ethernet 5 PART SERIES."

CIMG7356It's official, we're moving! We close tomorrow on a house we've been building. Since it'll be not only our home but also my home office while I work at Microsoft, it needs to be wired as such. It'll be using Verizon Fiber Optic (FIOS) and my Internet connection will be 15mbps downstream and 2mbps upstream.

The pics below are of the "framing" part of the house. For those of you who read this blog who aren't in the US, you may be surprised (or continually surprised) to see our all-wood houses. It's the one thing that we have lots of (so far) here in the US...or at least here in Oregon.

What you're looking at here is the stairs in our living room that head upstairs. The walls haven't been put on in this picture. Under the stairs is my wiring closet. The door is on the far left side there.

CIMG7379 CIMG7380

imageThe picture on the left here shows the piece of cardboard that is soon to be the wiring cabinet. It'll have a clear glass front and a lock. The wiring is all Cat 6 (not Cat 5E) and I'll be mounting a 10/100/1000 Netgear Switch in that cabinet along with a UPS and a wireless router. The switch will also let me route VOIP and RJ11 traffic over ports, so I can re-purpose ports like a small business.

There's 24 RJ45 ports, with each room having at least 2 RJ 45 and 2 Coax. The Office will have at least 10 ports. I just don't trust wireless when I can get hard-drive speed over a hard-wire. So it's Gigabit for me throughout.

Jeff Sandquist's team is going to be doing "Microsoft Cribs." He says "we're honing in on the actual technology people use in their homes." Cool. He's said I can do a video on our setup.

I figure I'll have it all setup by the end of November. Wish me luck! If this is an interesting topic, I'll do a series of posts on the wiring closet, how to save money, how to test for capacity, etc.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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October 23, 2007 10:34
I've gone through a similar excercise. You've got a big closet and you'll likely end up with a computer (or a few) in there some time down the line. Now would be the time to think about cooling / ventilation. Worth considering even if all it ever houses are a switch, a router, and a UPS. With a closed door it will likely get toasty in there.
October 23, 2007 10:45
That is my dream too!
October 23, 2007 12:47
Yeah, it would be great with a couple of follow-up posts on this topic! I'm planning to do the same thing in my new house.
October 23, 2007 14:11
Wooden walls... huh... wooden walls. Umm, right, whatever. But why don't you use tubes inside the wall that hold the wires?
Right now when you close the wall, you can't add new cables, right?
Over here in The Netherlands/Europe we embed tubes in the concrete or bricks so we are able to pull new wires through it.

Maybe I'm missing the point but hey, I don't have experience with wooden walls.

ps: what about sound isolation? Seems to me pretty noisy.
October 23, 2007 15:01
Hi Scott,
Yeah - probably way to late at this time, but Rutger is right - if you had taken say 2" PVC pipe, and roughed that in first, as conduit, you would have been a lot better off

One thing you CAN do, if the walls are still open. Get a box of electrician's "Pull cord" - and put a run of the cord in with each cable run (better 2) and LEAVE then in there. If you ever need to pull a new cable, you use the pull cord that is already there, instead of having to fish - and you pull a NEW pull cord along with the new cable, so you always have a pull cord.

I'm slowly (VERY slowly) pulling a pair of cat-6 and 2 RG6 from each room to the basement (Used to drag cat-5e when I started the project 5 years ago)
October 23, 2007 16:23
Hey Now Scott,
If you do a cribs episode I'd love to see the door bell ring & you see an alert on your media center tv, with the cam on the person who is ringing the door bell, Like you described in a recent episode. Enjoy your new property.
October 23, 2007 16:26
Wow - 2 RJ45 ports and 2 coax per room! I'm building a house too and at $450 per quad drop you aren't messing around! Congrats on the new house and job!
October 23, 2007 16:57
Speaking of "Microsoft Cribs" show us some photos of portals in your home ;)
October 23, 2007 17:02
Let me guess - you handle the tech, while your wife is in charge of picking out the color scheme, window treatments, appliances, granite countertops, carpeting, landscaping, shower curtains, decor, and new furniture?
I like it!
October 23, 2007 17:16
I find this to be interesting and would enjoy reading further posts on the subject.
October 23, 2007 17:56
Hey Scott,

Congrats on the new house. I know I am piling on with the why didn't ya...s. However I was a little surprised to see you getting a Netgear Switch. Netgear is a good consumer brand but they really don't have the chipsets to compete with the big boys such as Dell, HP, and Cisco. See through put is all dependent on how much the chipset can handle. Really what you want to look at is the switching capacity because it is totally different than bandwidth.

Usually you can find very good switches on EBay for less than you can buy a consumer grade switch for. Also don't be fooled by Netgear or Linksys or even D-Link's "business grade". They don't even stack up to the low end 3 year old models that you can buy on EBay of the HP's, Cisco, and Dells.

October 23, 2007 18:06
I would also be interested in seeing more on this subject.

Kind regards.
October 23, 2007 18:13
Looks great, it's awesome how well you can wire a house these days for a reasonable price.

Of course, as soon as you move in, you'll realize there is one spot you forgot to put a cable and it will annoy you forever. How do I know? :)

Also, designate where you electrical taps are and ensure your office has at least 3 dedicated circuits if you're going to have a reasonable amount of gear/UPS. I took the rule of a jack box a foot away from each power drop so that I didn't end up with wires all over the floor. For instance, I have three separate jack plates in my office alone, each with 2+ CAT5e jacks. The one by the server has 6 CAT5e jacks so that everything can have a dedicated drop to the switch to avoid overloading a single cable.

Enjoy the fun of building a house, it's a blast.
October 23, 2007 18:20
$450 per quad drop?


Cost of the wire is what, 16 cents a foot? Call it 20 cents. The connectors for both ends another $2, plust the wall plate mount - say another $3 - so figure a run the length of a house is $10, + $5 for the connectors
October 23, 2007 19:17
$150 per drop (commercial) or $100 per drop (residential) is common rates for category 5/6 cabling, and they don't give any discounts for runs with multiple drops (even though the effort and materials difference between 1 and 4 drops is negligible). I assume your builder is using Cat-6 throughout and all of those lines are terminating into a "Structural Wiring" panel... so you can interchange phone and network outlets as you see fit just by swapping the connections inside the wiring panel.

I would also definately agree with Michael Teper - if you ever think you *might* have a computer of any type in that closet, then make your you plan for ventilation. A room that small is going to be cooking.

Another thing to consider (if it's not too late in the build process) is whole-house audio wiring. This will add tremendous Wife Acceptance Value as well as Resale Value - my wife absolutely loves ours. Even if you don't plan on installing the audio system now, you will want to at least run the wiring for it. All it requires is a Category-5 cable to be run from the anticipated locations that you would have a Volume / Channel pad (basically, next to each room's light switch). These cables should all be run to a central location - your wiring closet would be ideal. Additionally, some wiring needs to be run from each volume control pad to the speaker locations - usually a pair flush mounted into the ceiling. Dont worry - you can paint the speaker grills to match the ceiling color and your wife will never notice them. Once the wiring is in place you can opt to install the actual audio systems at your leisure. For about $5,000 you can get a decent 6-zone system that is sufficient for a 3 or 4 bedroom home... for $20,000 you can get one that totally rocks your socks off. Russound and SpeakerCraft are two affordable manufacturers to check out for this.

What's really cool is that once you have the full-house audio in place, and full-house networking, you can opt to pipe any media to any room from your Media Center hub. I love that flexibility - we have XBOX 360's that act as media terminals in various rooms, and can play music from our media center into any room as well. All with minimal visible wiring.
October 23, 2007 19:34
Definitely keep us posted on this Scott. I suspect you've got a huge base of techie's that would love the opportunity your in right now, myself included for sure. Hearing about your experience would be incredibly interesting and fun. Detals, details, details. Oh and do a Hanselminutes or two on it as well. :-)
October 23, 2007 21:29
Congrats on the house.

Got a few questions for you if you don't mind.
Did they let you run the wire yourself? Not all builders let you do that but you save tons of cash and that way you know the job is done exactly how you want it. If they ran the cable I would make sure they do a good job of terminating the cables, including the RG6. They should be using the compression type fittings on the RG6 (they are completely circular) and not the type that crimp around the cable or that screw on. They have far less loss and lower noise injection and you will notice a difference in picture quality (at least on the analog channels).

What is the large orange tube with a low voltage wall plate in this pic:

What model of switch do you have? You said it can do RJ11 ports, which sounds like a cool feature. If you can flip a port from data to telephone without rewiring thats nifty.
October 23, 2007 22:09
I notice you don't mention anything about power in here, but do not forget that computers use electrical power, the more computers, the more power. A standard home typically has either 15 or 20 amps on an electrical outlet and from what I've seen, they're usually 15 amp. Often, the circuits that supply power to your outlets will also supply power to lighting and to other rooms or parts of other rooms. There are exceptions for things like Kitchens and Bathrooms, which require dedicated outlets for certain appliances, but not for regular rooms such as those where your computers are going to be located or for things like wiring closets. Anyway, you can get the maximum watts for a circuit by multiplying the voltage (110 in the US) by the amperage of the circuit, which yields about 1800watts for a 15 amp circuit and 2200 watts for a 20 amp circuit. Your final rating should be 80% of maximum (this is a fairly standard way of estimating, ask your electrician and they'll tell you the same thing). What this means is that if you have a 400 watt power supply plus your lights (@ 60 watts/light average) plus anything else you're running in the room (clock, paper shredder, desk lamp, monitors, etc.) you are going to start to run out of power quick if you have a 15 amp circuit and more than two decent computers running (I have 7 in my office but that includes my wiring closet with file server and firewall). Generally, you probably won't trip a breaker, but it sucks to have your work computer on with something important and then you fire up your gaming rig to play some 3d game that sends the cpu and graphics card into overdrive and you lose power suddenly (don't ask me how I know that). As a result, I would STRONGLY recommend that you run a dedicated 20 amp circuit for the outlets (and ONLY the outlets) in your office or any other room you're likely to have multiple computers running in. I would also advise a dedicated circuit for your wiring closet. You will really need to calculate your own power requirements and then discuss this with your electrician, but I think it's important that you do so. YMMV
October 23, 2007 23:41
I'd definately love to see a series on this.

I first thought I'd try the wireless approach, but after a couple of years of doing so I'm thinking that wired is a better way to go. So, I'm looking to start slowly wiring up my house.
October 24, 2007 0:42
Holy cow! You'd never ever get through inspection over here in Switzerland with this kind of cabling.
October 24, 2007 1:45
Yo, if you're on M$ Cribs, I better see you with a M$ Spinner chain (kind of like 50' Cent). You also have to have Bill-G chillin' in the back with an iced-out goblet of vitamin water sayin "Sup' mayne".

Haha. ohhhhh how awesome that would be...
October 24, 2007 4:19
You probably should get Carl Franklin to do a video tour of the house while it's still in progress with the data stuff visible and put it out as a video Hanselminutes. I loved his recent Steely Dan thing.
October 24, 2007 5:18
Why do you put 2 coax?
October 24, 2007 22:50

I'm not sure about scott but one big reason to pull 2 coax so that they can use satellite TV. With satellite you can't just add a splitter like with cable TV because there is actually 2-way communication between the receiver and the dish (or multi-switch) so that the receiver can tell the dish which satellite it wants to "see". If you are going to use a DVR with satellite you need two dedicated cable runs to the dish/multi-switch.

It would also be useful if you had two different RF providers, like one company for cable TV and another for cable internet, or if you were doing cable internet but satellite TV (since you get crazy amounts of HD from direct TV now)

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.