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I am running Cat-6 and Coax in new construction. I am looking for advice/best practices on how to organize and secure the cables during the runs.

I will be running 2 Cat-6 and 1 Coax to a single-gang box in nearly each major room. These runs will converge at certain points as they are run into the basement.

Let's take these scenarios:

  • I have 3-wires running along a stud or joist (1 coax and 2 cat-6)
    • Would you just use a staple(s)? Why or Why not?
    • Should I use a cable stacker like this?

Cable Stacker

  • Let's say I have 6-12 wires.
    • Cable stackers?
    • I saw these things called "Cable Caddys" (below) which look nice, but cost almost $1 a piece, which got me thinking that PVC cable clamps would work just as well, for much cheaper, but I'm thinking the stackers would work better.

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  • As all the wires (20-30) enter the basement and run along a joist, I realize I can use a raceway, but don't really want to spend the extra money. Is there anything wrong with using a large PVC clamp, like below?

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Using raceway or large diameter conduit can create flame-spread paths between walls, floors, ceilings, and attics that do not otherwise exist. If you do use them, make sure you figure out where firestops need to be installed. Depending on the home type and jurisdiction you may actually be breaking code if you don't fire stop in the right spots. Also, I have never seen raceway that is part of a UL tested building assembly, so your fire insurance underwriter probably wouldn't like the idea of it being built into a wall, ceiling, or floor. –  alx9r Aug 4 '12 at 16:50
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Use the stackers. You will be doing a rewire somewhere in your future. Anything that makes that job more difficult will really annoy you at that time. –  Fiasco Labs Nov 27 '12 at 18:30
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4 Answers 4

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It's not real critical. When wiring phone centers we used metal raceways (or a thrown-together wood one) in the ceiling, but for my house I used pipe clamps like the one you posted at about 4' spacing. I like to add a wrap of double-sided velcro around bundles going to the same box, also about every 4'. Near the demarcation point I might use a few screw-in hooks like those used to hang bicycles if there are a lot of cables going out in one direction.

Don't fasten the cables to anything too securely. That way you can use the old cables to pull a new one if it becomes necessary.

One important detail: do not use zip ties. They can constrict over time and damage the cables they're wrapped around. (They're also tougher to pull new cables through than velcro loops.)

You didn't ask about routing them, but I guess it's relevant to explain the assumptions my recommendations are based on. I always do horizontal runs in the floor/ceiling and then run vertically within the bay where the junction box is located. (Rather than meandering through the wall as shown in one of pumpkin's photos.) This means less holes to drill and usually less resistance when pulling the cables. I also leave an empty bay (two studs) between mains and network cables, so I don't need to worry about securing the drops (recommended distance is at least 1' apart when running parallel to mains).

If you wanted to make pulling new cables even easier without doing a full PVC conduit setup, you can just install PVC fittings such as 90° elbows where the cables pass through the top plate or sole plate. That's were all the friction is going to come from when pulling, so some nice smooth PVC lining the holes can smooth things out nicely. (This of course assumes you'll use one of the existing cables to pull the new ones. Obviously you won't be able to run a fish tape without the sections of PVC connecting the fittings.) The fittings would also ensure that you don't go under the cable's minimum bend radius of 1 inch.

One other thing that I'll mention just in case is heat. Large, tightly-wrapped bundles of cable (think 50+ cables) that are being heavily utilized have the potential to trap heat in the center which can eventually degrade the insulation and cause shorts. Unless you're running a grid computing cluster at your house that's not likely to be a problem though. A more likely scenario for the average home owner is the use of Power over Ethernet, which will generate more heat. If you're planning to use PoE I'd limit bundles to 7 or 8 cables, just for good measure, even though I think the odds of a problem are still very low.

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Thanks. Great advice! How about if you have 3 wires going down a stud? Do you use pipe clamps for that? –  Steve Aug 3 '12 at 2:37
    
I've never felt the need to secure the vertical drops, other than with the velcro wraps. If I was going to anchor the vertical drop, perhaps to maintain adequate distance from electrical mains, I'd probably just staple the velcro strip to the stud before wrapping it around the cables. –  Brad Mace Aug 3 '12 at 4:47
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It really doesn't matter. The stacker is nice if you're in an office that will be doing new cable pulls routinely, but I think most of the time...in most houses, once the cables are in, they're rarely going to be more added--especially as more and more things are going wireless.

I've just used zip ties when aesthetics weren't a major necessity.

Nailable Cable Ties

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Added image of Nailable cable tie. –  Chris Cudmore Aug 2 '12 at 18:19
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You can also use normal cheap-o cable ties, and staple 'em down. You can also get screw down cable tie mounts, but I only really use the stick-on ones when I can't puncture the surface I'm mounting to. –  Joe Aug 2 '12 at 18:26
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Zip tying to a regular wire staple works well too. I often use the screw-down zip ties as pictured and in corners or anywhere there will be more strain and I have a big bundle, hammer in a wire staple and then zip-tie to that. –  gregmac Aug 2 '12 at 22:36
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If you are at construction level I would most certainly advise you use PVC conduit to run multimedia cables. In Europe I have noticed that nobody bothers too much about that in home construction because it is an extra cost. In Africa we used them everywhere because they are a time saver! Why do I suggest using them?

  • If you clip these cables using the clips you mentioned, cable tie them or bind them somehow then they are there to stay and trying to repair / remove or add them later means ripping the drywall off.
  • Houses are built to last 100+ years. People are going to want to add new technology that will require new wires. Fibre optic? People are not going to rip drywall off so they will have to run it on top somewhere, drill new holes and that is iffy.
  • Maintenance. Many times someone moves into a new house only to discover that the wiring has issues. Maybe someone forgot to connect one junction, or the incorrect gauge was used. It's also not that uncommon for multimedia cables to have a fault in the middle of the CAT5e--with PVC tubes just run a new section and viola, sorted.

There are many types of PVC conduit. The hard plastic is typically used for high voltage cables but you can use the bendy type for multimedia cables. Be advised not to run multimedia with high voltage as this will cause interference.

Hard PVC conduit

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Flexible Conduit

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How it should be used

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How it should NOT be used

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People will have various needs and you cannot predict all of them. At least you can provide an easy clean way to allow maintenance. I wish my house had this done. Instead, I have to pull a floor board, drill through beams, and install ugly surface conduit--just so I can have HD TV downstairs from my Multimedia Centre which is upstairs only 2.8 meters away.

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Homes are becoming more sophisticated with home automation, alarm systems, etc. Might as well be ready for upgrades.

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Would running too much conduit on exterior walls potentially affect the effectiveness of the insulation? We live in location with cold winters. –  Steve Aug 3 '12 at 12:18
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If you clump many conduit next to each other in each direction then it will effect the insulation. It also depends what kind of insulation. You can always use foam (I have seen segments left till the end and then filled with self expanding foam) to fill in gaps if you have them evenly spaced out. As long as the conduit is sealed all around it it will not cause any massive problems. –  ppumkin Aug 3 '12 at 12:26
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@Steve when possible, run the conduit to an interior wall. The longer the conduit and the more turns, the more difficult it will be to fish a line through it. The best solution is to have an access panel in a ceiling of a central closet with conduit going to each room on that floor. –  BMitch Aug 3 '12 at 12:52
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While it's a great idea to add conduit, I actually prefer to keep the conduit empty (or just have a pull string inside). Run the wires along-side, and then use the conduit for potential new stuff. There's not really much point in ripping out existing cables, and in practice, if you're trying to add eg, an HDMI cable to a conduit that already has a half-dozen Cat6 and coax cables, you're going to have a tough time. –  gregmac Aug 3 '12 at 18:15
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Whether conduit will help depends a lot on whether the conduit goes to and from the points where you need the cable. I recommend planning out all the cabling you know you need in advance and installing it bare (without conduit). Then, if there are some obvious paths where you need the advantage that conduit provides, install it for those paths only. –  alx9r Aug 4 '12 at 16:59
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Use Flame Test Rated Cable and Insulated Wire Staples

In the case where you have wood-frame construction and

  • a high-density of plumbing, electrical, gas, forced air, and low voltage wiring, or
  • you are fanning out to individual devices (e.g. Pre-wired 5.1 speakers, network drops in each room, motion sensors, door contacts),

I recommend using purpose-built insulated wire staples, flame-test rated cable and open-backed boxes.

Running the low voltage cable bare takes much less time than running and fishing through conduit, and you can always put the drop exactly where you want it. Contrast the ease of running just cable versus conduit when you encounter a lentil or a furred-out concrete wall, for example.

In the case where you have multiple cables in one chase, you can stack a few and staple them together. The staples are cheap and quick to fire, so you can always run the cables side-by-side.

Getting Flame Test Rated Cable

The flame-test rating of your cable is important to meet building and electrical code requirements (and also so you don't burn your house down). If you shop where licensed electrical contractors shop, the cable will most likely have an appropriate flame test rating for your code requirements. My last project required FT2 or FT4 throughout. Most "consumer grade" cabling will not have an appropriate flame test rating for use inside your walls. So buying some long HDMI and network cables from monoprice.com probably won't meet code requirements if you run it bare.

You will probably also find that the cost-per-foot for cable purchased from an electrical wholesaler is much lower than consumer sources.

If in Doubt Run A Couple of CAT6 Cables

CAT6 is an excellent fallback for places where you are not sure exactly what will be needed. It is already the accepted way of overcoming the range, cost-per-foot, and flame-test ratings limitations of HDMI -- a CAT6/HDMI balun set is now only about $60. There are Baluns already available to convert almost any signal to/from CAT6.

Background

I just finished a down-to-studs permitted-and-inspected renovation of a luxury 1400 sq ft suite. The design called for 78 low voltage drops throughout which worked out to about 2 miles of cable. I used the strategy above for that renovation, all 78 drops were roughed-in to a utility room in about 20 man-hours.

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