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I want to add network drops to several rooms in my house, and have them connect to one point, preferably inside an existing closet. I would like to put a cable modem and a WiFi router in this closet, as well as a reasonably presentable method of the wires entering the closet (I would still like to be able to use the closet as a regular closet). I figure that I would need to run power, RG-6, and all the network drops to this panel.

Is this something that could be code compliant? If I don't have a designated place for data wiring, is there a preferred place to put things like this?

Possibly relevant information: The house is a concrete slab foundation, and PITA attic access. All existing wiring (electrical, phone, coax) is loose on top of the ceiling framing. The other "low voltage" signals for phone and coax have their own junction box on the outside of the house, so I wouldn't be re-running or really touching those.

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Depending on how long the cable would need to be, you might want to consider leaving the modem where it is, or putting it as close as possible to where it enters the house, and running ethernet from there. Long cable runs can significantly reduce signal quality and make for a slow or flaky internet connection. –  Grant Dec 8 '12 at 15:24
    
You may not want to put an electrical outlet in a closet; see here: diy.stackexchange.com/a/6933/22 –  Niall C. Dec 8 '12 at 18:02

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The current solution being installed in new homes is a "structured media enclosure" that you can install between the studs in a closet wall. Since it's between the studs, you need to make sure nothing is currently running in that space today (although an outlet that's wired from below servicing the other side of the wall would be very convenient). You want this on an interior wall so that you're not dealing with insulation. The outlet is installed as part of the enclosure and the enclosure is covered to reduce the risk of clothing blocking vents and starting a fire.

Here's a sample enclosure:

sample enclosure

See this question for photos and a discussion about typical wiring in one of these enclosures. Your patch panel for networking, phone splitter, cable splitter, router/modem are all installed inside the panel. Typically, electrical is wired from below and all the data wiring goes through access holes in the top. When closed, no wires come out the front of the panel, everything stays inside the wall and panel.

I'd also recommend installing an access panel in the ceiling of your closet to make it easier to fish new wiring, unless there is access from above. If you're going to open up a lot of walls/ceilings to fish the wiring, then you may also want to install some conduit to each of your drops in case you want to change this network in the future without opening everything up again.

access panel conduit

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How would I run power to the bottom of the box if I don't have access to the bottom of the floor (slab foundation, no basement)? Would that require running power down in an adjacent space in the wall, over and then up? –  W5VO Dec 10 '12 at 14:34
    
@W5VO I'd likely do that (go down an adjacent space and over) to keep power and data well separated. You may be within code to run it behind the panel as long as junction box for the electrical wiring doesn't have any data wiring in it. Just make sure the panel leaves a small bit of space behind it to do this. –  BMitch Dec 10 '12 at 15:07

It should be straightforward to meet code in your area as regards power, temperature and fire requirements - but what you need to think about are your hardware requirements:

In addition to your cable modem and wireless router, you'll also want a patch panel and a power bar (networks always grow - don't limit yourself to just the power you need now) so you'll want to either situate this at the back or side of your closet to avoid cabling getting in the way of things.

If you have a closet adjacent to your breaker box, then this will be very easy, otherwise look at which mains spurs you can use.

Ideally your data cabling should exit the closet as far away from power cabling as possible.

Standard wireless antennae have an omni-directional pattern, so having a closet in the centre of the house will work best here - but if it is behind a boiler, for example, signals will be blocked quite badly so you'll need to think about propagation paths.

What I typically do in houses is have my network closet in the attic with cable drops down to each room. I also have my storage and various servers there as the attic is at a much lower temperature, and I can place wireless antennae wherever I need for coverage, and I point them downwards.

Edit - once last point: for all kit with fans, be aware that dust and fluff from clothing will build up over time, so you need to plan on checking and clearing out fluff on a regular basis.

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I highly recommend putting the wireless router in a central location. I actually plan on mounting mine on the ceiling in my hallway soon. I currently have it in the basement with my fileserver and the signal quality is not very good. Upstairs in the hallway will give me the best signal quality.

The only standards I can think of are 568A/568B for when you're wiring everything up. You want to follow these standards so someone else can come into the house after you've sold it (or died if you plan on keeping it forever) and easily repair or add new cable if needed.

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