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We are having a house built and one thing we can add (for $200) to our home network along with 4 hardwired cat6 ethernet connections ($800) is

Enhanced Wireless/Switch - Includes network switch located in the Home network center. Two intelligent high power access points with roaming handoff. Professionally installed and activated with 2x2 MIMO antennas. 802.11b/g/n standard.

Is this something I could/should do myself or is the price to effort ratio good enough to shell out $1000 for them to install it?

I could also just get the 4 ethernet wall outlets for just the $800 if that makes more sense.

I am decent with my hands, have changed some light fixtures, thermostats, and set up a few routers in my years.

EDIT: this would be installed by me after the house is built and the walls are fully painted. I cannot do the work myself on framed walls.

EDIT 2: Thanks for the recommendations everyone! I'm going to try for conduit so I can DI myself and perhaps run other cables (great suggestion!), but if they refuse, settle for the $800 wired outlets and not the additional wi-fi.

UPDATE: I asked them for the conduit, but they said it would be $400 per connection, total of $4000 for the 10 I requested. I laughed and opted instead for the $800 package without wireless. I thought this was the best for me since I had enough projects to do after move-in that this was something I felt comfortable offloading on them.

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    Recommend closing as opinion-based. IMHO, run Fiberoptic lines everywhere as well as coax & Ethernet wires. – Carl Witthoft Mar 31 '17 at 14:50
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    Ask how much it would cost to have conduit installed to all rooms. - 1" PVC conduit with min. 5" radius bends from every room to an accessible service area such as the attic or furnace room. Then when cat-7 comes along you won't be stuck at cat-6. – A. I. Breveleri Mar 31 '17 at 14:50
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    It is worth having network cable in the walls - wifi can choke on obstructions such as ductwork or walls with many electrical wires. Even if you do not pay them to install network hardware (sounds expensive) have them run CAT6 to each room. – user4302 Mar 31 '17 at 15:03
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    As someone who owns a unit in a quite new building, having cat5e in the walls (even though they put it in with RJ-11 jacks, thus with a bunch of unused pairs) makes me really, really happy. Once wires are there, it's much easier to upgrade them than to install fresh -- just tie the new lines to the old ones and pull through. – Charles Duffy Mar 31 '17 at 17:40
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    @masedesign Wired ethernet will always be faster and more reliable than wireless. The OP hasn't said if they live in a high-density area or not (which makes wireless less reliable). My house has Cat5e hardwire and a $50 GigE switch and soundly beats my $300 wireless access points on throughput and latency. – Dai Mar 31 '17 at 17:53
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I bought a pro-sumer wifi unit for about $300 on Amazon (Amplifi is the brand and came with 2 repeaters). It's low configuration and self-meshes with repeaters for total coverage. It's overkill for a lot of houses but I have an odd setup and it should cover virtually any house. I offer it here for comparison to the $200 "pro setup wifi".

1000ft of Cat6 is about $100 right now. Assuming that they use all 1000ft (which would be a LOT for a house) $700 for install in an unfinished house is steep.

If I were you, I would get a quote on having low-voltage gangs added to the house and 3/4" conduit attached (make sure they attach it to the boxes with a threaded adapter and don't just shove it into the hole) and run through the top plate into the attic. PVC conduit is stupid cheap. So let's say that you had 10 of these added. Total cost of materials (conduit, box and blank plates) would be less than $100. Add in $100 for labor (these shouldn't take much time at all in open walls) and you now have $200 in. Buy a $50 500ft spool of Cat6 and drop Ethernet into the conduit yourself. Buy a 10 pack of keystones and wall plates. Another $100 and you now have your own wired network, for a grand (estimated) total of $300 for 10 wires, not 4. Better still, what if you need coaxial cable run in? Or another set of wires in each box? The conduit supports whatever non-electrical wiring you need.

  • Great answer, but with one caveat that it's either $800 at build time for 4 in open walls or I do it myself in finished walls after closing. I do not have the option of doing it myself in open walls. I am thinking I might want the conduit and see if they do that. They're a simple low voltage sub-contractor for the builder so it's possible they won't. – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 15:39
  • @Forklift If they don't, don't pay for their wifi. As I said, $300 (or less) can get you some great wifi. Something tells me that they'll take the $100 in labor for what is arguably really easy work. I should note that wall fishing isn't easy, but it can be done. You just have to climb around the attic, drill holes and then cut boxes into the wall and connect the two. – Machavity Mar 31 '17 at 15:43
  • Thanks. I'll try for the conduit as that seems like the best option they didn't offer and I didn't consider. Barring that I'll skip the wifi and just get the wired ports. – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 15:53
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    The conduit supports whatever non-electrical wiring you need. Minor quibble on phrasing, it supports whatever non power, or low voltage, cable you need. Cat 6 etc is still electrical... – Rozwel Mar 31 '17 at 21:43
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I would suggest you go for the conduit option suggested by others and negotiate on it with the builder. Go price the conduit and boxes for yourself so you can reliably say "materials for what I want are approximately $x" and then discuss how much you are willing to pay for install.

One thing I haven't seen in the other answers is any real discussion on placement. Make sure you consider which rooms you may want connections in, and the different ways you may potentially lay out the furniture in said rooms. Locating boxes near corners gives them the potential of serving 2 walls. Doorway in the middle of a large wall? probably want a hook up to either side of it. And other considerations along those lines.

Also keep in mind that everything has to be able to run back to a common point in order for it to work. Figure out where this hub is going to be and make sure you either have free access to it from the space where your conduits terminate after the walls are finished, or an oversized conduit connecting the two points. Don't forget to make sure you have power there too.

In my home (~2200sqft, 4Bd, 2 story) there are about 12 places where I would like to have communication (ethernet, phone, cable, and/or fiber) lines run. That gives 2-3 spots in each bedroom and few extra in each of the main living areas. My hub point would be under the basement stairs and I would have the service lines for the cable, phone, etc run to that point.

One of many things on my eventual to-do list, though we may end buying/building a new place before I get around to it...

  • That's actually how I presented, cost estimate and all. I even told them they could sell me some cable at retail price to sweeten it but that I wanted to lay it all myself. :) I went with one connection per bed/living/office room because the spots for the most part were pretty obvious and I felt good about the locations. There were a total of 10 spots, pull throughs, and a basement hub (that they already use for the pre-installed cat6 option). I think they'll go for it, but who knows with these people sometimes. – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 21:22
  • I hear you on the to-do list. That was a huge motivator for our moving and building. – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 21:23
  • Unless there is absolutely no other way to lay out a room, I would personally recommend at least 2 connection points per room. For my house, something as simple as changing which walls the couch and TV are on (which my wife has done twice in 6 years) in the living room would force me to string cables across a door or arch way if I only had one point. YMMV – Rozwel Mar 31 '17 at 21:28
  • Fair play. There were only like 3 positions I was even hesitant on when thinking of 1 per room. For the most part, layout was rather dictated by closet/door/window/fireplace locations. If they are amenable to the conduit idea, I might ask for a few more locations. – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 21:31
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Most large homebuilders will not allow the buyer to work on the house at all during construction. It is written into the contract. I was formerly the purchasing manager for two of them. I agree that $800 is a lot for a pre-wire. All builders have a better profit margin on options and that margin varies a lot by builder. The options are particularly enticing since they will be included in your mortgage. I was always a fan of pre-wiring whenever possible and even convinced management to include it as a standard in some communities. It is not fun, cheap or easy to fish wires through the walls of a finished house. I have the same opinion on pre-wiring or pre-plumbing an unfinished attic or basement in case you want to finish it later. Often, the place to save money is by upgrading to that granite countertop or fancy light fixture after closing because those are cheaper than buying from the builder and simple to install without tearing up a finished house.

  • Yep, the tearing up a finished house is my big concern, and we're already doing the lights and counters solution, and just getting the pre-plumbing in the finished basement instead of a $7000 bathroom. This is just an area I don't have much knowledge, but it sounds like having them pre-wire or pre-conduit SOMETHING is preferrable to nothing at all, even for $800. – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 15:56
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This will depend a lot on area, and need.

First, lets cover the builder's options to you. They both suck. You can have them do the work of running wires for way to much money, or you can get some unknown wireless router, for again, way too much. On this front your builder is just straight up ripping you off. On an existing, "normal" sized house (which is much harder to do), you could get a wire to every room, installed by your internet company (which overcharges as well) for around $200. If you hire a professional, it might cost you $100. Wire is dead cheap. You can get 1,000 feet of cable for around $150. You wouldn't use anywhere near that much for a normal house. With a central point (say your office) You might use 50 feet, maybe 100. If your trying to install from an outside room (the central point is in a room that is in one end of the house or the other) then you might use a bit more wire and end up using 200 feet, maybe. Remember, specially if you have an attic or crawl space, the wire doesn't have to follow any special path. You would normally just place it along side a beam or support to make it easy to find. In a crawl space you may nail it to the beam to discourage critters from chewing it, but in the attic you usually just lay it there.

In the wireless side of things. An AMAZING consumer grade wireless router would cost about $100. And even that's a bit on the high side. Shop around and I bet you can find a great one around the $50 mark. As for install, you take it out of the box and plug it in. It's honestly harder to install a toaster oven then it is a modern wireless router. In fact your ISP of choice will probably give you one, "free". Rather you should use theirs or not is not a topic for this site, but the fact is, if they give you one, why should you buy an overpriced one?

I am not a fan of most builders. Some are good, but most are not, in my experience, take that into consideration when reading this next part.

In my experience, if you get an option for a normal builder (building in a gated community/sub division) they like to sell you high priced options and then totally flake out on the install. Networking is a complex and nuanced field, even more so when your trying to "future proof" something like an install. There are people that make networking, and even cabling, their life's work. Your builder on the other hand is likely to assign this cable running task to the low man on the totem pole. The new guy, or the guy that no one likes. Or worse yet, to one in particular, and have it be just some odd task that needs to be done. They almost certainly do not contract out, or keep on staff a networking professional. So what your really getting for your $800 is a crappy networking install that could take you years to figure out is the source of all your woes.

For example, every nail, metal brace, and especially "normal" electrical cable, could adversely effect your wired install. Is that accounted for? Did you know there is a minimum turning radius for the cables used, and if exceeded could totally ruin the cable? What about "plenum grade" wires, did they use them in the right spots? Did they use a tool like a Fluke Tester (it's a brand but there are other brands) to test the cables and make sure that they are wired correctly? In a good install every "jack" gets two cable runs to help avoid failures and allow for future expansion, did they bother with that? For $800 those are the kinds of things I would expect. What your liable to get is an install that is a lower quality then if you were to do it your self.

Do you need wired Ethernet?

These days it's really hard to say that a home "needs" wired Ethernet. A good wireless setup (it's a bit more complicated then just plugging in a Netgear though) it usually more bandwidth then a person could use. The only real exception is in-house transfers. Even there, though, one needs to be realistic about their goals.

If you live in the US and your lucky, you have have a 1,000 mbps up 1,000 mbps down internet plan. However it's important to note that your only one side of a data transfer on the internet, and most (if not all) business sites including large ones like Amazon, Google, Youtube etc. will set a "speed limit" on a single connection so that you never get that much speed from them. Almost any internet related speeds are going to be lower then a good 802.11n setup. Transferring large files in house, or having many concurrent connections (every kid and adult watching a different Netflix show) will strain a wireless network more then a wired network, but you have to look at devices too. If everyone is watch on their tablets, a wired network isn't going to do you any good. Laptops these days are more mobile as well, so again, will a wired network even be used by most of your family?

Best solution?

So your best solution, to get good speeds, and a good network, is to do it your self or hire someone after the fact to do it for you. Your ISP should install their equipment into your "office" or wherever your primary usage is going to be. If you have a family server (We use one to do backups or store photos and such) then you can arrange to have the ISP place their "modem" right next to it, and use a wired connection for that box. Use a well installed wireless network for everything else.

Remember, that the wireless network they will install for you is almost certainly going to suck. A good network takes into account placement of walls, furniture (sometimes), appliances, and other noise sources. They can't do that till after you move in, and I highly doubt that's what they are offering.

  • Thank you for the thoughtful reply. The concern of the builder doing the work is thankfully moot as that is contracted out to a dedicated wiring/networking company that the builder has a partnership with. The wireless, I agree is overpriced. For wired vs wireless in general, both my wife and I work at home, stream online for our main tv solution, and I like to game online, so those activities are all much improved with wires. Sure, there's phones, laptops, and tablets, but I know for a fact I have 6 devices I'd love to wire when I'm using them. – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 18:04
  • Plate placement, too is a good thought and that's something that I have a lot of confidence in moving myself if the boss decides that a wall needs to be different. – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 18:06
  • And honestly, I don't particularly like our builder either and we're just beginning our relationship. However, their reviews online are good and the neighborhood is perfect, so we're dealing with it. But yeah... builders :/ – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 18:08
  • Depending on your "TV solution" you may not need wires there. Amazon, Netflix, Apple TV, are what I have the most experience with, and for 100% certain you will get no gain over a decent wireless install. Gaming and work maybe a different story, but I get your point you want wires. And when building a house, and spending that much money you should get what you want. I still advise though that you use someone outside your builder contract to do the install after the fact. It will be cheaper and you will get a better product. – coteyr Mar 31 '17 at 18:09
  • I know you can't but if you ever get the chance to take a look at how many corners your builder cuts, and how far your finished house is from your expectations, for me this was Huge. I expected near perfect and got "good enough" Is "good enough" what you want for your network, specially if you want wires for the benefit they have over wireless? If you use "someone else" at least you can go back to them for support, what are your "it's not working" options when going through the builder? – coteyr Mar 31 '17 at 18:12
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That is too much money, in my opinion, for something like this (if the walls are completely open already). If they are not, it is worth it. I would hardwire cat 6 to walls with TVs and desktop computers. Everywhere else would be a waste with WiFi being so efficient these days. I would also run cat 6 to your ceiling on each floor in a central location to install something like UniFi hotspots for your WiFi.

  • I think so too, but we are not allowed to do our own work on open walls. This is a total builder job. So I wouldn't be able to work on it until after the walls are up and painted, making it much harder. – Forklift Mar 31 '17 at 14:53
  • It's more money than it's worth, but less money that it would cost to tear up the walls and do it after construction, which is why the builder can get away with charging so much. – Johnny Mar 31 '17 at 22:02
  • @Forklift - Harder or not, it's a rip-off. I don't know what builders charge in your region, but where I am I could get somebody in for a day at about $300 who would be able to do the job with time spare. Running cables in interior walls is an easy job (as long as you have paint that matches the original). – Jules Apr 1 '17 at 4:11

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