I'm currently in the planning phases for a new construction home that will be 3 stories without a basement (crawlspace instead). The home will have insulation in all interior walls which will make it harder to do future cable runs. I'm looking to see if running empty conduit is an economical choice for future proofing the home.

For now, I'm looking to run conduit to each and every location. For cabling centralization, I'm looking to have three central locations in the home.

Here's my current cat6 plan:

First Floor: all crawlspace and first floor low voltage would run to the coat closet to a panel in there. enter image description here

Second Floor: all second floor cabling is centralized to the laundry room panel. The second floor is connected to the first floor coat closet via 3-4in conduit. enter image description here

Third Floor: All third floor cabling is dropped from the attic (where possible). The attic is connected via 3-4 inch conduit direct from the coat closet, bypassing the laundry room. There would probably be a couple 90 degree turns here since the third floor is all open space. enter image description here

Right now, this would total to about 30 cable runs. My questions would be if it's feasible and economical to run this as conduit? Would it make more sense to have some as conduit and some as cat6? Are there any suggestions on improving the layout? At this point, I'm thinking of running empty conduit and pulling in cat6 only when I need it.

  • 6
    In residential I highly recommend one central location, don't do these de-centralized cable closets. You'll be much happier with home runs to one central location, preferably just inside the designated point for utility entry. – Tyson Apr 3 '17 at 22:34
  • Just curious why you think the de-centralized cable closet is not a good idea? I figure it would be shorter to run the cables from different floors and keeps each floor's cabling segregated from each other. – Tom S Apr 4 '17 at 1:58
  • 2
    The difference in wire used is negligible. In fact you might use more, it just depends based on route. In an office building your terminating 100s of connections per floor, in your residence your talking 30 total (by your count). Eventually you'll want to hook up widget X (a product that may or may not exist today) and you won't be able to because wires 1, 17 and 24 are all terminating in different wiring closets. – Tyson Apr 4 '17 at 2:05
  • 3
    @StephenL There's really no reason to keep each floor's cabling separate. Everything you have will be on the same subnet of the same network (i.e., there's no logical separation), so there's no reason for physical separation either. It also makes it harder to fix problems, harder to balance bandwidth, and requires more switches and patch panels. Wire is cheap, and if your walls are open, labor is not an issue. – mmathis Apr 4 '17 at 15:09
  • 2
    You'll spend far more on hardware (patch panels, etc.) than the additional wire to a single panel will cost. You'll also be taking up additional space in the building, which is not cheap if you look at that cost. In the office building model you are evidently borrowing from, this scales to make some sense. In a house, (or small office, for that matter) not so much. – Ecnerwal Apr 4 '17 at 15:10

Conduit is always a good idea, in my opinion. Network/communications cable is something that has a much shorter lifecycle than a house. It's feasible, just requires application of money. If it's planned in from the design phase, that reduces the cost considerably .vs. retrofitting.

A house is not an office building, in most cases, so a single panel with every cable run to it is probably a more efficient layout than "patch panel per floor", as @Tyson commented.

Don't forget network to the middle of ceilings - the best place to put wireless access points, which work best when attached to wires.

As an aside, either use Cat5e or get Cat6A - Cat6 without the A is a cable that's only able to run 10 gigabit for short distances - at 1 gigabit, 5e is all you need.

  • 1
    It's also important to understand where utilities (cable, internet, etc) will enter the home. I recently took over a project where cable enters on the other end of a large house, there was NO provision made to pipe that to the conveniently located network closet on the other side of a finished space. We got lucky and it was easy to solve, but should have been considered from the start. – Tyson Apr 4 '17 at 0:37
  • Right - but there's no need to put the closet there, just provide a duct to the closet (logically located by whatever logic) from the entrance. – Ecnerwal Apr 4 '17 at 15:00
  • "at 1 gigabit, 5e is all you need." Just wanted to second this bit and say Cat5e is easier to pull and terminate too. – OrganicLawnDIY Apr 5 '17 at 3:55

As other's said... run all your cables to one central structured wiring panel. I believe the residential spec even recommends that. Have an outlet there that's on it's own breaker. Run your equipment on a UPS. I'd go with standard 19" rack mountable equipment over those expensive structured media systems. In 10 years from now you should still be able to find a rack mount patch panel if you need it. Who knows if the current manufacturers will still be making their proprietary (and usually much more expensive) components.

While it would be nice to have all your runs be in conduit I don't think it's necessary if cost is a concern. More cables instead of conduit would be my preference. It's not that hard to run cables through walls with insulation after the fact. If you're using blown in insulation it might be messy in some instances. I wound up adding cable pulling string along with the bundles I pulled so that if I needed to add a line to a wall plate in the future it would be easy. Cable pulling string has been my best friend while running cable. You may however want to run conduit between floors.

As Ecnerwal said running conduit between the service entrance and your wiring panel is a good idea. Cable, phone, satellite, etc needs to be grounded before it enters the home and that's typically done where your electric service enters the building.

You didn't mention anything about coax. I would run at least one coax cable to each location you'd typically want a tv. I did phone as well. I still use a land line and I have some voip lines I run through my home phone wiring too. The ANSI/TIA-570-C Residential spec recommends 1 coax and 1 ethernet to each wall plate, 2 of each or 2 of each and 2 fiber. I wound up doing 2 cat5e ethernet, 2 coax (one for over the air tv and the other for fios/cable/satellite) as well as one cat5e for 2 phone jacks in most wall plates. I didn't run coax to all but at least one wallplate in every room has 2 coax cables.

Over your fireplace where the TV will go I'd probably put 4 ethernet cables. TV, DVD, cable box, game system. Maybe you need more.

Don't ignore the dining room. Most people don't use their dining rooms for dining anymore. Either you, or a future occupant might appreciate having ethernet, phone and video there. Same goes for the garage and I'd have a wall plate for the kitchen counter area as well as near kitchen table if you have one. In 5 years when your coffee maker failed to start because it kept loosing it's wifi connection because the refrigerator was skyping with the washing machine all night you'll thank me :) I have pretty good wifi speeds but I try to have everything plugged in so the devices that have to use wifi get more bandwidth and run better. It's made a noticeable difference in running my cameras and other video devices.

The sides of the house don't seem to be covered by security cameras. I would add some there as well as in stairways and hallways. Don't assume an intruder will come in through a door. I'd probably use a separate patch panel for the cameras along with their own POE switch. Don't know what camera system you're planning on getting but if you're doing all this I'd plan on getting one with an NVR.

I have a few posts on structured wiring on one of my sites that you might find useful. I think the one on where to put ethernet jacks and residential wall plate configurations would be helpful for you.


I know that this is late and that there's an accepted answer saying otherwise, but I'm going to chime in to support of the patch-panel-per-floor as designed.

  1. Sure, it's probably overkill for home use, however, as designed you've got 30 cable runs. 24-port switches are designed for commercial use and are significantly more expensive than 16-, 12-, 10-, or 8-port switches. Being able to use 3 residential grade 10-port switches will probably be cheaper than one 24-port switch, and the 24-port will still be short of the current requirement (ignoring any potential future additions).
  2. Getting conduit from one closet to all the desired locations is going to be difficult and expensive. You will need to run one conduit per cable, or you'll need an exit/re-entry point (or junction boxes) everywhere. There will be no way to put junctions in the conduit then later run cabling through and take the desired turn to go from "Coat Closet" to "Bedroom 4" as opposed to "Coat Closed" to dang! we're in "Bedroom 3" - shoulda taken a left at Albuquerque . These are individual cables we're pulling, not water that can go anywhere through a pipe.
  3. Even if you put in one conduit run per desired outlet location, you're probably going to end up with more than four 90° bends for many of the runs and that's going to make pulling the cable very difficult. I know that this is CAT 5/6 cable, not THHN or NM-B, and I don't know if there are code limits (or even just recommendations) to the number of bends for low-voltage wiring, but the more bends you have, the more difficult it will be to pull cable.
  4. It's possible that you'll exceed the 100 meter limit (or at least get close to it) for some of the runs. 100 meters is the max signaling range of Ethernet without installing some sort of signal booster. A switch on each floor acts as a handy signal booster, and it works for everything plugged into it instead of needing one for each longer run.
  5. Multiple switches now allows for upgrading to future technology one floor at a time. You can upgrade the main switch on the ground floor to fiber, for example. From there, you run fiber to all the ground floor jacks and switch them out. However, you can buy a simple balun to convert from fiber to CATx and leave all the other wiring alone. Next year, you can upgrade the 2nd floor switch and wiring. Having only one switch means it's an all-or-nothing or that you've got to individually convert all the cables that you're leaving on CATx.
  • 1
    1: you can't use 3 10 port switches for 30 connections, because you have to connect the switches to each other, which eats 4 ports from your 30. 2: it's called a junction box. We use them. 3: When a junction box is not needed, it's called a pull point (LB, LR, LL, etc.) - access for pulling. 4: Takes a HUGE house to exceed 100 meters on a run; the house described is not huge. 5: Since you'll have "the old tech" in place, you simply run the two side by side until you want everythng on "the new tech" and you're not limited by arbitrary "floor" layout. – Ecnerwal Jan 15 at 14:06
  • 1
    Clarifying point 2: the whole point of a junction box is that it has a cover, which is removable, which you remove when pulling cable, so you absolutely CAN take a left at Albuquerque. Unless you are a rabbit and want to run a cable to Pismo beach, then it never works out. – Ecnerwal Jan 15 at 14:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.