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I am trying to run some cat6 cable in the drop ceiling of my basement. I want to run 3x CAT6-CMP cables that from what i understand should not rest on ceiling tiles.

From what i have read, the support needs to be attached to something other than the ceiling tile grid. J-hooks seem to be recommended/easy but i don't really understand where and how they need to be attached.

I have attached a couple of photographs of the area , i have highlighted in red the direction in which i want the cables to run.

Thanks

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    I'd use that big rusty metal hook in the 2nd pic as the first one in the series. It looks perfect to me! – FreeMan Nov 3 '20 at 19:14
  • I don't know why no one has suggested cat gut. – Hot Licks Nov 5 '20 at 23:56
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    9 times out of 10 the Ethernet wire just gets tossed across the top of the ceiling tiles and left there. – Greg Nickoloff Nov 9 '20 at 15:09
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If you read up on the standards for datacom cabling, you might end up with your head spinning. Those standards are very demanding and detailed. They do make sense for big installations in commercial buildings, hospitals, data centers, etc.

But keep in mind, you'll also find tons of material based on partial understanding of the industry standards, and some rules that are just plain made up.

I'd focus on two things:

  • keeping your cables orderly and out of harms way above the ceiling
  • treating the cable gently, no kinks, creases, crimps, etc., so it performs as intended

J-hooks are a good way to take care of those two practical concerns. The cables will just rest comfortably in the j-hooks. If you decide to remove, replace, reroute, or add cables, the j-hooks will make it easy - you can just lift them out, and lay them back in.

If someone is working in the ceiling, and the bundle gets snagged and someone yanks on those cables, it's less likely to damage the cables - they won't be creased on something like a staple or cable tie. And your install will satisfy most of those over-the-top standards, too.

You can screw j-hooks right to the joists. The little screw you'll use for small j-hooks, maybe a #8, won't weaken the joist. You can screw them into the face of the joist for bundles of cables running parallel to the joists. You can position them so only about half an inch of the j-hook is on the joist and the rest of the j-hook hangs down below the joist. If you need the cables running perpendicular to the joist, just bend the top half inch of the j-hook to a 90 degree angle, and screw it into the bottom of the joist.

The industry standards want you to limit the distance between j-hooks to 5'. You can go further than that and probably never have a problem - people cut corners with this all the time in commercial installs. Sometimes it's much easier to span 6' than 5' and unless there's someone very diligent checking the work, it goes unnoticed and nothing ever comes of it.

However in commercial buildings there's a lot more space above the drop ceiling, or you may be routing cables between bar joists 28' above the floor. In residential basements like yours, I'd prefer as little sag as practical so the cables are out of the way.

So I'd go with more j-hooks so you have less sag. If your joists are spaced 16" apart, you could try j-hooks 32" apart. You'll spend a few dollars more on j-hooks but less sag makes it less likely you or someone else working up there in the future will mangle those cables.

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    yes my head is spinning. Also I thought you are not supposed to screw/driill/ anything into the bottom of a joist as it weakens it? – skimon Nov 2 '20 at 21:50
  • Is there a sort of jhook that is long enough that you can nail it into the middle face of the joist yet the hook will still be below the joist? – skimon Nov 2 '20 at 22:08
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    Small screws like you'd use for small j-hooks - maybe #8 -will not weaken the joists. – batsplatsterson Nov 2 '20 at 23:12
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    Every small J-hook I have used will reach well below the joist when secured to the face of the joist with a single screw. – batsplatsterson Nov 2 '20 at 23:14
  • If you are looking at some sort of specialized "comms-approved" J-hook, @skimon, and it's too short, use a plumbing J-hook. It's designed for holding much heavier plumbing pipe (and the water running through it), and will easily reach below the joist. Whatever screws or nails you choose to use to attach that to the side of a joist will cause no more damage than the millions of them installed in new and old construction around the country already have (i.e., none). – FreeMan Nov 3 '20 at 13:10
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Simple cup hooks will suffice

$5 for a pack of 25.

enter image description here src

If screwing into the bottom, then at the first joist, you have two of them about an inch apart, and you face them opposite directions (not like in the photo). That way, to get the cable into them, you have to zig-zag it. This assures the cables will not escape.

Then every couple of joists, you have another hook, and alternate which way the opening faces.

If the cable will make a bend, face the openings outward of the bend obviously (won't work the other way).

These are trivially small and will not have any impact on the strength of a joist.

Note that I'm not talking about planter or light fixture/chandelier hooks, which are quite a bit bigger and justify a pre-drill and some sort of weapon to drive them. These are too small to power-drive, you'd either snap them off, or overshoot the mark.

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    My only gripe with this is that while it's cheap, it's a slower install (drill hole and hand screw hook) If you have to install dozens of these, it will be much slower than a metal wire clip + screw – Machavity Nov 3 '20 at 14:35
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    @Machavity subbed an edit for approval with some tips for driving hooks.. Can either use a hook bit (looks like a Y with a groove cut in it) or simply clamp a hook into the chuck and link it to another hook held against the wood – Caius Jard Nov 3 '20 at 19:10
  • You could go even cheaper - a 100-box of basic wood screws might cost you about the same amount, and will do almost as well, and doesn't require special tools - everyone's got a few Philips bits floating around presumably. Ideally you'd want the kind where the thread doesn't go all the way to the screw-head, so it doesn't cut into the wire, though it's so lightweight that's unlikely to be much of an issue. It's not like people are going to be swinging on these wires or something. – Darrel Hoffman Nov 3 '20 at 21:09
  • @Machavity I hang a fair number of these and I'm the king of pre-drilling holes. Even I don't bother pre-drilling hooks this small. Just twist them in with thumb and finger. It's really not a big deal. Using a power tool is counterproductive because a) you need the tactile feedback to do this new-to-you job accurately without breaking stuff, and b) you need to stop at a particular place without over-running and stripping your hole. So power is right out IMO. Caius's photos show rather large hooks that might need power; these don't. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 4 '20 at 7:37
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    That's the way to go - if you're having a coffee up there while working in the future you can also use it for the original purpose! :O – Fattie Nov 5 '20 at 16:20
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This answer is from an Australian (licensed cabler) perspective. Based on the fact you have metal conduit and a basement, I'm assuming you're in the US/Canada.

The rules here are definitely open to interpretation, but there are two main clauses from AS/ACIF S008:2006 - clauses 8.1 and 8.6 that apply here (in AU):

  • Telecommunications cabling must be supported or secured at regular intervals to ensure the safe passage of persons, to maintain separation from hazardous services and to comply with instructions from the cable manufacturer (e.g. mechanical and thermal stress).
  • Cable bearing conduits, trays and trunking must have all sharp edges removed

There is also a clause (can't recall the reference) that states that you can pass cables through a firewall, but you must pack around the cable to maintain the fire rating.

Lastly there is a separation rule that requires 50mm (2in) separation from 'low voltage' cabling (50v to 1000v AC), or separation with a 'durable insulating barrier' or earthed metal barrier.

I've got cables (about 15) in my ceiling space supported by insulated steel cables passed through a series of eyelets, which are screwed in to the overhead roof beams. Then in my shed they are simply passed through holes in the vertical beams (without compromising the beam's structural integrity) because the beams are pretty close together. In each case, the required clearances are easily maintained by the choice of cable route.

tl;dr: in your situation this effectively means you need to do the following:

  • Support the cable at regular intervals (hooks, clips, eyelets, catenary wire, etc) so that the wire doesn't get stretched and nobody gets injured. Use dedicated supports (e.g. don't tie it to pipes, other cables, etc).
  • Keep it either 50mm (2in) away from power cables, or on the opposite side of a beam to power cables.

Again, AU perspective, but I suspect the US/Canada is similar.

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  • Note "regular intervals" may not have the same literal interpretation as "adequate intervals". Some of these rules are written (angles etc,) with the understanding that in future, the cable may be used for a pull of the next cable. Meriton just slurry it into the concrete (I am told). – mckenzm Nov 4 '20 at 8:18
  • I'd think it is implied. I remember when going through the course that the assessment and practical exercises were fairly subjective. As for the concrete - ew. That's just asking for trouble, and definitely not up to standard (least of all because of the water from concrete curing). All to save the roughly $2/m for conduit? The cabling industry is still a bit of a wild west of sorts. – toxicantidote Nov 4 '20 at 21:29
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I like using these in my attic, even though they are designed for Romex. I like how they can clip multiple cables in.

Sometimes I replace the nail with a screw for easier installation.

Multi-Cable Staples (20-Pack)

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For a fixed run, I use ring-type wire ties (they have a ring at one end for a screw to hold them in place) and I would screw them into the framing in this case. They are much less fuss than the plates you screw in and then attach a wire tie to. DO NOT "pull them as tight as you can" or you may damage the cables, particularly at corners.

If anticipating possible future changes, cut a suitable length of double-sided velcro (you can buy a roll, or pre-cut strips) and screw that into the framing, then use it to grab the wires, with no need to cut ties if/when things change later.

Do this at corners and every 10-12 feet if no corner - you don't need to tack it to every stud, in commercial work they hang for long distances between steel beam clamp supports without a problem.

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I usually use a wire stapler with appropriate staples.

enter image description here

They also make plastic cable staples that can be used if you don't want to invest in a wire stapler.

enter image description here

Either will work but the stapler is a lot more convenient.

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  • Do you staple on the underside of the wood joists(?) or the side , and does it matter? – skimon Nov 2 '20 at 18:31
  • Also can the staple enclose more than one cable or does each cable need its own staple? – skimon Nov 2 '20 at 18:38
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    Doesn't matter side vs. bottom, though arguably side is slightly more protected. Staples generally one per cable. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Nov 2 '20 at 19:28
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    If you're running across joists, you'd basically have to go across the bottom, @skimon. Along the joist would be your choice, but I'd go along the side, just for the additional protection. – FreeMan Nov 3 '20 at 13:14
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Cat 6 is roughly the same size as its RG-6 coax counterpart. Coax clips can be easily found everywhere and they drive in fairly easy to wood (nail-in or screw varieties). This clip on Amazon even mentions Cat 6.

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  • They carry an assortment of styles of cable clips at most major hardware stores and is simple and cheap. – rtaft Nov 4 '20 at 15:03
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The effective but cheap way is zip ties - also known as slip ties or cable ties. They are available in many lengths, but 300 mm long 4.8mm wide is about "normal" and you can get a pack of a thousand for $30-50.

Depending on the clearance above the joists, I'd loop one cable tie around the wood/metal, and then loop a second cable tie through it, which will hang at a right-angle. Leave the second one very loose, and then thread your cable through this lower loop.

A series of loops will hold the cabling off the drop-ceiling tiles and out of any insulation. Spacing between loops is dictated by the hanging opportunities in the ceiling void.

If you want to be fancy, use separate loops for each bundle of cables that does something different or services a separate space/room. The wires should not be tied together in a bundle.

Try and use the black ties which are UV resistant - they last longer than the white/translucent ones even when there's no direct sunlight. Ceiling spaces can get hot.

  • If your ceiling space is a plenum space - ie it is an air channel for ventilation, then there will be rules about the fire-rating of cabling that you can use in this space. However the photo doesn't look like an AC system's pleneum.

If you can't get a tie over the joists, its okay to staple the zip tie to the joist - as long as your staple won't pull out. You can even use fencing staples and a hammer, or staple into the vertical side of the joist to support your cable tie. Don't staple the cable to the joist though!

A loop of fencing wire works fine too, if you have no access to cable ties, though they're a little more scratchy.

Keep the wires relatively low - you don't want them running just underneath the roofing/flooring above, because heat rises. Also aim for a straight-ish run to save cable costs.

I would not drill through each joist - that is hard work for no real gain. Additional cables can be threadded later without issue, though try and run "enough" cable for your immediate and near-future needs.... running cable is hard work!

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If future access is a concern (is your drop ceiling a pain open up?) then I would run conduit. At least for some of it. More work and expense now, but in ten years when you want to replace the cable with something better, you'll be able to just pull it through.

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  • Cable tray, suspended from the joists and secured by nails/screws into the wood, might be a good solution too. – Criggie Nov 5 '20 at 1:30

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