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We are going to install some engineered laminate flooring on the bottom floor of our home. Knowing that baseboards are a requirement for that project, I wondered if I could kill two birds with one stone.

I am trying to get ethernet cables installed through out some of the rooms in the bottom floor, and it seems that if cut a slot in the drywall, from the subfloor to about 3 inches off of the subfloor (though I need to measure twice and cut once), I can gain enough access to the studs to drill through them. And then, theoretically, I could cover this slot over with custom baseboards made to match the rest of the trim.

But my question is, what requirements does this drywall/baseboard 'system' have to satisfy by code? My understanding is that walls have to be substantially sealed up, with 'no gaps' etc. But what do I need, specifically? I think I have seen something like a minimum of 5/8ths OSB used for firestopping, but I'm not sure what the equivalent would be in pine. It seems like this should be possible, in much the same way 'built in' furniture is allowed. What should I be looking at for a reference or for plans?

More generally, does this seem like a good or bad idea? I basically got the idea to cut the slot from a copy of Fine Homebuilder but now I'm not sure about the details to make it work well and legal.

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    If you are just running ethernet cables, why would you even need to cut the studs? Just put it in the gap between drywall and floor, and cover with the baseboard, being careful not to nail the baseboard where the cable is.
    – Glen Yates
    Mar 29, 2022 at 16:15
  • Hi @GlenYates, do you mean the gap I would have created by cutting the "slot"? That does sound like a good plan where it will work (but I'm pretty sure I will have to drill through some studs to accomplish a few things anyway).
    – nomen
    Mar 29, 2022 at 16:59
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    Not necessarily, I have found that there is usually a natural gap of about 1/2 inch between drywall and subfloor, seems you could run the cable in that. If not, then you could cut a gap, but wouldn't need 3" like you mentioned in the question. At any rate, you should keep the bottom of the drywall below the top of the bottom plate to keep a seal.
    – Glen Yates
    Mar 30, 2022 at 14:00

3 Answers 3

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There is nothing in the code that requires a wall base or baseboards. In fact, there is no requirement for interior wallboard.

If loose fill insulation or unfaced fiberglass insulation is used in the stud cavity, then wallboard is handy to seal up the wall and wall base is an easy way to seal the base.

In addition, wallboard is required for 1 hour and two hour fire rated walls, except at fire rated walls between the garage and living spaces. Protection (wallboard) is only required on the garage side.

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  • Thank you for mentioning the garage. This is relevant for the next phase of my project. :-)
    – nomen
    Apr 5, 2022 at 16:46
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Your drywall will not (SHOULD not) touch the floor - a 1/2" - 3/8" gap is pretty standard. You can get ethernet cables tucked away in there.

When you need to drill, look up building regs on drilling studs.

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If this is ground floor and you have access underneath, the other solution is to drill through the floor at the baseboard and run the wire underneath. A surface-mounted jack can then be attached, right above that hole to hide it if desired. Ma Bell put in millions of phone jacks this way, and while it isn't as elegant as in-wall jacks it's easy and quick, and nobody will be surprised by it.

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