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I'm working through different ideas in my head on how to get 2 CAT6 cables from the modem (first floor - west side) to my media system (second floor - north side). Note that this is a Canadian home and the exterior walls are packed with insulation.

Looking through videos online, most guides say to go through the attic, but that would involve at least 2 cuts per wall on all 3 floors of the house - which I want to avoid if possible.

I've considered using the vents and return ducts, but these are not in optimal positions, nor do I know how to get the cable from the duct into the wall. If that involves cutting drywall, why can't I just fish the cable through the wall without drywall?

Should I just run the darn thing outside by punching through the wall? Or is there another way to do this that I've missed?

Just spit-balling my thoughts above and things I've considered, provided some sketches of the layout as well, including locations of the HVAC vents and return ducts, as well as where I want the Ethernet ports to go.

I'm open to all suggestions/ideas/thoughts.

Drawing of First Floor and locations of vents and potential wall plates

Drawing of Second floor

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    If you do choose to go through the HVAC ducting, be sure to select plenum rated cable and to get rubber grommets to protect the cable from sharp metal at every entrance/exit of the duct work.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 3, 2023 at 17:48
  • OP, what's the exterior surface of your house? Stucco? Siding (material?)? Some pics may be beneficial...
    – Huesmann
    Oct 4, 2023 at 11:48
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    Quick comment here, in case you are planning to plug the ethernet cable directly into a smart TV. Many brands of smart TV are being extreme cheapskates and only equip their TVs (even top of the line, I'm looking at you LG) with 100Mb/s ethernet ports. This means that for these TVs, WiFi is going to actually yield a better bandwidth than cables. Make sure that whatever is going to receive you ethernet cable support 1Gb/s ethernet, or you may be doing all of this for nothing. Oct 4, 2023 at 12:38
  • Do you have carpet on the second floor? You can pull up the edge and hide a cable underneath. I'm not sure how the two drawings are positioned with relation to each other, but a closet is a good place to drill a hole between floors.
    – BurnsBA
    Oct 4, 2023 at 14:13

3 Answers 3

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If you're not afraid of (presumably) drywall repair, running them in the ceiling space between the two floors is the obvious option to stay mostly out of the insulated outer walls and get where you need to go. There's also the surface-mount option, but it frequently fails the appearance test with certain family members who must be appeased.

For the wall-mounted jacks, normally you can slide between the vapor barrier and the drywall face once you've got the box hole in, to run the cable up the first floor wall into the ceiling space, and from the floor up to the second floor wall space. If it's uncooperative you can cut and repair more drywall there as well.

From comments, if you want to avoid drywall and running through joists, crown molding is a very good way to hide wires in the room. Much more space on top of and behind it, and far less likely to get damaged by later changes than baseboards. You can also get nice indirect lighting options by running an LED strip-light on top of it, pointed at the ceiling.

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  • Yeah, I wanted to avoid drywall repair, but it seems that this will be a necessary evil if I opt for this route. The main issue I have with running the cable in the ceiling space is that the studs in the ceiling are running west to east, which means I will need to cut through each one, or find a way to get the cable from the west side to the north. I was thinking maybe running it along the inside of the trim/baseboard. Oct 3, 2023 at 17:08
  • I'd add in manassehkatz's recommendation to run a switch once upstairs. This way the 2nd cable is a warm spare that's already in place and won't require opening all the walls again should it fail.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 3, 2023 at 17:47
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    Crown molding is a delightful thing to hide wires behind/on top of.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 4, 2023 at 1:27
  • @Ecnerwal And not just for low-voltage wiring. I have a chandelier in my dining room (originally living room with no ceiling lights). Electrician ran power from bathroom up to peak of ceiling, across to middle of dining room, cut one small hole there and a larger hole (which I had to patch) near where the chandelier is installed. For the several feet across the peak of the ceiling I put a piece of molding over the cable and you really wouldn't know it wasn't supposed to be there if I didn't point it out. Oct 4, 2023 at 2:01
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When all the key pieces are on outer walls, which appears to be the case here, going outside often makes sense. I would use white, gray or black cable - bright red or blue will stand out a bit too much. Cut into the drywall. Poke around a bit to make sure there are no other cables or plumbing in the wall cavity. Drill through with an appropriate bit depending on the outer wall type (wood vs. masonry).

You also really only need one cable, as the 2nd floor connection can be connected to a switch. But running two cables can make sense for redundancy in case there are ever any problems in the future.

Based on comments, the relevant outside walls have significant weather issues. A solution to that may be metal conduit. Keep in mind that while you don't have to strictly follow NEC rules because this is low-voltage cable, you should use fairly large conduit in order to be able to pull the cables through without too many bad words. According to this fill guide 3/4" EMT can handle up to 6 Cat6 cables with a 40% fill.

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  • My chief concern is with weather proofing the cable outside, I know there are "gel-filled" cables that can work, but the costs are so much higher than indoor versions. Oct 3, 2023 at 17:07
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    I've run cables outside occasionally. No safety concern (that applies to regular 120V+) and as long as not on the ground I'm not so worried about critters. As far as weather, if you can (depends on the outside wall structure) run the cable so that much of it is under overhangs, ledges, etc. that will often keep it pretty dry. There are true outdoor Ethernet cables available, but I'll admit that except for one job (direct burial) I haven't bothered. Oct 3, 2023 at 17:15
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    Yeah fair enough, the west and north sides of the my house are fully exposed to a ravine, which gets battered during storms, the cable won't have much space to be hidden or protected, unless it's covered by some sort of conduit. Oct 3, 2023 at 17:21
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    They do sell outdoor rated CAT 6/7/+ cable and it is more expensive. Consider buying in bulk if you need to do this. Then you'll have extra for any interior runs you need to make. +1 especially for the recommendation to put a switch upstairs so only 1 cable is necessary, but +1 for running a second for redundancy (in case the first fails). Much easier to unplug/plug to replace a failed cable than to make the whole run again.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 3, 2023 at 17:46
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If you have a basement, the easiest way to wire the ground floor is through the basement -- you can even use jacks that surface-mount on the baseboard and drill a hole through the edge of the floor, if you'd rather not go into the wall. (Telco did it that way for decades...)

If you have an attic, the easiest way to wire the second floor is to find somewhere that you can pull cable from basement to attic and from there back down into the wall where you need it. You can avoid most of the plaster work by drilling through the wall's top plate and routing the cable into the wall through that. Interior walls are likely to be uninsulated, which will make them much easier to fish wire through, so you may want to reconsider where you want to put these jacks. With appropriate fish tape and more work you can bring the wire out through a small hole in the baseboard here too, but it's a LOT easier to just cut a hole in the plaster for a wall-mounted jack in this case; if you do it carefully the jack itself fills the hole and there's no need to repair plaster.

If you find you must drill through blocking, there are drill bits on very long flexible shafts made to do that without needing to open the wall above or below the blocking. I haven't used them, though I've occasionally lusted after them.

If you must fish a wire through loose insulation (fiberglass or cellulose), there are screw-together poles that will let you push or pull a wire through them. These I have used. If you have to fish a wire through solid foam, I think you're back to drilling.

As a quick stopgap, I actually have a surface-mounted jack attached to a hole in a corner of the ceiling of one of my upstairs rooms. I'll fish it down to a more convenient level later; this at least got it into the room.


One final note: Depending on your needs, you may find that modern WiFi is quite fast enough for most purposes. Faster is always nicer, but not always necessary.

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    The speed of WiFi is (theoretically) quite good, but wired is always better if one can do so. WiFi is subject to interference, wires (generally) aren't (unless you happen to pick a stud bay with mains voltage wires running in it and your new, loose CAT6 cable decides to lay against a 120v cable...)
    – FreeMan
    Oct 3, 2023 at 19:32
  • Better, and noticably better, and significantly better, are three different sets of criteria. I submit that a difference which makes no difference is no difference, at least until you pushing it harder.
    – keshlam
    Oct 3, 2023 at 19:35
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    OP did say "media room" which implies streaming (either direct from the internet source, a cross-internet friend, or from a server located near the modem), so bandwidth and signal stability are important. I don't know how much interference the OP may get on his WiFi signal (a lot if it's a crowded WiFi neighborhood), but I do know that my wired media player is currently suffering either due to a dying cable or dying NIC. Poor little feller needs to be upgraded...
    – FreeMan
    Oct 3, 2023 at 19:39
  • @freeman: That's a valid use case for that hardware. Others might be happy staying on WiFi for a while, and save hassle/money thereby. I'm just suggesting sanity-checking, and maybe doing some testing, before going the higher-hassle route.
    – keshlam
    Oct 3, 2023 at 19:46
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    Fair points. I'll stick to my guns that wired is always better whenever possible. (not possible for cell phones and tablets). WiFi is definitely easier and certainly has its place in the world.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 3, 2023 at 20:08

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