Do your own thing - how to cable your own house
By David Ryan
Master copy here.
So, you want to cable your house ?
A few times recently people have posted questions to the ILUG list
asking how to go about wiring
their house for data. I did this last year and decided it would be a
good idea to let people know
how easy it actually is.
First things first - I would recommed going for 10Base-T (4 pairs of
cable, like phone cable)
rather than 10Base-2 (co-ax, like the TV) unless there are only two or
three points which need to
be connected. 10Base-T has the advantage that it can be used for phone,
data, and anything
else which might come along in the relatively near future.
Second things second - this will be messy. It involves drilling big
holes in walls and stuff like
that. Holes that will need to be plastered around and repainted or
otherwise made good. The
best time to do this kind of thing is when the house is being built or
about to be rewired.
Is this really wise ?
Yes. At the very least it will allow you to have phone points in all
your rooms - good selling point
for non-computer people. It will also allow you to network you
computers. You may only have
one computer in your house now, but if you do have one then there is a
high probability you will
upgrade to a new one within the next 0-4 years. Alternatively you might
get an offer of a
reasonable machine which is no longer up to the job at work but which is
perfectly good for home
use going cheap.
There is also the possibilty in the near-middle distance that you might
have some cable data
delivery system into your house. Having your house ready would
definitely be a good thing in
this case. Alternatively you could save a few hundred quid now and wait
another 35 years until
your house needs to be rewired.
Terminology (as used in this article, not necessarily the scientific
- twisted pair cable - this cable is made up of 4 pairs of wires
possibly surrounded by a metal
sheath, definitely surrounded by a (normally grey) flexible plastic
sheath. The twist is
*important*. Ordinary 4 pair cable is no use - it must be "twisted
- wire pair - four of these pairs go to make up a cable. The pairs
are orange, green, blue and
brown. The second wire of each pair is always a mix of the original
colour and white. In other
words the 8 wires in a cable are whiteorange/orange, whitegreen/green,
whitebrown/brown. Each pair is twisted around itself. This twist is
vital for signal integrity and
must be maintained as much as possible.
- Wall box - what you normally see in an office with phone/data lines
hanging out of it. Consists
of a plastic box which gets screwed into a hole in the wall or else
which sits on the wall, a face
plate with a rectangular hole in it and 1 or more RJ45 sockets. The
RJ45s click into the face
place which in turn screws onto the box.
Here's what you will need to buy :
- enough cable to wire all relevant points within the house to one
- wall plates and RJ45 sockets for each point around the house
- a patch panel for the central location, or else as many wall plates
again as you have around
the house if you only have a few points
- a small ethernet hub if you have more than 2 computers to connect
(or a token ring thingie if
you are feeling really brave)
Here's what you will need to borrow *or* buy :
- a krone tool, also known as a punchdown tool (if you are using a
- an 8 position RJ45 crimp tool (if you are going to make your own
patch leads with all the
excess cable you have left over)
- a CAT5 cable tester - one which will indicate a good connection
with no crossed pairs, not
necessarily one which gives readouts of all the electronic weird stuff
(unless you're rich)
- Some known good patch leads from work so you at least have
something which works (no
seriously, for troubleshooting)
Where to get all this stuff?
Well, you could go and buy from a retailer like Peats or Compustore, but
they are unlikely to
have some of the things you need and they may charge a little over the
odds. Your best bet is to
buy from someone like Radionics or whoever your company gets their stuff
from. Then again
you could always buy your stuff from me. No seriously. Email me at
firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
If you are getting your house rewired you could always get your
electrician to source everything,
but unless he or she is used to specifying data components you might
find yourself with cable
that looks correct, but just isn't up to the task. Don't ask me
what you would end up if you asked
*me* to source electrical stuff.
When it comes to the cable you can't say CAT5 often enough. If the
spec doesn't include the
words CAT5 you might be in a bit of trouble. In theory CAT5 cable sould
around your house, but don't expect it unless you spend a lot of time
and effort and invest in very
good tools to do the job. You shouldn't have any problem getting
10mb/s, even allowing for
interference from power cables and poor termination. Anyway, if you are
used to no network or
some kind of modem/serial/parallel port link you will notice a big
increase in speed.
What to do with it all, now that I have it ?
Preferably get the builders/electrician to run the cable from each point
around the house to one
central point such as under the stairs (unless you live in a bungalow of
course) or a coolish part
of the hotpress. Don't bring the cable to somewhere too visible because
your other half (or your
parents) will soon tire of the site of a big bundle of cables coming
through their floor. Get them
to run 2 sets of cables to each point since the main cost involved will
be the labour and not the
cable and you *never* know when you will want an extra device somewhere.
Your phone and
data can go down the a single (8 wire) cable if necessary, but it's a
lot neater to use separate
cables. You will also need a power point near the patch panel to power
Oh yeah, get them to identify each cable (multiple bands of insulation
tape is a good idea) as
they pull them to each point. This makes it easier to identify them
when it comes to patching
later on. Also, get them to dig a hole in the wall to hold the wall box
unless you want to mount
the box *on* the wall instead of in the wall. Mounting them on the wall
looks really awful and is
not a good idea. You should also get your telecom cable run to
somewhere near the patch
panel. This way, you can have you phone in any room in the house just
by a quick repatch.
The details of how to get the cable run is up to you, but ensure that
the cable doesn't go too near
any power cable. Nearish is OK, but the further away the better. If
possible, ensure power and
data are kept at least 20cm apart. When it comes to digging a hole in
your wall make sure you
maintain the distance if you want your cable to be any use.
Now I have the cable run, what next ?
At each point around the house you should have two cables hanging out of
a hole in the wall.
Take one cable, strip off the shielding and use the krone tool to punch
each wire into the
contacts on the RJ45 socket. The contacts will be colour coded to match
the cable, so no big
difficulty there. Ensure good contact for each wire - not too difficult
but essential. If you went for
wall plates at both ends (instead of a patch panel) just repeat the
procedure at the other end and
you have one complete link.
Assuming you went for the patch panel option, take the other end of the
same cable (you did
number them with masking tape didn't you ?) and using the krone tool
again punch it into the first
set of contacts on the back of the patch panel. You should now have a
good connection. Mark
on the relevant wall plate the corresponding number on the patch panel.
Stick one patch lead and one part of the cable tester into the wall
socket and the other ones into
the patch panel. Four good lights ? No ? OK, repunch everything - and
you better get used to
it. Actually, you should be able to tell which cable pair isn't good
from the light which isn't
lighting. Eventually you want the same result whether you just stick
the tester on a single patch
lead, or through your wiring and two patch leads.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Assuming your `pooters are correctly configured for networking (I'm not
even going to go into this
one) you need to patch them into the wall, and patch the corresponding
port on the patch panel
to any port on the hub which is by now plugged in and powered up. Stand
up, close your eyes,
clasp your hands and say alashazam and you *might* have a working
No. seriously, if your computer works on someone elses network, if the
cable tester tells you the
connection between the patch panel and the wall boxes is good, and if
the patch leads are good
then there is *no* logical reason why the network won't work. No magic
to it, just connections.
So, how does all this work ?
What you have between each wall box and the matching port on the patch
panel is nothing more
than a straight through cable connection. Picture each port on the
patch panel as an extension
of the network card on the back of each of your machines. The normal
thing to do with a
network card is to connect it to a hub so you can share files/share
Just connect each port on the patch panel (at least the ones with a
`pooter at the other end) to
the hub and everything should start talking.
Alternatively, just patch your phone line into any patch panel port and
stick a handset into the
wall box on the other end and you phone becomes a moveable item.
About the author, David Ryan.