How to Run Network Cable in an Old House?

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Sorry for the long post.
I am planning to network my old house with wire. I would like to learn some tips in running wire through existing walls and floors.
My house has two floors and one basement. And I want to have network connection in all two floors and the basement. Seem like one way to do this is to run a wire through the exterior wall in the second floor, and run it straight down through the exterior wall in the first floor, and into the basement. By running wire inside the basement suspended-ceiling, I can easily run the wire to many areas in the basement and back up to the first floor. The problem is: How do I run the wire from the second floor to the basement?
What I am planning to do: - Find a spot on the 2nd floor wall that is away from power outlet by at least 16 inches. - Remove the baseboard heating unit from one side of the wall in the second floor. - Open a small hole on the wall behind the baseboard unit. - Open a small hole near the bottom of the wall in the first floor where no one will see the hole, and where there is no baseboard. - Examine the small hole in the first floor to make sure there is no cable/pipe hidden behind the wall. - Go back to the second floor, and use a right angle drill to drill a hole through the base frame to reach the first floor. - Use a fishing wire to fish the network cable through the small hole in the second floor to the small hole in the first floor. - Fish the wire from the first floor to the basement should be relatively easy. - Use the baseboard heating unit to cover the small hole in the second floor. Use a baseboard trim to cover the small hole in the first floor.
My questions are:
- How difficult it is to remove the baseboard heating unit and put it back? I can do basic plumbing stuff (such as cutting pipes and solder them back; but I have never touch anything related to heating). Do I need to drain the water inside the pipe and refill it afterward? Is there any documentation or book about this? If this requires a plumber, I would have to leave the baseboard unit alone and open the wall above it instead.
- How realistic is this to fish a wire from the first floor to the second floor with only one hole in each floor without opening another hole near the ceiling of the first floor? If this requires opening another hole near the ceiling, I would have to cancel this project because I am not planning to re-do the wall paper in the first floor, nor to put crown molding in the first floor (where there is none) to cover the hole.
- Any other alternative that I might have overlooked?
I could have run the wire through the exterior wall to outside the house and drop the wire down to near the house foundation and back inside the basement. But this would be ugly and squirrels would bite the wire (my old cable TV wire was damaged this way). Therefore, I prefer to run it through indoor instead of outdoor.
I could have used wireless network. But wireless network is probably marginal for streaming video through two floors (especially if the video is HDTV when it becomes common). I prefer something that can give me a higher margin of success.
Thanks in advance for any suggestion.
Jay Chan
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Sometimes a chimney makes a direct path from basement to attic. Then drop wire from attic into second floor walls.
Jay Chan wrote:

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Running cable through an existing structure is an incredible PITA, unless you get extraordinarily lucky. Do you have insulation in your exterior walls? Any firestops? Good luck then. An experienced electrician has a lot of tricks learned from years of frustration that will sometimes let him get around obstacles. I doubt a novice has a chance at your project. (Last year it took me 6 hours to run a switch leg up a wall to the attic and down an adjoining wall.)
Go wireless or not at all.
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Jay Chan wrote:

I ran the network cables from my basement to the 2nd floor by hiding them in the corner of a closet. There's a tiny hole in the closet floor and one in the ceiling and the wires are exposed but hidden pretty well inside the closet by the door frame.
Would wireless work if the hub was on the first floor instead of the basement?
Bob
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Hell...wireless works in hotels, which are mostly steel & cement.
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Sometimes. Getting wireless to work reliably can be challenging. It depends on the exact construction of your house on whether you'll be able to pick up a signal even in the next room. I can easily lose signal only 5m away, as 1m of that is a stone chimney-breast.
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On no, Jay, don't do it. What you spend in cable, outlet boxes, RJ45 connectors male and female will be far more expensive than a wireless router, appropriate nics, with a signal booster or two. Best Buy's got a great deal on Netgear wireless - rebates on everything. Did it over the weekend, and I'll never look back.
Wireless, or not at all.

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A little may depend on your future plans for the house, too. A low-voltage wiring system can add value since future residents may want computers, but not have wireless. It's a selling point. And watch out for those rebates! They get you to buy, but they don't like to pay. On the other hand, if you go to a good book store and look around, you can find books giving a complete description of how to install a wireless system. Definitely worth considering, but I wouldn't be quite so extreme in my opinion. You may even consider a hybrid system.
beekay
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If you do go that route, use Cat6 and be ready for gigabit Ethernet.
Mike
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having the house prewired to a proper electrical closet with av/computer feeds to all rooms is a selling point. having a couple three runs of cat5 from here to there isnt.
im with the wireless crew on this one.
randy
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I would try wired for up and down to the critical locations (do you have a Replay?), then wireless for everything else. Wireless is up to fairly high speed, although you're going to need access points (basically, extensions/repeaters for the network).
--
Bob in CT
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"I could have run the wire through the exterior wall to outside the house and drop the wire down to near the house foundation and back inside the basement. But this would be ugly and squirrels would bite the wire (my old cable TV wire was damaged this way). Therefore, I prefer to run it through indoor instead of outdoor."
In addition to the other postings, I have read that it is against code to run ethernet exposed on the outisde.
I ran ethernet a year ago, but it was easy. I went up from my utility room near the fridge ice maker water line, behind the kitchen cabinets, and into the dining room. Similarly, I followed the CATV from the basement into the bedroom.
If it is much more complicated, I'd go wireless. Wireless should have plenty of bandwidth for streaming video, as long as you don't have a lot of other traffic at the same time.
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You might get lucky. I just finished running cable from the second floor to the attic, down to the basement across to the rear addition. We had "balloon framing", wall cavities that run from attic to basement, some not insulated. Bad for fires and heat loss good for running stuff up and down. I only had two holes in the finished walls. Best of luck.
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Thanks for all the people who have responded to my post.
I can see the problem of running wire through an exterior wall because I will likely get into insulation material that can complicate the process. But I determine to give it a try to see if I can run wire through the insulation material.
I have decided to avoid removing the baseboard heating unit in the second floor. Instead, I will open the dry wall above the baseboard. This is not too much a trouble to patch up the dry wall. Besides, the wall color is white. This should be very easy to match color.
The first floor has wood-looking panel in the wall (instead of wall paper as mentioned in my original post; I dis-oriented myself and got confused with the opposite side of the house). I should be able to remove the panel and put it back afterward. If there is fire-stop block in the way, I should have no problem drill a hole through it after I open up the panel.
And I don't have a closet in the area that I want to run wire, and I don't have a chimney in my house. I would have to run wire through the wall. This doesn't sound like a big deal now that I know the wall has wood-looking panel instead of wall paper. If the wall was covered with wall paper as what I originally thought, I would abandon this project if I found fire-stop inside the wall because I don't want to deal with re-doing the wall paper in the room.
I try to avoid using wireless because there is not enough margin of success if I use wireless to stream video. I am afraid that wireless will likely not be good enough if I need to stream video to two locations at the same time (one in the first floor, another one in the basement). Currently, I will likely only need to stream video to one location. But I can see the possibility of wanting to stream video to two locations. I need something that has a bit more headroom for future expanded need. This is the reason why I don't want to go wireless.
Moreover, my experience with wireless stuff (a wireless headphone) is not that great. This discourages me from trying other wireless stuff.
My PC only has a 100MB network card and the media-player that I am interested to get only supports 100MB connection anyway. After saying this, I am still planning to put cat-6 cable just in case gigabit network cards comes down in price. The price difference between cat-5 and cat-6 cables is not that big anyway.
I understand that using wire instead of wireless network can cost more because the cable itself can cost a lot ($69 for a 50-ft cat-6 cable as seen in CompUSA, and I need at least two). But cost is a lesser concern than getting a reliable signal for streaming video.
I can see the benefit of using a mix of wired and wireless connections. I will go for wired network for now. And I will put in wireless connection when I find the need to do so.
Thanks for the warning of running exposed Ethernet cable outdoor. I didn't know that this is bad. But I don't intend to do this anyway.
Again, thanks for all the people who have responded.
Jay Chan
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Jay Chan wrote:
[snip]

You are in for a rude surprise when you try to match the white unless you have some of the original paint. You will have to repaint the entire wall to get it to match, but not the whole room.

I've run some romex from the basement to the attic through the bathroom wall. By taking out the medicine cabinet, I was able to get to the fire stops (the rough frame-in for the medicine cabinet *was* the firestop.) This is not where I wanted the wires, but it was the only place I could run them easily -- a few hours of my frustration is worth more than an extra 20 feet of romex.

You can buy bulk cable at Home Depot and add your own connectors.

When you buy a hub or router look for one that has both ethernet and wireless, even if you don't use the wireless part yet. (Disable it to keep neighbor kids off of you network.) I've seen wireless routers with a built-in 4-port ethernet switch for about the same price as just an ethernet router.
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Thanks for the warning. But I have expected this kind of thing to happen. Luckily the entire wall in that area is quite small. Worst comes to worst, I can repaint the wall without much of a trouble.

I plan to use cat-6 cable. Home Depot doesn't have cat-6 (and I am not sure if they have cat-5e either). I think I will mail order instead.

Good point. I will look closely to find a combo routers/switches-with-wireless to see if I can find one that is reasonably priced. Then I will have one less device to get losed in the tangle of wires. But I have a feeling that the wireless component in a combo device is probably one generation behind (802.11b) and doesn't support the latest high speed wireless protocol (802.11a/802.11g combo or something like that).
Jay Chan
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On 11-May-2004, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Jay Chan) wrote:

My local Home Depot does. Phone around, there may be some in other HD stores in your town. I've noticed that the newer HD stores have this while the oldest haven't upgraded their stock. It seems that HD has gone through a re-stock and new-look change in the last year locally.
Mike
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Thanks for the advice. The closest Home Depot store is not one of the well-stocked Home Depot stores around here anyway. I will look for it in a well-stocked store.
Jay Chan
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For not much more than $69, you should be able to buy a 1000 foot roll.
Bob
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Thanks. The one from CompUSA seems to be WAY overpriced. I see that mail order source has a cat-6 installation kit with a large roll of cable and assorted tools for just $170. Yes, I will likely go that way instead of getting the cables from CompUSA.
Jay Chan
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