Custom Home Pre-Wiring

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Building a Custom Home? Wondering what to prewire? And what about all the new wireless technology? Do you think if it’s worth it to prewire?

Don’t believe it when people tell you that everything will be wireless in a few years. The best way to integrate electronics into your home at any time is to install cables that are dedicated to the data transfer required, whether you are talking about audio, video, cameras, intercom or security. There is no one best way to pre-wire; it depends on what you want to allow for. This quick point-form guide tells you what to think about first when considering the pre-wiring of a project.

Remember that just because it is wired for it doesn’t mean you need to spring for the cost of all the electronics at the start. As long as the correct cables are in place before you close up the walls and ceilings, the house will be ready for electronic upgrades at any time in the future. What you want is to be able to easily access whatever cables may be required to meet future needs as they arise. You can never put in too much Cat 5e or Cat 6 (Cat6 recommended), and if you pre-wire with fibre optics, even without connections on the end, you’ll be up to speed for most of what’s coming.

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For these applications, you want to use wire.

As a general rule, I like to prewire (rough) the following items in new construction and remodels:

  • TVs, Projectors & Video Distribution
  • Primary & Secondary Surround Sounds
  • Home Audio
  • Service Providers: Cable, Satellite, & Internet
  • Surveillance Cameras
  • Home Security
  • Network & WIFI
  • Control Systems

1. Video

  • TVs– Smart TV’s should be hardwired into the home network, and preferably with a Cat6.
  • Projectors– I run flexible conduit to projectors wherever possible. When it’s not possible to run conduit, I run Cat6 and fiber to the projector. HDMI go bad or obsolete overtime, and conduit allows you to change HDMI as needed.
  • Video Distribution –We prefer to prewire Video Distribution with (3) Cat6, and (1) Fiber. At a minimum we want (2) Cat6 and (1) Fiber. (It’s recommended to use Cat6 for 4k Video Content).

It’s surprising how often a customer decides to put a receiver behind the TV. It’s easier and cheaper to put the wire there in the beginning than a retro later.

Terminating Cat6 for ‘4K over IP’ vs a ‘4K Matrix’

There are two types of Video Distribution. And we terminated the cable differently depending on the type of Video Distribution we plan to use.

4K Matrix– Is like a network switch, only it’s for all the HDMIfrom your Video Sources and TVs. Cat6 should not be terminated at the wall plate. It should run out of the wall and straight into the balun behind the TV.

4K over IP– Still uses Cat6 and baluns, but everything plugs into a Network switch rather than a Matrix. Because it’s Network based, it can be terminated at the wall plate behind the TV.

Important Tip

Now there’s one other little trick I want you to know about Video Distribution. Usually your rack is going to be in the Basement, or at least in a room and location that’s a good distance away from where you watch your TV. You don’t want to have to walk all the way over there to load in your 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Take your Family Room for example. Rather than walking all the way to your Media rack, you hide a Blu-ray player in a Cabinet or wall unit. You run (2) Cat6 from your Blu-ray player to your Media Rack, and now it works on your system. You can enjoy your Blu-ray discs without having to walk all the way back to the basement A/V rack shelf.

A Quick word on FIBER and Conduit. There’s a case to be made for running Fiber and/or conduit. I don’t believe it’s necessary for every home yet, but if you’re building your dream home, or a home you plan to live in for the next 3-5 years, it’s time to seriously consider fiber.

We recommend using 3 Cat6?

1. Controlling the TV. There are three methods for controlling the TV: IR; IP; and Serial. Whichever method you choose for your application, the Cat6 can be terminated and used for any one of these methods.So, you’re covered.

2. Hardwiring the TV into the Network.You really should hardwire your TV into the network. If you are using a TV that supports IP, then this hardwired connection works for both the network and your IP control. So, it saves you a wire.

3. Video Distribution– If you’re new to the space, it probably seems weird to send Video over Cat6, but Cat6 is a wonder wire. You can convert it into just about any wire you want it to be. In this case, we want it to be an HDMI cable, so we take the Cat6, and we put a small box on each end of the Cat6 called an HDMI balun. That balun converts the Cat6 into an HDMI, so you can send Video content over the Cat6 and out to the TV.

2. Primary & Secondary Surround Sounds

Most people consider prewiring surround in their main media room or theater. You should also consider prewiring for Secondary Surrounds.

The goal here is simply to provide more volume in larger rooms where flatscreen TVs won’t have the speaker power to fill the room.

The applications are endless: Master, Covered Deck, Pool, Great Room, etc. If there’s a room where you could enjoy more sound, consider a powered Soundbar and Subwoofer full surround.

You need to make a decision about where to locate your receiver. You can ‘localize’ the receiver in the room where it will be used, but if you’re doing Video Distribution, you’ll want it in the A/V Rack. Although most want to see less equipment so, better in the A/V Rack in the basement.

3. Home Audio

Most the time, when you experience Home Audio, you want more of it. Showers, bathrooms, Covered Decks, Front Porch, Landscape Speakers, etc.

If you are going to spend any time at all in a room of the house, consider wiring it for Audio. We even have clients prewire hallways and walkways for parties.

Don’t forget your Landscape Speakers

Landscape speakers are designed so that you can hear the volume as loudly as you want, but without disturbing the neighbors.

If you’re thinking about landscape speakers, you need to decide how many zones you may want and prewire accordingly.

We typically pull wire to a junction box at the side of the home. Later when the landscaping is finished, we use that as a connection point and run the rest of the wire outside.

4. Service Providers: Cable and Internet

Point of Demarcation (also called the Demarc)– This is a location on the exterior of the home where Cable, Phone and Internet Service providers connect their services.

5. Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance Cameras should be prewired. A lot of clients ask about wireless cameras, but with few exceptions wireless cameras still need power. If you’re going to run a cable for power anyway, it makes sense to run a Cat6. You can hardwire it into the network, and send it power over the same wire.

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Audio/Video & Smart Home Wires

6. Home Security

With Home Security we like to prewire the keypads for power. This keeps the keypad installs clean and void of power-adapters.

Beyond the keypads you can reliably cover smaller homes with wireless sensors.  Larger homes struggle with the wireless range, and benefit from hardwired sensors.

Likewise, if you’re using iron or metal doors and windows, those can cause interference with the wireless signals.  We take the security prewire on a case by case basis.

7. Network & WIFI

Hardwired Network – Wi-Fi is great, but you still want to hardwire into the network where you can.  It’s best to hardwire TVs, and Video sources into the network.  Likewise, Ethernet ports anywhere you may want a hardwired connection.

WIFI Hotspots – I’ve learned that it’s best to leave yourself options for Wifi Hotspots.  I usually prewire more locations than I actually believe I need.  This gives me the option to move Hot Spots around later, and find the maximum coverage.  

8. Miscellaneous

The first 7 items we wire standard in nearly every home.  The items here are more optional, and vary home-to-home.  So, I group them in miscellaneous, but it doesn’t make them any less important.

iPad Mounts – Charging stations for your iPads are very popular.

Touchscreens – Systems like Control4, have tablets that wall mount.  We wire standard for these in common areas, and theaters, but you can wire them anywhere.

Intercom – Believe it or not intercoms are making a comeback, especially with Video Doorbells, and Touchscreens.

Voice Control – There are options for all the voice control solutions, Alexa, Google, that allow you to mount a node to the wall, or ceiling for easy voice control.  If you’re thinking about Voice Control, this may be worth considering for your home.

Video Doorbells – Have the electrician wire the doorbell the same way it’s always done.  Then add a Cat6,

Shades – Shades wire up differently manufacturer to manufacturer, but I highly recommend wiring for shades, especially if you have large windows in a 2-story great room. Motorized Shades are great that it gives option as to how much light you want in a room or privacy with a touch of a button or scene control.

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