Structured Wiring / Future Wiring a Smart Home - Wiring Overview
This guide details what you need for Future Wiring a home, It is best to do this while the home is being built, but there are ways to do it after the fact. Much of the information in this guide will also apply if you are just running a wire or two. Even if you are not doing the work yourself, this guide may help you in deciding what you want done.
If you are building a home, future wiring can add thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars to the value of your home. If you are not doing the work yourself then you could also end up paying this much to have it done professionally. Most builders will generally not allow you to do this kind of work while the home is under construction for safety, insurance, or theft reasons. Still, I've built two homes and I was able to get each builder to let me do the wire installation myself.
In a good wiring plan all wires are run to a central location the basement. Most of the builders contractors will run wires room to room. For example: If the builder is adding a phone line to your kitchen and master bedroom, they will run the wire from the basement to the kitchen to the bedroom. The proper method would be to run a line from the basement to the kitchen, and a second wire from the basement to the bedroom. This has several advantages. First, if there is a problem in the connection you only need to look at the two ends. You don't have to remember and check everywhere that the wire passes through. Second, if you run wires room to room then you are limited in what you can do with the wires. It may be OK to run a phone line in series (room to room), but it is not OK for Internet network cables. Most builders will run Internet wires for the phone lines and you should do the same. If you run the wires in series then only one of the rooms will be able to make use of the wire as a network cable.
If your home does not have a basement then you will need to find some other central location to run the wires to. Ask the builder for suggestions, but it will most likely be the closet / utility room that holds the hot water heater and possibly the electrical box or the attic. All this will be covered when you consider your Wiring Plan.
Plan everything out before you begin. Decide what wires will be run where. You always want to run too much wire instead of too little. An unused wire costs little, but trying to run a new wire after the walls are up can take hours. Be sure to read the guide on what wires to run and the guide on wire types to help you plan. You may also want to check out some sample projects for ideas.
Once you have your plan, you need to estimate how much wire you will need. You can save a lot of money by purchasing over the Internet. Check out the parts guide for a list of what you will need and where you can get it.
Once you have a plan and your parts you are ready to get started. This wiring guide has everything you need to know to run your wires. You could complete the wiring job and terminate all the connections at the same time, but unless the builder is giving you a lot of time to work on the home it is best to leave that work until after you move in. Much of the finishing work must be done after the drywall is hung and painted anyway. Waiting until after you move in also decreases the chance that your wiring will affect the home appraisal and your housing taxes. After you close on your home closing this finishing work guide will help you complete the wiring job.
After you finish your work, it is time to have the cable, satellite, phone, Internet... companies come in and do their job. They will probably need to run a new wire from the street to your home. This wire should be run directly to your wiring panel in the basement and then routed through the house from there. Even if you are using a cable or DSL modem for Internet access, the modem should be in the basement and then the network wires should distribute it through the home. See the wiring plan for more information.Some notes on working with your builder and other contractors
If you are just starting to consider building a home, your best bet is to negotiate with the builder before you sign on the dotted line to see if they will let you wire the home yourself. That is when you have the most leverage. If its too late for that, try to get on the good side of either your sales person or the project manager. Let them know that you will not be doing any electrical work or using any electrical boxes installed by the builder's electricians. Any electrical work will be inspected and if you cause the builder to fail an electrical inspection it will cost them time and money.
If the builder will not let you run the wiring yourself, then ask about a future tube. A future tube is simply a 2" PVC pipe installed by the builder that is run from the basement to the attic. If you are running a wire from the basement to a first floor wall, you can just drill up through the basement ceiling and run the wire. If you need to run a wire from the basement to a second floor wall, you can run the wire through the future tube into the attic and then back down though the second floor wall. Without the future tube it is very difficult to get a wire from the basement to the second floor of your home. There is a special guide for Wiring Existing Homes.
If the builder does let you do your own wiring, they will give you a short window in which you can do the work and possibly with very little notice. Make sure you have all the materials you need ready to go at a moments notice. If you are ordering from the Internet, then be sure to plan in advance. Depending on how much help you have and how much wiring you want to do, it could take 2 full days to do the wiring. Obviously you will do your wiring some point after framing, roofing, and siding is done but before drywall. This is when the plumbing, ductwork, electrical and other wiring and insulation will be installed. It is best if you do your work last, either right before or after insulation. That way you know your work wont interfere with the other trades. For example: if you run a cable wire across some studs in a wall, and the HVAC crew needs to run a vertical duct between two of those studs, then you better have left enough slack in your wires so that they can move your wires to make room for their duct.
You may end up working on your wiring while other contractors are in your home. Be friendly and try to stay out of their way and let them do their job. They usually don't like the homeowner being around when they are doing their work. There are also safety/liability issues with you working around them. Don't give them a reason to call the builder and get you kicked out. Don't ask to borrow their tools and definitely don't use their tools without asking. This includes using their ladders. Also make sure that your work isn't interfering with them. Don't leave wires lying around on the ground. Tie down your work as you go. Don't leave cleanup for the end.
Finally, a word of caution when dealing with the cable and phone companies. Since the deregulation of the phone market, everyone is trying to offer full package deals. You will find cable, phone, and satellite companies all offering television, phone, and Internet services with each one trying to undercut the price of the others. Many people will sign up for the special introductory rate and then cancel and switch companies when their contract is up. In an effort to hurt the competition, many companies are ripping out wires when you cancel their service. For example: If you switch from a phone company to a cable company for phone service, the cable company will rip out as much of the phone wire as they can to make it unusable. They will cut the ends off of wires behind wall plates and cut wires as soon as they enter the basement leaving no visible wire to work with. Verizon has also been accused of cutting the copper phone wire in homes when people switch to Fios Fiber Optic service. That way, you are locked into the more expensive fiber service, and Verizon is not required to share the fiber lines to other phone/DSL providers like they must do with the copper phone wire. This forces the cable company to spend hours running new wires. Obviously, you don't want this to happen. Whenever anyone is working with the wiring in your home, whether they are installing or removing equipment, you will want to watch them at all times. Remember that every wire in your home belongs to you regardless of who installed it. Do not let them cut any wires, and if you are canceling service, it is best if you do all of the work yourself and not even let them in your home.Disclaimer
The information on this site is provided free of charge. All information provided on this web site is provided 'AS IS'. No guarantee is provided for the accuracy of the information or the application of the information provided herein. I accept no responsibility or liability with regards to the accuracy or currency of the information provided. By using, reading or accessing this web site, you agree to be the user of the information provided. The user accepts full responsibility for all information provided. Although I try to keep the information on this site as accurate as possible, there is no guarantee that my reference materials or the material on this site is correct. This information is provided for reference purposes only! The technical information listed here are for general applications only. When in doubt, always seek the help of a professional!
Always consult your local building codes for the most accurate information regarding wiring and electrical codes. All counties and cities have their own building codes which will vary slightly. This web site only addresses some of the most common building codes. Please note that improper wiring could cause you to fail a home inspection, prevent you from selling your home, or even cause a fire.