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How to Run TV Cable Through Walls

Posted by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 6:01 PM
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Page 1

Cable: It's not your father's television anymore. Cable may be bringing your Internet connection. It may be supplying the endless channels of digital cable. Or both. With everything from the next paycheck to the next basketball game riding on the cable, it's logical to want to bring cable to more rooms. The process can be easy-or a nightmare-depending on your luck and the construction of your house.

Parts for coaxial cable-so named because all the components are arranged around one axis-are widely available at home centers. Choose R6 cable, which gives a better signal than the older, R59 variety. Incidentally, the cable-routing instructions are also applicable to other functions, such as wiring doorbells, thermostats, or home Ethernet networks.

Step 1: Finding the Best Route

The most important decision of running cable comes first: finding the best route from the existing cable to the destination. If you can run cable through a basement, garage, or attic, you'll avoid tearing into walls or ceilings. The worst cable runs occur when walls do not line up from floor to floor, or you have to sidestep heavy beams and posts.

Expect to cause some damage in a complicated cable run. But with patience and cleverness, you should be able to get the signal where it needs to go. Then it's just a matter of repairing walls, a useful skill in any homeowner's bag of tricks. The wire-fishing techniques described in Install a Ceiling Light and Switch can also be used to run coaxial cable.

Step 2: Getting from Point A to Point B


No question, the only hard part about working with cable is getting it where you want it to go.

The following tools are helpful for routing cable:

  • Drill bits—the longer, the better. If you buy cable with the ends already fitted (as I suggest), 5/8" diameter is the minimum for easy cable routing.

  • Auger bits, which pull themselves into the hole, work much faster than flat bits, but they are more expensive.

  • A right-angle drill is perfect for working in tight corners. It's ideal for drilling from the basement into the first floor, for drilling between studs or joists, and for driving ridiculously long bits.

  • Fish tape is a springy steel tape that electricians use to pull wire through walls. Don't go wire fishing without a fish tape! Fish tapes are the best tool you can find for pushing through holes in a wall. Some fish tapes have hooked ends to grab a second fish tape.


by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 6:01 PM
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by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 6:02 PM

Page 2

To route a cable from floor to floor, follow these steps:

  1. To get to the floor below, cut an opening in the drywall near the floor and drill as vertically as possible through the 2 × 4 at the base of the wall. A jigsaw or a hand drywall saw work equally well to cut an opening for routing cable. A rectangular cutout is easier to patch. It helps to remove the baseboard before starting, but this does make for a bigger repair job.

  2. To skip a floor (say from the basement to the second floor), drill up from the basement and down from the second floor into the same stud cavity—the gap between studs. Take the cable to the first floor and cut an opening in the wall. Push a fish tape from the basement into this hole. Tape the cable to the fish tape and pull the cable down into the basement. Push the fish tape down from the second floor and pull the cable up from the first floor.

To route cable along a wall, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the baseboard by gently prying with a hammer and a crowbar. Cut out a strip of drywall just below the baseboard and drill holes through the base of the studs. Because you will hit nails, use a drill bit designed for metal.

  2. Cut holes 24" apart, between the studs, low on the wall (where the holes will be less noticeable). Drill through one stud to each side, and then use a fish tape to pull the cable through. This trick works best with a 1" drill.

  3. To get past a door or window, make your holes more than 8" above the opening.

To route cable into the next rooms, follow these steps:

  1. Drill straight through one stud cavity and mount the new cable fixture in the drill hole.

  2. Drill up and over, through the attic, or down and under, through the basement.


by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 6:03 PM

Page 3

Step 3: Cable Connections

Building Smarts

The only job of coaxial cable is to bring you a signal. These pointers will help maintain a good signal:

  • Don't crush or abuse the cable.

  • Tighten connectors with a wrench, but spare the Hercules routine, which could cause damage.

  • Avoid sharp bends. The bend radius should be at least 10 times the diameter of the cable.

  • Stay away from house wiring. If you must run the cable near wiring, run it perpendicular, not parallel.

Once you've got the cable to its destination, the nasty work is done, and it's time to make connections.

If you don't already have a splitter, which allows you to connect several cables to a single source, install one. Splitters have various numbers of outputs.

My advice is to buy ready-made cable, so you don't have to bother cutting cable and inserting end fittings. Buy more than you need, so you don't spend an hour fishing cable, only to find it 6" too short.

Connect one end of the cable to the splitter, and the other to the face plate. Secure the coaxial cable with staples every 2' to 4'. If the cable is too long, make a loose coil and tie it with cable ties.

A 58" hole in the wall is all you need to route a cable into this outlet plate.

Tighten the fitting with a wrench, and then fasten the faceplate to the wall, using drywall anchors-gadgets that hold screws in drywall.

Step 4: Repairing the Damage

By now, you've got the signal to your cable modem or TV. So you've run out of excuses: It's time to undo the damage you did to walls and ceilings.

A key rule of drywall repair is to avoid any bulges on the surface, because they will cause havoc down the line. A utility knife will cut away offending bulges. Scraping with a drywall trowel will complete the cleanup.

If you need more advice on patching these holes, consult Drywall an Existing Wall and Install a Ceiling Light and Switch.

The job is done! Sit back and relax with your 999 new channels!


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