What is the best way to run Ethernet cable through the attic? This is a question that may not have an answer. There are many factors to consider, but this article will discuss some of the most common and easy methods for running Ethernet cable in your attic.
Choose Your Cable
When using speaker wire, you want to get the best quality “zip cord” or “lamp cord”. You may even need to go to a electronics store and ask them for advice on choosing good-quality cable.
Either way, don’t cheap out…you get what you pay for. It’s better not to use an old electrical cord that might be worn down than it is to use one and then realize that you can’t hear anything!
If you’re not 100% sure of the length of your run, choose a little bit longer of a cable than what you think will be long enough [but not too long]. It’s easier this way because if you make a mistake by underest how long it needs to be, you can always cut off the excess. It’s much more difficult to just add on extra length, in which case you might end up with a cord that runs under your carpet — not very professional looking!
A good way to ensure that the cable “feels” right when inside is to untwist it down to about 12″ from the plug before cutting it. This way you’ll be able to feel if there are any kinks or knots along its entire length. If there are, move the wire around until it feels smooth again and then snip it off at that point.
Most quality speaker wire will have two copper wires encased in another type of insulation (e.g., teflon). Make sure these two wires don’t get twisted around one another and that you’re only pulling on the top (insulation) layer.
Plan and Run Your Cable
Once you have the wire ready, it’s time to plan how you’ll run it. Remember that if your “joists” are actually trusses, they may not be parallel with one another — try using a stud-finder to find the ones that run straight up and down (parallel) with one another. You can then use these joists as guides for running your cable underneath them. If you’re planning on reroofing in the future, consider trying to avoid putting too many staple marks through any of your existing insulation between two joists. That said, don’t go overboard because even one staple mark shouldn’t make much difference…just don’t put more than 3 staples in or on each cable over the course of the entire run.
Once you’ve chosen your joists, it’s time to lay down some carpet. If you do this, make sure that the carpet is again laid away from any solid wood surfaces because this will also cause wire insulation damage after a while.
Search for the Wall Header
When you’re looking for your wall header, look for the spot where 2 pieces of sheetrock meet. Here would be a good place to drill through both pieces and run your cable through.
Once inside the wall cavity, look for your “header” (solid wood beam). Make sure that there are no pipes or wires or anything else running right across it…if they do cross over one another, you’ll need to find another location in which to drill.
Drill a Hole Through the Header
Drilling a hole might be easier with a drill bit that’s slightly smaller than the standard size. This way the wire won’t “cut” its own path as you push it through…
If you don’t have a drill bit this small, no worries.
Once again, make sure to avoid any wires or pipes where possible and try not to make too much of a mess with your drilling!
Pull Your Cable Through
After you’ve drilled the hole in the header, pull your cable through from one side of the wall cavity to another — from outside-wall to inside-wall. You’ll have several inches on either side of your joists so just work at getting each piece of wire through by pushing and wiggling it in different places.
Once the wire is through, make sure to fish tape all along its length so that you can easily guide it back out if you ever need to do any type of repair or rewiring in the future.
If your cable gets tangled anywhere along the way, stop and take a look at where your wires are twisted together. Once you think you know where they’re tangled up, cut the cable there with some shears (or whatever). Then start pulling on each individual piece until they come apart…when they do, pull both pieces simultaneously so that if one of them was caught inside something else, they’ll both come out together without tangling again. If this still doesn’t work, stop and untangle the wire more until you can get them free.
Once your cable’s been pulled through to the inside wall cavity, test it out by plugging a computer into one of the jacks and making sure that it works properly. Then try running a new line from that spot into another room using a “jumper” or extra-long ethernet cable. You can use this as a guide for how long to cut your actual cables before installing any jacks/plugs on them. After everything looks good, cut out some pieces of sheetrock with your drill so that you can install some wall plates in their place…you’ll need two per jack (one at either end).
Install Headers in the Wall
For your next step, you’ll want to cut some sheetrock with your saw (or hole-saw if available) so that you can install headers above each of the jacks/plugs. For this, I would recommend cutting out at least 2 pieces of sheetrock per jack because when you’re installing wall plates, it’s best if they’re installed over solid wood rather than just drywall.
The easiest way to do this is probably with a “keyhole” cutter which will let you make circular cuts in the sheetrock…just lay it over where you want to drill and spin it around in circles while applying firm pressure for about 30 seconds or so. Try not to press too hard though because these cutters take a lot of time and energy to cut through sheetrock and you don’t want it to wear out too fast if possible.
Once you’re done cutting out your headers, go ahead and screw them into place on the joists using some screws which are long enough to be able to hold that piece of wood in place while also being short enough not to pierce any wires or cables that might be running along on top of the joists.
Feed Your Cable Into the Wall
Next, you’ll want to run your cable through the wall cavity between the two headers. This is probably the hardest part…to make this easier, I would recommend cutting out 2 more pieces of sheetrock per header so that you have 4 in total (2 at either end).
For this next step, use a piece of wire or some other type of thin, flexible material to push through the wall cavity between your two headers. You can try using a wire coat hanger if it’s bendable enough but I had more success with some small pieces of stiff aluminum wire that I was able to fashion into different shapes for this task. Just work at getting them in there by poking and prodding at different places along the wall cavity until you can feel each piece of wire contact the sheetrock and then push harder and wiggle it around to get it all to go through. Once your pieces of wire are all poking out on the other side, pull them back out again by grabbing onto them with a pair of needle-nose pliers.
Once you have the wire inside, go ahead and trim both ends so that they can fit down your wall plate’s jacks/plugs without getting in the way. Then strip a bit off of either end to expose some bare “U” shaped copper wire…what you’ll want to do is twist every piece individually (for each wire) between your fingers so that they’re all nice and tight together.
After you’ve done this, go ahead and push both pieces through the jacks at either end of the wall plate with the exposed copper wires facing downwards towards the floor. This is probably easier said than done but if you can get them through enough, it should be easier to just twist up the exposed wires and fold them over to create a “hook” which you can use to attach your cables.
Once both of these pieces are in place, thread each one through the opening at either end of the Jacks/Plugs and then down into the wall cavity where they can meet in the middle. From there, just form them into a “loop” and use a couple of pieces of tape to secure everything in place.
Attach your RJ-45 connectors/jacks to each end of your cable and then route it from the top header down to the bottom with the RJ-45 jack close enough so that you can attach it to your PC or whatever device you want…following this same process for any additional cables with wall plate jacks/plugs along the way.