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
When you are drilling through a wall, you don't want to drill into an electrical cable. Here are some suggestions for reducing the electrical hazards associated with making blind holes in walls:
- If using a battery drill, turn off all electricity in the house.
- Use a grounded tool so the metal frame will conduct electricity to ground.
- Wear rubber gloves.
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.