An update on the shortcut to wiring a house with Ethernet

Last week, I presented a shortcut for wiring a house with Ethernet using cheap keystone couplers. I’m happy to say I’ve done it twice now, and it all works, but I wanted to follow up and share a little more experience now that I’ve wired about a dozen ports this way.

 

wire an old house for Ethernet
You can wire your house for Ethernet without a lot of expensive tools or effort by using pre-made cables and keystone coupler jacks.

It took me 15-30 minutes per port when I had to drill holes, assuming I knew where to drill them. Before you start the project, charge up your drill completely. The main reason some of my ports took 30 minutes was because I was drilling with a weak battery and the drill got hung up at times. With a fully charged drill and more planning in advance, I really think I could have done four rooms in an hour.

I used a half-inch bit; if I had it to do again, I would use a 5/8 or 3/4-inch bit instead. The RJ-45 connector and boot were a tight fit through a half-inch hole. A 3/4-inch hole would likely leave enough room to come back and run more wires through the same hole at a later date, if needed.

Knowing where to drill was pretty easy, since the rooms were wired for TV already. I just drilled new holes next to the holes for the existing cable. When you don’t know, it gets trickier. You have to find your studs in the walls, then go to the basement and look for landmarks like returns and registers and electrical wiring to known outlets.

Even knowing where to drill, I missed on one. The hole was above ductwork, and the drill wouldn’t fit in the space between the floor and the ductwork unless I held it at an angle, so I had to drill at an angle. Unfortunately, I drilled too far, and exposed broad daylight through the hole, a sure sign I’d missed. I went upstairs and found I’d drilled right through the baseboard in the adjacent room. Thankfully it was only a baseboard, and a painted one at that, so patching it was quick and easy. So, if you have to drill at an angle to reach your destination, drill pilot holes with a small bit first, unless you like patching big holes when you make mistakes.

Of course, these pitfalls can occur no matter how you do your wiring. Once I pulled the wires through and cut the holes in the wall for the low-voltage brackets, it was just a matter of plugging the couplers into the faceplate, then plugging the cables into the couplers and securing the faceplate to the bracket with screws.

Just to confirm everything, I plugged an old Linksys WRT-54G router into all of the cables in the basement and plugged in a couple of laptops upstairs. They pulled IP addresses quickly, which indicated DHCP was working, which in turn indicated the network was working. Then I moved the laptops into other rooms to confirm they still worked. They did, which didn’t surprise me.

I still recommend this method. Doing it this way costs $2-$3 more per port, due to the increased cost of buying ready-made cables rather than a spool of bulk cable–I don’t see much price difference between keystone couplers and traditional keystone jacks–but the time savings is significant, especially if you plan to run gigabit Ethernet, which is much touchier than older speeds. But as cheap as gigabit is these days, there’s no reason not to do that.

Also keep cable limits in mind. It should be easy to stay well under the 100-meter limit on Ethernet with the average house.

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