Tearing into existing walls to thread CAT5 through them isn’t a chore that I think anyone relishes. It’s not too bad if you have an unfinished basement and can do everything in interior walls, but the further you deviate from that, the worse the job gets. One of my computers sits where it is solely because it was easy for me to get CAT5 there.
I stumbled across a novel solution to the problem. It isn’t cheap, and I want to emphasize that I haven’t tried it. But it’s possible that I will at some point. It’s called Flatwire.
The product is extremely thin, so you can attach it to the surface of your wall, then either paint over it, put some mesh and mud over it to blend it into the wall surface a little better, then paint over it.
It’s not cheap. The supplies to do a 10-foot run to install a CAT5 drop will run you about $120. If you need a 20-foot run to get into a hard to reach area, it will cost more like $170. But you may find that preferable to tearing out door jambs and floorboards, which is the usual way of running CAT5 cable along an exterior wall. And that’s a good way to chew up a weekend. Or more than $200 in labor costs.
And besides CAT5, they also have products for running audio, video, and even some electrical lines.
I wouldn’t want to use it to wire the whole house. For one thing, it’s CAT5, and if I’m going to wire the house, I want to use at least CAT5e and get gigabit. For sharing an Internet connection, gigabit is overkill, but if you aren’t sharing files now, you’re going to want to in the near future. If you have three computers, rather than putting 1 TB drives in all of them, you’d really be better served by putting an SSD in each and putting those large drives into something like a Drobo, then storing all of your data on the Drobo. Overall performance will be better, and your data integrity will be a lot better, since the Drobo is RAID, only better.
And for A/V operations, Flatwire would be nice. Televisions used to be able to conceal a lot of wiring. That’s not the case so much anymore.
In my case, that’s exactly where I would use this. The television is in a room with three exterior walls. It was built onto the house sometime after original construction and it’s on a slab, so I can’t get wire to the TV by going in through the basement. I can get to the interior wall easily enough, so I can run CAT5 to that point. Then I could use this stuff to get across the room to the television, so I could connect a computer to the TV. That’s not something that everyone does right now, but that’s something that’s also going to become more and more common.
Of course, this isn’t the only option. Powerline networking is cheaper and more practical in most cases.
Why not just use powerline?
That would be another option, certainly.
If you have forced air for heating, the return ducts are handy for feeding non-powered lines. My house has conveniently located grills that are hidden behind “open” doors, so you can’t even see the wires snaking down through the openings. And I could feed the lines all over my house.