I started planning the structured wiring project before we moved into our new house last December. This ended up being a 2-3 weekend project altogether, but only a few hours for each of those weekends. I just did it in phases so that I would have time to play on those weekends too. The box was in our Master Bedroom closet and had coaxial and Cat-5 cables from ports in every room coming in to it. Unfortunately the builder did not connect any equipment to these cables nor did they offer an upgrade for this. I had put Cat-5 wiring into all the upstairs rooms in my last house, so I felt comfortable with planning and installing the equipment in the structured wiring box.
Within a couple days of moving in I had set up a temporary set of connections using our existing equipment and by adding coaxial and Cat-5 terminating plugs to the end of the cables that we would be using initially. I split the incoming Cable TV signal line so it could be shared by the 3 rooms that would have Cable TV boxes and plugged the incoming cable internet line directly into the cable modem. The Cat-5 lines were “sort of” labeled with the rooms they came from. By “sort of” I mean, not all of them were labeled and some that were labeled were wrong. That didn’t stop me from getting things connected, it just meant that I ended up wasting a few Cat-5 modular plugs – luckily they are cheap. I don’t have any pictures of what this phase of the project looked like, but it wasn’t pretty! But it was functional, so I let it stay like this for several months.
When I finally got off my rear on this project again I started by determining what equipment I would need and the best way to mount it into the structured wiring box. I figured this would be easy. The idea of a structured wiring box was so you could mount your equipment in a standard way. I looked at the box and got a couple of important clues from the box cover, the brand and the model. Unfortunately when I went to the Linear Corporation website the options for what I wanted to do were limited. The routers were old and slower than I wanted my network to be, and the universal connectors for mounting my own components relied on two-sided tape. I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with that. I also didn’t want a connector that required me to drill into my component or remove any case screws. It took quite a bit more research than I thought it would but I found a universal holder the Channel Vision C-1312 Universal Holder that had some info online that stated it would work in an Open House enclosure. I shopped around and ended up buying that and some other parts, like a mounted Channel Vision power strip, and some replacement quick connectors for at PartsExpress.com for a reasonable price.
I was a bit concerned that the Channel Vision parts would not fit in the Linear Open House enclosure, but they fit perfectly. The next step was to find a few other components I needed. A wired router as I planned to connect the wireless router to an open network plug-in a central location in the house. Inside a metal box is not a good place to put a wireless router. I knew that there were 12 Cat-5 wires coming into the structured wiring box, and that I would want to connect 2-3 other things to the router directly in the closet. So I would need a WAN port and at least 15 local ports. Although there were cheaper 100 Megabit routers, I wanted the connection inside my network to be as fast as possible so I limited myself to looking at Gigabit routers. I decided on an 8 port wired router that had some interesting security features that I thought would be useful and added an 8 port switch, both with 1000MBps speed. I also wanted to get a 12 port punchdown patch panels to better organize the incoming wires from the house. This will allow me, with a little extra work, to label each incoming line so I know exactly which room I’m connecting or disconnecting. It will also look better.
In phase 2 of the project I focused on reconfiguring and reconnecting the already in use wires. It only took a few hours, so not too many complaints from the big internet users in the house. Although I don’t have a “before” picture I can tell you that after phase 2 I was very happy with the way it was starting to look. Here is a picture of the structured wiring enclosure after phase 2 was complete.
Although the system was completely functional, there was still quite a mess left in the closet and there was no way to close the structured wiring enclosure.
Although I planned to finish this quickly, it was actually several months later when I found the time and the motivation to complete this project. I was getting tired of the mess, planned to move a chest of drawers into the closet, and wanted to finish before there was something else in the way. Over the months of use I found a couple other flaws in the phase 2 solution. The hybrid system of networks between the wired and wireless routers was in the way for accessing some shared devices like the networked printer and the media storage device. Creating additional active LAN ports throughout the house will allow the printer and the wireless router to each be connected to their own separate ports.
This was not a time-consuming project; however, the connections to the punchdown patch panel and making Cat-5 cables of the right length to ensure the wires are organized did take a focused effort. I made a few mistakes along the way, like making a few cables that didn’t work, but in the end I think this project was worth the effort. Here is the structured wiring enclosure after phase 3 of the project.
I call this the end of phase 3 instead of the end of the project because there are still a couple of things I would like to do to finish this project. There are two components that don’t fit inside the enclosure. The base for our multi-handset phone system, and the media storage device. I could hook these up to any open network port in the house, but would rather keep at least the media storage device in the closet. To do this right I will need to add a network port to the wall inside the closet to avoid running the Cat-5 cable into the enclosure. But that is for another day. For now it looks much better…
and both the phone line and the Cat-5 cable are flat, so I will be able to put the Structure Wiring enclosure’s cover on!
If/when I completely finish this project I’ll post some final pictures. I’ll have to keep that Hawaiian shirt at least until then!
Update: 2/25/2017. I’ve done a few things differently since I completed this project. The main thing that impacted the project was cutting the cord – eliminating cable.. I’ve done this a couple times with a year of renewed cable in the middle, but the second time I’m fairly certain will be permanent. One of the things that had to change was instead of sending cable TV through the media box I now have an over-the-air HD antenna. In order to push the signal from one antenna to all the TV’s in the house, I have replaced the cable splitter in the media box with an antenna signal amplifier. That had a large power adapter and cord so I have finally done the work to not have the wires pass through the media center cover. Since this is in a closet I took the easy approach and just put a grommet through the drywall to pass the wires through the wall and up into the box.
Now I’m able to put the cover back on the media box and the shelf I installed lets me hang clothes, and keep all the media accessories that don’t go in the box neat and organized.
Hopefully I’ll be able to leave that cover on the media box, and move on to other projects!