We’re cruising toward a world where cords and cables are obsolete, even to power our homes, but we’re not quite there yet. No matter how hard you try, there are probably some pesky cables marring the neat, minimalist perfection of your interior design (or obscuring the mass of dust bunnies and lost Doritos under your desk). Even if you’re leaning hard into the wireless lifestyle with keyboards and headphones, there’s likely a cable of some sort bringing Internet into your home, and power cords remain a necessity, even to power your wireless charging devices. If you’re a gamer, you probably avoid wireless peripherals and Internet like the latency-bringing plague they are.
In theory, cleaning up a mess of cables and cords seems like a sure way to greatly increase the aesthetic beauty of your media spaces and achieve peak adulthood. In reality, it is a lot of work and kind of a mysterious process when you’re dealing with finished walls. Here are a few approaches to the problem—as well as a few things you should absolutely never ever do.
Before you go drilling into your walls and fishing cable, invest in a stud finder that also detects power lines and pipes. Never assume that the previous homeowner (or the builder or renovating contractor) followed code or did things the right away (like spacing studs conventionally or putting nail plates over electrical wiring, for example). Instead, put in some time to “map” what’s behind the walls where you plan to run cable. This can be a time-consuming and tedious task, but it will save you heartache in the long run.
The best time to run cables through your walls is before there are any walls—during the construction or renovation stage when the walls are open. At this stage, it’s a relatively easy process because you can see everything. If you failed to foresee the day that you’d want to hide your cables (or if you weren’t involved in the building or renovating of your current space), those nice finished walls present a challenge. Here are a few approaches to running cables behind them:
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Running your cables inside your walls makes it look like a civilized adult human lurks in your home, but it’s not a job that requires a Ph.D. in construction to do. Anyone with some basic DIY skills can run Ethernet cable through their walls. Still, there are some easy mistakes to make, so here’s what you should never do when running cables in walls:
When running cables, you can try to use your home’s unfinished spaces to your advantage. If you have an unfinished basement, crawlspace, or attic, consider popping your cable up or down into those unfinished spaces and running them along the exposed beams or walls, then popping back up. You may need to use a lot more cable, but it’s a much faster and easier job because you’ll minimize the “in-wall” work you have to do, and fishing cable vertically is a lot easier than horizontally.
Also, don’t be afraid to “waste” cable—meaning, leave a surplus of cable in the wall or other space where you’ve run it. This will leave you some slack to work with if you ever need to reconfigure your layout or cut the cable to repair or splice it.
Running cable inside your walls will clean up your space—and that comes with definite psychological benefits. Just make sure you do it the right way.