Friday, March 4, 2011

Ethernet Jack Installation

I have had the urge for a while to setup a wired network in my house. My current setup consisted of my router which was wired to my desktop and a 5-port gigabit switch in my closet to provide a connection for spare computers, and my laptops were connected via wireless. I'd like to get the spare computers out of my room/closet as in summer they create an unwanted excess of heat. After realizing two potential places that they could reside out of sight and out of mind (hopefully), I decided that in the basement underneath the stairwell would be the best location; the attic was very warm in summer making it a bad home for computers. I'm in the process of designing a room specifically to hold my spare computer boxes and most networking gear. My ISP's connection enters the basement about 6ft away from the stairs which was another reason under the stairs seemed to be a nice location. My current plan is to house the modem, router, and servers in that room, and run a wire to my room for my wireless router to act as an access point for my laptops. This should minimize the amount of wire needed in total, as currently, my ISP's connection enters the basement, runs the length of the house to my room to the modem and then to my router via a 6inch Ethernet cable.

In having a rough plan in my head of what I want accomplished, I realized one of the necessary parts was going to be running an Ethernet cable from my room down to the basement. I initially thought this would be rather easy, just run some cable from my room down into the basement, through the same hole as the phone jack in my room. After spending about 20 minutes trying to get fish-tape in the hole, I realized the hole was not large enough and that location was simply not going to work. I thought there was no easy way to do this, until I looked a foot to the right, the coax cable for my ISP had a faceplate on the wall..."Wait! I remember when the guy installed that, it didnt look too hard!" so I grabbed my screwdriver and took the faceplate off. Needless to say, I was rather disappointed by the small hole that was cut into the wall. I decided I wanted to do this the proper way and install a low-power, old work, single gang outlet box. I headed to the local Home Depot and picked up the following:

From left to right:
  • Low Voltage 1-Gang Old Work Bracket
  • 6-port modular face plate
  • Blank inserts for face plate
  • Jab Saw

I already had some RJ-45 inserts for the face plate, and one coax; I was going to buy another coax one, but for $3 I figured if need be I can modify one of the blank inserts.

I went down to the basement and found where the coax cable was going into my room, and ran my fish tape through the same hole (in retrospect, I should have just drilled a new hole for the coax). I then pulled it through the hole in the wall from where my ISP installed the coax port.

I then made a cardboard template of a 1-Gang sized hole, and proceeded to trace it on the wall.

I then used the jab saw to cut away at the hole and make it the correct size. The template I made ended up being slightly too small, so I just made the hole the correct size and continued to test the fit of the low voltage bracket.

While I was in the process of cutting the hole, I determined that I should just disconnect the coax wire and put it through the low voltage bracket and the modular face plate and hook everything back up to limit the amount of time I was disconnected from the internet. In doing all this, I wasn't paying attention to which direction was up on the modular coax plug, so I broke off a tab while snapping it in the wrong way; nothing some good ol' silicon cant fix!

Once the silicon dried, I screwed in the low voltage bracket, and installed the coax plug. Now I had to wire the Cat5e cable to the RJ-45 plug. It was quite simple, I just followed the color scheme for the "B" standard; from my understanding, it doesn't really matter where the wires go, so long as they match on both ends, however, its always best to follow a standard. I followed the common "T-568B" color scheme, as I've read its much more common; note, however, that both the modular RJ-45 plugs, and the patch panel I'm going to be using in the basement have both "T-568A" and "T-568B" color schemes printed on them and so long as you use the same on both ends, you should be fine. Once these were punched down and trimmed down, I ran the wire into the basement and along the wall to under the stairs, ready to be wired to the patch panel when that gets installed. The RJ-45 plug was then pushed into the modular face plate along with 4 blank inserts, and then the wires were tucked back into the wall and the face plate was screwed into the low voltage bracket.

Job complete, taking a total time of about 4 hours which includes figuring out what was needed at the hardware store, driving there and back, and running the Cat5e cable in my basement. I am considering running another cable from my room as a backup, as the Cat5e cable I used was not new wire out of a box. Hopefully I can continue to slowly finish this project in my spare time.