To smurf or not to smurf / pre-wire questions

RandyKnight

Active Member
I promise this is my last question of the day. :lol:

I'm working on budgeting for cable, etc. for the new house. Looking at speedwrap vs. separate cables vs. "smurf tube" for ultimate flexibility.

Looks like I could do a manually wrapped bundle of 2 Cat 5e + 2 RG6 for about .50 / ft, make that Cat 6 and it's .58 / ft. The speedwrap which includes the fiber optic cable can be had for .80 / ft. And finally if I did it with the flexible conduit that would add another $1 / ft or so. These are rough numbers but that's the general idea.

Questions:

1. What in the forseeable future would the fiber be used for? The speedwrap with fiber adds a lot to the cost. Are there residential applications on the drawing board that will use fiber?

2. Is the smurf tube worth it? It's obviously the ultimate solution in terms of future flexibility but adds a lot to the budget.

If you were building a brand new house ... what would you put in for the structured wiring runs?
 

Mike

Senior Member
If you are talking about the multiple cable bundles that come within a PVC jacket, I thought it was a great idea until I got a little bit to test with.

I think I remember seeing a bundled cable with a plastic braiding around it, which I did not try.

I did not like the ones I tried because:

1. Harder to run because of the jacket, I tried two different types, one with a thin PVC, another one happened to have a thicker jacket made of a different material:

http://www.hometech.com/techwire/coax.html (Belden 7789A)

2. Consider what happens if one of the cables inside is damaged during pulling or any other time.

3. Really tied to #1 but harder to maneuver it.

I found it easier to make my own bundles that were easier to manage without the sheath. That braiding one might be worth trying, maybe you can find a place that sells it by the foot. www.hometech.com is one, but I don't think they carry the braided one. Buy some of each type for a small run (even if its only like 5 feet) and you will have a better picture of what it will be like to work with it before investing a lot.

I have on the list to fix some earlier wiring mistakes going up into the attic and I am planning on ripping off the sheetrock to put conduits to fix a bad installation. If you have the opportunity to put them in now, that might be a better choice for your $$$'s than the bundled wiring, in my opinion (at least in strategic locations, you can save some dollars by skipping it in areas that are not likely to have modifications, of course you know what will happen once you do that).

Fiber: I chose not to. They can do gigabit ethernet over copper (which I do) but I heard that lab tests were successful in doing 10 gig over copper as well. Considering the cost, and how expensive the tools are I bet on this not being required in the forseeable future.

Cable runs: Without limitting anything? 5 coax, 3 cat5e/cat6 (of course this means 2 gang). This would give you component video with l/r audio (or digital audio) and 3 cat5e which can be used for data, telephone or even baluns if required. Tied to my project above, running the 5 coax and leaving it above the room (attic in my case) would mean I could just drop it down and hook up a tv (lcd/plasma on the wall was my plan). Leave a big enough bundle to handle any reasonable wall (avoids 2 gang plates as you install only where the tv is, but assumes attic or a reasonable work space).
 

jlehnert

Active Member
Damn! A whole bunch of these and related questions are answered in the wiring FAQ I'm working on for the forum. It seems like it's taking forever, but then, it's ~32 pages and growing.

I pretty much agree with Mikes comments, with the exception of the braided bundles. I've found that the braid tends to get snagged on everything. A major PITA to pull. The jacketed bundle is easier to pull, but has a lousy bend radius. The "banana peel" bundle is the best bet if you go with bundled cable.
 

royalj7

Active Member
I have always used separate cables, mainly for the reasons mentioned. The bundles are hard to pull and work with, and that was with cat5e in them, I can’t imagine how stiff a 4 or 6 wire bundle with Cat6 would be. It’s more expensive and you have less options, ie if you want to run an extra coax or something to a particular location. One caveat with this. I ran three individual belden 1505 for HD (component in this case) to drops in my home. It's important for these runs that all 3 conductors be the same length, you don’t want you Pb signal getting to your lovely plasma before the others. Looking back on it, I would now pay the extra cost to have a bundle of these. Lots of work went into getting them the same lenght! But again, that is only for HD video signals. Anyways, I don’t know any place that bundles 3 to 5 (video and L+R audio) with Cat5.

IMO fiber is an unnecessary expense. 1000baseT is already capable of streaming blueray or HD DVD and have enough bandwidth left over to surf the web and play music upstairs. Much more important is the quality of the termination and cable run. Do a good job there and you should be set for the life of the house.

Run all the wire you can during rough in, you don’t even have to terminate it all, but keep a picture of where it is behind the wall, then run 2 inch conduit from the attic to the basement. Put some pull cords in, and you have a way of going back with minimal effort and adding to your wiring.

For the cable runs I think Mike is on the dot. I would add an extra coax for OTA signals that could be keep separate, but that’s just because I want to fill up that dual gang wall plate :lol: Also, keep in mind IR wiring. I use two pairs of Cat5 at my house to route IR signals to my PC and source equipment.
 
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