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Results: Networking my house

LiquidRetro 12,661 4,824 April 5, 2016 at 07:00 PM
As some of you may remember I posted a month or two ago about networking my house. Well as of a week ago, it's finished! Here is the summary post and what I learned.

Here are all the photos [imgur.com]




The reason I wanted to do this was I was tired of somewhat poor wifi performance and some other things. Despite having a "good" signal strength my actual performance was not great especially with streaming video inside the network. I had been using a combination of wifi and powerline adapters and while that worked it wasn't great with having to reboot things from time to time as well. Another reason was my city is going Gigabit over the next couple of years from two announced providers so far. No way my current setup was going to stand up to gig internet. Lastly was interest in moving data to a NAS for drive redundancy. Having recently suffered a few drive scares, even though files are backed up to the cloud, having some drive redundancy is the way to go if you can. I wanted a gigabit wired network in the house to access everything.

The plan in general was to put 2 drops in each room, usually on opposite walls where possible and in each location a minimum of 2 wires per box. This included a total of 4 lines to the Garage, 4 to the living room, 6 to the office, 4 to the master bedroom, etc. So most rooms were between 4 to 6 lines total. I also put in a location for access points on my main floor where I spend most of my time. Lastly I put in a drop in the attic to all 4 corners of the house and over the front door for future security cameras. Overkill yes, but well while you're doing it you might as well cover all your bases.

I also put in "Blue Smurf" conduit that runs from where services enter my home to my rack. Anticipating the fiber service in the future I figured this would just make things

All of this terminated in the basement on the unfinished side near my HVAC equipment. There I pulled a new 20A circuit with GFCI to power the equipment. I installed a ¾" piece of plywood that I painted and attached to the studs of the wall. There I installed a 12U wall mount rack and terminated all the Cat6 runs. I also had some LED's leftover so why not install those in the top of the rack.

What did I learn?
  • You need more wire than you think, a lot more wire. In my case I bought from monoprice a few months before 1 box of 1000ft CAT6 thinking initially that would be more than enough. I was not even close. Total amount used was 2586 FT in the walls. Pulling a bit more than that for slack on either end. I really didn't estimate originally with much thought into it. So the suggestion here is to be more accurate when you plan and then add some for additional runs, slack, and mistakes. It's also a lot easier to pull 2 wires at one time out of the box then measure, pull, cut, and attach to another to do your pull. So my advice is buy more wire/really measure.
  • I used what's known as "Fishing Rods" to pull twine from the basement to the attic and then between floors. They are cheap but super useful. Could not have done it without them.
  • If you're going to the hardware store for 1, buy 2 and return it if you have to. Spray Paint, zip ties, clips, old work boxes etc, were all things I needed more of than originally planned. Luckily I drive by a big box hardware store twice a day on my way to and from work so it was an easy stop. It's also an easy return process but I could have saved time by just buying more and returning once.
  • When pulling wire, it goes faster to have 2 people. Having a friend help is pretty valuable. I was thankful to have a buddy who was a journeyman electrician help for about 2-3 days.
  • Hole saws VS Twist bits - When trying to put a hole in a wall stud or floor joist a hole saw makes a lot nicer hole that's larger than a twist bit. Eye, ear, and knee protection are all good ideas at various times too. The right tool does the job.
  • Headlamps are a must. I had been meaning to get one for a while and finally did. Being able to work in a dark attic hands free is fantastic.
  • Velcro not Zip Ties - Zip ties become brittle when they are exposed to extremes in temperature like in an attic and will break in short time. Velcro on the other hand is far more durable and is easy to secure to a stud with a screw.
  • A cable Toner and Cable Tester are super useful. Sometimes labeling is off or smudged a toner makes quick work of this. I verified all my ends after putting them on with the Fluke Cable tester I borrowed from work. 99% success rate the first time, but now I know it's 100% right after a fix.

Would I recommend spending all your free time over the course of about 3 weeks wiring your house with CAT6? Of course I would. I went a bit overkill and had some project creep as one of my friends put it. It's just really nice to be able to have a reliable fast network in the house. For instance I have my Plex set at the highest possible bit rate now. I can play any file without it buffering.

So what is in the future?
  • NAS - Need to do more research here and decide if I want to build from an old PC or buy an enclosure. Having 4-5 disk redundancy will be nice. I would like it to play nice with my a cloud backup service as well.
  • New Router and Larger Switch - Right now my old but Reliable Asus RT-N16 keeps on working until the Gigabit fiber service arrives. I also only have an 8 port Gigabit switch. When I find the right deal on a 24 port gigabit switch I will upgrade switches. Not sure yet on a new router, I need to do more research. For now however this equipment works with the wired setup.
  • Access Points? This will play into my router decision, if I want to go with a consumer router or something more enterprise and then go with an enterprise wifi system kind of like an Ubiquiti system?
  • New PC doing research now, this may factor into the NAS decision too.

23 Comments

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#2
I would like to know how did you run a cable from the attic to the basement. I have a fully finished basement and I would love to tab into my office with a cat6 but to me it sounds impossible. I had to run few utps in the attic last year for my security camera system.
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#3
Quote from Ghamzi View Post :
I would like to know how did you run a cable from the attic to the basement. I have a fully finished basement and I would love to tab into my office with a cat6 but to me it sounds impossible. I had to run few utps in the attic last year for my security camera system.
I got pretty luck. I have a ranch style house with a full basement, so 2 stories basically. My basement is half finished if you look at the first thread with my bad blue prints. So we found a wall that was on the unfinished side of the basement, then found and empty cavity in it by sound and used a hole saw to drill up from the basement then drill down from the attic. Luckly we hit the same cavity on the first try. We were very close to the center stack of the HVAC system so it helped a lot to use it as a reference.
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Vague questions receive vague answers . . . . . .
#4
Quote from LiquidRetro View Post :
I got pretty luck. I have a ranch style house with a full basement, so 2 stories basically. My basement is half finished if you look at the first thread with my bad blue prints. So we found a wall that was on the unfinished side of the basement, then found and empty cavity in it by sound and used a hole saw to drill up from the basement then drill down from the attic. Luckly we hit the same cavity on the first try. We were very close to the center stack of the HVAC system so it helped a lot to use it as a reference.
yea unfortunately that's not my case.
A couple of suggestions for your future projects. I have been a user of QNAP for the last two years or so. I have to say I'm very impressed and highly recommend it. Clean interface and minimal power consumption. I have two replicated across the Internet to my in laws as a DR site.
As for an access point. Buy something decent like an R7000, slab some did-wrt on it and use it as the best wireless bridge your can get.
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#5
Quote from LiquidRetro View Post :
I also put in "Blue Smurf" conduit that runs from where services enter my home to my rack. Anticipating the fiber service in the future I figured this would just make things...

All of this terminated in the basement on the unfinished side near my HVAC equipment. There I pulled a new 20A circuit with GFCI to power the equipment. I installed a ¾" piece of plywood that I painted and attached to the studs of the wall. There I installed a 12U wall mount rack and terminated all the Cat6 runs. I also had some LED's leftover so why not install those in the top of the rack.
What did I learn?...
Looks good. Congrats.

Pretty sure you were given advice on a few of the things you learned before you started that would have made it easier Stick Out Tongue (especially multiple spools (not boxes) of wire, different colors)

I doubt they'll use the flexi-duct / ent for fiber. They'll tend to put the ONT as close as possible to the service entrance. Most likely all you'll need is ethernet. I probably would have reduced the number of wires to a few locations and ran 2 cables not one to each corner for future cams (think camera angle).

Does your rack "Faraday Cage" hurt your wifi performance much? (rack may not be grounded currently)

I like to take a plug in light of some kind with an led or cfl bulb into the attic to supplement a headlamp.
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Last edited by jkee April 5, 2016 at 08:00 PM
#6
Quote from LiquidRetro View Post :
So what is in the future?
  • NAS - Need to do more research here and decide if I want to build from an old PC or buy an enclosure. Having 4-5 disk redundancy will be nice. I would like it to play nice with my a cloud backup service as well.
  • Access Points? This will play into my router decision, if I want to go with a consumer router or something more enterprise and then go with an enterprise wifi system kind of like an Ubiquiti system?
  • New PC doing research now, this may factor into the NAS decision too.
NAS KUDOS! & of course this is your decision but if you have one available a Laptop circa 1995 -2000 and access to an old install media for Windows 2000 Server or even Windows NT Server you can make a killer NAS device and save some money to boot. If you need more space than you find available or supported by Win 2000 Server you could use shared folders to another PC containing those shared folder/drives. Laptops use less power that desktops but possibly more than a true NAS Device.look around I have 3 headless Win 2K laptops that just idle in the closet until I need to access them. Stick Out Tongue

Finally may I say that I wish we could get together for a cup of coffee or a beer. You seem to be my kind of geek! EEK! heart
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#7
Quote from dale_101798 View Post :
NAS KUDOS! & of course this is your decision but if you have one available a Laptop circa 1995 -2000 and access to an old install media for Windows 2000 Server or even Windows NT Server you can make a killer NAS device and save some money to boot. If you need more space than you find available or supported by Win 2000 Server you could use shared folders to another PC containing those shared folder/drives. Laptops use less power that desktops but possibly more than a true NAS Device.look around I have 3 headless Win 2K laptops that just idle in the closet until I need to access them. Stick Out Tongue
If you want to use old hardware as a server, it's a better choice to use an OS that's still supported like a variant of Linux. At some point a weak cpu and high power consumption make newer hardware cheaper. One of these days I swear you'll be asking for a copy of the full set of floppies for windows 3.1 or earlier (I may still have discs for NT for work groups somewhere).
Quote from Ghamzi View Post :
I would like to know how did you run a cable from the attic to the basement. I have a fully finished basement and I would love to tab into my office with a cat6 but to me it sounds impossible. I had to run few utps in the attic last year for my security camera system.
It really depends on your floor plan (find a common interior wall between floors and locate existing mechanical chases) and patience and willingness to make a few holes in the drywall. There were links to a bunch of other threads and websites with useful info in LiquidRetro's original thread (link in OP of this thread), I'd start there.
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Last edited by jkee April 5, 2016 at 08:07 PM
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#8
Quote from Ghamzi View Post :
yea unfortunately that's not my case.
A couple of suggestions for your future projects. I have been a user of QNAP for the last two years or so. I have to say I'm very impressed and highly recommend it. Clean interface and minimal power consumption. I have two replicated across the Internet to my in laws as a DR site.
As for an access point. Buy something decent like an R7000, slab some did-wrt on it and use it as the best wireless bridge your can get.
I have a good friend with a QNAP and he really likes it. Definitely going to be taking a more in depth look at them. My ideal NAS would be my plex server too but that complicates the backup thing too somewhat. The NAS might just end up being the Plex storage location. Really not sure with router stuff, 1 good router will probably be enough.

Quote from jkee View Post :
Looks good. Congrats.

Pretty sure you were given advice on a few of the things you learned before you started that would have made it easier Stick Out Tongue (especially multiple spools (not boxes) of wire, different colors)

I doubt they'll use the flexi-duct / ent for fiber. They'll tend to put the ONT as close as possible to the service entrance. Most likely all you'll need is ethernet. I probably would have reduced the number of wires to a few locations and ran 2 cables not one to each corner for future cams (think camera angle).

Does your rack "Faraday Cage" hurt your wifi performance much? (rack may not be grounded currently)
Oh you were not wrong and I agree about the multiple boxes of wire, I just did a really bad job of actually calculating how much I actually needed and didn't want to be stuck with 2 boxes half used etc. As far as fiber from what I have seen with this company the ONT goes on the outside and they pass copper inside I think. IDK if nothing else it's a place for the ethernet to go vs under the joists.

I doubt ill ever put up 5 cameras, more likely to do a couple maybe.

Quote from dale_101798 View Post :
NAS KUDOS! & of course this is your decision but if you have one available a Laptop circa 1995 -2000 and access to an old install media for Windows 2000 Server or even Windows NT Server you can make a killer NAS device and save some money to boot. If you need more space than you find available or supported by Win 2000 Server you could use shared folders to another PC containing those shared folder/drives. Laptops use less power that desktops but possibly more than a true NAS Device.look around I have 3 headless Win 2K laptops that just idle in the closet until I need to access them. Stick Out Tongue

Finally may I say that I wish we could get together for a cup of coffee or a beer. You seem to be my kind of geek! EEK! heart
Thanks, bottoms up mate!

Quote from jkee View Post :
If you want to use old hardware as a server, it's a better choice to use an OS that's still supported like a variant of Linux.

It really depends on your floor plan and patience and willingness to make a few holes in the drywall. There were links to a bunch of other threads and websites with useful info in LiquidRetro's original thread (link in OP of this thread), I'd start there.
Totally agree, while a laptop or old server would work I doubt I will go that route because of reliability and power use. I would totally use linux though. No reason to use a 16+ year old OS on somewhat modern hardware. I do have some leftover parts from a mining rig that I could slap something together if i went the DIY route. No doubt you will probably see another thread in the future after I have done some research.

Side note, no holes were made in drywall for this other than where the new boxes on the walls went.
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#9
Fantastic post and thread, Liquid. Love the conduit work - looks pro. The wall rack is nice as well. You said you had extra LEDs...where did you use those elsewhere in your install? I'm likely missing something obvious here.

Heh, props on the RT-16. I've put probably 10-15 of those in businesses and friends houses over the years. Great SOHO router for basic needs, especially with a Tomato variant FW.

I'll pore over your original post in a bit, but I want to throw my vote in for Ubiquiti APs. Simple to manage, cheap, and freaking bulletproof. I'm blown away at how much quality they include for the $$$. I've been bouncing between software firewalls/routers lately; used Untangle and about to install PFsense, but it's hard not to recommend an EdgeRouter lite. So cheap and so powerful. Setup is fairly straightforward once you see a working config (use the Wizard the first time, then salt to taste). The ER-X is even cheaper but probably a bit underpowered for 1GB internet.

Love Synology NASes, but there are other good ones. DSM is just really easy to use and it works. If you go the QNAP route, or whatever, keep us informed on how it goes.

Again, congrats! Gets me motivated looking at your work. Thumbsup
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#10
Quote from LiquidRetro View Post :
[*]Velcro not Zip Ties - Zip ties become brittle when they are exposed to extremes in temperature like in an attic and will break in short time. Velcro on the other hand is far more durable and is easy to secure to a stud with a screw.
That's a nice trick. I like the simplicity and low cost. There's some potential for the velco to tear especially if you over drive the screw, but you could easily add a washer or use screws with extra large heads.
There are also some other specialized straps and brackets that work well that were mentioned earlier.

If I had to be critical of anything it would be drilling all those holes through that many joists for the blue conduit (in other pictures linked above). The holes are a too close to the bottom of the joist and big to drill through that many, it could compromise the strength of the joists. I think you'll be ok, but your electrician friend should have known better. There was already a pipe and running board below the joist all you needed to do was anchor it to the bottom of the joist Frown
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Last edited by jkee April 5, 2016 at 10:21 PM
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#11
Build your own FreeNAS box, definitely worth it IMO. Runs Plex very well.

I'm curious about how much dry wall you ended up ripping up or did you get lucky and not have to replace any of it? I've seen videos where people are talking about drilling holes in studs and feeding it between those behind the drywall. Not sure how that's possible without ripping it all out.
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#12
Quote from Xtracheese View Post :
Fantastic post and thread, Liquid. Love the conduit work - looks pro. The wall rack is nice as well. You said you had extra LEDs...where did you use those elsewhere in your install? I'm likely missing something obvious here.

Heh, props on the RT-16. I've put probably 10-15 of those in businesses and friends houses over the years. Great SOHO router for basic needs, especially with a Tomato variant FW.

I'll pore over your original post in a bit, but I want to throw my vote in for Ubiquiti APs. Simple to manage, cheap, and freaking bulletproof. I'm blown away at how much quality they include for the $$$. I've been bouncing between software firewalls/routers lately; used Untangle and about to install PFsense, but it's hard not to recommend an EdgeRouter lite. So cheap and so powerful. Setup is fairly straightforward once you see a working config (use the Wizard the first time, then salt to taste). The ER-X is even cheaper but probably a bit underpowered for 1GB internet.

Love Synology NASes, but there are other good ones. DSM is just really easy to use and it works. If you go the QNAP route, or whatever, keep us informed on how it goes.

Again, congrats! Gets me motivated looking at your work. Thumbsup
The Leftover LED's are from an unrelated project.Yep I am running a shibby build of Tomato on the RT-N16. It's stable but it's starting to age in terms of performance. Ya not really sure the direction I am going with new router/ap. I'll probably upgrade at somepoint this summer after I build a new PC>

Quote from jkee View Post :
That's a nice trick. I like the simplicity and low cost. There's some potential for the velco to tear especially if you over drive the screw, but you could easily add a washer or use screws with extra large heads.
There are also some other specialized straps and brackets that work well that were mentioned earlier.

If I had to be critical of anything it would be drilling all those holes through that many joists for the blue conduit (in other pictures linked above). The holes are a too close to the bottom of the joist and big to drill through that many, it could compromise the strength of the joists. I think you'll be ok, but your electrician friend should have known better. There was already a pipe and running board below the joist all you needed to do was anchor it to the bottom of the joist Frown
Quote from brbubba View Post :
Build your own FreeNAS box, definitely worth it IMO. Runs Plex very well.

I'm curious about how much dry wall you ended up ripping up or did you get lucky and not have to replace any of it? I've seen videos where people are talking about drilling holes in studs and feeding it between those behind the drywall. Not sure how that's possible without ripping it all out.
It's pretty thick velcro and it's not holding a ton of weight. I used some awesome Star Bit screws from Home Depot with a big head exactly for this reason. Had no issues at all with that. http://www.homedepot.com/p/SPAX-8.../204403037 since I was not holding tons of weight this worked well over more expensive fasteners.

I actually researched the holes a fair amount before I drilled any in the Joists. They are about the same size and position most of the time as the existing run of electrical just moved over. The floor Joists are pretty beefy so I think it will be fine.

I didn't have to do any replacement drywall work. Only cut holes for new boxes and low voltage rings. I do have one box that needs a tiny amount of drywall mud and an ounce of paint. We hit a unexpected piece of wood when cutting the box in. Should be a super easy fix.

FreeNAS is an option. The A4 AMD chip I have is only rated at about 2100 on CPU benchmarks and Plex recommends 2000 per stream for transcoding work so I want something more beefy if thats the case while being energy effecient. What I might end up doing is just putting media on the NAS and use the main PC as the plex server to do the real work. Would need to switch backup providers in that case though and it's a giant pain to upload several TB of data again so that might wait till I get fiber or family in town has fiber that I can put the NAS at their place for a week.
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Last edited by LiquidRetro April 6, 2016 at 06:52 AM
#13
For the switch might want to go with a POE+ or even Ultra which will allow you to try out some lighting. [cablinginstall.com]
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#14
Quote from jkee View Post :
One of these days I swear you'll be asking for a copy of the full set of floppies for windows 3.1 or earlier (I may still have discs for NT for work groups somewhere).
No need to ask, I have several sets of 3.1 install media, DOS too and I have a computer that hosts every version of windows except Vista in virtual machines. I also have full backups just in case I need them but so far so good nod

I also have a laptop running Virtual machines for Kali Linux, Backtrack & an older version of Knoppix I especially enjoy messing with. Penetration and security testing is something else I always find time for too. Smilie
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#15
Great work man. Good tips... I would like to do this soon. Toners are life savers lol. You've made it so far Id definitely go ubiquiti and grab a nice NAS. I would probably build it cause I love to tinker and like expanding options and to be able to create something to the exact specs I like, you can also use it for other things, but that's just me. I'm interested to hear what you end up grabbing for a router.

Edit: deleted quote cause it was large and unnecessary
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