Cable Installation Basics

by Matt Goering

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There are two main types of cable television installations: pre-wiring and wiring after the finishing work on a home is done. If at all possible, pre-wire your home for cable, satellite, or install an antenna for better television reception. Of course that's not always possible, especially if you're buying an older home. Luckily, cable installation is a flexible project and there are alternatives. Here are a few thoughts and guidelines you'll want to consider to get your premium television services up and running.

Think Ahead—Pre-Wiring Cable
By far the easiest route when it comes to cable installation is pre-wiring your home when it's being built. That means installing all the wires prior to putting up the drywall. Here are a few suggestions to help you get rolling:

  • Buy quality cable wire. Most cable wire sold at hardware stores is inferior to that used by cable installation companies and providers, meaning poorer picture quality. Talk to your cable provider about purchasing pre-cut cables directly from them. Most providers will be happy to comply.

  • Run all connections individually back to the point of origin. Instead of splicing into wires in the crawl space or attic, run each hookup back to the same point where the cable enters the home (otherwise known as the point of origin). Again, you'll have better picture quality and it will be easier to perform repairs.

  • Run a wire to every room in the home. Even if you're not planning on activating cable in every room, it's a lot easier, and cheaper, to pre-wire each room than to try to run cable later. Also, keep in mind that many cable providers also provide internet access over the same lines, so be sure you cover your bases there, including kids' rooms and the office/den.

  • Don't worry about faceplates, etc. Your cable company should take care of this when they come to install/turn on your cable. If you're not turning your cable on right away, faceplates can be bought cheap at just about any hardware or home improvement store.

    If You're Too Late to Pre-Wire
    If you've purchased a house that's already been finished, there's still hope. First of all, if you've got an unfinished basement or crawlspace then you're still in good shape. Most suggestions for pre-wiring still apply, with a little extra work necessary to get those wires the final few feet up into the appropriate walls. If your basement is finished or you don't have a crawlspace, you'll have to run wires through the attic or along the exterior of your home. Before performing this type of cable installation, be sure to plan ahead where you want your cable to run, and drill all holes with a downward angle to prevent rain and other moisture from getting inside your home.

    Finally, keep in mind that cable installation of these types are easily performed by your cable provider and are often included in installation and setup. In other words, unless you've got to do it yourself, leave the headache to them.

    Install Antenna for Your TV
    If you're one of the diehards still refusing to pay for your television, you might want to install an antenna to enhance your television reception. All the wiring considerations remain the same, and since all broadcasters are required to switch over exclusively to digital (also known as high definition, or HDTV) broadcasting by February 17, 2009, it's probably not a bad idea to get a jump on things and invest in an HD antenna anyway.

    Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.