Jacked

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In the software/hardware paradigm that bifurcates humanity, I’m squarely in the software camp. However, I have successful created a CAT 5e run of ethernet cable that goes from the basement to my second floor office terminating in a real, honest to goodness RJ-45 jack in my wall. I couldn’t be more proud. If you attempt to install wired ethernet in your home, be aware of the following:

1. Running the cable is the hardest part of the job

If you have a new home, running cable is as easy as getting into the walls before the drywall/plaster is installed. Otherwise, you’ll need snake the cable through those unfinished walls in your house, like those found in basements and attics. You could also rip open your finished walls, install the wiring and patch it later, but you’re clearly more butch than I. In my case, there was existing speaker wire that went from the basement to the attic. I simply attached one end of a 100’ spool of CAT 5e cable to top of the speaker wires with copious tape. I then pulled (carefully) on the wire from the basement to get whatever gravity-assist I could. Your mileage will vary.

2. Get the right tools

You will need an ethernet jack punch down tool. You can get this at Lowes, Microcenter or many other places online. Do not confuse this with a crimping tool, which is designed to fit a male RJ-45 coupling onto the end of an ethernet cable. Punch down tools force the individual wires of ethernet into specific recepticals on the RJ-45 jack. You should not strip these wires before punch down. The act of punch down removes the casing around the wire. Some tools will cut the extra length of wire for you, but any wire cutting tool will work adequately for the job.

You might also need fish tape to help you run the ethernet cable into the hard to reach areas of your wall.

3. Read the mating diagram on the RJ-45 jack

Ethernet cabling consists of 4 twisted pairs of wires, which are typically colored brown, blue, orange and yellow. Each color has a mate that striped with white for a total of eight wires. To attach to an RJ-45 jack, each of these eight wires needs to be punched into the right saddle. Most RJ-45 jacks are sold with a diagram that explicitly shows where each wire goes. Follow the directions carefully. You cannot fudge this part.

4. Unless you have a house older than 50 years old, use new construction low voltage brackets

Low voltage brackets are the bits that are nailed or screwed into the wood of a joist so that the face plate can be attached to the wall. These seemingly simply devices come in a broad variety of forms. One of the dimensions of variation is in how the bracket attaches to the wall. Brackets that have screws or nails go parallel to the face plate
are called “new construction” mounted. Brackets that have nails or screws that are perpendicular to the face plate are said to have “old construction” mounting. I can’t really think of a situation where old construction mounting works, but as I said, I’m not a hardware guy. That’s also why I bought an old construction mounting first. Live and learn.

It took me three days to do this admittedly simply installation, because I didn’t have all the right tools and parts initially.

This is a great project for all you home-owning nerds out there. There are many more detailed web resources out there that explain the process in more detail than I’ve provided. Also, check out You Tube for helpful videos. There was at least one that shows how to punch down an RJ-45 jack correctly.