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Bart

Regular Contributor
Hi,

As some of might have read on that other post I made on the subject, I'm going to put Cat 6 ethernet in a lot of the walls of my new house.

Now I'm wondering. Can I just use plain Cat 6 ethernet cable which I buy at the shops, or do I need to use a special kind of cat 6 cabling since this cable is meant to go inside walls?

Cheers!
 
You need to check your local building codes. The "special" types of CAT cable are usually for use in commercial buildings for air spaces and floor-to-floor chaseways that require fire-retardant materials.
 
There is no such code in my case.
The only reason I'm asking is because I figured there may be a special type of ethernet wire meant for this kind of install? (maybe with better shielding or something?).

I figured I'd ask before I buy some spindles of regular cat 6, put that inside my walls, only to realise several years later that I should have used a different type of cable. I would be pretty much impossible to replace the cable then, hence my asking upfront.
 
Most Cat5/6 cable is made to go in walls, but essentially you want to try to get Plenum or FT4 rated cabling, which is the fire rating Tim mentions. It's heat resistant and generally fares better than other types in walls. In areas where there are codes, they typically specify Plenum or FT4 ratings. Most cable that you buy bulk will be FT4 rated. Just try to get a good quality box of bulk cable and you should be good to go. Same thing with coax, just get good quad sheilded FT4 and your doing fine.
 
Thanks Scotty!

I've had a look at the site of DeepSurplus, because that was the site Tim used in his 'Diary of Home Network' articles.

When looking at their choice of Cat 6 cables, I see four different types of Cat 6 cable. They indeed also say the 'Plenum' type is meant for in-wall or in-ceiling wiring. But what is the difference between those other three categories? Do you know?

Well, except for the price that is, because that itself is substantial. So much even, that I'm considering ordering my cables with DeepSurplus in the US and then having them shipped to Belgium. Over here, regular Cat 6 cable costs about € 1 / $1.5 per meter. (don't even know how much Plenum costs). At Deepsurplus the price is about 0.25 € / $0.40 per meter. That's an immense difference! (about four times as cheap!) Even taking the shipping costs into account, I could save myself a pretty penny here.

(it's a shame they don't do plain preflex electrical wiring, or I 'd order that from them as well!)
 
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The solid vs stranded type refers to the individual conductors in a cable. A stranded conductor is made up of spun wire fibers, while solid is just one wire.

Due to its construction, stranded flexes more easily than solid. This has the downside of making it difficult to completely straighten, which is bad for directed runs.

If you are shopping by lowest cost, you may be interested in MonoPrice.
 
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Monoprice FTW!

Jdabbs pretty much summarized it. The 'PVC Solid' (second from left) looks like it's pretty much the same as the plenum type, but using a PVC jacket instead of plenum (in other words, not fire rated). The stranded PVC seems like the 'basic' option, and the 'Shielded PVC' has an extra foil jacket if you're running in high-interference areas.

And yes, doing your own cable is WAY cheaper. I've been doing my own Coax for years and it's incredibly cheaper than buying RCA component and digital audio cables. In the IT world, I will admit I usually just buy cables (we have a good place in town that makes good, certified cables on the cheap). It's usually not worth my time to sit there and make cabling. But at home, custom made or monoprice always.

Just don't run the cable parallel to electrical and you should be fine. Buy or rent a cable tester if you're doing a lot of it, otherwise it's all pretty straight forward.
 
Thanks very much for the reply guys! Very informative!

So in essence, except for the fire rating, there's no real advantage of using plenum instead of PVC? (I mean it's not better shielded or something, it's just the 'wrapping' of the UTP cables that's made from a more fire-resitant substance?

In that case I'll probably just use PVC Cat 6 cable. Solid, not stranded. I like that better. To be honest, I didn't even know they made UTP cable from spun wire fibers (I imagine that's like speaker cable, right?)
PVC will do just fine, because I'll be puttting each cable in a separate preflex tube, and all those tubes will each fit into their separate 'gutter' which will be slit into the brick walls with power tools.

Just this bit:
Just don't run the cable parallel to electrical and you should be fine. Buy or rent a cable tester if you're doing a lot of it, otherwise it's all pretty straight forward.
Obviously I'm not going to run both electrical and UTP cable through the same tube, but how much space between those tubes is advised? (keep in mind each cable will be fitted into the wall into it's own Preflex tube)
 
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No difference between regular PVC and plenum to my knowledge. It's just the wrapping that makes it more fire and heat resistant.

I would think if you have at least 6-8 inches between the electrical and data you should be fine. That's not a scientific answer - that's a guesstimation.
 
Solid is usually used for long runs during construction. Stranded is not usually used for this, it's used more for "patch cables"..the short ones that you plug in between the wall jacks and your PC, or from patch panels to switches, routers, and servers. You usually use different terminator ends for these, versus ones for solid (different way of piercing when you crimp them). So for construction...running cables in ceilings and walls, usually solid is done.

Plenum cables have a special jacket on them which does not emit toxic fumes when it burns. Most construction codes specify to use plenum when the cables are run in drop down ceilings and areas where open HVAC systems are, so that any smoke from burning cables will not find its way spreading into other rooms and offices and choke people. It's usually required by code just for these ceiling areas where air ventilation systems are located...but of course check with your local zoning first.
 
buy cheap buy twice

What is al fuss over having cat6 wiring when most if not people will buy a cheap crappy switch or hub... I would go to fiber before I installed cat6

10/100Base-t works great for residential
 
Plenum vs PVC & Others

The deal with Plenum is that it is non toxic, not flame retardant. The reason building codes require it and why its so expensive is due to the fact that when the PVC jacket burns the fumes are highly toxic, plenum is (almost?) harmless as far as toxicity goes. If a fire starts where the cables are run, its possible people could start dieing from the PVC fumes before anyone realizes whats going on. However, do to its cost it may be easier (albeit more expensive) to run plenum (don't forget the plenum cable ties and plenum or bare metallic raceway), but it is cheaper (albeit harder) to run 5e in an EMT raceway to your outlets. Personally I would go with EMT either way due to the fact that it protects the cable better from the environment and possible critters (rats love to chew wiring). As far as fiber goes, the same rules apply, as the plenum is only a rating of the cable jacket, not the cable media (copper vs glass) for a SOHO you might be just fine with 5e, its rated for 1000Base-T for up to like 10 meters I think.

As far as the solid vs stranded argument is concerned, again you may not notice in a SOHO but the solid conductor is spec'ed out by TIA(or EI for horizontal (in wall) cabling as it is a much better conductor. They spec stranded from the outlet to the PC or device because the theory is its going to be handled a lot and the stranded handles abuse and bending much better than solid.

If you are considering Cat6 or fiber, I'd go with fiber. they are priced almost the same(cabling) but where you get hit is the hardware. Fiber NICs, media converters and switches are still premium priced. but the nice thing about fiber is that pull a run of fiber you will never ever need to replace it (short of a disaster like someone cutting into your wall and hitting it). It's capable of speeds beyond what the best networking hardware in the world is pushing right now.

Fiber is the way of the future. I predict ALL cabling, short of power(For now, I have never heard of this yet.) will someday use fiber. All networks, all internal components of a PC and similar devices will be fiber to the motherboard. we just have to wait for the transceivers to come down in price and ease of implementation.
 
No difference between regular PVC and plenum to my knowledge. It's just the wrapping that makes it more fire and heat resistant.

I would think if you have at least 6-8 inches between the electrical and data you should be fine. That's not a scientific answer - that's a guesstimation.

It's not used due to more fire resistant. But it doesn't give off poisonous gases when burning. Thus if you put it into a "plenum" space and there's a fire the HVAC will not spread the poison to the entire building. More and more codes require it for commercial use in general, especially if "inside" walls and/or ceilings.

In general power will not interfere with CAT 5 or 6 data and vice versa. But you also don't want anything like data on (or near) electrical as the electrical can heat up and cause other issues, especially if it melts insulation. These are as much safety issues as they are data integrity issues.

One other bit of folklore that's good to follow is to avoid florescent light fixtures. The ballasts in most of these is a great source of wide band radio noise. Ditto some dimmer switches, motors, etc...
 
As far as the solid vs stranded argument is concerned, again you may not notice in a SOHO but the solid conductor is spec'ed out by TIA(or EI for horizontal (in wall) cabling as it is a much better conductor. They spec stranded from the outlet to the PC or device because the theory is its going to be handled a lot and the stranded handles abuse and bending much better than solid.

There's a bigger issue with stranded vs. solid. The design of the connector is physically different as it takes a different design to make a good connection to solid vs. stranded cable. All jacks (female) you normally see for sale are designed to work with solid and all plugs (male) you normally see for sale are design to work with stranded. And while I hear they exist I've never seen jacks for stranded or plugs for solid.
 
PVC will do just fine, because I'll be puttting each cable in a separate preflex tube, and all those tubes will each fit into their separate 'gutter' which will be slit into the brick walls with power tools.

Just this bit: Obviously I'm not going to run both electrical and UTP cable through the same tube, but how much space between those tubes is advised? (keep in mind each cable will be fitted into the wall into it's own Preflex tube)

I think you said you're in Belgium. In the US the separation required for code compliance is normally something like 6" to 18" but in rigid conduit (tubes) it can be much closer. I haven't looked at this in several years. But I have no idea how the codes are written where you are.

I'd check on the code issues there on using PVC in the preflex tube (not sure what this is) but it may need to be plenum cable depending on where it runs and what the preflex tube is made of.

While there may be no big deal with code issues now over here in the US breaking the codes in a non trivial way can affect things like the ability to sell your house at a later date.
 

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