Step by Step: How to Run Wire Like a Pro

With all the press that wireless technologies like Wi-Fi have been getting, it's easy to forget that hard-wired systems make the A/V world go round. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, adding a component to your system means running at least one wire. If you've thought about wiring your home for audio, video, or whole-house automation, these tips will ensure you pull it off like a pro!

Step 1: Establish a Home Run The home run is the location of your gear, and all of the wiring begins (or ends) at this point. Having the home run centrally located in the house will keep wire runs shorter. Also, if you're running a lot of wiring, try to choose a location for your gear that allows runs to travel both up and down. Before getting started, clear out your work area so you can set up a ladder, lay out tools, and arrange the wiring so your pulls won't be obstructed.

Step 2: Prepare Your Wiring Wire is usually bought in 100-, 500-, or 1,000-foot lengths. My crew prefers using wire on spools, since it's easier to pull and doesn't tangle as easily as wire in boxes. If you're pulling with a partner, have him manage the spools and feed off slack. If you're going it alone, pulling off 20 to 30 feet will make it easier to run the wire without playing tug-of-war with the spools. Avoid pulling too much cable at once - especially Cat-5, since it's prone to tangling. Being consistent with your color choices will make life easier later. For example, you can use blue Cat-5 for phones, gray for data, and yellow for video.

Step 3: Pick a Route Map out a wiring route that creates a direct path to each room. Running multiple wires along the same route creates a trunk line that not only looks nice but strengthens the overall bundle. Also, keeping the wiring in a single trunk makes it easier to avoid getting tangled in a spider web of cabling if you need to visit the attic later on.

Step 4: Have the Right Tools Nothing makes a job more difficult than not having the proper tools. At a minimum, you'll need a ladder; a drill with some sharp bits, or some hole saws of different sizes; wire cutters; a hammer with some tacks to secure wiring; open-backed wall boxes; zip ties; nail guards; a tape measure; and a Sharpie marker.