Working with a Pro

Guy walks into a Tweeter (no, this isn't a dirty joke) and asks if they can design a multiroom entertainment system for the house he's building. So an installer visits the construction site and comes up with a plan. But then the guy blows him off, taking the installer's ideas and having his own electrician do the work instead.

Well, electricians aren't installers, and this one more than proves it. He uses the wrong kind of wire in some places - and even when he uses the right kind, he pulls it to the wrong locations. So the house gets built with all his blunders sealed in.

When the system doesn't work, the guy hires another installer to fix it. But the damage is already done because the wiring isn't where it needs to be to control the system. And since this is a big house, re-wiring it would be too expensive. So the guy has to scale back. He can't have the system he wants.

There are many lessons to be learned from this story. But let's just say there are now more ways than ever before to screw up an installation - especially since there's more equipment than ever before begging to be "installed" rather than just plopped into some cabinet. After all, isn't a flat-panel TV sexiest when hung on a wall? And isn't it possible that you're not up to the job of properly bolting it up there, seeing as how - once you add the weight of the mounts and all - you might be dealing with several hundred pounds of gravitational pressure? (At least when Humpty Dumpty fell, he didn't take down a big chunk of sheetrock with him.)

Every legitimate custom installer devises a plan before tackling a big job. But before you can get to that stage, you have to craft a plan of your own. So here are 10 tips to help you find and work with the right person for your installation.

Do a Home Assessment Apartment dweller? Homeowner? Blueprint baron? The answer dictates how big you can dream and how large a check you'll have to write, so scale your expectations accordingly. If you live in a high-rise, there's a limit to how much wire you can run behind those walls (cable-friendly attics and crawlspaces aren't exactly common here). But you can still have a cutting-edge multiroom system, thanks to flat wires that can be run under carpet or behind baseboards and molding.

You'll also need to be slightly conservative if you're working with a finished house as opposed to new construction. Retrofitting wire can consume plenty of time and dinero, since it's obviously way easier to run cables before the sheetrock goes up.