Technology: Cables and Connectivity - having the right tools
By Simon Buddle, Future Ready Homes.
No doubt you will have come across a house that needs wireless extenders or stacker/de-stackers f...
By Simon Buddle, Future Ready Homes.
No doubt you will have come across a house that needs wireless extenders or stacker/de-stackers for the satellite box. Why do people use such things? They are mostly part of a product group that might easily be called 'sticking plasters'. They have their place in the market, and service that place very well, but they exist fundamentally because someone forgot to put a cable in - there was no design.
We have probably all been in that position at some point, but it is also likely that you would be able to get a cable in, somehow. That 'somehow' can be painful, even nigh on impossible, but it does come with the territory for us installers.
There are some simple and obvious choices when retrofitting cables, such as going outside the property and around the walls, or just running the cable over the skirting board using a few p clips for good measure. Neither is particularly pretty though, and I dare say you would not be proud of the job afterwards. Hiding cables and getting around inside the property is a completely different proposition. In the UK for example, we do not have the luxury that our American friends have in the way that houses are built.
[caption id="attachment_7064" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Hiding cables inside some properties can be more of a challenge.[/caption]
Pulling cables through floors and walls is often a two-person job. Lifting all of the floor boards in a room, or worse still, large sheets of chipboard, can take hours and hours. When faced with such difficult tasks, any tricks of the trade or specialist tools are welcome. I bet we have all used a wire coat hanger at some point to get a cable through a space!
Simple items such as a wire man's tape or glass fibre pull rods can make the task easier, and save you vast amounts of time. I have long since felt that either an intelligent rodent or a small child that could be put to use under the floorboards would be a huge step forward for wiring houses. Alas, I believe there is legislation in place preventing such industry.
[caption id="attachment_7067" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Fibre glass rods for pulling cable through difficult spaces.[/caption]
When getting cables down or up inside a dry wall, the Wet Noodle can only be described as a work of genius. What is it? Simply put, it is the metal chain from the plug in your bath, and a magnet on the end of a flexible rod. By attaching the chain to the cable as it falls down behind the wall you are able to 'grab it' magnetically by bending the rod, putting it through the hole in the wall and waving it back and forth until the chain is found. If additional help in pulling the chain through is required, there is a telescopic stick with a small hook on the end. Simply brilliant. And it works the opposite way around if you need to get a cable up the wall.
[caption id="attachment_7066" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The Labor Saving Devices Wet Noodle comprising (left to right) flexible rod, chain in packet (with ring at one end to stop it from completely disappearing through the hole) and telescopic stick.[/caption]
Often, clambering across the ceiling beams can be dangerous or simply impossible in some lofts. Fortunately, I have only ever put my knee through one ceiling, and luckily, it was my own. Catapults are not generally a good thing to use indoors, and I dare say that most people would not thank you for using one in their home. But they do provide a quick and easy solution for getting across large dead and inaccessible spaces such as lofts or partitioned ceilings.
[caption id="attachment_7065" align="aligncenter" width="225"] The catapult.[/caption]
In the Wall
At some point you are likely to end up needing to get a cable through the base of a wall or to look inside one. Drilling around corners is not straightforward! There are flexible extensions for drill bits that will enable you to turn the bit through an arc, but to my knowledge, there is only one device that will actually guide the bit for you. This is made by Labor Saving Devices and it is called the Base-Boar-Zit.
[caption id="attachment_7063" align="aligncenter" width="400"] The Labor Saving Devices Base Boar Zit.[/caption]
Of course knowing or finding what is inside the wall should prevent us from making a huge mistake, such as drilling through a pipe or failing to secure the TV bracket onto a stud. So make sure that you are armed with a stud detector and in-wall periscope or camera.
[caption id="attachment_7062" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Stud detector (left) and in-wall viewing device (right).[/caption]
It is worth considering whether or not you should use snap-on or push-fit connectors. They do speed up the termination of cables by a huge amount, but they do have to be used with the correct cable types. This really means that they are an active choice for the whole company, as it is a complete system from end to end. Used with the correct cables though, they will undoubtedly save you time and therefore money.
Our industry demands that we are somewhat a jack of all trades. Retrofitting cables requires a level of skill above that, and it most certainly is not for the feint hearted. Some of the skills required for this work can only be handed down from master to apprentice. Specialist tools such as the ones we have talked about here were invented by the original masters, but luckily are now available to all. Having a tool bag well stocked with these types of specialist tool will make our lives easier as well as keep the profit margin healthy.
Simon Buddle is a consultant for Future Ready Homes, a specialist in BMS and ELV services system design. Simon is also a regular contributor to HiddenWires magazine, and Education Director for CEDIA EMEA.