Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How to judge an installer

Just this last week a customer asked me to come out and install two ethernet runs and two phone line runs.  I went out to their newly constructed office and was rather shocked by what I found.  While the office was quite beautiful it was a complete failure in terms of design.

Let me explain.

All modern construction should take low voltage applications into consideration before you start building.  Low voltage runs for networking, telecommunications, and video services should be shown on the blueprints.  All three types should be home run to a telecom closet or box in a utility room.  Typically this will be the same location as your office or home's fuse box.  If cabling won't be pulled at the time of construction boxes and conduit should be installed for future upgrades reducing the effort and cost to install this wiring in the future.  Installing Phone, Internet, and TV then entail only putting a providers box in the closet and connecting two or three cables.  This should take no more than 20 minutes and no tools other than possibly a wrench for the coax connectors.

Reasons for this are to ensure that if you want a flat panel tv mounted to the wall both it's power and TV signal are located behind it resulting in a clean looking install.  You don't want a brand new office or home with a nice wall mounted TV and a shower of cabling hanging under it.

The office I was called to service had just been built.  The drywall was up and about to be painted.  No consideration was paid for low voltage systems.  This was the first failing.  The second was when Comcast had come in to install TV, Internet, and their business phone system.  First off the Comcast installer set up two cable jacks.  One on the wall for a wall mounted TV, and another under a desk for the cable modem and phone equipment.  Neither was properly installed from a mechanical standpoint.  A proper low voltage install in an existing building uses what is called a "low-voltage ring" installed in the dry wall.  This prevents any damage to the wall while pulling cables and provides a secure place to attach the finished connection plate.  Without this ring the plate can pull out of the wall or sit oddly.  Here is a photo of the work Comcast provided.

As you can see the installer just drilled a few holes in the wall and pulled the cable through, then installed the plate with the improper screw to the drywall.  This would have pulled out of the wall without effort.  The customer told me that the install took 10 hours.

I spent 6 hours pulling the requested lines and corrected the above install with the low voltage ring and a multi connection plate to make the install look finished.  Here is my workmanship.
The orange piece in the wall is the low voltage ring.  To install this I had to make the hole larger.  Large enough I could get my hand easily into the wall to grab wiring.  By spending 10 minutes correcting this I saved the customer at least 2 hours of work.

In all honesty though if this office had taken low voltage into consideration before mounting drywall I could have wired the whole office for Network, Phone, and TV in the same period of time instead of fighting pulling cabling through drywall and insulation.  The wall mounted TV would have been done and the Electrician would not need to return.  The Comcast installer would have only had to drop a modem on a shelf in the back room and clicked a few cables into place.  If you're building a new home or office take these topics into consideration.  If you're looking at an existing office space make sure to check that these things were thought of.  Even if an older office wouldn't have TV or network considerations there is no excuse for any office built since the 1970's to have no considerations taken for telephone.  

These are considerations not only for those looking for a home or office property, but for those looking to sell a home or office.  Homes and Offices that have this type of structured wiring in place are more valuable vs their competition and can give you a leg up on your competition.

If you're looking for help designing an office or installing low voltage wiring please give me a call.  I'll work out a quote.

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