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Wiring an Old Home

By BadlandZ in Technology
Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 03:58:49 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

I'm looking for home theater and home LAN info on the web because I am about to become a homeowner. There seem to be a lot of options out there, but nothing really stands out as the definitive source of information.

The house I'm getting is roughly 100 years old, and in a quite historic area. I'm planning on doing some extensive restoration, not renovation. My first thoughts were that if I were building it from the ground up, it would be easier. But I'm starting to think it probably doesn't make much difference. Running some CAT5 through the walls can't possibly destroy the "historic value" of the home any more than a touchtone phone already does.

I started by thinking about wiring, just some CAT5, then I thought, five to ten years down the road, isn't that going to look as bad as some places you see today that they ran COAX around the office for a LAN? Then I found a few places like this one that have bundles that include fibers. Obviously I probably am not going to put a fiber based NIC in all of my PC's, but down the road that might be the next technology, right?

Next, I started thinking, with TIVO being hackable, why not have a LAN based home audio/video network? Stream MP3's into ever room for a "in tune" house for parties, and have any movie or TV show I want at any time in any room? That would take hacking, hardware, and work, so I looked further.

From that idea, I ran across something people are calling a residential gateway. Trolling USENET comp.home.automation and alt.home.automation, I found comments like "Future software generations (of Residential Gateways) may be able to see, for example, that you watch a particular TV show every Thursday at 7:00 and on this particular Thursday you have to take the kids to a soccer game (based on the calendar that is synced with your palm pilot), the RG asks you via pop-up TV message, e-mail to pager or WAP phone, etc if you want to record this show because you'll be away..." and "Yeah, as long as we keep MurkySoft out of it. Otherwise they'll insist that all the software runs remotely, and they'll keep automatically upgrading it , and charging recurring fees."

Of course the next natural thought was, why not throw a few cam's in the house, like the stuff x10 and others sell. See any room or any place you want in the house, from anywhere else in the house.

Home theater stuff is big now days, and there are countless websites like this guys that talk about integrating a PC into a home theater. But I haven't even begun to investigate this, even though now days you can get a complete video editing package from video card vendors like Matrox that allow you to do pretty much everything you can imagine.

And, the business world has long relied on presentations to clients using projectors, so now days you can by a projector that you can plug into a PC for $1500 to $4000 that will turn a whole wall into a screen with anything you want to project on it. Throw a $120 DVD player in, and projector on a PC, you could potential have a HUGE, high-resolution screen to watch TV or videos on, right? Not to mention, a four foot screen, wireless keyboard/mouse would make for the ultimate couch potato/web surfing combo, no?

Blue-tooth and wireless LAN technology also has me wondering if it is really worth spending the time running wires through the house. Should I just wire one room per floor, and wireless LAN the rest? Or is it worth spending the time and money wiring up an old house with all of these new wires and cables?

So, I'm at a loss. Being a UNIX geek, with a minor knowledge of MS Windows has me thinking about OS's for "little boxes" I would put to control each room. BeOS and MacOS (espically with Mac's OS X coming) have me wondering if I should consider OS's in the equation. I'd prefer to stick with something free and that I know, like Linux or FreeBSD. But when it comes to audio/video, you can't deny the power of stuff like BeOS, Mac's and (cough, choke) Windows. What I'm really hoping to find, is a web site like SlashDot, Kuro5hin, Toms Hardware, or ANYTHING that reports this kind of stuff, so I can do further study. But all ideas are welcome.


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Related Links
o Slashdot
o Kuro5hin
o like this one
o x10
o like this guys
o Matrox
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Wiring an Old Home | 39 comments (38 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Places to look (3.00 / 3) (#1)
by Xeriar on Sat Jun 09, 2001 at 11:59:39 PM EST

Ars Technica did an article on doing this, though perhaps not much that would be new to you. I believe that, whatever you do, make it easy to replace the 'old' junk with new (so, when you want to pull out that cat5 and replace it with Coolness, it's easy).

Specific link

When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.

Not Enough (4.00 / 2) (#2)
by BadlandZ on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 12:13:36 AM EST

It is good to ADMIT cabling is needed, but that article says nothing about home theater, about servers for home LANs, about even the stuff that is now standard "up-scale" building construction. Lame as it is, up-scale homes now have pre-wired stereo wires to all high traffic rooms, and LAN jacks in select rooms.

I'm thinking about making a historic home cool and historic looking but modern functional. Ars Technica saying "you can run CAT5 in a house" is LAME, sorry, but, anyone with a power tool and a hub realized that YEARS ago.

[ Parent ]

Don't wire it half-way (none / 0) (#39)
by schuye on Thu Jun 14, 2001 at 05:46:00 PM EST

I agree with you. If you are going to go through the trouble of pulling wire, you might as well add some bells and whistles. Motion detectors in the main rooms can function as part of an alarm system, and also be used via X-10 to turn lights on and off, for example. The "little boxes" in each room are something that I'd consider later, but pull the cabling for now. An RF remote control can handle all of the X-10 and AV switching you need for a fairly large house. Some of the Palm Pilot add-ons can provide programmable touch screen RF control, as can a few of the top end programmable AV remotes. There is some basic X-10 control software written for Linux, and released (of course) in source format. You might have to add to that to handle interfaces to some of the low voltage switching/feedback hardware, but it is pretty straightforward. These handle little interface cards can be used to control and/or monitor lawn / garden sprinklers, door bells, etc. Door bells are handy, both to control how they are announced inside the house ("Excuse me, BadlandZ, there is someone at the door...) and for a handy reference of how many people came to your door while you were away. They can also be used to trigger the little camera over the door, or activate the intercom, for example. The easiest way to integrate these cute little cameras is to add a box to your video equipment to map them to an unused channel in your cable or sat video lineup. If you want to see the front door, just tune to channel 300 or whatever. Without mapping, you will be limited as to how many of these you can use, since there is a limited channel selection. I use them for the front door, the driveway, and the back of the house, using motion detectors to trigger the camera and map to video tape (and old unit that we replaced). One break-in attempt was enough for me - luckily I had a job due and was still up at 3am. I also highly recommend some of the units by "Barking Dog Alarms". You can use motion sensors to trigger a very realistic sounding barking dog program inside the house. CAT-5 cabling should work for a variety of things, including extra telephone lines, motion detectors, intercom, lawn sprinkers, etc. I don't recommend it for speaker wire, after doing some experiments. Right now, video and pre-amp level audio means coax. The cost to connect to fiber optics is greater than the cost to rewire that part in the future. I agree with the previous poster (Speare?) who suggested conduit. Check your local building code to see if you can use PVC. Okay, here's what I did, in the initial run at it. The whole house is wired with 3 CAT-5 runs per room (excluding bathrooms and laundry room). All of the CAT-5 terminates in a patch panel, in a closet (the garage gets to hot in summer). Audio speaker wire runs from the living room to all bedrooms. Audio pre-amp level stereo coax runs to my office, my studio, my wife's office, the kitchen, the "family room",and each of the bedrooms. Video coax x 2 runs to each of those same rooms. There is an extra wiring bundle that runs from the main closet to the kitchen (explained later), and a few extra CAT-5 lines running to my office. We had our kitchen / dining nook completely ripped out, redesigned, and replaced. If you saw the before and after pictures, you would see a huge difference. There was some dead space where a couple of the cabinets met, so I worked with the designers to set up a place for the primary control computer (running Linux). I then specified conduit to the closet, and to the underside of one of the cabinets, which was adjusted in interior size to fit these specifications. I had one of the drawers converted to a roll-out keyboard/mouse platform. Oh and I had the plans amended to build in spice racks between the studs. This builder now pays me royalties for each of these ideas, LOL. The hidden CPU, it's fold-down LCD display, and its roll-out keyboard are the heart of this system. The LCD display is not touch screen, but the GUI is intuitive and menu-based. It is from here that sprinkler times are set and adjusted. It is from here that messages are left for other family members. It is from here that everything about the house can be controlled or monitored. I can watch a cooking show live, while trying to do the same thing. I can watch a cooking show from video tape in another room. I can say that it is raining today and don't water the lawns or the flower beds. But I added a little extra. This station is also my recipe station. All of the USENET recipes are available via this station. Via VMWARE, this system also has the recipes from MasterCook. It also had internet access for daily recipes from many sources. Dang, is this handy! I can specify the ingredients I have and search for a recipe, or specify a full week's worth of meals and get a shopping list. This is the heart of my system. When I set the code, via wireless remote, any time anyone or anything trips the motion detectors in any zone of the outside of the house, it turns on the tv in the master bedroom and displays what is seen. According to our local real estate agent, such a station is pretty valuable. The way she put it was, we were playing to Mr for most of the security and AV upgrades, but this is one that She owns. Our real estate person says + $10,000 for this, but of course this is Silicon Valley.... I'd be happy to discuss these topics with you. -- schuye

[ Parent ]
wireless? (none / 0) (#3)
by rebelcool on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 01:13:18 AM EST

im considering switching to a wireless system when i move into a new apartment soon to avoid running ethernet cables all over the place. Of course, the bandwidth isnt going to be as high, but I dont need incredible speed.

It's fairly cheap these days to get your hands on a wireless nic and wireless gateway.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

wireless 10mbps (none / 0) (#11)
by Delirium on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 03:54:42 PM EST

I don't follow it much (I just use cat5 cuz my computers are in adjacent rooms and cat5 + my existing network cards is cheaper than a wireless transmitter + reciever cards), but I'm pretty sure home-price-range wireless is up to 10 Mbps now. Sure, it's not 100 Mbps, but it's fine for 99% of what I do anyway. And if your main use of it is to share an internet connection (as it is for many people) 10 Mbps is more than enough - your internet connection will be much more of a bottleneck than that.

[ Parent ]
For the wiring, CAT5E is probably the best bet. (4.66 / 6) (#4)
by Trepalium on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 04:09:07 AM EST

I don't think CAT5 is going to go out of style very soon. The IEEE has created a standard for running gigabit ethernet over CAT5 or CAT5E cabling (instead of using the two pairs that 100BaseT uses, it uses all four pairs and does simultaneous bidirectional communication over all the pairs at once at 250Mbit per pair). We're just now seeing 100BaseT becoming the dominant standard (past two to four years), and that standard was ratified in 1995. Just think how long until gigabit ethernet really takes off with ethernet cards that are cheap enough for consumers.

There's a lot of pressure on organizations like IEEE to standardize ways of getting more out of existing facilities, because the cost of rewiring a building can be excessive. I would expect the fibre optics to be more of a moving target than CAT5. Then there's the problem with the fact it can be difficult to deal with -- unlike copper wiring, it can't be bent at sharp angles and a kink in the cable pretty much destroys it. In fact, if you're careful, you can use the old cabling to feed any new cabling you may need to do.

Wireless and/or bluetooth I'd probably stay away from. Both are still rapidly evolving, and most of the 802.11b devices out there are still WEP40-bit/11Mbit/2.4GHz and 22Mbit is just around the corner. Bluetooth is so new and untried, you're likely to get burned no matter who you choose.

CAT5 rules (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by fluffy grue on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 10:04:25 PM EST













CAT5: HA HA HA HA ....






"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

R.I.P. (none / 0) (#23)
by bigbird on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 12:05:13 AM EST

fluffy grue, it is long dead. It has approached the point of a resembling "Where's the beef" commercial.

Just let the earthworms keep doing their work on the decaying corpse.


[ Parent ]

It's you! (none / 0) (#29)
by fluffy grue on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 11:05:44 AM EST

You realize, of course, that this was long-dead when it was popular earlier this year, too. Zero Wing has been actively quoted for years, and it will be actively quoted for years. I figure that I should at least keep it at a high enough background level that people will realize how unfunny it is so that it doesn't make yet another comeback.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

It was popular? (1.00 / 1) (#33)
by bigbird on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 09:45:54 PM EST

Disturbingly widespread in online forums such as k5. Certainly irritating. But popular? Popularity implies that people (beyond the 13 year old /. F1r5t P05t demographic) actually liked it, does it not?

I shall have to report you to PETA or the SPCA for flogging a dead horse so cruelly.

All that respect I had for you, rushing in a torrent down the drain. So sad.


For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Rom 1:16
[ Parent ]

awe yeah... (none / 0) (#24)
by lucid on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 12:22:47 AM EST

that was cool. you're my hero for today.

[ Parent ]
Wireless Firewire. (none / 0) (#5)
by steven on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 06:32:23 AM EST

I remember reading an article a while ago about wireless firewire. I just wish I could remember *where* I read about it, cause having your place networked at such speed without wires would be very, very cool. :)


Article at the other site (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by Yanna on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 07:41:11 AM EST

Last April the other site ran an article called "The Myriad ways of wiring your home". A lot of interesting stuff was discussed (which came in very handy to me since I am moving to a new home in a couple of months).

I hope it gives you something interesting as well.

I hope that freezes your'(sic) and Yanna's smiles into grinning super power morons for eternity. mami

conduit conduit conduit (5.00 / 4) (#7)
by Speare on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 10:26:24 AM EST

If you have the walls open, put in conduit. PVC pipe is fine. Leave a line of strong twine with washers at each end running THROUGH the conduit, or put the initial wiring in.

Once your house has conduit, you can re-wire the house with different stuff any time you like without opening the walls again. The twine is there to help you run new lines by pulling them through the conduit.
[ e d @ e x p l o r a t i . c o m ]

If you forget the string, you can use a "mous (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by Zukov on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 11:07:21 AM EST

Not a live or computer mouse...

This mouse you get at an electrical supply house (or make) and it is a short foam rubber cylinder which fits easily inside the conduit (Mice come in different sizes). Attach a string to the mouse, suck on the other end of the conduit with a shop vac, and the mouse pulls the string thru..

And if you do put in pvc conduit, be sure to use the large bend radius sweeps (elbows), you will not be able to pull much thru if you use plumbing pvc elbows which have a much smaller bend radius.

ȶ H (^

Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.
[ Parent ]

Some background please... (5.00 / 4) (#8)
by yankeehack on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 11:04:22 AM EST

You sound like a first time homeowner from your article. Besides the technical considerations of fiber vs. wireless or x-10 or whatever geeky technology gets you going, you didn't tell us anything about the house!!

For example, what type of home (I'm guessing Victorian, if you're in the States), how come the house is considered historic (you mentioned historic area, but is there a certain architectural style or building material that was used, or did someone famous own the home?) and probably the most important consideration of all....what is the house constructed of?

I live in an old home too, and in my opinion, the factor that will influence your decision of how to restore your home, won't be the technology you choose to place in, but what "surprises" you find in your home. (And working around those surprises. There's a reason why many high tech homes are built new.) Believe me, you won't be placing in a home theater system if you have aluminum electrical wiring. Plaster is a bitch to work with (and to repair). Oh, and redoing pipes, watch out for the asbestos insulation. Stripping that paint? If you have kids, make sure it isn't lead based. Not to mention "simpler" problems like the foundation that needs to be fixed or the windows that are painted shut.

My advice to you is to live in the house for a few seasons before you start spending big bucks on equipment. That way, you'll get a feel of how you live there (spend more time in the family room than your den with your office?) and you will probably know by then of any major problems the house has.

Here's hoping that this Democratic Senator will run for President in 2004.

Some Background (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by BadlandZ on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 05:31:21 PM EST

To answer some of your questions, yes it's in the US (100 years old isn't old in Europe ;-) Some photos are at this page. It's not designated "historic" AFAIK, but knowing the area (on the Delaware River) and the history of the town, including why this particular series of 6 houses were built is quite interesting (to me at least, enough so that I don't want to make huge changes to the general feel of the place).

We probably won't get a feel for our living pattern in the house for quite some time, because we are going to go through room by room redoing stuff (floors, walls, wiring). Plus the Attic has about a 12 foot ceiling, basement has about a 9 foot ceiling, and both are unfinished, but won't stay unfinished.

I guess I titled the story wrong, come to think about it. I'm not as worried about running wires as I am about why I will do it, and what it will accomplish when it's done.

I'm more interested in finding out about applications, hardware, and what technology is out there. Can a PC be used effectively in a home theater, what applications, OS, hardware is required. What' is a good plan for music? Should I set up a box somewhere with some 80G drives full of mp3's? Is NFS fast enough to play DVD's through a LAN? What are the possibilities, what are the methods of deploying them? That's what I'm really after.

Wiring is a big part, but once it's wired, what's next? Just a workstation in every room is sort of cool, but by no means is it earth shatteringly cool. I want to know what I can really do. Are there light switches with RJ45's I could control, or anything cool like that out there? Being it's an old house, and oil heat via radiators, it would be really cool to find an automated valve that would allow me to program heating of different rooms at different times of day from a central control terminal or something.

And, if I do crazy stuff like that, how well can it be hidden so that it doesn't look "out of character" for the house?

[ Parent ]

More info please on aluminum wiring (none / 0) (#32)
by golliher on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 06:09:52 PM EST

What is it about aluminum wiring that would prohibit a home theater system? I recently bought a house with aluminum wiring.

[ Parent ]
Aluminum wiring. (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by Alarmist on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 03:04:20 PM EST

This coming so late, I doubt it will help, but here goes:

Aluminum wiring is bad because aluminum expands and contracts under heat (i.e. current) more than copper does. The resultant gapping leads to oxidization at the wire-socket junction, and that oxidization can impair current and create a hot spot in the wall.

Aluminum wiring is not used in the United States any longer because it has been implicated in a number of house fires. If you live in a house with aluminum wires, you should be prepared to open up the sockets and tighten the wiring every four to six months or so, or see about getting the wiring replaced with copper.

[ Parent ]

cat5? (none / 0) (#10)
by Delirium on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 03:52:39 PM EST

Now I personally just ran some cat5 along my baseboards because it was cheaper and all my computers are in adjacent rooms, but why would you wire a whole house with cat5? With the power-line and phone-line networking becoming quite fast these days, it seems like a much more practical solution than running cable anywhere. Hell, even wireless networking isn't so expensive now.

Poerline is slow and expensive. Don't! (none / 0) (#14)
by abo on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 04:21:15 PM EST

When you can to do 100Mb/s power line networking for 50$/NIC, and all devices can use it, then I'll agree with you...
-- Kp BRUX!
[ Parent ]
wiring (none / 0) (#16)
by Delirium on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 04:28:16 PM EST

Well it depends what you want to do. As I said, I personally have cat5e run along baseboards to an 100 Mbps switch. But if you want to wire your whole house, powerline or phoneline networks are a lot more practical than trying to knock holes in plaster and run ethernet cable through walls.

[ Parent ]
knocking holes? (none / 0) (#21)
by anonymoushero on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 10:15:56 PM EST

That's why he's asking, he's already planning on knocking holes in the walls. And he only wants to do it once.

-- Ender, Duke_of_URL

[ Parent ]
I love.. (1.00 / 6) (#12)
by DeadBaby on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 04:00:13 PM EST

Voting -1 when morons insist on using "cute" spellings of company names.

Grow up.

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
Try Reading Better (none / 0) (#17)
by CrayDrygu on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 04:50:35 PM EST

He's quoting other people's Usenet comments. Or would you rather he go through and fix the spelling of everything he quotes?

[ Parent ]
"HUGE, high-resolution screen"? Not quit (3.50 / 2) (#13)
by cei on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 04:05:34 PM EST

And, the business world has long relied on presentations to clients using projectors, so now days you can by a projector that you can plug into a PC for $1500 to $4000 that will turn a whole wall into a screen with anything you want to project on it. Throw a $120 DVD player in, and projector on a PC, you could potential have a HUGE, high-resolution screen to watch TV or videos on, right? Not to mention, a four foot screen, wireless keyboard/mouse would make for the ultimate couch potato/web surfing combo, no?
The problem is, most consumer projectors that are built for both SVGA and NTSC video signal are probably going to show your TV/DVD signal at 640x480. So while it will be "HUGE", it won't be particularly "high-resolution". There are various scan doublers, progressive scan projectors, and other devices that will have better clarity than your run-of-the-mill standard projector.

My recommendation is not to buy a projector until you can try it out and see it at a store, with both video and computer signals. For that price, you want to be happy with what you're seeing, and not just settling for something.

nah... (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by Ender Ryan on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 10:46:38 PM EST

My boss has a bunch of this type of stuff. A $3k projector, $300 dvd player, and a 10 foot screen(roughly). He threw a super-bowl party, I sat about 5 feet away from the screen. That was a bit close, but even then it wasn't THAT bad, better than most huge big-screen TVs.

So, at 10 - 20 feet away, it looks great. The only problem is the room has to be sort of dark for it to look very good.

I have no idea what resolution DVDs play at, but I sure didn't notice any problem, at least not more than any other type of large TV.

Obviously though, you will want to see these things for yourself before you decide to buy one.

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

[ Parent ]

LCD projectors (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by clover_kicker on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 08:31:53 AM EST

>So, at 10 - 20 feet away, it looks great. The
>only problem is the room has to be sort of dark
>for it to look very good.

I've used an LCD projector hooked up to a Playstation and/or PC for playing games, VCR for watching movies, it's serious fun.

If you look for pixellation you can see it, but I didn't find it at all distracting, YMMV. This was against the wall of a really big room, the projection was 12-15 feet high, so the individual pixels were pretty big. Of course we were sitting well back, too.

I agree that the room has to be fairly dark. The darker the better - lights out, shades drawn.

I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]
Prjector Res. (none / 0) (#27)
by guinsu on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 09:40:58 AM EST

My business partner has one of these at home, it scales everything up to 800x600 and it looks amazing, DVDs, computer, Playstation 2. It has VGA and S-video in (no component). $3000 for the projector and $500 for the screen. Way better than any rear projection TV I have ever seen.

[ Parent ]
Whatever you do, you should do it over IP. (1.50 / 2) (#15)
by abo on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 04:27:58 PM EST

Whatever you do, you should do it over IP. IPv4 and IPv6. Your life will be so much simpler if everything runs over a standard network protocol. And the TiVo hack should use IP, as well, though I don't know. Use Open Standards (TM). It pays off! Anyway, cat5 and Ethernet is fine for IP, and Gbit Ethernet is fine as well.
-- Kp BRUX!
The REALLY fat pipes... (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by ucblockhead on Sun Jun 10, 2001 at 07:24:22 PM EST

Are the electrical outlets in your house grounded? Also, does the room where you intend to put your computer equipment have enough power on its circuit to handle everything? If the house has old wiring, that could be an issue.

Even a thirty year old house may have ungrounded outlets. Resist the temptation to get one of those three-prong to two-prong adapters, especially if you live in an area with spotty power.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Have you looked at HomePNA 2.0? (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by ephibian on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 02:58:26 AM EST

First off, I've been in a very similar situation to what you have here. The house that I live in dates from about 1900, and has brick walls and hardwood floors. When we moved in a few years ago, we had to rip out most of the ancient phone lines and electrical wiring. Unfortunately, I didn't think ahead and install CAT5 when I had the chance. Over last summer, I wanted to install a network to link the house together, and because of the age and style of the construction, I found it impossible to run cable between more than a few of the rooms.

However, I did find a perfectly acceptable substitute: HomePNA 2.0 -- 10mbit phoneline networking. The cards aren't too expensive, probably less than $40 apiece now. The actual speed of a network with 3 or 4 computers on it was about 9mbit (tested with netcps). Its not as nice as 100mbit of course, but for general use, and even doing things like streaming movies its pretty good. It uses a different frequency band than either POTS or DSL -- I've used it on a phone system that was supporting both without any interference problems.

The only disadvantage of it that I know about is scaling: if you put more than 5 or 6 computers on it, you will likely see a performance degradation.

Crawl space or basement? (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by golek on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 11:04:39 AM EST

Does the house have a basement or a crawl space? If it has a crawl space, it would be easiest to run cable under the floor using floor mounted drops rather than ripping up plaster walls. The upper floors might be a little more tricky, but I'd start by using the existing HVAC ductwork to run cable as much as I could so as to keep demolition of walls to a minimum.

Some answers to questions you did and didn't ask (5.00 / 3) (#31)
by Zukov on Mon Jun 11, 2001 at 11:48:04 AM EST

CMA Note: the comments on lead/asbestos are meant to be starting points. They are not a complete treatment of the subject. To be completely safe, hire a lead/asbestos abatement contractor.

I looked at the pics you posted a link to, and your heating appears to be two pipe (seperate supply and condensate return) steam fired by gas.

Because of the high temperature used in steam heating, the steam pipes were usually insulated along most or all of their length.

Corrugated (or other forms) of asbestos insulation worked very well and was often used. Asbestos is an off-white (very light grey tint) fiberous material which disintigrates into floating dust when poked at. The pipes above the furnace in the pictures have had most of the insulation removed, but still have some white residue at some of the fittings which might be asbestos. I would expect that the steam pipes inside the walls will still be insulated. In order to lower your heating cost you might want to reinsulate any uninsulated pipes, with sections of rigid fiberglass pipe insulation sold for this purpose.

Note that asbestos can also be an additive in old plaster, and is to this day an additive in fibered roofing cement.

If you must disturb any of this material, (and I am not suggesting that you do) you can reduce airborn dust by wetting the material with soapy water, the soap (dishwashing detergent) will reduce the surface tension of the water so it penetrates better. If you must clean up dust from the floor after demolition you might prefer to use a wet sponge, because the fine dust will usually pass thru the bag of a normal home/shop vac. You would need to rent/buy a special HEPA vac rated for picking up lead/asbestos dust.

You asked about zone control for steam valves, you can get electric solenoid valves in a range of voltages, 24vac and 120vac being the most popular. One maker of these valves is Asco, the product name is Red Hat solenoid valve. (unrelated to Linux!). Ask for a valve that is specifically rated for steam, not hot water or cold water.

You mention finishing the attic, I would suggest you check the sizing of the attic floor joists and the distance they span to see if they are rated to support the load of people and furniture.

The paint on the walls will almost surely contain lead, unless the house was already deleaded. Lead paint was banned in (I think) 1972?. Avoid sanding or other activity which might created dust with lead in it. Some people use a wet paint removal method called Peel-Away, Home Depot has it. Clean up with wet methods or a HEPA vac, not your carpet/shop vac.

ȶ H (^

Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.

Check local codes! (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by krlynch on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 02:13:34 PM EST

Of course, before you consider dealing with lead paint, asbestos, and all the other toxic stuff that might be floating around your home, you should check with your local codes as to whether you are actually allowed to do any of that yourself. In some places (such as Massachusetts), you need to be trained, tested, and licensed to do any of this work, and you need to dispose of the stuff properly. Failure to follow the rules in these cases can cost you a huge amount of money in fines and fees. And then you'll have to hire someone to finish up or go over what you did anyway :-)

Or better still, just hire someone to do these nasty parts for you; after all, your dream renovation isn't worth major health problems down the road.

[ Parent ]

802.11a (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by Funky Fresh on Tue Jun 12, 2001 at 01:30:03 AM EST

While 802.11b is here now, and quite sexy, the 11mbps just isn't suitable for massive network traffic. If I were you, I'd wait 6 months and get the 802.11a equipement, which runs at 5GHz and support something like 52mbps, when it comes out. That higher rate would be much more suitable for streaming audio and video, without ruining your antique home with a huge mess of wires.

Wireless who? (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by yojimbo-san on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 08:38:59 AM EST

Given the effective range of wireless, how many of your neighbours will be able to tap in to your (pr0n?) movie "broadcasts" ... ?

Actually, just thinking about it ... you might be fine passing video data around in cables, but once you commit it to the "ether" then would you need a broadcasting license?
Quick wafting zephyrs vex bold Jim

What a pain! (4.00 / 3) (#38)
by Ruidh on Wed Jun 13, 2001 at 12:28:56 PM EST

I've owned old houses and it is a huge pain to run any kind of cable or wiring. Don't be afraid to make some small holes in the plaster at the intersection of wall and ceiling if you have to. You can always spackle them up and repaint.

Do yourself a favor and do it once and do it right. Run 2 lines of Cat5 (one for network and the opther for phone with lots of spare wires) and coax into each room you want to wire. Get two punch down boards to concolidate all of the wiring through. If you have two living floors, a basement (I hope the ceiling is not finished) and an attic, run the second floor wires up to the attic and aggregate them there. Run the first floor wires down into the basement and connect the first and second floors with a backbone of coax and Cat5. (The path the wastline vent takes from basement to attic is probably the bast place to run the backbone.)

Leave a bunch of the wires unconnected in the attic and basement until you need to hook them up. Then you can easily rewire your phone lines to different rooms and rearrange the coax lines as the TVs move. Move the cable line (which probably enters through a wall somewhere) into the basement and split it from there. You can get faceplates with RJ11, RJ45 and coax connectors at a place like Home Depot. Put one in every room you wire even if the ends of the wires aren't connected anywhere.

If you do it all now, it will last you for years.

"Laissez-faire is a French term commonly interpreted by Conservatives to mean 'lazy fairy,' which is the belief that if governments are lazy enough, the Good Fairy will come down from heaven and do all their work for them."
Wiring an Old Home | 39 comments (38 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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