Basic Cable Pulling Techniques For Cat5
By Finn McCuhil
The most labor-intensive and potentially frustrating portion of your network setup is pulling the cable. Fishing wire through existing walls, over attic beams or through crawl spaces is physically demanding. Surprise obstacles await you with every new cable run. Here are tips to keep in mind while wiring your network to ensure that your time and effort aren’t wasted.
Before You Begin
Pulling Cat-5 cable is a two-person job. Get someone to help you if it’s at all possible. One person will do the actual pulling; the second person should guide the cable as it comes out of the box or off the spool and keep the wire from kinking as it enters the wall opening.
When deciding on a path for your cable, inspect attics, basements and spaces above drop ceilings beforehand. An obstacle 5 feet away from the end of a 100-foot run can be frustrating. You can avoid this irritation with some advance planning.
Where Not To Put Cable
Data cables should be kept at least 12 inches from electrical lines and outlets. Cat-5 cable is sensitive to electro-magnetic interference. To avoid potential loss of data or slowed transmission rates, never run data cable inside the same conduit as power lines. Avoid attaching Cat5 to the outside of power conduit or hanging it next to exposed lines.
In open spaces above drop ceilings, do not allow Cat5 cable to rest on top of fluorescent light fixtures. These produce a great deal of EMI and can adversely affect data transmission.
How To Run Cable
Most Cat-5 cable manufacturers recommend a pulling tension of no more than 25 pounds. The conductors inside the cable are small and relatively fragile. Breaking one conductor will render the paired wire useless as well. This means one broken wire will put two out of commission.
The cable should never be bent to less than a 1-inch radius. This also can lead to weakened or broken conductors.
Cable lubricant can make pulling much easier through tight spots. Using it will lower overall pulling tension and reduce the danger of damaging the inside wires. Use only lubricant made for cables. Oil-based lubricants can damage the jacket of Cat-5 cables.
When hanging cables, avoid crimping the conductor wires. Do not use staples. Use care not to over-tighten plastic cable ties.
Use rubber grommets when threading cable through steel structural members.
The maximum data transmission distance for Ethernet cabling is 300 feet. Be sure all your runs are no longer than 280 feet. This will leave an adequate allowance for most patch cords.
Finn McCuhil is a freelance writer based in Northern Michigan. He worked as a reporter and columnist in South Florida before becoming fascinated with computers. After studying programming at University of South Florida, he spent more than 20 years heading up IT departments at three tier-one automotive suppliers. He now builds wooden boats in the north woods.