Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crawl Spacin'

Well, at least that's what I call it.
Since I'll be returning to work in a couple of weeks, I got a fire built in me to finish up some projects that got stuck in the doldrums for the last year. The first one out of the Job Jar is to finish up cabling the house, which as the post title implies, requires going into the crawl space to pull new RG-6QS coax, and Category 6a network cable.
The way the house is wired now for the TV is antiquated, obsolete, and a general MESS. The cable was originally installed waaay back when they had to run TWO cables to each cable box because the analog systems they had back then didn't have enough bandwidth to carry all the channels. Each Set Top Box ("STB") had two "F" connectors on it where the coaxes attached, and the box would do an A/B switch internally to get all the channels on the cable system. I'm pretty sure this hasn't been used since the early 80's, so that would make all our existing cable, connectors, and splitters at least 30 years old. And the original installation was your typical "Paid by the job, not the hour" installation, which means they did it the quickest way possible. This resulted in some of the cables being (poorly!) mounted under the eaves, and run down the side of the house into (and back out of!) the nearest ventilation grill. We literally have cables running everywhere, and I can't make heads-or-tails as to which are the "gozintas" and which are the "comesouttas". All the cable on the outside of the house has several coats of paint on it (NOT good to paint coax!), and over the last year I've had to replace several connectors, and redo some splices to get the signals in to the STB's up to an acceptable level. Since the system is all digital, along with all our TV's, you don't get "snow" or "static" if you have a weak signal. The picture will just freeze, or pixelate/artifact if the level drops below what the STB can decode and send to the TV. I knew the cable was pretty crappy the first time I saw it, so I bought a 1000' foot spool of Belden RG-6QS, and a BIG bag of Snap-N-Seal compression connectors so I could (eventually) rewire the place.
When we got Verizon to install FiOS for us (it's amazingly fast!), all they did was disconnect the cable drop from Charter (our previous TV provider), and plumb the new signal from the Optical Network Terminal (the big gray box on the side of the house where the fiber comes in from the utility pole) into the existing coax.
What I'm going to do is to pull a new coax, and a network cable, from each room to a central point, which happens to be the middle bedroom, a.k.a. The Radio Room. I've made a thick plywood panel that I mounted the required splitters and a Gigabit Ethernet switch to, and after I dive under the house and pull the new cables, all I'll have to do is put the connectors on, plug it all together, and then swap the coax from the ONT to the new wiring. If it all works properly, I'll cut the ends off the old cables, stuff them back down through the hole in the floor where they come up, and remove all the exterior cables.
We'll have a nice, new, low-loss coax, *and* a Cat6a Ethernet cable, in each room, and the outside of the house will be cleaned up. It also gives us ALL the cables at one central point, making it much easier to troubleshoot if that's ever required. And we'll probably have half the signal loss we do now.
A couple of the "access ports" the original installers used had FOUR paired (8 actual coaxes!) cables coming out, and haphazardly running up to the eaves, and then running every which way.
Over the last few days, I measured/guesstimated the cable length I'd need from each room to the "Server Closet", added 10' to each length, and measured/cut new sections of cable. Then I taped a network cable to each coax, and drilled new holes in the floor to pull the new cable pairs through. I made the cables extra long, as my old adage is "Better 10 FEET too long than 6" too SHORT!". If it was a straight-line measurement of 12' from one location to the "Server Closet", I doubled it to 24', and with the added 10', I wound up with 34'.
When my wife asked me why I made them soooo long, I just smiled and told her that compared to my "cost" of spending a lovely day crawling around under the house, the cost of the actual cable was insignificant!
I have a Tyvek suit with hood, some good flexible leather gloves like driving gloves, a bunch of the anti-particulate face masks, a good pair of goggles, and a good BRIGHT lantern. I'll also take a long-handled brush with me to "clear the way" as I go Crawl Spacin' on Thursday. My stepson is home that day, and he'll be topside helping me by feeding the cable through so it doesn't kink or hang up on anything.
I haven't done this in years, so I'll be extremely careful, and if it looks like I can't fit where I have to go, I'll back out and we'll figure out some way to fish the cable to where I can grab it.
I don't relish doing this, but it's got to be done.


  1. I'm breaking out in sympathetic heebie jeebies right now. Good luck!

  2. Good luck! I did the same thing here 5 years ago when I moved in. Not for the faint of heart but well worth it in the long run!

  3. Yeah, I'm going to pop out the ventilation grills by where I'll have to go to get a look-see.
    I know under the newer part of the house it's pretty 'tall', and I'm told clean and easy to crawl through, but the stepson doesn't know what it's like under the other part.
    I'm just guessing here that a house built in 1942 can have a LOT of "stuff" under it!

  4. Tie a rope around your leg in case he has to drag you out of a tight spot... LOL No envy there at all- I'm too old to do that crap anymore.

  5. Yeah, I'm getting that feeling, too!
    I'd GLADLY pay somebody $100 to go under the house and *gently* pull the cables as I fed them through!


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