After talking excitedly about how much better a wired connection has made my video calls, housemates who work remotely were interested in having ethernet to their desks. My dad lent me his RJ-45 tools, and I took a few hours on Friday to run cables.

I started with what ended up being the hardest cable, from a second floor bedroom down to the basement. Ideally I would have done the vertical portion when I had everything open doing the bathroom work, but at that point I still thought wired ethernet was obsolete. I was able to get it through the area around the plumbing stack using a snake, though, and it wasn't too bad. At the top I needed to drill horizontally through a thick wall, originally the outside of the house, now the wall between the house and the addition. I had an installer bit which turned out to have a cable-pull hole, which was really helpful. The desk was on the far side of the room from where the cable came in, and I decided to be lazy and run the cable along the baseboard, using 7mm cable tacks to keep it in place.

The tidiest way to do this would be to put an RJ-45 jack in the wall, but that's more work than I was up for. Instead I just crimped on a connector directly. Pass-through connectors are definitely worth it: it's much easier than getting the wires all exactly the right length, and I'm less likely to accidentally swap a pair.

The second run was from a room that's was an addition to the house. There's a crawl-space under it, but it's accessible only through a small window about six feet off the basement floor. I've been in it several times, and it's pretty annoying. I was complaining about this at dinner before running the cable, and Lily was very excited to learn our house had a crawl space. She wanted to go explore it, and wasn't willing to wait until tomorrow. I suggested she put on sturdy clothes, and while she was changing I hurried to go drill a hole and get the cable fed into the space. I lifted her up so she could climb in, and she was very excited to see what it was like. While she was in there she was happy to go get the end of the cable for me, which meant I didn't need to get myself in and out.

When I was putting her to bed that night I thanked her again, and she told me "I had a little spark of fear, but the bigger sparks inside me were adventure, excitement, and helpfulness."

The last cable run was the simplest. Julia's office is on the first floor, and is over the main area of the basement. I drilled a hole down where the baseboard meets the floor in an inconspicuous part of the office, and ran the cable over to the router. I had to try this twice, because the first time I hit a joist. At this point the router's four ports were full, so I hooked up a small gigabit switch I had around.

Overall it was a fun project and I think it will be useful to my housemates, though I think they're all still waiting for their usb-ethernet adapters to arrive.

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6 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:47 AM
"...thought wired ethernet was obsolete"

That a wire/cable has always been more performant than wireless has never changed. Wireless is only "better" in a cost-avoidance scenario - when you're avoiding the cost of deploying plant in a city or ripping up walls in your house. But from a performance standpoint it's never been a contest. What does a wireless antenna eventually use for backhaul? A hardline connection - split amongst all the wireless clients! So the wireless connection at the end of the hardline is just added latency, interference potential and performance problems compared to everyone jacking into a dedicated hardline directly.

That said, if you're supporting wireless in your house with a single Best Buy router or a "mesh" AP solution, you're also probably not getting the best performance that wireless could offer you. APs truly do better when serving fewer devices (both from a thermals perspective, a software perspective, and from a signals perspective). To the extent that you can distribute devices across multiple hardwired APs, and increase the strength of the signal in local areas of the house, the better off you'll be. Instead, consider a distributed AP solution where each access point is hardwired. That's the best wireless can do, but at the end of the day, each AP will still be sharing one ethernet cable amongst all its clients. Hardly better than each client having their own dedicated ethernet connection.

Multi-AP deployments in the home are pretty affordable, especially when you consider that the top-end Netgear AP at Best Buy will cost a rapacious $400-500 and offer subpar performance on its best day, and be a massive SPOF on its worst. Something like Ubiquiti's UniFi Wireless product line (not affiliated in any way, but have deployed them) can get you into a dual AP setup relatively cheaply (<=$350?). Most consumers, if they're at all technically inclined, will be better off skipping those Best Buy solutions and deploying a more commercial-level wireless (and wired) solutions at home.

If hardwiring, use the best ethernet cable you can afford to offer some degree of future-proofing. Cat6a can support 10G in up to 100 meter runs, so you don't even need to think about depending on fiber for the home installations anytime soon. I know you were just trying to jam out an ethernet solution at your house, and I totally respect that, but would also encourage a quick trip to Home Depot or similar to get Cat6a jacks, a crimper, some "old work" low voltage wall boxes and some keystone faceplates. Consider running two cables to each location so you have two available ports at each drop. Redundancy is only one advantage provided by this strategy. Wiring is the kind of work best done right, and done once! It can be a hateful effort, especially if you don't have a munchkin to run around crawl spaces. :D

Ethernet connection is still faster than wireless, no doubt about that.

The key thing for me is that it's consistently low latency in a way congested wifi isn't going to be able to compete with.

I don't need that much bandwidth, so it was really only when I started doing a lot of calls from home wifi that I changed my mind.

Those bare feet in a crawlspace make me nervous!

We go barefoot a lot, and have pretty tough feet. My previous times I've been in there I've also been barefoot, and its just dirt.

Just so you know, the crawlspace is where every dropped nail ends up during construction. Some contractors do a better job than others at cleaning that up.