Wiring While It’s Easy

The time between getting the big contingency hurdles cleared and closing is always one of great anticipation.  Tons of work, too — planning, packing, organizing moving logistics, etc. — but more than all of that, for me at least, anticipation.

This time, I made a habit of filling free moments with a quick flip through the photos we’d taken during inspection, or by studying aerials on google maps.  About two weeks before closing I found myself on a cross-country flight, and was killing some time with a leisurely review of the inspection photos, thinking about what we’d do to the various spaces on our new property.

I’d seen these pictures about a thousand times before, but for some reason as I looked at the cloth-covered basement ceiling (scheduled to be drywalled immediately after closing) this time, it struck me:  speaker wiring!

Our previous moves have all been between relatively old houses in the center of the city.  I’ve always run speaker wire and network cable to at least strategic places throughout, but that’s by necessity always been a creative process of finding a place to surreptitiously sneak along a baseboard, or to re-purpose some ducting as vertical conduit.  In other words, I’ve never been able to do inside wiring right.

But this time, it was all different.  This house is relatively new construction (our youngest house before this one was built in the early 1920s; the oldest in 1885), and even more – about a third of it had an unfinished ceiling!

In previous moves, we’ve planned the moving process in absurd detail: in three of the four, we literally made to-scale plans of the interior spaces with little cut-outs of our furniture, so we could game out different scenarios of where to put this or that, including where A/V and network equipment would go, and thus where we’d need inside wiring.  This time, we had bigger fish to fry, and had nothing more than a rough idea of where we’d put some larger pieces of furniture.  The rest we’d sort out after moving.  And inside wiring had been completely ignored, since tons of network cable had been installed when the house was built.

But speaker cable!  I had done a bit of research into how to re-use some of the existing network cable runs to the main level to carry audio signals, but that was a medium priority for some time months from now.  But the basement, which we intend to use primarily as casual living/rec room space, needed no such hack as long as I could get it done before the drywall went in.

Once the plane landed I talked with Amy about my revalation, and she quickly agreed that it was silly to pass up this opportunity.  So we put a bit of thought into where we wanted speakers, and realized we also probably wanted optical audio jacks.   We were closing on a Friday, and the drywallers came Monday morning, so there was no real question about when this work needed to get done.  I headed over to Monoprice to get a few spools of speaker cable, some low-voltage rings, and a few pairs of surprisingly affordable (Monoprice!) but reasonable reviewed ceiling speakers.

As soon as the kids were in bed on our first night in the new house, we grabbed the ladder and started ripping down the cloth that had been stapled to the basement ceiling in lieu of drywall.   Fully exposed modern construction makes pulling cable so relatively easy, but nonetheless getting 8 speaker locations (in two rooms) and two joint audio/network jacks installed took me a good portion of the weekend.  (And we’d just moved, so it’s not like this is the only thing I had to do.)

Monday morning when the drywallers arrived, I was literally five minutes from finishing up the last touches.  I ran around getting the last few plastic staples in place while they moved their stuff in to the house.  When the drywalling was done at the end of that week, it was very satisfying to know that we’d gotten this critical step done before it got a ton  harder.   I still can’t believe we’d come so close to completely spacing out on this relatively simple step, but disaster was averted.

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