Best Practices For Cable Management

Lines, lines, everywhere a line
Marking up the diagrams, taking my time
Do this, don’t do that
Gotta run these lines

Full disclosure: I was never a full time installer; I was a sales designer. At best, when deadlines were tight and it was all hands on deck to get a phase done, I strapped on a tool belt and assumed the role of Wire Monkey, Third Class.

Veteran installers are in a class by themselves. Like a farmer, they’re outstanding in their field. And I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside some seasoned, top-notch installers, and benefited greatly from their tutelage. And here are some of the things I’ve learned. These should all be old hat for most readers but if someone learns something new that benefits them and their business then I’ve done a good thing today.

Bring enough cable. Basic Rule: No matter how carefully the sales designer estimates wire length from the scale architectural drawings of the jobsite, he will be wrong. Whether it’s the difference between “as drawn” and “as built” or if the designer just can’t add, it’s always something. Bring more than enough boxes of cable to the jobsite, mark the starting footage, mark where you end off when you’re done, and compare to the original estimate.

Run data lines away from power lines. Separate runs of data cables at least a foot, preferably more from AC power lines. And if they have to cross paths, take a right angle to the power line to minimize the exposure to the AC lines’ magnetic field.

Don’t exceed cable tolerances. Whether it’s the bend radius of the cable, over tightening cable ties, or the temperature ratings, treat your cables well. Most readers, at least in the lower 48 states, will seldom have to worry about temperature ratings, but for Canadians and some AV pros in the Midwest, it matters. One jobsite on which my team and I ran wire was a framed but un-insulated home in the middle of winter. It was -40? C outside, and inside the structure, it was at least 10? C colder. We called it a day and ceased working when the lead installer was pulling Cat5e off the spool and, with a loud CRACK, the line fractured.

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Label early; label often. Whether using a Sharpie marker or a label maker someone on the jobsite should be labeling every line as it is run, with its purpose and destination. Use names and codes that are standardized in your company so that even someone who wasn’t there when the lines are run will know what lines are going where and why when the time comes to terminate and connect them.

Take care of your cables and your cables will take care of you.

Lee Distad is a rAVe columnist and freelance writer covering topics from CE to global business and finance in both print and online. Reach him at lee@ravepubs.