Sunday, May 9, 2010

DIY - Wiring and Staining

As mentioned in my last post, things have slowed a bit on the construction front lately.  This gave Virginia and me an opportunity to work on some do-it-yourself house projects. To try to save some money, one of the jobs we decided we could handle without too much difficulty was to stain the wood trim and beams in the house. We know this is going to be a big job and as we got started--well, as Virginia got started really--we began to see what a big job it really is. The other thing we decided to do ourselves is to add extra wire to the house while the walls were easily accessible. The driving force here was that it would never be so easy to run wires through the walls as now, before the walls are covered with drywall.

We love the look of natural stained (as opposed to painted) wood and as we began designing this house, we always envisioned a lot of wood in the house (wood on the ceiling, wood beams, trim, etc.). If cost were no object, we probably would have done the entire interior and exterior in wood. Of course, all this wood needs to be stained or at least painted with a coat of polyurethane. One of the difficulties is that different woods take stain differently so if you want things to match you have to be careful and test things before staining. With that in mind, Virginia set out to do a bunch of tests on some wood samples we got from the builder. After trying different stains, using a pre-conditioner, and applying multiple coats of stain and polyurethane, we finally arrived at something we liked quite a bit.

Unfortunately, a lot of the staining will need to wait until the wood is installed. That's because some of the wood will need to be cut before going up and if it's already stained, portions of it will need to be re-stained after being put in place. However, one thing we can stain right now are the window sashes of the double-hung windows. The sashes "pop" right out of the window frames and the wood in the sash is completely separate from the jambs and trim. So we've been taking out windows a couple at a time and bringing them home for staining. It's a lot of work but the windows look really nice! I can't wait to see it when everything is done and in place.

Staining Windows (Click image for more photos.)

The wiring project came about because we started thinking about putting in some speakers in key locations and didn't want the wires to be visible throughout the house.  This led us to consider putting in a whole-house audio system and as I read up on these systems, I began thinking about other possible cables I might want to run for future use.  It seems there is a whole world of house wiring schemes that are designed to take advantage of various things such as home networking, audio and video distribution, lighting and appliance control, etc.  It's a bit overwhelming really.

After a lot of thought, I finally decided that a reasonably plan of action was to install wiring for a whole-house audio system plus run additional cables for video distribution to every room.  This amounted to two RG6 (co-ax) cables to each room, four cat5 cables to each room, and speaker cable throughout the house.  All in all, I put in about 600 feet of co-ax, 1500 feet of cat5, and 1200 feet of speaker cable.  Fortunately, you can purchase "multi-signal composite" cables that combine several cables in one.  For example, two co-ax and two cat5 cables are commonly bundled together.  This simplifies the wiring process somewhat but it is still a lot of work (particularly since you need to work around all the plumbing, heating, and electrical lines that are already in place).

Spool O' Wire (Click image for more photos.)

I'm relatively certain that some of this wiring will go unused in the future.  So why did I spend all the time (and money) running all these wires?  Well, I figured it couldn't hurt to have extra cables running from every room in the house down to a central location in the basement and it would never be easier to put in the wires as it is right now.  Plus, I save on all the installation costs by doing it myself (well, not counting my blood, sweat, and tears).  Based on an estimate I got from a home audio company, I probably saved about two thousand dollars by doing all the wiring myself.  Plus, if we waited until later to put in all the wires, it would have been nearly impossible to do myself and probably would have cost two to three times as much.

Wires all in place (Click image for more photos.)

All in all, this is a rather fun, albeit time consuming, stage of the house project.  By doing some real physical work on the house, it's actually beginning to feel like it's becoming "our" house.  Every time we look at the wood in the house or use one of the cables we installed, we will have the sense of satisfaction of having done the work ourselves.  At least, that's what we keep telling ourselves right now.

By the way, I learned something new about our builders. Turns out both Robin and Terry are both photographers, as in good photographers, as in they do weddings and such. I never would have guessed.  You can check out their work at


Kevin said...

Make *sure* you run HDMI cable through the house. Getting audio from place to place is easier than I thought, but getting good quality video is hard.

David and Virginia Jackson said...

Kevin: The prevailing wisdom seems to be *not* to run (expensive) HDMI cable in the walls. I'm no expert, but apparently you can always run high quality video through cat5 cables using a balun. This is a lot less expensive, and having the cat5 cables is more flexible for the future (for example, if HDMI is no longer the standard in the future, the cat5 cables are still usable with a new balun). That was the reason for running the dual-RG6 (co-ax) dual cat5e to every room in the house.

Unknown said...

Jade Communications did a great job with the wiring in our home. They were terrific and very professional. Nice guys, very trustworthy, and a great recommendation for anyone in Boca Raton. Check them out at

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