The ultimate in-wall cable management guide

The ultimate in-wall cable management guide

Johann a TV mounting Technician and Editor
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9 min read for expertise
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Last Updated on June 7, 2022 by Johann Holsinger

What is in-wall cable management?

When DIY comes to entertainment areas and gaming rooms, having your cables properly managed can instantly make your room look more organized. For me, seeing cables or sometimes even raceways that hold your entertainment systems cabling together looks undesirable. 

In this case, hiding your cables by installing the cables inside the walls is the better option as this will completely hide them from view and unintentional tampering.

This is a relatively simple process that can be done in an afternoon or over the weekend once you have the right tools on hand.

Why manage cables on walls?

  • Aesthetics. Properly managing your cables is the quickest way to improve the overall aesthetics of a living room. No one wants to see bundles of unsightly cables lying around your entertainment area or gaming room.
  • Conceal Wires. By practicing home-theater in-wall cable management, you can completely conceal your coax and audio/visual cables. This not only hides cables from view but protects the outside layer of protection from general friction damage as well as from curious children and pets.
  • Organize Wires. There are a variety of in-wall solutions you can use to keep your cables perfectly organized. This may include in-wall raceways and guide tubes.

Cable management plate for different wires

Getting familiar with in-wall cabling management systems and components

Learning how to make your cable pass through your walls might seem daunting, but with a little advanced research, the project can be much easier than you might first expect.

There are a variety of unique power modules you can choose from, depending on your unique needs.

For example, you can use a combination of inlets and outlets for your cables to pass through.

This allows wires to enter and exit a wall at a designated spot that is discreet and not the way of your view or your living decor.

Screwing an inlet and outlet socket to the wall

Additionally, you may want to install a soundbar on your TV but you don’t want to be seeing the ugly cables and extension power cords hanging down from the back. An effective in-wall cable management for wall-mounted TV will do the trick.

This is where in-wall installation can be a real benefit to make the entire area look sleek and organized.

Always be sure you use pre-stripped in-wall cables that are color-code-compliant to meet all fire safety and building code regulations for in-wall network cabling.

Or use soldering when appropriate such as when running classic speaker wire on your walls.

Data wires for cabling management scaled

Ratings, codes, and certifications you should go know 

CL2 and CL3 ratings for wires

When cables come to wire ratings, CL2 is normally the most commonly used cable for in-wall installations.

The rating shows that the cable has been subjected to National Electrical Code (NEC) [1] tests and has passed with a high rating of fire resistance. CL2-rated wire can handle electrical loads of up to 150 watts.

You will normally see the CL2 rating on HDMI cables, coaxial cables, and various other copper cables for audio and visual installation.

A CL3-rated wire is similar to CL2 in the fact that the wires have also passed rigorous NEC fire safety tests, but with a higher wattage of electricity.

The CL3 cabling used in audio and visual installations can carry up to 300 watts of an electrical surge.

You can safely use any CL3 rated cable in place of a CL2 cable, but should never use a CL2 where a CL3 is needed.

Monoprice 103844 cl2 rated speaker wire

GearIt pro seriees cl3 rated speaker wire

ETL certification

Certification from the Electrical Testing Laboratories, or ETL, means that a specific company has passed a series of tests [2] to determine whether or not the electrical products meet or exceed North American industry standards.

Once a company passes the test and receives an ETL certification, you can rest assured knowing that the product is suitable to meet all building safety standards or codes.

ETL certification logo

Color-coded wires

The use of color-coded wires is standard across a variety of electrical and non-electrical cabling.

The country-specific color-coding shows which wires are the neutral or grounding wires, which can carry a live electrical charge, and which do not.

Managing cables using raceway tubings

What to consider before installing an in-wall management system

1. Cables to organize (HDMI, Audio, Ethernet, etc).

Depending on the distance you plan to run your wire, always be sure that before you start that the cables you have are long enough to reach from point A to point B.

This will save a lot of hassle along the way.

Close up management of electrical wires

2. Distance between power modules.

If you are running your cables a very long distance between power modules, you may need to install an additional power outlet at the midway point.

3. Your wall. 

The easiest wall to work with to DIY in-wall cable management is drywall to a wall made with removable panels.

However, plaster, wood-paneled and even some brick walls can still be drilled and can run cables behind.

4. Outlet, inlet, and soundbar location.

Always try to keep your soundbar directly below your TV as this will provide the best output for your audio.

Outlet and inlet plates can be placed a good distance apart, but keeping fixtures at the same horizontal level when possible as design consistency is more aesthetically pleasing.

Fully installed outlet and inlet cables

5. Your home theater components.

You can use in-wall cable management with a variety of additional home theater components including speakers, lighting effects, and more.

6. Tools available.

Take some time to determine what tools will be required to complete the job and make sure you have all the tools you need available.

Having your tools organized before you start the project will make it much easier and quicker overall.

7. Future cable additions to the system.

Plan for the future with your in-wall cable management system. Do you have plans to add more speakers in the future? Will you be changing the location of your TV in the corner or ceiling or adding a second TV to the cable system later?

Thinking about this in advance can help you determine where future additions to your cable management system may go and how you can work this into the project design now.

An electrical box behind a cut open wall

What you’ll need

  • Drill with multiple bits
  • Standard and Phillips screwdriver
  • Bubble or torpedo level
  • Pencil and electrical tape
  • CL2 or CL3 cabling and cable accessories

1. Planning the routes

The first step in planning the route your cables will take is to ensure you know where you want your cables to start and end.

The start point will be nearest to your TV or other audio/visual system, and the endpoint will be near the electrical outlet of the device at a different location. 

Once you determine those two points, you will decide on the easiest route between those two points.

Keep in your mind that you may need to drill multiple guide holes into your drywall to help guide the wires along on through.

So always be sure the areas you drill are in a discreet location or will be easy to repair with plaster.

Multiple cable routing

2. Tracing the plates

Before y’all are cutting into your wall, the chosen spot is extremely important to ensure you are completely satisfied with the exact location of where you will be placing your cable plates.

Outlets should be both convenient, and out of sight so that the electrical box does not distract or become an eyesore in the room.

Once the location has been decided, take your time tracing the outline of the plate on your wall.

Use a bubble or torpedo level to ensure the plate is straight and right beside a wall stud.

A crooked plate can be unsightly as well as cause issues with cable alignment especially if you will be using in-wall raceways or guide tubes.

Marking the wall for installing an outlet box

3. Cutting the holes

Once the plate has been traced properly, drill a small pilot hole in the inside corner of the outline.

This will give you a spot to start cutting using a drywall saw.

Try to keep your lines straight, but do not worry if there is some minor chipping along the edges.

The cable plate will cover this up.

Cutting a drywall to install electrical

.4. Threading the wires

This can be, without a doubt, the most difficult part of the entire process, especially if you will be running the wires a good distance through the walls.

There are a variety of methods on how to run in-wall cabling, but most people will use the fishing method. 

You will have to start by drilling a few small holes into your drywall.

It will guide the cables along using a long flexible pole that snakes through insulation and past studs in your wall, to deliver the cable to the area where you will be placing the second wall plate.

Threaded fished wires inside a wall

5. Screwing the pre-stripped wires

Your wall plates will have designated places for you to place the pre-stripped wiring. These are normally little screws that you may find on the back or sides of the plate.

Wrap or loop the pre-stripped wire around the screw, then tighten the screw down onto the wire directly.

Ensure screws are tight enough to snuggly hold the wire for a good lasting connection, but not so tight that overtightneing damages or cuts into the wire causing one to break or come loose from the fitting.

Screwing prestripped wires

6. Connecting all the cables

Before you secure the wall plate to the mounting bracket or wall stud location, be sure the cables are all accounted for and connected properly.

If you are using this as a power bar, double-check the tightness of all cables on the plate.

If your doing a cable entry or exit, ensure that all cables you originally snaked through the wall have made the way through to the other end.

You don’t want to find out later that one cable is lost somewhere in the wall at the halfway point.

Wire connections on an electrical plate

7. Making final checks and powering up 

Once you have checked to ensure the cables are all accounted for, and the outlets have been securely fastened to the wall, it’s time to restore power.

Start by ensuring all of your tools are out of the way and no exposed cables are showing.

Restore power and plugin all the related hardware and equipment.

Finally check the connections from all your audio/visual equipment to any outlet and get ready for a better experience.

Testing a newly installed wires in wall

Dos and don’ts when managing in-wall cables

Dos

  • DO check and double-check to ensure the power is fully disabled before working with any electrical outlets or cables. You can double-check with a voltage meter that there is no power running through any wires.
  • DO gather all of your tools before starting your cable projects. This will help keep your workspace organized and save you time in finding what tool you need for the specific job at hand.
  • DO have a friend or family member that can help you when running cables or installing in-wall power and cable management plates. Having two sets of eyes and hands make a 2-hour job into less than a one-hour job with no hassles or headaches.

Don’ts

  • DON’T be afraid to contact a professional AV installation company if you are not confident enough to do it yourself. They have the tools and experience to get the job done right the first time.
  • DON’T use the wrong type of in-wall cabling for TV or speakers. Not all electrical wire or extension cords can be used safely behind/ inside a wall. Always check for CL2 and CL3 branding, as well as ETL certification to ensure you are using the right cables for the job.
  • DON’T forget to patch up any holes you made during the cable routing process. Leaving these unpatched can open your home up to insects and rodents that may use these holes as entry and exit points which could result in chewed cables being a potential fire hazard.
  • DON’T Break the rules, here I have not met anyone that can break physics so dont try and do so. A wire is a pathway for the electrons to travel, safe wires need to be insulated to a recognized standard.

The difference of managing your cables and wires effectively

Whether you decide to do it yourself or look at hiring a professional, running your complex systems audio/visual cabling inside a wall can quickly clean up your living room or office for a much cleaner for our more livable, and workable environment.

Turn a clustered entertainment area with dozens of visible cables into a sleek and attractive area that your friends and family will love and enjoy. 

Running your cables through the wall can make a simple and straightforward weekend project for any handy DIYer. You’ll soon be enjoying a highly organized and stylish-looking room once all of your cables and coaxial cords are hidden from view. 

The next objective to check off your to-do list is to cleanly mount your TV as I do for the next level of your TV’s fundamental operation!

More information:

  1. National Electric Code, published in https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=70
  2. ETL listed mark, an article from https://www.intertek.com/marks/etl/

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Johann Holsinger portrait

Hi, my name is Johann Holsinger, here at mountyourbox.com I share all of the tips and tricks I have professionally learned to help you set up your ultimate home entertainment system.