Whole house re-wiring question

Here’s the situation: We're doing a gut renovation on a 2200-square foot house. The entire electrical system is being replaced, and about half the rooms are being taken down to the studs. I'm planning on doing gratuitous wiring because obviously it's cheaper to have the wiring and not use it than to open up the walls in the future.

Essentially, I'll be running multiple CAT6 lines to every room, coax CATV to most rooms, and speaker wire to many of the rooms.

My setup will be: One 5.1 room with a TV and Paradigm in-ceiling speakers. Hardware: Oppo CD/DVDA/SACD/BluRay/DVD, Denon 2112 receiver. I'd like to do multiple zones of audio, and despite the fact that Sonos doesn't do anything above 16/44, I think that's the easiest solution. Then I'll have at least one room where I can listen to hi-res digital audio, probably using a Music Fidelity M1 CLiC.

My electrician has said he's comfortable laying all of this -- but of course when I talked to a custom installer he said it would be crazy to have an electrician do this b/c they don't know about maximum pull rate, minimum turn angles, etc. He quoted me a price of around $8k to run all those wires and set up a structured media center.

My questions are:

Am I, indeed, crazy for thinking about having my electrician do all of this?

Is setting up an SMC something I can do myself -- and if so, where would I go to find out information about it? I've been corresponding with someone from Leviton and he's laid out a whole slew of things I could potentially use in an SMC, but I have no way to evaluate his recommendations.

Are there any DIY home automation systems that make sense? HAI does sell directly to consumers (unlike Crestron and I think Control4) but I don't know if that's something that I should try to do.

(I have plenty of other more specific questions, too -- about what type of speaker wire to use, about CAT6 wire, about whether it makes sense to run conduits, etc -- but I can start throwing those out if this is indeed the right place to look for some help. If it's not, and if anyone has any suggestions for more appropriate forums, that'd be much appreciated...)
having just had a bad low voltage guy do a bad job that resulted in a shorted wire, and the fact that my electrician pointed out before the final product was finished that the low voltage guy did a bad job and should have protected the wires by running them through studs but still had no interest in fixing the other guys work...
I would have the electrician do it. They will run it according to electrical code which goes far beyond what most low voltage guys will ever do...

bottom line... if you are tearing the walls down to the studs, the electrician is going to run the wires through the studs the same way they would AC... so it will be done great...

just buy the quality of cable and wall connects you want..
This is a tough question because a good electrician will do better work than a bad AV guy - I know because I've used both in the past. It's just hard to know who's good, and a high price tag means little. I'd try to find recommendations if you can - and shop around.

The SMC is pretty straightforward, but little things like cable dressing and LABELS! are important. You will likely add more stuff down the road and the SMC layout should allow for this - mine didn't (bad AV installer) - and created a lot more work when I added on more devices.

Laying conduit is a great idea because it allows you to undue (many) potential mistakes. Make sure you run conduit to your yard(s), too, for outdoor use.

Sonos is a great choice - but you don't really need much in the way of dedicated controllers these days if you have an iPad or iPhone, the apps (particularly on the iPad) are great. I don't miss the high res at all, for the reason you state: I have a dedicated room for that.

Good Luck,

Sounds great. In my experience (as an apprentice electrician and construction attorney), the custom installer will have to hire an electrician to run the wires after he designs the system. However, if your electrician is comfortable installing on his own, go for it. Also I too believe conduit is a good idea and might be required by code depending on your state.

But take this advise: make sure your contractor is licensed, has current CGL insurance coverage up to $1.0 million (standard in the industry), get a written bid or contract as specific as possible and get a written warranty for parts and labor (but if you supply the parts he probably wont warranty those). If your contractor wont give you all of this, keep shopping. Good luck.
My electrician has said he's comfortable laying all of this -- but of course when I talked to a custom installer he said it would be crazy to have an electrician do this b/c they don't know about maximum pull rate, minimum turn angles, etc. He quoted me a price of around $8k to run all those wires and set up a structured media center.

Well there are electricians that are more than qualified to install CAT6 and RG6 Coax as well as the terminations. And then there are electricians that are not....

I have also seen low voltage cable installers that don't know what they are doing either.....

Something to consider if you have the electrician install the cable and terminations and have an A/V installer install and hook up the equipment and there are problems...... Well good luck.... Then the blame game starts.....

If you use a good A/V company to install the low voltage cabling, terminations, install the equipment, and set-up, then one person is responsible for any problems.... The A/V company.....

Ask for references.
There are states in the US that require low voltage cable installers to be licensed. Ask the A/V company representative if his installers are licensed or do his installers work under his license.

Ask if he certifies each CAT6 after the RJ45 modular ends are installed? A simple continuity wire map test is not a certification test.....

I would recommend quad shield type RG6 coax cable. Ask him what type of "F" connector ends he uses. I would recommend the compression type.

One last note.... Low voltage cable installers, as a rule, are paid less than a State licensed electrician.
Speaking from experience( I am not an electrician although my brother is and he helped me considerably):
Run flex throught the walls everywhere and anywhere you are even considering running wires. If you do not use some of them so what? Put a blank plate over the boxes.
If you opt out on flex in some areas, say for the Cat6 and just run it through the drilled studs, put protector plates on both sides of every stud where the wire runs through the stud. They are small steel plates that will make sure no one can drive a drywall screw into your wires. If you get a screw in a wire you will play hell trying to find it and drink way too much alcohol trying to locate the short. Hope this helps, John
the key is getting a competent electrician. Many are not.
And the key to getting a competent electrician is....?
To get a good electrician you can (depending on your state) 1) look them up on the Secretary of State's website or State Contractor's Board to make sure they are licensed and insured, check for disciplinary actions, liens, and number of years in the business; 2) interview them on the basics of your system-do they recognize your components and what you want? 3) ask for references or photos of prior work-any good installer will have plenty to provide to you.
And the key to getting a competent electrician is....?
07-30-12: Swampwalker

Word of mouth from others that have used the guy.

Quality workmanship abilities would be right up near the top of the list.

Ya the guy should be licensed, Bonded, and insured. But that is no guarantee how good of a job he will do.

NEC Code says, an installation shall be installed in a neat and workman like manner.... By whose standards? I guess the local AHJ?..... The inspector looks for code violations.... Not how good the job looks or how your audio system will perform.

Here is what Article 90 of NEC 2011 has to say.....

90.1 Purpose.

(A) Practical Safeguarding. The purpose of this code is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity.

(B) Adequacy. This Code contains provisions that are considered necessary for safety. Compliance therewith and proper maintenance results in an installation that is essentially free from hazard but not necessary efficient, convenient, or adequate for good service or future expansion of electrical use.

(C) Intention. This Code is not intended as a design specification or an instruction manual for untrained persons.

So if an electrician tells you his work meets code all he is really saying is that his work will meet bare minimum NEC and local electrical safety code standards......

A good example is VD, voltage drop, on a branch circuit line. NEC only gives a recommendation for addressing VD when calculating the wire size for VD. Addressing VD is not mandatory.....

If you tell the electrician you want a 120V 20 amp dedicated branch circuit installed for your audio equipment, per NEC he has to use a minimum wire size of #12 awg. The length of the branch circuit by code doesn't really matter. To your power amp it might....

We know from experience and the experiences of others that multiple branch circuits that feed audio equipment, connected together by ics, should be fed from the same Line, leg, of the electrical panel. A non audiophile electrician has been taught to balance his loads across the legs of the panel.

You the customer have to do your homework. There is a lot of good information out there. A good Electrician/Electrical Contractor will help you in the design, wiring methods, and materials that can be used to meet NEC and local codes.
My 2 cents echo a few things:
1) if it's a good, licensed and competent electrician it's just fine.

2) what is the apples to apples price quote between the two? They should give you a similar time quote for the job. Electricians should be $75-$90 and home theater guys $75-$100 tops anything more for T&M and you are paying a premium. $85 is a target rate that is fair and market rate.

3) If you are going to the studs you should be good. The electrician should know not to run low voltage and electrical in the same raceway and not to twist low voltage 90 degrees.

4) the elecrician should know about plenum space requirements if you have any and also about running CL2 rated. If they have no idea what you are talking about then perhaps they are not the right person.

5) run as much as you can and run extra CAT6 in case you want to distribute signals via BALUNS in the future. Just note that BALUNS run via a patch panel don't work well.

6) run extra COAX in case HDMI gives you fits.

7) have fun. :-)
Don't forget to upgrade and add some 20 amp circuits for your equipment!!!!!!!