Wiring Your Home Network Part 2: Making Wall Plates and Tool Review

Wiring Your Home Network Part 2: Making Wall Plates and Tool Review

Earlier this year I wrote about why I choose to wire my apartment with Ethernet. I reviewed the crimp tool I use to make patch cables(connect from the PC to the router or wall). Now I will show you the tools you need to make the wall jacks themselves.

So, why hard wire your home? Two reasons: Reliability and Speed. If you have any stationary devices or docking stations it may be advantageous for you to take the time to wire your home. If you are in the middle of punching holes in your walls, now is the perfect time to upgrade your home network.

But My Wifi Works Fine

Your wifi is fine you say? Are you running a router that has a max speed at most as fast as what your current internet plan is advertised at? Even if you have an N300 or 600 router and are running 100MB internet you are still bottlenecked by your router. How? Wifi interference and theoretical maximum. The speed on your router is capable to go up to that speed but real world speeds are usually  noticeably slower. Also, it’s shared bandwidth, between devices that are connected and the air space. So at max you can get 300 or 600Mbps. If you live close enough to your neighbors that you can see their wifi, you may be competing for airwaves as well. If you own a condo and have neighbors on all sides, you may have your wifi take a nose dive when they use their microwave(2.4Ghz interference) or when they are home and presumably using the airwaves more(greater crosstalk). So, are you up for a little DIY to make this happen and ensure you never have to fight with wifi when streaming your shows?

Wired networks are best installed when spaces are being first built or renovated because they require your to run wire through your walls. Ideally when running cables you want to run some conduit first that the cable can run through so that way when you need to upgrade the lines in the future, you will be able to replace it without tearing the walls apart. So if you are ready to tear some walls apart(not explained how to do in this article) you can read on about how to make keystone jack wall plates.

Making Wall Plates

Wall plates are incredibly easy to make once you have your wire run and an outlet box in the wall. Recently I performed an installation at my brothers and I used all Monoprice components(Check out the bottom of this article for details). He ran Cat6 through is home so we were ready to add keystone jacks and finish up the wall plates.

Color Code

Monoprice has some of the best deals on keystone jacks and wall plates and have a number of colors to choose from. As he had 6 lines run through his home we ended up picking 6 different colors to run to the main office area where the router will be(with another wall plate). Each color was paired with an outlet in a specific room. This will make it incredibly easy in the future to troubleshoot the network or know which jack feeds each room encase something goes wrong. If you are running wiring consider using colors to help identify different connections, be it the Ethernet itself(although that would be more expensive) or with matching jacks if you run wall plates on both sides.

With colors designated we were ready to start punching jacks. To do so I used the Cable Matters punch down tool in conjunction with the iMBAPrice Universal Cat6/Cat5e/RJ11/12 Keystone Jack Punch Down Stand. Both of these are available from Amazon. (Click the links below to leave NautilusMODE and view their product pages on Amazon.)

Using these tools are pretty straight forward, and for under $20(USD) combined they aren’t too pricey even if you only use them for a single installation. Well worth the investment for a reliable home network that should service you for years to come.

The jack stand allows you to clip in a keystone jack to give a sturdy base for punching the wires and the punch tool is pretty straight forward. Basically you match the wires to the keystone jack to the pattern specified(usually on the jack itself. Sometimes it shows both A and B standards, so pick one and use for all jacks) and place them into the grooves. Then you use the punch down tool to apply pressure to push them into the wire slots. This simultaneously strips the wires while putting them in place and if using the bladed side of the tool, cuts the excess wire off the end.

Once they are punched, you put the plastic dust caps on and secure with a zip tie. Then secure them to the keystone wall plate and you are in business. I would suggest punching both sides and testing them first before assembling them in the wall. Mistakes happen, and I was lucky enough to only make one during the install at my brothers. You can use a tool such as the one linked below to test your cables. This particular model I own myself and it works like a charm. (Clicking the link below will take you Amazon.com)

There you have it your finished wall plate.

Completed keystone jack wall plate.
Completed wall plate with coax and blue Cat 6 jack.

 

Tool Review:

These tools are pretty basic, but as this is to also be a review post it’s time to give you some insight to the tools themselves.

Jack Stand

keystone_jack_in_punch_stand

The jack stand is worth every penny and you should purchase one of these no matter how few jacks you plan to punch. Keystone jacks aren’t very even so it’s not the easiest to try without the stand which I did when I was trying to hurry and fix a mistake I made with getting the wires properly color coded. It’s solid plastic and works. It feels as if it will hold up for a lifetime.

Punch Tool

Cable matters punch down tool in packaging.

The punch tool on the other hand seems to be a bit hit and miss. I am not sure how it could be made different or maybe my bit was malformed, but it failed to cut the excess wire of solid copper Cat6 cables and had about a 25% failure rate for getting the wires secured and punched in. Granted this was my first time doing any of this, but its so straight forward, I would hope a specific technique isn’t required. However I feel because of my failure rate it must be. I started off with much success, but then failed later. Perhaps it was the angles I was forced to use it at as I needed to use the wall as a base for some of the installs.

Punch down tool photo.
Punch down tool out, minus the packaging.

It worked ok, and I can’t imagine anything other than the bit being the problem, so I will give it a passing score because it does what it needs to and it has a solid build quality. I am not sure what spending extra could buy you except maybe a better bit, so maybe I should give that a try for my next install.

Punch tool bit storage.
Punch tool bit storage. Yes, the bit is in backwards, but it always sticks out this much.

Aside from punching your wires down this tool does contain a hi and low force option as well as bit storage. However, the bit storage seems about useless as the bit doesn’t actually fit inside. Seems like it’s a nice thought, but I am not sure how it’s of use when it just sits there sticking out. No matter what orientation I tried, I could not get it to stay in or slip entirely inside so, it doesn’t work.

Tool Verdict

So the verdict is buy the punch stand, and the punch tool would be worth it at it’s low price point. It has enough of a high rating on Amazon that I feel I must be doing something wrong. I know I don’t have the experience to back it up and maybe it gets easier with prolonged use(like learning how to use a crimp tool).

So feel free to hit up the links above to buy the tools. If you are interested in the Monoprice items, check out there links below:

Monoprice Cat6 Keystone Jacks (I used the standard punch down type, like this one.)

Monoprice Keystone Wall Plates

If you enjoyed this article, please like, subscribe and share!

~Trevor

 

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