Wiring an entire house

I am in the process of building a house and go to the design center in 2 weeks to pick out just about everything under the sun. I was thinking it would be nice to have wiring throughout the house for internet. I have no idea what the costs would be or what I can expect to pay but have a couple questions:

1) Is this worth paying for?
2) If so, what should I expect to pay?
3) Is this worth doing now rather than after walls are up? I'm going to think this is a stupid question and the answer is yes.

Unrelated -- sorta. We were also thinking of getting a whole house intercom system because you can play music throughout the house through it and also page people (fun!). Would it be better to just wire each room with a couple speakers instead? I really like the idea of putting on music and having it played in every room.

1) Absolutely.
2) You can get 1000 feet of CAT-6 for about $100, and junction boxes are pretty cheap. Conduit tends to be the big expense if you go that route.
3) Yes. Running wires after the walls are up is much harder, and may require pilot holes to be cut.

My experience with intercoms is that they're a rarely used novelty. Particularly these days when everyone has a smartphone or other wireless device. Even traditional wired speakers may or may not suit your needs. For example, check out the Sonos product line. What I'd do is call a home audio specialist and talk to them about what you might want. They do network wiring as well, so you can cover everything. Then you can decide what you want to do yourself vs. what you might want to pay an installer to take care of for you.

The thing with home audio is that once you're wiring multiple rooms you'll want a way to control what music is played where, if at all, relative volume levels, etc. Something like the Sonos setup handles all of this in software, and I imagine some of the better hi-fi systems do this as well. But with a house full of wired speakers you'll probably have multiple amps, etc. It's a non-trivial setup.

I'd also try to make sure there's a way to easily remove whatever stuff you install for replacement / service. My parents had this Bose system with a sub in the ceiling and they had to replace the sub. Not fun.

For wiring in general, if you can manage the expense I'd place conduit between the junction boxes and the crawl space or attic -- wherever the wires will be going. Then it's easy to get more wires in later if you realize you forgot something.

Yes to everything.. if you are building a house you should run all sorts of wiring no matter if you never use it! Looking intro Structured Cabling that can then be adapted for Video/Audio/Control.

The idea you're having is too special-purpose; that house may exist for fifty or a hundred years, and you don't want to overspecialize it: that can turn into problems for the next owners.

What I would suggest, instead, would be this: run two Cat 6a wires, and one fiber, from a central closet somewhere to every room in the house. 6a wire can carry ten gigabits (if I understand correctly, that's about as fast as copper can reasonably get), and the fiber can probably go faster still. You probably won't use the fiber for now, you'll just use the copper, but it shouldn't cost that much extra to do fiber.

In that central closet, you'll want a power outlet, and a shelf where you can mount a switch. You probably don't want to put too much stuff in there, or you'll have heat issues, but a nice 24-port switch should be fine. You'll want the wire to come out in a nice flat panel for the RJ45 (network) connections, and then use whatever the standard is for fiber... I don't even know. Make sure you get all the wires qualified by actual professionals; it doesn't take that long to run a test, and you really want to be sure the wire and fiber are good, because it's such a huge pain to try to fix later.

In an existing house, where they have to fish through the walls, I'd expect a setup like that to run, hmm, probably $250 for the patch panel, and then another, hmm, maybe $350/room. If you're doing it during the build phase, it should be much cheaper. The panel will still probably be $250 (mostly labor, hooking up the wires), but rooms will probably only be about $150 each.

You might want to get a couple bids from local network people as well; they're usually better than the contractors, and they can easily work around them once the roof is up, but before the drywall goes in. You'd probably want the electric done first, and then the networking. This is so they know where they can safely run their copper; they need to cross power cables at right angles, and power people don't always know that, so it's best to do the networking after the power.

edit: Make sure that getting test results is part of the bid. You want actual pieces of paper proving that the wire and fiber are functioning correctly. Fiber is easy to kink, so testing on that is especially important.

second edit: because I wasn't clear enough: what you're doing here is building a distribution backbone in the house. Once you've got the capability of delivering ten or more gigabits to every room in the house, you can hook up whatever the heck you want to that. As needs change over the years, that backbone will constantly adapt to new purposes... there's no reason why it wouldn't still be working fine, fifty years from now. If you focus too closely on one idea now (distributing audio), you'll cripple those later scenarios.

Get a general solution, not a specific one. What if you someday decide you want to run ten-channel sound everywhere in the house? If all you have is wire for stereo audio, you're hosed. With bandwidth, you can do anything you like.

yet another edit: I originally said Cat 6e; I meant Cat 6a. There is no real 6e yet. Sorry!

Also consider running speaker wire if you're thinking of in wall audio down the road.

Wow, a lot of great information! As I've never gone through the process of having a house built, I will have to see if I have to go with their builders/contractors for everything or if I can bring in someone on my own. I do like Malor's idea of really planning for the future. This house is large enough that I hope I never have to sell it. Granted, I said that about my last home before my company relocated me 1,000 miles away

A lot to think about and digest. Thanks guys.

Make sure you also leave enough space for a chair, you'll never know it might be an issue down the road.

WizKid wrote:

Make sure you also leave enough space for a chair, you'll never know it might be an issue down the road.

In the closet?

[edit]
Also, Dethroned, good luck and congratulations! I've never had (nor will have) the chance to build my own home but I used to think about what I'd do many times. Running network cables was the prime motivator after my student house had a terrible "DIY" solution (which worked but looked horrid) but all my subsequent houses have never had any networking at all - which has caused many problems.

WizKid wrote:

Make sure you also leave enough space for a chair, you'll never know it might be an issue down the road.

I heard it doesn't have to be a chair.

Duoae wrote:
WizKid wrote:

Make sure you also leave enough space for a chair, you'll never know it might be an issue down the road.

In the closet?

[edit]
Also, Dethroned, good luck and congratulations! I've never had (nor will have) the chance to build my own home but I used to think about what I'd do many times. Running network cables was the prime motivator after my student house had a terrible "DIY" solution (which worked but looked horrid) but all my subsequent houses have never had any networking at all - which has caused many problems.

Thanks! Our intent was never to build a house. I lived in CT up until April of this year when my job relocated me to outside Alpharetta, GA. Due to the cost of living being a bit lower in GA and me keeping my pay, it has allowed my wife and I to build a house that we really will be happy with. We set a budget for ourselves (basically wanted to pay what we were paying in CT) and are able to build a home 2.5 times the size of our house in CT which was built in 1959. Kind of crazy how different things are!

Malor has already given heap good advice, except I am unsure you'd get reasonable estimates for a residential fiber project. The market is not there yet.

One thing I wish to ask: use this opportunity to also run the speaker wire everywhere you may want it eventually to be, with the aim having 5.1 or 7.1 in your entertainment room, porch/patio, and in-wall speakers in the right places (entertainment room again, master bedroom, master bathroom etc).

The tricky thing with speaker wire is where you run it to. Like maybe you have an amp in the room and speakers run to that, or maybe the amp is elsewhere... this is one reason I suggested talking to a home audio installer. Even if the process of actually wiring the house is easy before it's finished, an expert may have ideas for how to set things up that you wouldn't have considered on your own.

As for fiber... I wouldn't bother for now. Though pulling it through later shouldn't be difficult if you plan for that. Conduit with string routed through probably being the easiest solution there.

I think the best way to go is to have a regular A/V amp in the entertainment room and den, and inexpensive class T amps everywhere else where needed.

If it helps, we did this when we built about a year ago. We had to do it through the folks our builder work with for A/V stuff. Since they were already wiring for cable in the bedrooms & such, it was a drop in the bucket to add cat6 alongside it. I think they charged us an extra $50 a room for anywhere we wanted cat6, and it all trunks to the closet near the garage where our cable/phone stuff comes in too. TOTALLY worth it.

One more endorsement for "run every damn wire you might ever want before the drywall goes up."

A few years ago a good friend of mine didn't listen when he built his house, because "everything's wireless now anyway" and now he's cursing that he didn't spend the extra thousand bucks.

Yeah, you know how you get good wireless coverage in a larger house? Running wires to multiple access points. Boy, it sure would be nice to have a few ethernet ports for doing that.

LOL. I can't remember if I read it on a paper or heard it on the news from some "tech" guys' discussion on this issue but the prime take-away point was "Soon we'll have kids that don't even know what wires [for charging devices] are!".

I laughed and explained to everyone else who had heard it that, nope - all us old fogeys are not going to die suddenly or have our property repossessed in the night by jack-booted wire haters.

I can see some people thinking of a similar sort of argument for wireless networks etc...

Duoae wrote:

LOL. I can't remember if I read it on a paper or heard it on the news from some "tech" guys' discussion on this issue but the prime take-away point was "Soon we'll have kids that don't even know what wires [for charging devices] are!".

I laughed and explained to everyone else who had heard it that, nope - all us old fogeys are not going to die suddenly or have our property repossessed in the night by jack-booted wire haters.

I can see some people thinking of a similar sort of argument for wireless networks etc...

Yeah my neighbors router doesn't make my wired connection have issues. I've played the "channel shuffle" game a few times in the old place when new neighbors put up modems with factory defaults running.... reminds me of the time I accidently locked down the neighbors router/AP not realizing that our wass shut off by my roommate (and not reset like I thought he had at first). after a trip downstairs and seeing everything on the circuit shut off I quitely reset the settings on the neighbors completely unprotected Router.

Duoae wrote:

LOL. I can't remember if I read it on a paper or heard it on the news from some "tech" guys' discussion on this issue but the prime take-away point was "Soon we'll have kids that don't even know what wires [for charging devices] are!".

I laughed and explained to everyone else who had heard it that, nope - all us old fogeys are not going to die suddenly or have our property repossessed in the night by jack-booted wire haters.

I can see some people thinking of a similar sort of argument for wireless networks etc...

Yeah my neighbors router doesn't make my wired connection have issues. I've played the "channel shuffle" game a few times in the old place when new neighbors put up modems with factory defaults running.... reminds me of the time I accidently locked down the neighbors router/AP not realizing that our wass shut off by my roommate (and not reset like I thought he had at first). after a trip downstairs and seeing everything on the circuit shut off I quitely reset the settings on the neighbors completely unprotected Router.