Installing Audio and Video Cables Behind Walls
Installing video or audio cables behind your walls is a great way to extend your home entertainment system without cluttering your floors with a tangle of cables. For example, if you’re installing surround sound, you might want to conceal the speaker wire running from your A/V receiver to rear-mounted speakers. You can also run cables from home theater components, like a DVR, to a wall-mounted flat panel TV on an opposite wall or even to a TV in another room.
WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS JOB:
Step 1: Determine the Jack Locations
|Note: If you’re running speaker wire to rear speakers, you will need one jack behind your A/V receiver and one jack behind each speaker or a shared jack between your speakers. If you’re running audio or video cable to a TV, you will need an opening behind your home theater components and an opening behind the TV.
1. Use a stud finder to determine the location of wall studs around each jack location.
Mark a spot for each jack, in the open space between studs.
2. If you’ll be running cable through your attic, carefully drill a hole through the
ceiling or crown molding, above each jack location. If you’ll be running cable
through your basement or crawl space, drill into the baseboard instead.
3. Insert a glow stick, stiff wire or straightened coat hanger into the hole.
4. In your attic or basement, look for a two-by-four beam adjacent to the protruding
stiff wire. In an attic, this beam is the top of the wall, known as the top plate. In a
basement, it’s the bottom of the wall, known as the bottom plate.
5. Use a flashlight to be sure there are no electrical wires or plumbing pipes behind
the walls where you will be working.
Step 2: Cut Openings for Wall Boxes
|1. Trace the outline of a wall box or low-voltage bracket onto the wall at each jack
location, using the box or manufacturer-provided template. Do not trace the box’s
flanges, which will be used to secure the box to the drywall. Use a level to make
sure the box outline is straight.
2. Drill a 1/2” starter hole at a corner of your outline.
3. Starting at the hole, cut along the outline with your drywall saw. It’s okay if the
edges of the opening are rough. You can conceal the opening with a wall plate.
4. If you plan to add insulation in the wall behind your speakers to reduce booming,
this is the best time. Standard R-11 wall insulation works well for this purpose.
Step 3: Run the Cable
|1. In your attic, drill a hole through the top plate, directly above each jack location. If
you’re running cable through a basement or crawlspace, drill a hole in the bottom
plate directly below the jack.
2. Feed your fish tape into one of the wall openings, pushing it up into the hole you
made in the top plate. If you’re running cable through a basement or crawl space,
push it down to the hole in the bottom plate. You may need to insert the end of a
coat hanger into the hole to pull the end of the fish tape through the hole.
3. You may encounter a fire block, a horizontal beam of wood running between the
wall studs. To run the cable through the wall, you’ll need to drill a hole through
the fire block. You may be able to drill from below, through the wall box opening,
using a long flexible drill bit. Alternatively, you can cut into the drywall at the
location of the wall block, and drill a hole or cut a notch for the cable. After you
have installed the new cables, patch over the drywall hole. See our Patching
Large Holes in Wallboard Project Guide for step-by-step instructions.
4. From the attic, basement, or crawl space, use electrical tape to secure one end of
the cable to the hook on the fish tape. If you are running multiple cables, tape
each cable together, and secure them to the fish tape.
5. At the wall opening, steadily retract the fish tape. This will pull the cable or cables
to the wall opening.
6. Repeat the process for each wall opening.
Step 4: Install the Jacks
|1. Pull the cable through the hole in your wall box or low-voltage bracket.
2. Slide the wall box or bracket into the wall opening, and secure the wall box flanges
to the drywall, using the screws and directions provided by the manufacturer.
3. For speaker wire, attach the wire connectors or stripped wire ends to the terminals
on the back of the speaker jack. If you are running an audio/video cable, connect
the male connector on the cable to the female connector on the back of the cable
4. Secure the cable jack or speaker jack to the wall box or bracket using the screws
provided by the manufacturer.
5. If the jack has a separate wall plate, screw the wall plate to the cable jack.
3. Alternatively, you can run cables straight out of the wall, without a jack, and
connect them directly to your speakers or home theater components. In this case,
cover the wall opening with a pass-through wall plate.
4. Feed the cables through the wall plate opening and secure the plate directly to
the wall box, using the screws provided with the wall plate.
Step 5: Connect the Speakers or Other Equipment
|Follow the manufacturers installation instructions for connecting your speakers or
other audio/video equipment.