Project Guide: Installing Audio & Video Cables Behind Walls
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
Depending on how your home is constructed, running
cables behind your walls may be a project you can do yourself with a few
common tools. Typically, the simplest approach is to run cables either to
attic space above the wall or to a basement or crawl space below the wall.
beginning any project, read and observe the manufacturer’s instructions and
adhere to all recommended safety precautions carefully. If you have any
doubts, consult a local expert. If you aren’t able to install cables behind
the walls, an alternative option is to conceal audio and video cables using a
cord cover system. Refer to our Using
Wiremold Cord Covers to Hide Audio and Video Cables Project Guide for more
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.
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.
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.
Insert a glow stick, stiff wire or straightened coat hanger into the hole.
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
Use a flashlight to be sure there are no electrical wires or plumbing pipes
behind the walls where you will be working.
Cut Openings for Wall Boxes
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.
Drill a 1/2” starter hole at a corner of your outline.
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
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
Run the Cable
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.
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.
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.
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.
At the wall opening, steadily retract the fish tape. This will pull the cable
or cables to the wall opening.
Repeat the process for each wall opening.
Install the Jacks
Pull the cable through the hole in your wall box or low-voltage bracket.
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
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 jack.
Secure the cable jack or speaker jack to the wall box or bracket using the
screws provided by the manufacturer.
If the jack has a separate wall plate, screw the wall plate to the cable jack.
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.
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.
Connect the Speakers or Other Equipment
Follow the manufacturers installation instructions for connecting your
speakers or other audio/video equipment.