Network wiring for the non networking geek

I’ve recently been asked by a friend about dealing with a home networking setup left semi functional by the previous occupant. This friend hasn’t done the wired ethernet networking thing before, and was looking for guidance and assistance in finding the useful tools and right parts. Actually doing the work is a different problem.

First up, parts:

Keystone jacks, 110 style punch down . Cat5e. The likelyhood that in your home network you need anything more advanced than a Cat5 RJ45 jack is near zero.

Cat 5 wire, if you are going to be pulling more runs, or want to make your own patch cables. I don’t bother making my own patch cables anymore, because monoprice fixed that . I still keep the tooling around for dealing with unusual events and situations.

It’s very important you use the correct wire type if you are putting wires in walls, or air ducts. Plenum rated is for air ducts. Riser is for walls. Everything else is only for patch cords. A lot of cheaper Cat5 cable is actually Copper Coated Aluminum (CCA), which means it’s not actually Cat5. A shocking large number of things, people, and places don’t care. I’m not one of them. If it’s really cheap, ask yourself why.

If you are planning on making your own patch cables, you will need RJ45 crimp on ends , and the appropriate crimping tools. (see below)

Bringing all the wires to a central point in the house, and installing a switch at that point is the typical method. While you can just crimp ends on the wires, a patch panel is generally a better option. A 24 port or 48 port cat5 patch panel is the typical option for this. If you want to terminate other types of connections at that panel, a keystone panel might be be in order as well. There’s lots of options and preferences in this space. For most home installs, the cheap stuff will be just fine. I like mounting all of this to a wall, so things like a hinged wall mount bracket become handy.


110 punch down tool. Used to terminate cleanly and correctly all the wire that I’ve described above. I strongly recommend the type with an impact cutter than a 2 inch piece of plastic that came with your jacks. The plastic thing works in a pinch, but it’s not a replacement for the right tool.

Tone and trace set. You probably don’t know where any of these wires go right now. The tone and trace set lets you put a signal on the wire you are hunting, and use an inductive tone probe to go find the other end of that wire. This one is cheap, effective and works on 9v batteries. Also has a built in wiring checker to make sure that you at least got the wires in the right order.

Rj45 crimping tool. Still planning on building your own patch cables? Get a decent crimping tool. The Ideal Telemaster seems to be the thing to beat in this area.

Wire cutters, knife, screwdriver, etc.
Basically, anything in this category will work acceptably. There’s plenty of custom created tools to make doing high volumes of this work easier, but there’s no point in collecting that set of tools until you are doing this more than once a quarter.