Frustrations and delays

Well, not a whole lot has been accomplished since I finished the framing. I got the wiring done for the surround speakers and put in the ethernet cabling. But I wisely decided to buy a tester to make sure the ethernet was working. It was not.

Wiring ethernet is a pretty exacting undertaking. An ethernet cable has eight tiny wires in the sheath, arranged in four, color-coded twisted pairs. To connect the cable to a jack, you strip off about an inch of the sheath, arrange the wires on the jack and then use a punch-in tool that pushes each individual wire down over a metal pin. The network tester sends a signal through each wire, in turn. You plug in the main unit at one end and a remote unit at the other. The remote has numbers one through eight that should light up in the same order as the ones on the main unit. If they light up in different orders, that means you attached the wrong wire to the wrong pin. If some don’t light up at all, it means there’s a bad connection.

When I tested, only three or four of the lights lit up (but they lit up in the right order). I went back over the jack with the punch-in tool. No improvement. I thought I had maybe nicked the wires when cutting the sheath off, so I carefully snipped the sheath and pulled it apart to free another inch of wiring and tried again. No improvement. Maybe, I thought, I kinked the wiring when I pulled it through the joists, so I took a 100-foot role that I hadn’t used yet and put a jack on each end. Only two of the wires lit up.

Either I was really bad with the punch-in tool, or the wiring I got was bad. I finally got the idea to take a spare ethernet cable and test it to make sure it worked. Then I snipped off the ends and wired up two jacks. I tested again, and it worked fine. The problem, apparently, was the wiring I bought.

I had ordered the ethernet cabling a little more than a month ago, so it was out of the return window for Amazon. But when I contacted them and told them what had happened, they graciously agreed to accept the return anyway. Amazon is good that way. I ordered a higher-rated cable and installed a run this morning. From the moment I stripped the first sheath, I could tell this was better stuff. The twisted pairs were more tightly wound and the individual wires were solid cores, not strands. I installed the jacks, plugged in the tester and held my breath. The lights flashed, all of them, in order. My punch-in skills have been vindicated.

I’ve been reading up on electrical wiring as I prepare to get that roughed-in. I’m starting to get my head around it. I’m not sure how long it will take, especially as our weekends fill up with summertime activities.

The plumber will be coming in about a week to get the water pipes and drains ready for the half-bath and wet bar. And we’ve been trying to settle on flooring and ceiling options – what we do for the ceiling may affect placement of the light fixtures, so we need to work that out before the wiring’s complete.

I’m feeling a little frustrated with the pace, but I think it’s just because I’m at a place where progress isn’t as visible and easily measured. Once the wiring is done and the fireplace framed in, we can start putting up drywall. That will feel like progress.

Bring it on.

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