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Ethernet Cabling installation and retrofit

As technology advances, so should your home network. We use only the highest quality cabling installation products on the market. Whether you need help with the simple task of moving a single cat 5E or cat 6 ethernet cable, or require an entire overhaul, we are here to help. At Geocomp, we have extensive experience to install or upgrade your home wiring in order to ensure your computer network is running smooth and fast.

Detailed information on almost everything you want to know about cabling.

What are the category specifications?

The category specifications related to the frequency that a cable can handle at a certain length, type and size. The longer the distance, the smaller the cable and the type of cable will vary the end result but the category specs were designed to provide a standard where that specification will work.


Cat5: Describes the cable as:
"Category 5[2] cable includes twisted pairs in a single cable jacket. This use of balanced lines helps preserve a high signal-to-noise ratio despite interference from both external sources and other pairs (this latter form of interference is called crosstalk). It is most commonly used for 100 Mbit/s networks, such as 100BASE-TX Ethernet, although IEEE 802.3ab defines standards for 1000BASE-T – Gigabit Ethernet over category 5 cable. Cat 5 cable typically has three twists per inch of each twisted pair of 24 gauge (AWG) copper wires within the cables." * from wikipedia.com


The maximum specified distance for Cat5 cable is 100m. This allows for 10m of stranded cable at either end. Solid core has less attenuation than stranded cable. In order to reach the specification limits of an install, install quality is key. Most IT people are aware that not doing a quality install or running out of spec installs might 'work'. This tends to be very obvious when running at a lower speed than the grade. Improperly installed Cat 6a cable may work fine at 100Mbps but fail hard when moved to 1000Mbps. Or you may find that power over Ethernet refuses to work because the installer split a cable in to 2 drops. Mistakes like these will often erase any 'savings' for going out of spec or running poor quality cable.


Other category specifications include: "Cat 1", Cat 3, Cat5, Cat 5e, Cat6, Cat6e, Cat6a etc.

Category 1 is generally flat phone cord. This is not a "real" category but it is often used to refer to flat cable, untwisted pair and quad color cable (Red, green, yellow, black). Phone companies often use untwisted cables for analog phone service and DSL from the central office to the home.

Category 3 is generally used for 10BaseT and some 100BaseT.

Category 5 is generally used for 100BaseT. Good quality Category 5 cable is supposed to support Gigabit Ethernet however some people recommend Cat5e due to the tighter specifications.

Category 5e and 6 are able to do 1000BaseT.

There are categories 6a and 6e* as well as category 7, but for home use it is unlikely we will see a need for these cables for many years. These categories may also include a "filler" or "X-member" that is used to keep the twisted pairs separated. The goal of the filler is to reduce crosstalk and twisting internal to the cable.

*"Cat6e:" The official standard only mentioned Cat6a, However Cat6e has appeared on the market. Generally the cables are supposed to exceed the Cat6 standard but may not meet Cat6a. In some cases they are interchangeable. Make sure to check the specifications.

The category cables are backwards compatible. 10BaseT will operate properly on Cat6. The better cable will not provide any benefits if installed inside the specifications. The better cables will be more tolerate of installation errors or out of spec installs for the slower speeds. However proper install is critical when running at the maximum speed of the cable. Some of the grades will have a megahertz rating. Any megahertz rating above specification will generally be ok. In some cases the better cables will let you go past the specified limits however this is not recommended and may cause frame errors and other strange behavior.

Wire Color

Ethernet follows a standard of using cables colored either solid or with a white stripe. The colors are blue, green, orange and brown. See image (*2) below.

Termination standards

There are two main standards: 568A and 568B. 568B is considered the defacto standard. Typically all patch panels and keystones will have 568B and may also include the information for 568A. When installing cables one standard is selected and both ends should be terminated using that standard.Using one standard on one side and another on the other end will result in a crossover cable. This may work depending on the equipment you have but is not considered spec and may result in some devices failing to connect.

It should also be noted that the two standards show certain colors punched down in what appears to be out of order. Commonly for ease of punching, the solids and stripes are punched down next to each other even though pin 3 and 5 should be swapped (white/blue + white/orange or white/blue + white/green depending on the standard.) When patching cables to the panel, the sticker may not reflect this. Patch the cables to the instructions on the patch panel or keystone. For these panels the wire rotation is hidden inside the device.

Cable information

Solid core cable is for in wall, limited movement installation. This cable is 8 solid copper wires in a jacket. This cable is the primary cable used during installation.

Stranded cable is used for patch cords. This cable is 8 stranded copper cables in a jacket. Nearly all in home installers will have no use for this cable.

The cable jackets also vary depending on the use. Plenum cable is designed for installation inside air spaces because it is designed not to out gas chemicals. This means it is considered safe to install inside a duct etc. Others will be flame retardant or minimal halogen for fire safety. Outdoor cables will have UV stabilized jackets etc.

Some cables are also rated for vertical and horizontal install. Vertical install is used between floors of office buildings. This cable will often have extra support in the cable. This is evident as strings or plastic filler. Horizontal will not have have this. In most homes horizontal cable is fine. The extra support of a vertical rated cable is only needed if the weight of the cable can break the copper wire.

Category cable can also be shielded. A metal shield is wrapped around the twisted pairs that when properly installed increases the resilience to noise. This is typically used in heavy industrial situation where EMI from equipment will over come the balancing of the twisted pairs. At home, there is not reason to use this cable. It requires special gear to terminate it properly and safely. Using it incorrectly can worsen the connection and even cause electrical damage or a fire.

Bottom line for home is to use basic indoor horizontal cable. Stranded cable is designed to be used for patch cords. Patch cords should be purchased pre-built. As simple as it looks to crimp cables, professionals normally don't bother due to the moderate to high failure rate and the time wasted building, testing and rebuilding the cables. In most cases, pre-built patch cords are available cheaper than the cost of the cable and ends. You also don't waste time diagnosing crimping problems that can result from untwisting the cable to far, out of order wiring, nicked cables etc. A home user has no use for this cable and should not be using it in bulk boxes. (*6) To see a box of cable (bulk)


Keystones are small block connectors with a place to punch cables that provide a cable connection. When dealing with ethernet, this will always be an RJ45 connector with 8 pins. They will be color coded to the Ethernet colors. There are 2 main installation types. Punchless (tool less) and punched. Punched will use a 110 punch tool to attach the cable, while punchless will have a plastic top designed to connect the cables from the pressure of pushing the top on to the keystone. Cables are installed without stripping the insulation off the Ethernet cable. The keystones are then installed in a wallplate and mounted to a refit ring or wall box.

Keystones are category speced. You should use the proper category keystone for the cable you are installing. The wire gauges vary between the specs and as such the blades that pierce the insulation are spaced differently. Using the incorrect spec keystone can result in the cables not actually connecting to the copper being completely cut (intermittent, failed or framing errors.) (*7) to see two types of keystones below (*9) to see a wallplate

Patch Panels

A patch panel resembles a simple panel with many keystones in it. They normally can accept any where from 4 to 48 cables and are designed to be in any place where a large number of cables need to be centralized. Some will come with all of the ports filled and not be alterable. Others will come only with holes that keystones are designed to be installed in. If you get an empty panel, be sure to buy the proper keystones to lock in to the patch panel. Patch panels follow the same basic rules as the keystones. They are category specified and should match the cable being installed. They are typically marked for 568B termination but may include 568A as well. Some are tool-less and other require a 110 Punch to install. The patch panel will provide the RJ45 connection to plug your pre-built patch cables into that then get plugged in the network switches. See (*3) To see a patch cable (*4) To see a patch panel (*5) to see a patch panel wall mount.

Low Voltage remodel box, Drywall Ring, or 'Fake box'

This small plastic ring is the same size as a typical box hole would be. It has plastic tangs that can be rotated around and tightened to grab the back of the dry wall. This ring then has screw holes where you can attach your face plate where the keystones snap in to. (*8) To see a refit ring


Besides the typical allotment of screw drivers...

110 Punch

Nearly all tooled cable installs will require a "110 punch." These tools are pretty common and used all over the industry. The 110 punch will insert in a slot in the keystones or patch panels. You apply pressure to insert the cable. Cheaper units are just a blade with a plastic handle, others will have a spring loaded hammer that will strike the blade as it is pushed in. Typically the best 110 punches will have removable blades and a 'hammer' that is adjustable in strength. For networking the most common 110 blade is a 110 cutting blade. This blade will cut the cable off flush with the keystone or patch panel. See image (*1)

RJ45 crimper

This tool is used to attach an RJ45 head to cable. This tool is not needed by home installers. The heads are on the patch cables which should be store bought. Trying to crimp your own cables is the number one reason for physical plant problems. Don't waste your time with crimped cables. Machine built cables are available for cheaper than you can crimp your own in most cases.