Remodeling?  Don’t Get Your Wires Crossed

By Oli Tripp and Scott Sery

why work with Comtech

Creating your dream basement can be a daunting task.  With so many details to remember, you constantly are worrying about something being overlooked!  In order to prevent a headache down the road, make sure that you run the wires the right way.

Two Inches Apart

There are two types of wires that you will need installed in your home: high voltage and low voltage.  The high voltage wires carry electricity, the low voltage carry data (like your internet, phone, and speaker wires).  Currently Montana doesn’t have building codes surrounding low voltage wiring, so using standards from other states we can develop best practices.  To avoid interference, low voltage wires should be ran no closer than 2 inches to high voltage wiring.

You may be thinking, “But what if my wires have to cross?”  In that case, cross them at a 90 degree intersection to minimize contact.

Provide a Conduit

Technology changes all the time.  Cabling that works great today may be obsolete 10 years from now.  To make your upgrades much easier, run all of your low voltage through a corrugated innerduct. Most HDMI cables are around 1 inch wide, so choose an innerduct that is at least 1.25 to 2 inches in diameter to ensure you have plenty of room in there for extra wires now, and future wiring.

Double Up on Wires

When you are installing wiring for a projector, did you know that you’re supposed to include multiple wires?  You want two CAT5 cables and two RG6 cables (also called coaxial cables).  The reason is that you have a lot of data to transfer.  The two CAT5 cables transfer data to the projector (or wall-mounted television) and then back to the control box.  One of the RG6 cables comes from the cable box, the other transfers audio back to your audio system.

Higher Gauge is Better

When it comes to speaker wire, you have a ton of options. But some are better than others.  It is recommended to use 16 gauge, high strand, oxygen free, audio wire.  This wiring is a little thicker than most speaker wires, and it will provide a cleaner, crisper sound with less distortion than a lower quality counterpart.

Keep Back 14 Feet

When you’re putting everything together for your theater room, one question that will inevitably pop up is, “Where should I put my projector?”  The answer, “14 feet back.”  This is the safe distance we tell most people.  It is a distance that fits most projector’s “throw ration.”  At 14 feet, your projector should fill most residential theater screens and display a quality picture on screens from 92 inches, up to 120 inches.

family room entertainment systemRemember the Outlet

Finally, before you hang the drywall, do you have your outlets in place?  Have you included one on the ceiling for the projector, or one high up on the wall for a wall mounted TV?  You would be surprised how often this is missed!


Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.  In this case, if you happen to miss a step you could end up with a theater room that doesn’t quite live up to what you expected (or you’re tearing down drywall to update wiring).

If planning and getting the wiring just right is too overwhelming, you can bring in a design expert that will help you to create a space you will love for years to come.

Oli Tripp owns Comtech Audio Theater Security in Billings, MT.  He has over 20 years experience in the low voltage and system integration industry.  Oli and his wife Melanie grew up in Western Montana.  They moved to Billings in 2001 to start Comtech and currently live in Laurel with their 3 beautiful daughters.