Having a fast, reliable internet connection at home is more important than ever before. Slow internet speeds can make it difficult to work from home, stream movies and TV shows, play online games, and more. Rewiring your home for faster internet is possible for the ambitious DIYer willing to learn about home networking and electrical work. With some planning, the right materials, and basic wiring skills, you can upgrade your home's network cabling and hardware to support faster broadband speeds without hiring an expensive electrician.
This guide will walk through the complete process of rewiring a home for faster wired and WiFi internet step-by-step. Follow along to learn how to:
- Evaluate your current internet setup and identify bottlenecks
- Select the right ethernet cable type and hardware for your network
- Safely run new ethernet and coaxial cables through your home
- Install ethernet wall jacks and connect devices to your network
- Improve WiFi coverage with access points and mesh networks
- Test your new network setup for improved speed and reliability
Let's get started with understanding the factors limiting your current internet speeds.
Evaluating Your Current Internet Setup
The first step before rewiring is to diagnose any issues with your current network setup that may be limiting speeds.
Run speed tests regularly at different times of day, both wired and over WiFi. Compare the upload and download speeds you actually achieve versus your plan's advertised maximum speeds.
- Is your internet consistently much slower than the speeds you pay for? This indicates a problem.
- Do speeds drop at peak usage times? This points to an underpowered modem, router, or ISP network congestion.
- Are speeds over WiFi significantly slower than wired? Poor WiFi coverage may be the issue.
Inspect your current networking hardware setup:
- Modem - Is it leased from your ISP and several years old? Older models may lack features to achieve faster speed tiers.
- Router - An outdated home gateway router can bottleneck traffic and WiFi speeds.
- Network cables - Are cables damaged? Ethernet or coax cable quality impacts performance.
- WiFi coverage - Dead zones around your home hurt wireless speeds.
Identifying where the slowdowns are occurring will direct your rewiring efforts.
Choosing the Right Ethernet Cabling
To wire your home for fast wired speeds, you'll need to run new ethernet cabling. The category rating and quality of the cabling affects network performance, so choose carefully.
For gigabit internet speeds, use Category 6 or 6A ethernet cable. Category 6 is tested to handle gigabit speeds up to 1000 Mbps, while Category 6A supports connections up to 10 Gbps. Either will provide performance headroom:
- Category 6 - Provides reliable gigabit speeds at a lower cost. Ideal for most home rewiring projects.
- Category 6A - Supports 10Gbit networks if you plan on ultra-high speed internet. Much more expensive than Category 6.
When purchasing bulk ethernet cable, ensure it has the proper Category 6 or 6A rating printed directly on the cable jacket. Stay away from any uncertified cable.
Solid conductor cable holds up better over long runs compared to stranded cable. 24 AWG thickness is standard for CAT6. Shielded cable adds extra noise protection but is harder to work with.
For coaxial cable runs, RG6 rated cable should be used for broadband and cable modem connections. RG59 is older and not rated for modern high-speed internet plans. Stick with quality RG6 cable from reputable brands.
Selecting Compatible Ethernet Hardware
Your new ethernet cabling can only operate as fast as your networking equipment allows. After running your new cabling, upgrade your router, switches, and network cards to hardware rated for your internet plan's speeds.
For gigabit internet service, you need:
- Gigabit router - Look for AC1900+ rated wireless routers. Nighthawk, ASUS, and TP-Link make fast modern routers. A wireless mesh system also works.
- Gigabit switch - An 8 or 16 port unmanaged gigabit switch offers full gigabit ports for many wired connections. Brand is not critical.
- Gigabit NIC - Any computer that will connect via gigabit ethernet needs a 1000 Mbps network interface card (NIC). Onboard LAN ports on modern PCs and laptops typically support gigabit.
Purchasing new modem rated for your speed tier can help. Avoid using a leased modem from your ISP. Nighthawk, Motorola, and ARRIS make good cable modems with high speed support.
Always check that any networking hardware is rated for your internet plan speed. The lowest rated component will bottleneck your overall speeds.
Safely Running New Ethernet Cable
Once you have your new CAT6 ethernet cable and hardware picked out, it's time to run cable through the walls. This requires fishing cable through your home and drilling holes to install wall plates - so exercise caution.
First, map out your cable runs. Plan where your Ethernet cables will need to travel from the central network location or router to each room needing a connection. Measure the distances to estimate how much cable you need.
Gather the required installation tools:
- Fish tape
- Coax crimper
- Cable crimper and stripper
- Drill and bits
- Drywall saw
- Ethernet wall plates
- Cable connectors
Carefully drill any holes needed through framing and studs for cable runs. Avoid plumbing, electrical, and other hazards hidden in walls. Use a drywall saw to cut outlet openings.
Run cables by attaching them to fish tape and feeding through finished walls. Have a friend feed the fish tape through from the other end. Pull cables to leave plenty of slack.
Install ethernet wall jacks with keystone inserts where you want wired connections. Use coax fittings for connecting cable modems and TV service as needed.
Finally, crimp connectors onto cable ends and connect them to jacks and ports on your networking hardware. Test each cable run for connectivity on your network.
Rewiring your home network demands patience and care. Work slowly to avoid costly mistakes. If uncomfortable with electrical or drywall work, consider hiring a handyman to help.
Improving Your WiFi Coverage
While ethernet cables provide fast and reliable wired internet connections, WiFi convenience remains important in any home network upgrade.
If your current WiFi router provides poor coverage, adding an extender or mesh wi-fi system can help fill in dead zones:
- Mesh routers create an integrated wireless network throughout large homes. Nest, Eero, and Orbi make reliable mesh router systems.
- WiFi extenders plug into wall outlets to broadcast your router's signals into distant rooms.
For the best performance, connect any extenders or satellites to your main router using ethernet backhaul. This prevents slowdowns caused by daisy chaining multiple WiFi signals.
Strategically placing WiFi access points around your home on the end of ethernet runs also improves coverage. Disable WiFi on your main router and enable it exclusively on access points for optimal coverage. Ubiquiti Unifi and TP-Link EAP access points work great.
Your rewiring project provides the ideal opportunity to upgrade your router and properly place new wireless access hardware powered by ethernet. Reliable WiFi ensures all your devices can achieve faster speeds - not just wired ones.
Testing Your Handiwork
The final step after completing your network upgrade is verifying your work paid off with faster internet speeds:
- Run wired speed tests on computers connected via new ethernet runs. You should now see gigabit speeds near 1000 Mbps!
- For WiFi, test speeds near each new wireless access point. The speed should match your broadband plan, accounting for the slower nature of wireless connections.
- Confirm your modem's connection status lights indicate proper gigabit sync rates with your ISP.
- Do a walkthrough test streaming 4K video or gaming online. Check for any remaining dead zones.
- Consider upgrading your internet plan to take full advantage of your home's new networking capacity.
Some tweaks like adjusting router channels, firmware updates, and network priority settings can further optimize performance. But your home network is now ready for blazing fast internet!
Rewiring a home with ethernet and coax cable is a substantial but rewarding project for enterprising homeowners. Following careful planning, you can completely overhaul your home's network cabling to eliminate bottlenecks and support faster internet speeds. Combining new wires with modern networking hardware and upgraded WiFi ensures reliable connectivity for all your devices. With the right materials and diligent safety precautions, you can upgrade your internet without an electrician. Your network is now ready to handle the demands of 4K streaming, smart homes, online gaming and working from home for years to come.