Having fast, reliable internet at home is more important than ever these days. Slow internet connections can make it frustrating to do simple tasks like stream videos, video chat, or even just browse the web. Upgrading your internet plan can help, but if the wiring in your home is outdated, you won't get the full benefit of that faster connection.
The best way to get your home ready for fast internet is to upgrade the wiring. But rewiring a whole house can be complicated and expensive if you hire an electrician. With some planning and basic DIY skills, you can upgrade your home's wiring yourself without calling in a professional.
In this complete guide, I'll cover everything you need to know to wire your home for faster internet speeds on your own, including:
What to Know Before You Start
- How home wiring impacts your internet speed
- What tools you’ll need
- Understanding ethernet vs. phone cables
- Finding your home's access point
- Fishing cables through walls
- Connecting cables to your router
- Installing ethernet wall jacks
- Connecting devices via ethernet
Improving WiFi Coverage
- Ethernet backhaul and wireless access points
- Extenders, mesh networks, and MoCA adapters
By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to create an optimized wired network and boost WiFi in your home. Let's get started!
What to Know Before You Start
Before you start pulling cables and inserting ethernet jacks, there are a few important things to understand about home wiring and internet connectivity. Having this background will ensure your wiring upgrade goes smoothly and delivers the speed boost you want.
How Home Wiring Impacts Internet Speeds
The wiring inside your walls acts like a system of highways that data uses to travel across your home network. If those cables are outdated or damaged, they can lead to major bottlenecks that slow down your internet connection.
Some common issues that cause slow wifi speeds include:
Old telephone cables - Many homes still have phone lines wired with copper coaxial cables or lower-category ethernet cables like Cat5. These can't support speeds above 100 Mbps.
Poor cable quality - Cracked, kinked, or stapled cables lead to interference and packet loss. This requires data to be re-sent and slows things down.
Inadequate bandwidth - Insufficient cables to your router means more devices sharing limited bandwidth. Also if the main cable from your ISP is too old.
Upgrading to new Cat5e or Cat6 ethernet cables and eliminating any damage ensures maximum data transfer speeds up to 1000 Mbps (1 Gbps) from your router to devices.
Tools and Materials Needed
Wiring a home doesn't require much specialty equipment. Most of what you need may already be in your toolbox or can be purchased affordably at any hardware store.
Here are the basic tools and materials required:
- Fish tape - To run new cables through walls
- Cable crimper - Attaches ends like RJ45 connectors to cables
- Ethernet wall jacks - Wall plates to connect cables
- Ethernet cables - Cat5e or Cat6 rated for in-wall installation
- Cable tester - Tests connectivity of finished cable runs
- Drywall saw - For cutting holes to install wall plates
- Drill - Drills holes to route cables between floors
Other supplies like basic hand tools, screwdrivers, drywall anchors, and a ladder will also be useful.
Ethernet vs. Phone Cables
There are two main types of cables used for home wiring projects - ethernet and telephone. It's important to understand the differences.
Ethernet is used for data transmission. There are different categories but Cat5e and Cat6 are best for fast internet. Phone lines cannot reliably support speeds over 100Mbps.
Telephone cables like RG-6 coaxial are designed for transmitting voice and lower frequency signals. They will not deliver fast data speeds.
For any new cabling, use Cat5e or Cat6 solid copper ethernet cables. Check for the rating printed directly on the cable jacket. If reusing existing cables, verify they are Cat5e or higher before connecting.
Finding Your Home's Access Point
The utility access point where the cable company's main line enters your home will be the starting point for new wiring. All additional ethernet cables will need to connect back to this spot.
For cable internet, look for a coaxial line entering from outside, often near the electric meter. The cable line will connect to a splitter or termination box.
For DSL, there is normally a telephone junction box where outside lines interface with the internal phone wiring.
If the access point isn't obvious, tracing lines back from the modem/router can locate it. This is also where you can connect with the incoming cable to install new broadband service if needed.
Step-by-Step Guide to Wiring Your Home
Once you understand the basics, you're ready to get started upgrading your home wiring. Follow this step-by-step guide to add ethernet cables and jacks in all the right places:
Fishing Cables Through Walls
Running cables through walls is easiest done by fishing them through from above.
Decide where your ethernet jacks need to be located. Generally, run cables to any room where WiFi is weak or you have important wired devices.
At each location, cut a small hole in the drywall near the floor to feed cables into and drill entry holes through wall studs.
Go to the attic and drill holes down through the top plate at each stud bay where you want cables to drop down.
Use fish tape to pull cables down from the attic into the walls and out the pre-cut holes. Leave plenty of extra length.
Insert wall plates with ethernet jacks into the openings and terminate cables by attaching RJ45 ends.
Seal up drywall openings. Now you have ethernet jacks wired and ready for use!
Connecting Cables to Your Router
With in-wall cables installed, the next step is connecting them to your network equipment.
Feed all cables from their wall jacks back to the central access point.
Purchase a network switch (5+ ports recommended). This allows connecting multiple cables.
Plug one cable from the switch to your router's LAN port. Use Cat5e or higher rated ethernet cables only.
Connect all other wall cables to the switch ports.
Connect incoming internet line to the router’s WAN port (cable modem, ONT fiber box, etc).
The switch creates a central hub that distributes your router’s connection to all connected devices and rooms. This ensures consistent speeds everywhere.
Installing Ethernet Wall Jacks
If you don’t want exposed ethernet cables plugged into devices, installing ethernet wall jacks provides a clean, finished look.
Cut a hole in the drywall and insert an old work low voltage bracket. This creates an mounting opening for the wall plate.
Slide the ethernet cable through the wall plate and terminate it by attaching an RJ45 plug.
Secure the wall plate to the bracket.
Use a cable tester to verify the ethernet cable is properly terminated.
You can now plug in devices for a clean, permanent connection.
Connecting Devices via Ethernet
The last step is connecting your devices to the new ethernet jacks using Cat5e or Cat6 patch cables.
For desktop PCs, plug one end into the PC's ethernet port and other into the wall jack.
For laptops, use an adapter dongle if there’s no ethernet port built-in. Some USB-C accessories have ethernet.
For game consoles and media streamers, use the device’s ethernet port if available, or a USB adapter.
Wired connections will provide faster and more reliable connectivity compared to WiFi for any high-bandwidth devices.
Improving Your Home's WiFi Coverage
While ethernet wiring is great for stationary devices, mobile devices will still depend on WiFi connectivity. Luckily there are a few easy ways to extend your wireless network’s range throughout the house.
Ethernet Backhaul with Wireless Access Points
Hardwired access points provide the best WiFi performance.
Connect an access point to new ethernet wiring in another area of home.
Disable routing functions so only the main router handles this.
Give the extended network the same SSID and password. Devices will roam seamlessly between areas.
Place additional access points around home for full coverage.
With an ethernet backhaul, wireless access points don’t contend for bandwidth - they get a full gigabit dedicated link for maximum speeds.
WiFi Range Extenders
Range extenders plug into wall outlets to pick up and rebroadcast the existing WiFi signal further into your home. They connect wirelessly, so speeds are limited and placement can be tricky. But for small homes or dead zones they can help.
Mesh Router Systems
Mesh routers work together wirelessly to form one large network. Nodes dynamically route connections to maintain the fastest link back to the main router as you move around. Mesh systems are powerful but more expensive.
MoCA Network Adapters
If you have coaxial cable TV wiring, MoCA adapters allow using those lines to extend ethernet. Just plug the adapter into a coax outlet near your router and install a second one near the access point location to turn coax into ethernet.
Any of these options can help maximize your WiFi coverage and performance to match your newly optimized wired network. With a robust ethernet backbone connecting the main router to key points and fast WiFi available housewide, you’ll finally get the blazing internet speeds you want everywhere in the home.
After reading this guide, you should have all the essential information needed to upgrade wiring and deliver faster internet speeds across your entire home - without calling an electrician!
The step-by-step instructions cover how to:
- Fish new ethernet cables through walls
- Install ethernet jacks and wall plates
- Connect cables to your router properly
- Extend WiFi coverage with access points
With new high-speed Cat5e or Cat6 wiring directly linking devices to your router, plus upgrades like wireless access points to boost WiFi, you can create a modern home network optimized for maximum internet performance.
So don't settle for patchy WiFi and sluggish speeds - take matters into your own hands! With a DIY approach and the help of this guide, you can wire your home for faster internet quickly and affordably.