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How to Recognize a Quality Contractor

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Low Voltage Wiring


Like all building and construction trades, low voltage wiring has many different contractors performing vastly different levels of work, ranging from one-man butcher jobs to professional operations such as Farious Net Solutions. Due to this, it is important that you, the consumer, learn to recognize quality operations before work begins. Fortunately, this is made easier due to the fact that you can look for several telltale clues in the potential installer's presentation.

In general, quality contractors will do the following things:

  • Follow applicable, published standards such as ANSI/EIA/TIA-568 (the primary standard for low-voltage network installations) for the installation. If the contractor doesn't know what these standards are, or tries to explain them away, saying that they are not important, you should be very wary.
  • Test all wiring at a minimum for continuity and guarantee, in writing, all work. This is obvious; anyone not willing to guarantee their work is not confident in it.
  • Install flush-mount (inside wall) jacks if possible, instead of unsightly and easily damaged surface mount jacks. Surface mount jacks are easier to install, and therefore many low-quality contractors opt for this style instead of the better flush-mounted jacks.
  • Pull in an auxiliary string, if possible, along with the wires they are running in order to facilitate future changeouts or upgrades to the system. The string will ease running future wires by making the pulling easier, costs very little and adds no time to the job.
  • Install high-quality (Category 6) wire to all locations, regardless of whether they are meant to be telephone or network connections. Higher quality wire costs slightly more, but it can be used for either telephone or network connections and allows a future upgrade path should you need more network jacks in a particular location, or you decide to implement a voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephone system.
  • Use punch-down jacks instead of crimp-style jacks. Punch-down jacks are usually slightly more expensive and take more time to install than crimp-style jacks, but Farious Net Solutions has determined that crimp-style jacks cause the majority of problems at the client (wall jack) side of the wire due to them easily coming undone.
  • Design and implement a clean, managed home (concentrator) location. The main location that all the wires run to is called a home or concentrator location. Obviously, this is where a large number of wire terminations will take place and it is imperative that it is out of harm's way and has low humidity and little temperature variation over time.
  • Use high-quality stranded and strain-reliefed patch cables. Patch cables provide the last connection between your computer and the wall jack. Some installers provide solid-copper patch cables or patch cables without strain relief, which usually leads to problems. Solid-copper patch cables are very inflexible and the internal wires can break over time as the computer is shifted around while patch cables without strain relief can snag on other wires or be ripped out of their connectors.

While contractors you should avoid will do the following:

  • Split pairs from a single wire to create more than one jack. High-quality cabling today usually carries 8 conductors, twisted together into 4 pairs. It takes one pair to implement a telephone jack and two pairs to implement a network jack. As you can see, there are usually left-over conductors, which can be used, in a pinch, to implement more jacks at a location. Low-quality installers will, instead of running more wires, utilize these extra conductors to give, for instance, two phone jacks and one network jack at a given location instead of running three different cables. Again, this can be done in a pinch, but is not recommended, and is never recommended during new installs. Doing this can create crosstalk between the different pairs which can lead to degraded network and phone performance as well as other performance or reliability problems.
  • Daisy-chain telephone jacks. It used to be common practice to daisy-chain (connect jack-to-jack) telephone jacks. This usually make installation easier, but makes it impossible to utilize those jacks with a phone system, to give different jacks different telephone numbers, or to upgrade the jacks to network connections. Unless you have a very unusual circumstance, this should never be done.