Why paying LESS for cabling will leave you with a MESS.

Does it make sense to pay an AV specialist to rough-in your home when the walls are open for network, TV and audio? It depends who you ask and what you expect. Here are some of the responses I come across from potential clients…

1. My electrician can do it…

Depending on the quality of your builder you will get different attitudes towards using electricians for more than electrical work. The best builders in the business always use specialty trades. They use the best hardwood floor installers, best cabinet makers, best electricians but when it comes to “extras” like AV, they will look to the home owner or their core trades to make the decisions. If the builder has an eager electrician who believes installing a home network or multi-room audio system is just pulling a few wires to a family room cabinet, then home owners will usually go with them if they haven’t done this before because the electrician is already doing electrical work and he/she can get their junior apprentice who they pay $18-25/hour to run the cabling. That means they will usually charge about $60-75/hour for the work to the client which is about 30% less than we charge.

2. My brother-in-law will do it…

This is when I run! I already know that the worst thing for us to be associated with is a DYI project because every corner will be cut and they rely on friends and family for favours. When the brother-in-law thinks he can do it because he works in IT at the bank during the week and has a deep love of all gadgets, we know the project is a science experiment and the only thing in the actual budget is a giant 90″ LED TV. We stay away.

3. My Alarm guy can do it…

This is our biggest competition for pre-wire cabling in residential projects outside of the other AV specialists. Alarm guys are very good at running cabling and doing it on the cheap. They have the tools and some of the knowledge. Their suppliers train them to sell some of the less expensive brands within the AV world and they do a pretty good job with the basics. The issue usually comes down to time and system installation. Because many of them are generalists beyond alarm systems, they don’t go very deep and are often alone. I don’t know what it is about alarm installers but you are usually dealing with ADT or Chubb who have hundreds of highly trained installers or a 1-man show alarm installer. We always recommend monitoring from the big guys as this is what they do. We don’t get into their business and they don’t get into ours. The little guys try and usually fail at installation and on-going support of AV systems. Be careful here as the price will be very low and difficult to resist. They usually charge under $50/hour for their work on cabling projects.

So why pay $75-$95/hour for pre-wiring your home?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as frugal as they come. There is also the old saying, “you get what you pay for.”

If you aren’t the DYI, the biggest factor to think about when you want your home systems to work properly after you move in is quality of work and on-going support. Here are some basic tips to think about:

  1. Are the guys installing your cabling going to be the ones setting up the systems and doing the support years down the road? Think about this. Would you get your electrician to install the HVAC ducts because he’s 30% cheaper than the HVAC specialist and then expect the HVAC specialist to install your air conditioner and hope it all works? Not a chance. We all want to be responsible for end to end delivery of a complete solution. It is already hard enough to work with other trades on a project.
  2. What is their experience with hard wired and wireless networks? As weird as that sounds, having both is critical in new construction. The more you depend on wireless, the more interference you will get. That’s a topic for another day and I’ll gladly write about it. Keep in mind that cabling should always have a purpose. CAT5e vs. CAT6 cabling…what does your electrician think? If he doesn’t have an opinion other than “CAT6 is better”, move on.
  3. Do they guarantee their cabling and do they test and label all their connections? This isn’t a big deal if they are doing the end systems but when it comes to our business, one installer maybe relying on another and if they use industry best practices for cabling and keep everything to standards including wire terminations, the handoffs are not a problem. If the alarm guy or electrician doesn’t know what a video matrix requires for cabling then you want to make sure you REALLY love standard definition TV.
  4. If your isn’t asking you for jack locations and how you are going to connect your TV to your HD sources, then you want to ask an AV specialist. Just this year alone, I’ve been to 18 jobs where a high-end builder has had his electrician run COAX behind the TV…and no other cabling. If you don’t know what this means, call us before the drywall goes up…quickly.

Here are some of the recent jobs in Toronto that we’ve come across after clients have purchased a “smart home” or what a builder thought was a smart home…

Basement Rec Room

This is actually a “finished” installation thanks to our TV service supplier who quickly gave up. Don’t turn on the fireplace!

Electrical room

This is the electrical room where the electrician thought the cabling should go. Not only are we dealing with NO central terminations, we are also going to have to explain to the client that about 1 full day of labour is required to finish the work the builder should have invested in.

This is where paying LESS for cabling will leave you with a MESS!!!!

Here’s a job where we really didn’t spend too much extra time other than doing it right the first time.

Ask yourself which furnace room you want to walk into when the network or TV services aren’t working?

Structured Wiring Enclosure

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