Spring is here!! The days are getting longer and the “itch” to get started on those DIY projects you’ve been thinking about all winter are getting more intense. If one of those DIY projects is mounting your flat-panel TV as part of your Home Theater, we wanted to give you a few tips to be aware of before you get started. Thus, below is a list of key things to remember during the install. Before you get started however, we want to make sure you understand that undergoing this type of project is a major one and should be left to the professionals if you have any doubt about your ability to complete it. With that let’s begin!!
(1) Before you start, spend some time getting to know the installation wall. Typical walls in homes are constructed using studs that are 16″ apart. This leaves a space of 14.5″ inside the wall (also known as a stud bay) for you to fish wire in and conceal it from view. Before you start cutting, make sure you look at both sides of the wall to ensure the wall cavity does not have anything in it that you might damage when cutting into the wall. Is there a sink right on the other side of the wall? What about an oven? If so, time to move to a new stud bay as piercing those water or gas lines will cause a major headache for you. Is the wall you picked shared with a wall of the garage? Try and pick a new wall if you can, as that wall is a “shear” wall and required by building code to create a fire and vapor barrier between the garage and the house so you don’t get exposed to any carbon monoxide fumes. If you want to use this wall anyway, you must use fire-stop spray or other sealing method for any holes in the wall to maintain it’s rating. Additionally, you should know that this entire wall will have a layer of plywood underneath the drywall, making it very hard to fish wire through.
(2) Once you start cutting, save your drywall pieces. If you are fishing both TV and speaker wires in your walls, you are going to have to do a fair amount of drywall cutting to get these wires in place. When cutting, it is better to cut out fewer large pieces of drywall rather than many smaller pieces. This is because when the wall is patched again, it is visually harder for the eye to see the seam from the hole that was cut. When the holes are small, these seams are much more visible. Also make sure your blade makes shallow cuts into the wall rather than deep ones. Even though you inspected the wall in the prior step, you never really know what is inside your wall until you cut into it. For example, there is often live electrical wire running up the middle of some stud bays. You don’t want to be piercing that with a metal blade or you will get quite a shock!! Thus, best to only stick your blade far enough into the wall to cut the drywall and nothing else. Once you are finished with your wiring, find a local drywall contractor to properly patch the holes you made using the drywall you saved. Of if you really want to complete the project yourself, there are several classes at a local Home Depot you can take on drywall patching, as well as many YouTube videos on the subject.
(3) Make sure you have the properly rated cable. Not all cables can be installed into a wall and still meet local building and electrical codes. Generally speaking, the cable jacket of any installed cable must be made of a material so as not to cause the wall to be any MORE flammable than it was when the wire was not in place. For most single family residence installations, CL2, CL3 or “Riser” rated cable will do just fine. If you are in a condo or other multi-family dwelling, the wire ratings will be more strict. If you are piercing an HVAC duct to get your cable in place, your wire must have jacket that is “Plenum” rated. The more stringent requirement of the cable jacket means an increase cost of the cable so be aware of that as well when planning your DIY budget for this project. One point to note here is that TV power cords are NOT rated for in-wall use. If you don’t believe us, consult the NEC code book and look up Article 400.8(2). Thus, if you are thinking about pulling the TV power cord through the wall, don’t do it. What’s the harm in doing so you ask? Only this, 9 out of 10 home fires are caused by wiring issues. Thus, when you file a claim, an insurance inspector is going to examine your home to see if there were any electrical or building code violations in your home that were the potential cause for the fire. If they find a violation, they could not pay our your claim.
(4) Don’t forget about the AC plug for your TV. As we mentioned above, you cannot pull the TV power cord through the wall as it is against electrical code. To power your TV, you will need an electrical outlet behind the TV. There are three possible ways to do this. The first would be to purchase a “power transfer kit” which is a way that you can install power behind the TV without the need for hiring an electrician. The only downside of using this kit is that you will still have a power cord at the bottom or your wall where the power transfer kit comes out and plugs into another outlet that is part of your house electrical wiring. The second method is to have a licensed electrician come and install an electrical outlet behind your TV. With the drywall already removed the expense should be minimal. Most electricians will charge between $80 and $160 for the install, and when the drywall is patched, will look the cleanest in terms of having no wiring on the wall visible. The third method is to install the AC outlet yourself which we do not recommend unless you are confident working with electrical wiring or are a licensed electrician.
(5) Chose the right mount. You generally have 3 different types of mounts you can chose from within two general categories. The categories to chose from are “Lo-pro” and regular. “Lo-pro” stands for low profile, which means your TV is closer to the wall. Lo-pro is generally the preferred mount type these days, but be aware that Lo-pro mounts also cause a lot more stress on TV inputs and wiring as they are squished tighter again the wall when the TV is in place. With the Lo-pro and Regular categories, you have 3 types: Fixed, tilt and full motion. Fixed is just as it sounds– no post install adjustment available. We do not recommend this mount type for any type of above the fireplace install or other install where the center of the TV screen will be higher than your head while sitting down and viewing. The reason for this as your TV will look washed out when viewing as you are looking at it an angle rather than straight on it. The next mounting type if tilt which is the most popular type we install. Tilting mounts allow for up and down post install adjustment, but not left or right adjustment. They are great for mounting TVs above fireplaces, cabinets or other objects because they can be tilted downward towards the viewing position for optimal viewing. The third mounting type is a full motion mount. This type of mount allows for post install adjustment in almost any direction. Full motion mounts are a great for Living Rooms that don’t have an ideal sitting position or multi-purpose rooms like adjoining Kitchens and Living Rooms where it is desired to watch TV from several different locations within the overall space.
We hope that you have found this information for your DIY Home Theater install helpful. Once again, keep in mind that it is a pretty big DIY project to be cutting into your wall and running new wiring. However, if you follow the steps above and have a lot of patience, you will like the result. Feeling a little timid about doing something like this now that we have laid out all the things you need to thing about during the install? If you are in the Los Angeles area, no problem, just give us a call at 855-832-4775 or find us on the web at www.technospeakco.com and we can take care of the install for you. Have something bigger in mind like adding in speakers and a full rack of Audio/Video gear? We can handle that as well. Maybe you are out of the Los Angeles area but would still like your help– no problem either as we have consulting and design services we can provide to make your DIY home theater project in Los Angeles a successful one.
At Technospeak, we take the “Tech-y” out of Technology, leaving you with the knowledge you need to enjoy your electronics.