This Old House

Dave Zatz —  December 19, 2010 — 19 Comments

You’ve probably noticed it’s been quiet around here lately. And while it’s true “news” is typically light the week or so heading into Christmas, I’ve been preoccupied with a new home. Well, a new-to-me home. As you might imagine, we’ve got tons of a projects… many technologically oriented, although most aren’t (new bed arriving today, AC unit tomorrow, new roof and siding next month, etc).

For the moment, I chose to stick with Cox Communications cable over Verizon’s FiOS TV. Because I thought it might be a simpler transition, at least in the short term. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as efficient as I’d hoped and suspect their “customer advocate” is tired of hearing from me. We had one missed switchover, a switchover a couple days later that was successful for about 48 hours before losing Internet and cable, a phantom $600+ “adjustment” to our bill, and then what turned out to be a signal issue impacting just switched stations in the master bedroom due to an old analog splitter in the attic.

Prior to the Cox technician arriving, I’d done some exploration of the non-electrical wiring and by watching him work got a better sense of where the coax cable runs are. Let’s just say that pre-wired newer home construction is probably preferable — as the television signal enters the house at two locations, and I believe we’re at three entrances for landline phone which we don’t have any imminent plans to utilize. Plus there are yards and yards of speaker and antenna wiring all over the place which I intend to clean up. I’ve already snipped some of the speaker wire and sent the former owners a note about Sonos as they deck out their new place.

We’ve already discussed the television plans. For the moment, our 42″ Panasonic plasma stays in the living room while this 26″ Vizio serves as our temporary bedroom television. Eventually, the plasma will move into the bedroom and the Vizio will move into the finished basement where I’m setting up my office/lab. I’m thinking some sort of 50″ – 55″ LED LCD for the living room, but it’s going to be a couple of months. Having said that, my Xbox 360 has temporarily been banished from the main living area and will be replaced by this PS3 tomorrow.

Also, now that my gypsy lifestyle has ceased, I’ll need to ponder what we’re doing about surround sound in the main viewing area. Prior to selling our last place in mid-2005, the “Fortress of Solitude” was decked out with a projector, capable surround system, and remote controlled Lutron lighting. But I’ve gotten used to a more streamlined setup and priorities have shifted. So I might be content with a 3.1 soundbar and subwoofer solution. At least until something more interesting arrives.

Click to enlarge:

19 responses to This Old House

  1. Wow this looks like the project my friend took on when he moved into his current place. Good luck. At least with you cleaning it all up, you will know where everything is.

  2. “For the moment, I chose to stick with Cox Communications cable over Verizon’s FiOS TV. Because I thought it might be a simpler transition, at least in the short term.”

    And now I’m forced to question your sanity.

    Also, I’m genuinely curious as why you thought that ahead of time. I’ve never been forced to question your sanity before.

  3. “So I might be content with a 3.1 soundbar and subwoofer solution. At least until something more interesting arrives.”

    My theory is to underspend on sound equipment. Audio stuff still seem very bleeding edge.

  4. Chucky, the street is wired for fiber but I’m down a “pipestem” maybe 100 yards away from the back of the house. So they’ll have to send a crew to dig it up – it’s not as efficient as calling to have them flip a switch. Also, I need to make sure the electrical line that runs from the house to the playhouse/shed is marked. And I wonder how having two separate cable runs from the outside will impact things, since I know Verizon will install their box inside. Hm. The former residents had Cox and we only had a week of overlap between our old place and new place, so I didn’t think Verizon could get it done in time for us to move in with Internet and TV. It’s on the to do list. Just not this month.

    brennok, Fortunately it’s not a fixer upper and most projects are optional.

  5. “I’m thinking some sort of 50″ – 55″ LED LCD for the living room”

    I’ve only done a bit of research on the topic so far, but LED LCD still seems a bit underbaked to me. My understanding is that while the form factor is lovely, PQ still is below CFL LCD due to a couple of factors.

  6. Chucky, the new TV could be a tough call. I prefer plasmas. But I’ve grown attached to this TV stand and think it’ll only support the weight of a LED LCD at that size. But maybe that rationale is crazy. I’l revisit the topic in a couple of months.

  7. “I’m down a “pipestem” maybe 100 yards away from the back of the house. So they’ll have to send a crew to dig it up”

    Good reason. I no longer have to question your sanity. All is right with the world.

  8. Hey Dave, congrats on your new home.

    I just bought my first house in August, and worked on it for a month before moving in September. Yeah I had a ton of wallpaper to rip up, lots of painting to do, ripped up carpet and had hardwood floors installed, redid the stairs with new railing and ballusters,etc. Of course the fun part was wiring it up. I put all new Commscope RG-6QS home run to the garage. I ran monoprice Cat5e and installed keystone jacks for coax, telco and network. I installed a nice little shelf in the furnace room where the cable modem, voice modem, router and switch live. Its connected to a vertical patch panel mounted to a stud.

    The fun part about this stuff is getting it exactly how you want it, and then when it’s done nothing beats the satisfaction.

    There’s still a lot of projects I want to tackle (kitchen and bathroom remodels, downstairs family room remodel, perhaps a shed, landscaping, painting exterior, etc..) It’s all going to take time and it’ll be quite an adventure along the way. Have fun with your projects, and don’t be shy to keep us updated once an awhile!

  9. You moved to an area where you _can_ get FiOS and you chose not to? #FAIL

    When I recently moved from one (FiOS) area to another, making sure I still could have access to their AMAZING network and super TV was actually a major consideration.

  10. WOW!! i cant believe you chose cox over verizon!!picking your tv provider should be about quality and HD channels! not whats easier to install! comeon dave get with the program!! you would of loved using your tivo premiere with verizon fios! .

  11. Good luck with the project. I’m a big fan of doing things right. You should fish your walls with new cat5e and rg6 coax. The first floor is really easy to do on inside walls provided you have a basement.

    I cringe when I see coax, cat5e, phone, and drop wires attached to the house and a bunch of drill holes. Don’t forget to caulk and fill in those holes you have now. They should be weather and insect tight.

    Verizon can install the ONT and battery in your basement. They can also install the ONT on the side of the house, but the battery is best placed in the basement where it is warmer.

  12. Angelo, celtic, As I said, it’s probably going to happen – I’m looking forward to the day I can unload SDV hackery and stream video to an iPad. But it’s not going to be month.

    I’m juggling about $35k in home improvement projects at the moment, my day job, and the blog – including a trip for Vegas for CES (if I don’t pull the plug). So I don’t have the time or energy at the moment to figure out the FiOS specifics.

    As currently wired, only my first two (of three) floors may get FiOS and given our location it’s going to take a few weeks to schedule the external wiring. My wife and I weren’t willing to give up cable and Internet while we wait for them to tear up the lawn.

    cypher, bunklung, I’m mostly wireless and intend to stay that way – I’ve had good luck with my setup streaming high def video, and in this house I should have less interference than the modern condo construction we’ve been in. I may run new coax depending how it goes, we’ll see.

    bunk, good info on the possible placement of the boxes. I’m pretty anal and will be sealing all sorts of things! (And will be getting an extra foot of blown insulation in the attic next month.) Unfortunately, some of the damage won’t be undone – for example, they turned the wood burning fireplace into a gas burning fireplace (which we’re keeping) and the gas line (yellow in the video) runs nearly across the entire house then punches straight into the brick chimney. Yuck. However, one of the telephone line runs I’m definitely killing, maybe even a second. Trying to get a decent amount of the outside tidied up before the siding work starts early next month as to have fewer entrances.

    I do have a basement. The wiring from the outside into the finished portion of the basement and also up to the living room on the first floor could easily be replaced. But I’m percolating on how/where to feed coax upstairs without coming in through the attic(s). I still have my fish tape from the last time I was a home owner. But that doesn’t mean I remember what to do with it. ;)

  13. When you finally get the Cox cable guys to come out make sure they remove all the external mess and move it inside of garage. What ever cable guy came last should be ashamed. Find a nice area in garage and place a 2 X 4 1/2 plywood sheet to wall mounted to studs for techs to mount equipment to. Then your going to want to home run all your coax connections to that panel. Use RG6QS or RG11 is the cable company has on truck. No F connectors, ground blocks or splitters should be out side the house.

  14. If you get the right people, FiOS will definitely work with you on the install. When I added TV, they moved my ONT from the back of my house to inside the garage which also moved the battery backup out of a bedroom and into the garage. The nice thing is the installers get paid hourly and are actual Verizon employees rather than contractors who get paid by the install.

    My friend ended up wiring everything he wanted to and then running it to a central drop so FiOS was able to just plug in when they came out for the install.

    I wish I had a nice basement to use as my central drop, but not an option in Florida so I converted a small walkin closet with attic access to my central drop. It is no where near as clean as it should be, but it works.

  15. “they turned the wood burning fireplace into a gas burning fireplace”

    They are headed to the lowest circle of hell.

    If it’s feasible, it’d be reasonable to spend some dough reconverting it back.

  16. SouthPaw, I didn’t have an “install” at the new place since it had previously been active. But I did call in the technician to see why we weren’t getting switched stations upstairs. I’d assumed it was another CableCARD or tuning adapter issue. His only goal was to get those stations working and he got here at night so even seeing the wiring outside required his head lamp – not sure he should have volunteered to clean it all up. But maybe the FiOS guys will as brennok suggests. ;)

    Chucky, a gas burning fireplace suits me – I’m not interested in tracking down wood and cleaning up. The aroma of a real fire can’t be beat, but I’m lazy. So for now, it stays. (The propane tank also feeds a high end gas stove and there’s a jack for our future gas grill.)

  17. “If you get the right people, FiOS will definitely work with you on the install. When I added TV, they moved my ONT from the back of my house to inside the garage which also moved the battery backup out of a bedroom and into the garage. The nice thing is the installers get paid hourly and are actual Verizon employees rather than contractors who get paid by the install.”

    Agreed. I had a team of VZ folks come out to my place for the initial install, and tortured them for an extra hour with metering tests to make sure the signal hitting the TiVo wasn’t too hot.

    Then I decided a couple of days later that I didn’t like the entire architecture they’d put in place, called them up, and had them come right back out for 5 hours of changing everything around and repairing the wall holes they’d previously made, all on their dime, of course. No one seemed unhappy.

    Verizon really wants to wire your home for fibre. They know that once they get you, you’re not likely to ever go back to coax. So they are willing to go the extra mile and a half to make damn sure you’re happy during the install.

  18. that was some of the worst wiring I have ever seen. The HOA should give you an award for cleaning all that cr@p up

  19. Great videos! Thanks for reminding me about how much friggin’ work I’ve done on my house so far. Sometimes I take it for granted. :)

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