When running an ethernet cable through your attic, choose a solid cable to provide the best signal strength. Run the cable carefully in your attic, attaching it to 2×4 posts with cable loops. Locate the 2×4 header of the interior wall where you want the cable to run. Drill a hole in the header and thread the cable down through the hole inside the wall. Then, cut a hole in the wall near floor level and pull the wire through this hole. Install the wire to an RJ45 wall jack to create a safe, reliable ethernet installation.
Table of Contents
Can You Run Ethernet Cable Through an Attic?
It is both safe and simple to run ethernet cable through an attic. Because ethernet cable is very low voltage, few specific building codes restrict its installation. This low voltage also makes it safe to work with an ethernet cable in your attic.
- It is safe to run ethernet cable through your attic.
- There are very few building code restrictions for running ethernet cable.
- Your attic is one of the best places to run ethernet cable.
When installing an ethernet cable, the attic is one of the best choices for installation. Basements and crawlspaces also make excellent areas for running cable. Like these other options, the attic allows you to run the ethernet cable in a dry, weather-protected environment. In addition, it enables you to route the cable to any room in your home.
Is it Safe to Run an Ethernet Cable Through a Vent?
Do not run an ethernet cable through a vent in your home. The heated air that runs through your ducts will degrade the coating on the cable. Not only will this give off dangerous, toxic fumes, it will also destroy your wire over time. Running an ethernet cable through vents is a dangerous shortcut you should avoid. It may even void your insurance claims if any damage occurs that is related to the cable run.
- Do not run ethernet cable inside of vents.
- The hot air in vents can degrade the cable’s coating and give off toxic fumes.
- Running ethernet cable through vents may void home insurance claims.
- Avoid running cable alongside vents in walls. The sharp ducts may damage your ethernet cable.
In addition to not running ethernet cable inside vents, avoid running your cable from alongside a vent. The sharp edges of the metal ductwork can easily damage or destroy your cable.
7 Steps to Run an Ethernet Line in Your Attic
Running an ethernet line through your attic doesn’t require any specialized experience with ethernet lines. As a new DIYer, it’s a great place to begin. If you don’t yet have an ethernet line in your home, you will need to run your ethernet cable through an exterior wall to bring it into your attic. Then, you can follow these steps for a successful install.
Choose Your Cable
When running an ethernet cable, it’s important to use a solid cable, not a stranded cable. Solid cables are better electrical conductors, meaning you will receive a stronger, more reliable internet signal.
- Use this solid cable for your ethernet installation. Avoid stranded patch cable.
- Solid ethernet cable conducts a better signal, leading to a more reliable internet connection.
- Use cat8 or cat7 cable for internet speeds of 40 or 10 Gbps.
- Use cat6 or cat5 cable for speeds 1,000 or 100 Mbps.
It’s also important to choose the correct cable for the job. Newer cables allow for extremely fast internet speeds. Cat8 and cat7 cables allow for speeds up to 40 and 10 Gbps, respectively. Cat6 is usually suitable for residential installations. It supports speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. Cat5 is an older cable type—it allows for internet speeds of 100 Mbps. Check your internet plan to see what internet speed you are getting from your provider. Then, choose a cable that is rated for at least that speed.
Plan and Run Your Cable
Plan where you want your network cable to run. The cable should run down from the attic inside an interior wall. An interior wall is best because it will not be insulated, making it easier to snake a cable down to the desired location. In most cases, you will want to run your ethernet to a closet or similar out-of-the-way space.
- Choose the room where you want your ethernet wall jack to be located.
- Plan to run your cable down from your attic through an interior wall. Unlike exterior walls, an interior wall will not be filled with insulation.
- Run the ethernet cable along upright 2x4s in your attic at shoulder height.
- Staple these cable loops to the 2x4s and run the cable through them.
- Keep ethernet cable at least 16 inches from electrical wiring, to prevent interference.
It’s best to run the cable at about shoulder height, along upright 2x4s in your attic. Attach the ethernet cable to the 2x4s by stapling Velcro cable loops to the 2x4s, then running the cable through these loops. Run your cable separate from any electrical wires. Electrical wiring can disrupt the signal of ethernet cable, so it’s best to keep them at least 16 inches apart.
Search for the Wall Header
When planning your cable path through the attic, it’s good to measure and map out the path from the attic entrance to the wall you want to drop your cable down into. Once inside the attic, use your measuring tape to find where you believe the top of the wall should be. Then, move aside the attic insulation and search for the beams that mark the outline of the room you’re looking for.
- While on the lower floor, measure off the distance from the attic entrance to the room where your ethernet cable will terminate.
- Enter the attic and use your measurements to locate the desired room.
- Move aside attic insulation to find the header beams that indicate the walls of the room you’re looking for.
- Step carefully when moving in your attic. Walk on beams only.
When moving through your attic, step carefully. Put your weight only on the ceiling beams, not between them. The beams will support your weight. Stepping on the drywall between the beams may cause your foot to break through the ceiling below. This can not only damage your home but may cause injury to yourself.
Drill a Hole Through the Header
Once you have located the header of the interior wall where you want to run your cable, reach for your drill. Equip your electric drill with a 1-inch diameter auger bit. Drill a hole straight down through the beam that serves as the header for the wall.
- Equip your electric drill with this 1-inch auger bit.
- Drill a hole straight down through the beam that forms the top of the interior wall you’ve chosen for your wire installation.
- If your drill does not punch through the beam after 6 inches of drilling, relocate the drill 4 inches to the right or left, then try again.
If the bit does not drill freely through after 6 inches of drilling, you are drilling into a vertical stud. Relocate the drill bit to the right or left and drill a new hole.
Feed Your Cable Into the Wall
Feed your ethernet cable down through the hole you drilled. Feed carefully, feeling for any obstructions. It’s also a good idea to write down the distance of the hole you drilled from both corners of the wall. This will allow you to precisely locate the wire once you cut a hole in the wall to feed it into the room below the attic.
- Feed your cable down through the hole you drilled, into the wall you’ve chosen.
- Measure the distance of the hole from both wall corners. Save these measurements.
- Your wall may have “fire break” boards that prevent you from feeding the wire all the way to the ground.
- You can cut the drywall and notch the fire break boards to continue to run the cable downward.
- Instead of notching the fire breaks, consider having your cable terminate in a jack above the first fire break, close to the ceiling.
Some modern homes have “fire breaks” in the wall. These are horizontal 2x4s running between the wall studs every 16–24 inches. If your wall has these, you may feel the cable hit the fire break and refuse to go further down through the wall. If this happens, you can cut through the drywall in the room below, notch the fire break 2×4 and keep running the cable down. Alternatively, you can have the cable exit the wall just above the first fire break. If you choose this option, install a wall jack high on the wall and place your modem and internet router on a high shelf nearby.
Cut a Hole in the Wall
Once you have fed your cable into the wall as far as you wish, exit the attic. Go to the room where you have fed the cable. Measure from the corner of the room to the point where you drilled the hole and fed the cable through above. Then, using a utility knife, cut a hole in the wall 2 inches wide and 3 inches tall.
- Exit the attic and go to the room where the cable has been run.
- Measure from the corners of the wall to the point where the hole was drilled in the wall header above.
- Cut a 2-inch wide by 3-inch tall hole in the drywall, using a utility knife.
- If your cable was fed down to the bottom of the wall, cut your hole 12 inches above the floor.
- If your cable was fed down to the first fire break, cut the hole 12 inches below the ceiling.
If you fed your cable all the way down to floor level, cut the hole 12 inches above the floor. If a fire break stopped you, cut the hole 12 inches below the ceiling.
Install RJ45 Wall Jack
If you cut your hole in the right location, the cable should be visible through this hole. If the cable isn’t immediately visible, it should be close by on the right or left. Use a wire coat hanger or similar tool to feel for the cable and pull it through the hole.
- The cable should be visible through the hole. Pull it through the hole with a hook or pliers.
- Install an RJ45 wall jack according to this guide.
With your ethernet cable fed through your wall, it’s essential to terminate the cable in a wall jack. This ensures a durable connection, prevents damage to your cable, and allows you to run any length of cable from the jack to your modem, router, or directly to a computer.
Does Ethernet Cable Need to be in Conduit?
Ethernet cable is not required to be run through a conduit when installed in your attic. The same rule applies to basements and crawlspaces. Because the cable is extremely low voltage, it is safe to run ethernet lines outside of a conduit.
- It is safe and legal to run ethernet cable without a conduit in your attic, crawlspace, or basement.
- Conduit should be used if you are running ethernet cable underground.
- Use conduit or other UV shielding to protect exterior runs of ethernet cable.
If you are running an ethernet cable underground for any reason, it must be run through a conduit to protect the cable. Similarly, it’s a good idea to protect any exterior cables with conduit or similar shielding to prevent UV damage to your ethernet lines.
Can You Run Electrical Wire with Ethernet?
Do not run your ethernet cable along the same path as your electrical wiring. Electrical wiring will cause interference, disrupting your ethernet cable’s signal. This will result in a weak or spotty internet connection. To prevent this, always run ethernet lines at least 16 inches away from electrical wiring.
- Run ethernet cable at least 16 inches from all electrical wiring.
- Electrical wiring run near ethernet cable will disrupt the ethernet signal, hindering your internet connection quality.
- If your ethernet and electrical lines must intersect, cross them at right angles.
To reduce signal disruption, avoid crossing your ethernet cable over any electrical wire when possible. If this isn’t possible, make sure the two wires cross at right angles. This will cause the least amount of signal interference.
What is the Best Way to Run Ethernet Cable in Your Attic?
To properly run an ethernet line in your attic:
- Use a solid ethernet cable rated to handle the internet speed coming from your provider.
- Run your cable through loops along the vertical supports in your attic.
- Bring your cable in a direct path to an uninsulated interior wall, such as a closet wall.
- Pull away attic insulation to locate the header beam of the chosen interior wall.
- Drill a 1-inch hole through the header beam of the wall.
- Feed the cable down through the hole.
- Cut a hole in the wall and pull the cable through.
- Terminate the cable in an RJ45 wall jack.
Avoid running the cable inside or along vents. Also, keep your ethernet line 16 inches away from electrical wiring paths whenever possible. This ensures your cable will remain free from damage and signal interference.