Office environments commonly rely on CAT5 and other cables to support their phone and computer networks. Cables also may need to be run for other common office equipment, such as dedicated printers or fax machines. To keep an office looking organized and to prevent tripping hazards, cables are often run through the ceiling.
While the best time to run wiring is during construction of the building when framing and wall cavities are still open, this is not always an option. Fortunately, it is possible to run a cable through the ceiling of an office using a few simple tips and techniques.
Preventing Damage to Cables
Before running a cable through the ceiling in an office, be aware of the potential damage that can be caused if the installation is not properly completed. Cables can experience what is known as a cable fault. Cable faults occur when the insulation of a power cable becomes deteriorated to the point that it can no longer contain the voltage, resulting in a short.
It can be frustrating to spend time running a cable only to discover a cable fault, which can put the installer behind schedule and over budget. Cable faults have many causes, such as environmental conditions like excess moisture or grit. Damage occurs during installation when too much pressure is placed on the cable or it is nicked, damaging the outer sheath.
To prevent cable faults, select cables that are insulated in materials designed to last. For example, XHHW-2 (RW90) is a tough and resilient option that is able to withstand environmental breakdowns compared to cables like THHN/THWN that are made from thermoplastic PVC insulation. When installing cables, avoid excess tension and do not bend sharply around corners.
Planning a Cable Run in an Office
The next step in the process involves planning the run. Ideally, the run should have as few wall penetrations and sharp bends feasible to lower the risk of cable damage and to make the installation as easy as possible. Also, consider how difficult it will be to run additional drops in the future if the office should ever need them.
When planning the cable run, consider whether conduit or wire tray needs installed for the cabling or if free-span cabling will suffice. Free-span cabling may run loosely across the ceiling or a support system.
Safety is of the utmost importance when working with any type of electric wire. Consider whether the installation is adequate with a standard cat5e or if it requires costlier plenum-rated cable that contains a self-extinguishing plastic jacket that will not create toxic fumes if burned.
Gathering Tools and Basic Supplies
Fishing cables through office walls and ceilings is easier when the installer has access to the right tools and supplies. Gather basic tools such as a tape measure, utility knife, stud finder, drill, electrical tape, carpenter’s square, plumb bob, fish tape, drywall saw and a reciprocating saw. There are various cable pulling aids that can be purchased or created using items like telescoping fishing poles and pull string.
Running Cables through the Ceiling
Running cables through a ceiling first requires the installer to find an optimal entry point for the cable. Depending on whether the ceiling is of the hard lid or drop-down variety, it may be necessary to work from the floor above the target ceiling. In newer office buildings, it is common to find hidden ductwork, electrical conduit and fire sprinkler piping above the ceiling. However, there should still be enough room to run cables.
A drill with a bit and possibly an extender may be required to create a hole in the ceiling to run the cable. Fish tape can be useful for routing the new cable through the walls and electrical conduit. Insert the fish tape into the ceiling where the fixture will be installed and guide it across the ceiling to the intersecting access hole. The tape can then be directed from the ceiling into the wall.
The fish tape is pulled back through the ceiling hole. Having a helper guide the cable through the openings while the installer pulls it through can make the process easier. Once the cable is pulled into the ceiling access hole, bring several feet of cable through the hole and cut the cable from the fish tape end. Then, the installer can finish up the installation.
Inquire About Structured Cabling Services
SeaGlass Technology, located in NYC, offers structured cabling services throughout New York City and New Jersey for organizations with a large internal network. To learn more about how to run a cable through the ceiling in your office or to request structured cabling services, contact the experts at SeaGlass Technology to schedule a consultation.