Crouching Tiger, Hidden Wires

How to Hide Wires in the Wall

If you are like me, and the fact that you are reading this suggests a certain kinship, then you have many electronic devices scattered around your house; each with their own wires for communication and power. Wires are wondrous. They form the basis of our information economy. Unfortunately, in a shared space like a living room, they are also atrociously ugly. For your consideration: my living room.

Okay. So that doesn't look quite so bad. However, here is what the couch is hiding.

Even worse.

Background

My wife and I have been TV-less for several years, mostly watching Hulu on our laptops. When we re-designed the house after Jesse was born I decided it was time for a TV. We still watch Hulu and Netflix, but now streamed through a tiny Roku box.

Originally I considered painting the wires or hiding them behind a stand of some sort. Then I looked at various rubber strips which can disguise the wires. In the end none of them were quite what I wanted. Really I want the TV to just look like it is floating.

A friend happened to notice the wires a few weeks ago and I asked for suggestions on how to deal with the problem. He said the solution was easy:. the local hardware store carries simple boxes to run the cables inside the wall. I proclaimed my horror at drilling interior holes to run the wire, but he continued: since this is a vertical drop directly from the TV to the wall outlet that I would not have to go between studs; just two holes directly in to the wallboard.

I've always been nervous about dealing with wallboard attachments but at my friend's urging I gave it a go. First, I needed the special mounts from my local hardware store. They are essentially plastic rectangles with tiny wings on the back. It doesn't matter if you are next to a stud or not because the when you tighten the screws the wings will pop out securing the mount to the wallboard. It doesn't provide enough grip to attach something heavy to, like a shelf, but these rectangles hold no weight; they are just there to guide the wires and keep the hole stable.

Next, I cut two rectangular holes. This is done with a small rough saw called a wallboard knife. I pressed into the wall with the knife until it reached the cavity behind the wallboard then began sawing up and down to create a slot, then expanded the slot into a rectangle. Always start small and slowly expand to fill the space needed for the rectangle mounts. Once they fit tightly I stopped and tightened the screws.

Threading the Needle

The next challenge was getting the wires through the hole. If there was no insulation then my TV cables would simply drop down the cavity to the lower hole. Unfortunately this wall is right next to the garage. Lots of insulation present. Hmm.

Strategy: start small and bootstrap from there. Professionals have something called fish tape but I only plan to do this once so I didn't spring for it. Instead I began with an un-bent coat hangar wire. The hangar is just barely long enough to stretch between the two holes so I was really hoping it would work. After a few tries I got it. Next I tied twine to one end and pulled the hangar back out, threading twine through the hole. I immediately tied the twine into a loop so it wouldn't slip out. Using the twine I pulled the two cables through: one for power and the other for HDMI.

Unfortunately at this point I reached an unexpected snag. The break between the TV's cord and the extension cord occurred right in the middle of the wall. Putting a connection inside the wall was just asking for trouble. What would I do if it came undone, say by a small child pulling on one end? So I made a quick trip to the store for a longer extension cord and slid the break up to the top hole.

I'm happy with the result

At this point the job is functionally complete. I can power and control the TV with all extraneous boxes (like the Roku) safely hidden on the floor under the couch (no more strain on the Roku connectors). To be nice and polished I want to put covers over the holes. Unfortunately the screw hole spacing on the hole mounts is not the same as regular light and power outlets so standard covers won't work. Instead I purchased a special 'media cover' designed for this purpose, complete with little brushes to keep out the dust. Sadly the gap between the brushes is too narrow to fit the end of the power cord. *le sigh*. Back to the hardware store.

I still haven't solved this last part of the problem. I suspect I will have to get a completely blank cover which does use the right screw hole spacing, then use a dremel to create the appropriate opening for my cables.

Total cost: 3$ for the plastic mounts and 6$ for longer cables from Amazon. Total installation time, about 30 minutes to cut holes, install brackets, thread the cables, and cleanup the mess.

A note: Some have said that you shouldn't put the power cabling next to A/V cables. In general this is true but HDMI is digital. The signal is either there or it's not. RF interference generally isn't an issue with pure digital signals. This is also why a $3 HDMI Cable (15 feet)from Amazon is every bit as good as the $50 absurdities sold by Monster Cable (link not provided).

If these instructions help you hide wires in your own home, please post in the comments below.

Enjoy!