03 March 2011

Seeing the Future

Planning everything just right in a house requires a bit of ESP. The other night, I woke up in a cold sweat, thinking about how if we'd only put the in-floor outlet in the great room a few feet closer to the front of the house, instead of centered on the fireplace, we would have had more options for furniture arrangement. Since the placement of that outlet had to be set before the foundation was poured, that ship sailed over a year ago.

But that's not what this post is about.

Fortunately, it's about something we got right. And by "we," I mean Steve. While we were running wire and conduit for the audio/visual equipment, Steve figured out that we were going to have trouble connecting the TV on top of the cabinet to the DVD player, receiver, and other components inside the cabinet...unless we created a secret passageway inside the wall. Which is what we did.

By the time we were working on the wiring, we had sorted out the cabinet plans, so we knew the end result would be something like this:

(Yes, we're the last people in American with a big, old-fashioned, bulky TV. Don't make fun.)

We looked at the framing we were dealing with and figured out what needed to go where. We had planned for blocking that would support a future wall-mounted TV, so that's the big horizontal lumber you see in this picture:

The blue boxes were also there when we got started (although the wires hadn't been run yet). Blue boxes are for regular electrical work. The two toward the bottom provide power to the TV and the inside of the cabinet (for A/V components); the two at the top right, which house the doorbell chime and one of the alarm sirens, are actually on the other side of the wall (facing the hallway).

The grey conduit and the orange boxes are where the fun began for us. (Orange boxes are for low-voltage work. Unlike blue boxes, they're open in the back for easier access. They can do that because low-voltage wiring doesn't pose the same safety risks as regular electrical wires.) The two long pieces of conduit in the middle go from inside the cabinet up into the attic so we could run cable (we don't have cable cable, but the wire to an antenna in the attic), interconnect the audio in the house, etc. (Wouldn't it be nice to hang out in the screened porch on a lazy Sunday and listen to the stereo through speakers in the porch ceiling?)

And on the subject of speakers, Steve also foresaw that we would need a way to get speaker wire into the cabinet for the speakers we planned to place on the top shelves. That's what the top left conduit is for. It runs from the height of the top shelf up into the attic space to allow wire to be run up into the attic and then back down to the speaker on the shelf -- invisibly. (Or, should we someday want, for instance, to play the master bedroom stereo in the great room, we could just connect the dots with wire instead of moving the whole stereo.)

The fourth piece of conduit, on the far right, is the one that always makes me think about how smart Steve is. It's the one that connects the top of the counter, where the TV would be (and now is), to the inside of the cabinet, where the components would be. (Basically, it's a super-fancy alternative to drilling a hole in the top of the counter.)

Once the cabinet went in, we could really see where the boxes actually ended up. The cutout in the top left is for the speaker, and the bottom right is for the conduit to the inside of the cabinet (the middle cutout is electrical, which, since we didn't install it, isn't nearly as exciting):

Here's the inside-the-wall view again, for reference:

And a close-up of the "after":

The wire you see above the counter is the same wire that you see in the cabinet. Nifty, huh?

We did make one mistake, though. The cabinet has three doors, which turned out to consist of a two-door cabinet on the left and a single-door cabinet on the right...and while the electrical box ended up in the left cabinet, the conduit that runs in the wall behind the countertop ended up in the right:

So we needed to make one last-minute modification before connecting everything together this weekend.

Drilling that hole allowed us to put the DVD player and stereo in the larger cabinet on the left, where the electrical outlet is, and run the cable and speaker wire through the hole and up the conduit on the right.

Consider the dots connected.

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