7 Best practices for copper cable installation

Best practice in cable installation is a professional with the proper tools and certifications to ensure the proper installation of the network cabling. Many businesses aren’t willing to pay for this level of service. Often it falls on the IT department to install or supervise moves, adds, and changes to the network by unqualified personnel.

The trade-off in time and possible lost product is a business judgment exercised by management and is a reality of every network.

Still, quality testing and following a few simple rules will result in a network link or repair that can provide years of high-speed network performance.

  1. Know your job. Is this a repair of a failed network link or a whole new cable run? Where is the cable going? Is it just a short hop up and over the equipment rack to the next one? Or is it a couple hundred feet up a rise and across the plenum ceiling to a medical room? Careful here –there are no Etherpolice, but there is a fire marshal who doesn’t care anything about how much work it was to install a cable –it better have the right fire rating on the jacket. It is expensive and time consuming to remove thousands of feet of cable because a non-smoke-/flame-resistant cable was used.
  2. The cable must have the proper jacket material for the job. There are many types of jacket materials: Plenum, PVC, UV-resistant, mold-resistant, low temperature, to name a few. Use the proper jacket for the job at hand.

    cable stripped

    Cable being stripped.

  3. The cable will have to be cut to length, the ends stripped off of the outer jacket material, and the connectors attached. The cable may very likely be pulled directly off the reel orspool into position through conduit, onto a cable tray or hung on J-hooks.
  4. All cable should be laid in as smoothly as possible, without damage to the jacket.
  5. When going around corners, a smooth radius should be maintained in accordance with the cable manufacturers’ specification. Remember that an Ethernet copper cable holds four twisted pairs of wire. A kink or sharp bend will affect the relationship of the twisted pairs, allowing electrical noise or crosstalk into the communication signals.

    cable pairs being twisted

    Cable pairs being twisted to a half-inch maximum.

  6. Route your network cables away from power lines, fluorescent lights, and industrial equipment, as electrical coupling increases with proximity and voltage. There is raceway designed to combine power cables and data cables in the same raceway; it will have a divider to keep the two separate. If you must lay a data cable across a cable carrying AC power, do it at the right angle. Power AC wiring and low voltage data cable don’t mix well; this is where fiber data cables really shine.
  7. You will have to strip the outer jacket off of the ends of the cable. Be careful not to nick the individual data conductors when doing so. There are many stripping tools designed for doing this properly. The standards require that no more than a half-inch of the individual twisted pairs be untwisted at the connectors, and the cable jacket really should reach all the way up to the connectors or punch blocks.

So you have your cables installed, and you’ve avoided AC wiring and other sources of electrical noise along the run. The cable has no kinks or sharp bends. Your next step is to add jacks or connectors as the job requires. Lastly, it would be a good idea to check the cable. Testing is important; it prevents possibly damage to equipment due to wiring faults. A simple test can save the embarrassment and expense of damaged equipment.

For more information on copper installation, see our blog post: Copper cable installation: 8 guidelines to protect your hardware.

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