Member Discussion

Customer Does Not Allow Exposed Cables Nor Raceway Channels

Hi All,

I got a very picky customer here (he needs four CCTV cameras inside his home apartment with NVR & NAS Storage) that does NOT want to see any exposed wires or any plastic raceway channels sticked to the walls using double coated foam tapes nor any of that "ugly" stuff.

He wants us to run all the wires inside the gypsum ceilling, hidden from plain view, and made it clear that he would ONLY allow us to drill the minimum sized hole required (around 1/2" inch) to pull the cable out from inside the gypsum and connect the camera via PoE. Also, the camera itself must be positioned to hide the hole.

These are pictures of the place.

Which is the best method to grab the loose cable inside the gypsum and pull it out through the small hole ?? I guess that if we use the typical galvanized steel wire for fishing the cable, we would lose valuable time on this stupid task. I also don´t want to mess with drilling a bigger hole and then using gypsum plaster to repair the stuff, sanding and painting the wall to match the same color, etc.

I appreciate your advice.

If there’s baseboard molding you could pull it off and carve a channel along the floor. From there you can snake up walls to where he wants the cameras.

Unfortunately, the place does NOT have any baseboard molding : ( ...

Not know the actual location of the camera/cable runs makes it hard to say. Do you have access to the space above the ceilings?

Is that box area on the ceiling covering duct or a structural beam?

Poke him in the eye with your fish tape, then he won't be able to see the wires :)

I think the answer depends on your access to the ceiling above, especially if it is insulated or not.

Check out Labor Saving Devices, Inc.. They have devices to run wires inside walls and through attics, etc., along with instructional videos.

Doing "concealed-wire work" like this was the mainstay of the old-school residential security system installer. It could sometimes take a day to get a wire to a single device. With the proliferation of wireless systems, there is not too much demand for this type of work anymore, and very few people willing to pay for it.

The first step is to find out if the apartment has an accessible attic or crawlspace. If so, that is probably where you want to run your cables. If not, here are a few tips:

  1. Try to find out which way the ceiling joists run. Consider these to be your "horizontal" cable chases. You can generally fish cables for fairly long distances between the joists assuming that there are no obstructions.
  2. Look for removable light fixtures and ventilation grilles that can be used as intermediate access points along the ceiling. If it not possible to fish the wiring directly between Point A and Point B, try fishing between Point A and an access point, and between Point B and the access point. Some longer runs may require two or three hops like this.
  3. Most customers won't mind if you cut a hole in the ceiling of a nearby closet or utility room. These holes can be used as an access point to help you fish your cables and can be covered when you are done with a blank cover plate. Many customers also don't mind if you run exposed cabling within closets.
  4. If you need an intermediate access point and there is no other alternative, consider offering the customer an additional device for free, to be installed at the location where you need to make the hole. Many a free heat or smoke detector have been given away by residential security installers for this very reason.
  5. On carpeted floors, there is usually enough space between the tack strip and the wall to run a cable or two. You need to carefully pull the carpet back from the wall, insert your cable into the gap, and then press the carpeting back down. Avoid pulling the carpet completely off of the tack strip if you can.
  6. In homes without molding, I have seen cases where molding was deliberately added just to allow the concealing of the cables. Using this technique, you sometimes need to add molding where it is not needed for cables just so that everything matches.
  7. In some homes, exterior siding can be removed and reinstalled relatively easily, allowing cable to be run behind the siding. You can also sometimes remove siding to create an access point to allow the fishing of cable.

Hi Michael, that's a great bunch of tips and very helpful to me. Thank you very much!

Come on, let's give Michael some insightful up votes!!!

Silly me for typing words. That was very last century of me ;)

Thanks Michael !! ... Very very insightful indeed. Appreciate your sharing of your long experience.

There are several good installation tips listed. Michael sounds like he has been around for a while. Having said that....

Be prepared to loose money on this installation. I don't mind difficult customers at all. I appreciate a good challenge. But some money is bad money, and this guy sounds like that. You will never satisfy him no matter what you do.

Actually you don’t have a picky customer, he or she is being reasonable, if this were my home, I would be as “picky”. Burglar alarm installers, at least the ones around before wireless became the rage, have been fishing wires in walls since the early days. I can’t give you specific guidance without knowing more about the structure. There are many tricks (as detailed above) that the burg guys know; you might consider borrowing one of these guys for this project. Good luck!

This takes me back. I started in the burglar alarm business, mostly in prewar two family homes, and you had to snake wires. My dad taught me how to snake wires when I was still in elementary school, and I think I got pretty good at it eventually.

I don't have anything to add beyond what Michael Silva already recommended. But make sure to charge enough to cover costs, because your time and labor is going to be higher than your equipment cost here.

Perhaps consider subbing it out?

The customer is in an apartment and likely has an agreement with the landlord to return it to its exact condition upon leaving. I too was an old time installer and the most complex was a 3 level Frank Lloyd Wright house where every for and window had devices and no wires or damage was allowed. Eric Wright the grandson was on-site to monitor. What would have been a 4 day job became 30 and what would have cost about $5,000.00 became $18,000.00. The customer expectations were difficult and he was willing to pay. He owned the house though, not a tenant. It sounds like a wireless system where only power has to be "fished" and the system can be removed and relocated is what will make this customer happy. Manage the expectations up front. These days I would probably run fast and far.

Michael has it covered.

I do like glo rods, fiberglass flexible rods that are about 5 feet long and can be attached together. Fish tape is good, but it doesn't always go very straight, well, I can't get it to do that. If you have a space to work with they can help get you across it.

The carpet trick can work, running on the far side of the tack strip, and you can run under the carpet, a carpet fish is best, it's more flat that a regular fish, be careful you don't want to bunch or tear the underlay and stay away from the main section that is walked on, bad for the wires, and it will show, and you can feel it. Keep to the sides.

I would not be happy with loosing money to do this job. I also believe that a customer that spells out their expectations can be a good customer. A discussion of "This is what I want" and "This is what can be done" can help clarify expectations and support costs. I've done a lot of work on thin margin, but if it costs me to work, there needs to be a good business reason to proceed. If the install takes 2 - 3 or 4 times as long to complete, it's worth presuing the additional costs. You may find yourself getting good at this "old school" install and getting paid by happy, picky people.

Good luck.