I’ve shown you ways to completely hide your flat screen TV, but a lot of people aren’t interested in hiding their entire TV as much as they want to hide the television wires, cords and cables. The easiest and fastest way to get your TV cords out of sight in most cases is to hide your TV cables outside your wall with specialized media products or some clever positioning.
A more sophisticated, and more permanent, way to hide television wires is to actually hide them in your walls. This takes some time and some planning, but if done right you can make your television or home theater look like it was installed by a professional.
Before we talk about hiding the wires, you should take a good look at how your TV is mounted. Ideally you’ll want to use a professional TV wall mount that’s tied into the studs of the wall. Conversely you could use a large TV cabinet or stand to display your TV, but if you are doing that then you probably don’t need to hide the wires. Most newer TV stands and cabinets actually have channels built into them to run and hide cables through them.
Most flat screen TV wall mounts place the TV at least an inch or so off the wall. This is useful for a couple reasons. First, some flat screen TVs get hot and need the extra air space behind them for cooling. Some flat screen TVs also have the cable and wire jacks all in the back of the TV, which means that if you plug in any cables you’ll need to bend them (gently!) down or to the side a bit. Some TVs require you to have a little bit of room back there to bend the cables appropriately.
Safety Tips For Running TV Cables Through Walls
Here are a few other DOs and DON’Ts when running TV cables through your walls:
DO NOT run power cables through a wall – Seriously, this is a big electrical code violation and can cause all sorts of problems. To hide a power cable you can either hide the TV cord outside the wall or you can install an outlet directly behind the TV. Installing an outlet is not difficult, but it’s not something to be attempted if you aren’t very comfortable working with electricity. The good news is that it’s also not very expensive for a qualified electrician to do it. Expect to pay between $50 and $100, depending upon what’s involved.
DO Be Careful – If you’re going to run TV AV cables through your wall then you’re probably going to need to drill or cut holes in your wall. Behind those walls could be existing electrical wires. You should always wear non-conducting (rubber or leather) gloves when doing this and if there’s an obvious outlet or electrical run nearby then use your circuit breakers to cut the power to that part of the house, just to be safe.
DO Keep It Simple – Running a cable down the inside of a wall is usually pretty straight forward. Sometimes you may have problems fishing the wire around or you may wrestle with insulation, but generally it’s a straight shot down or up. Some people suggest running TV or speaker cables behind baseboards, crown moldings and even through door jambs. I don’t like any of those methods because though it can work, it’s usually a lot more work when all is said and done. I’ve also learned that when I try to get “clever” I often come up against things I didn’t expect, in this case you might run into things like wooden spacers, shims, extra brackets or even errant nails that you weren’t expecting to hit.
DO Plan It Out – After all these years I’m still guilty of jumping into a project before I have fully thought out all the details. This gets me in trouble more often than not. In this case, you’ll want to think about how you’re going to cut your hole and how you’re going to finish it off. If you’re going to use a wall plate you’ll obviously need to know which one. You’ll need to figure out how much cable or wire you’ll need (and add extra) and you’ll want to figure out the exact location of where you’re going to run your TV cables. Personally, I recommend using some TV cable or wire wall plates from Amazon. They have a huge selection and their prices are so much cheaper than the local electronics retailer.
How To Run Cables Through Your Walls
Okay, the basics are out of the way. Here are the general steps you’ll want to follow, though the exact details will obviously depend upon your situation:
1. Measure your distances from where your TV will be to where the cables are going. So AV cables may have to go to a DVD player, cable box, computer and various video games. You’ll also want to have your wall plates ready to go. Obviously read any instructions that came with them ahead of time. The idea here is that we’re going to thread all the cords and cables between the wooden framing of your wall, so you’ll first have to find and mark a few wall studs and figure out where you’re going to be working.
2. Generally you’re going to have a “top” hole for the tables to go into the wall (from your TV) and you’re going to have a “bottom” hole for your cables to come out of your wall and go to your peripherals. The distance may only be a foot or so, depending up how your TV and media players are set up. Mark the wall where you think the top and bottom hole will go. You’re generally only going to be able to go “up and down” with your cables, because running cables to the left or right may require you to drill through studs, which is a project that could get way out of hand.
3. Most wall plates are designed to fit on an electrical or gang box and those boxes are usually held on the wall with little clips and bracers. You can put in a wall plate without a box behind it, but you have to be careful because in most cases screwing anything directly to drywall is not a good idea. Over time the drywall may chip or crumble and your wall plate will come out of your wall. Look for a junction box that’s designed for existing construction. They’re designed to hold themselves in the drywall without needing to be attached to the studs with nails (because it’s pretty hard to drive a nail into a stud outside of a junction box without removing all the drywall around it). Now you want to mark where your junction box will go into your wall. Simply hold the box against the wall and trace around it. Be sure that the wall plate is larger than the outline! Once you cut out the hole you’re going to want the plate to cover it.
4. Put those gloves on and start cutting the top hole in the wall. There are a variety of ways to do this. You can usually start with an electric drill (grounded) and wear gloves just in case you hit an electrical wire behind the wall. Drill a small hole in the center of the box sketching and then look in the hole for anything you could hit. You could put a bent paperclip in the hole and feel around to see if you hit anything, but I’ve never had good luck with that. Drill a hole in each corner of the sketched out box. Now use a drywall saw to cut along the sketched box, being very careful not to cut outside the sketched line. Repeat for the bottom hole.
5. Slip your electrical or junction box into the hole. Turn the clips or brackets or screws (the boxes do differ slightly) and tighten the box into the wall. Do the same for the lower hole and box.
6. Now you’ll need to fish a line from the top box to the bottom box. Again, you have some options, but the easier way is to tie a small weight to a fishing line and lower it into the wall from the top box. While doing that, you can use a wire coat hanger or even long paperclip to make a small hook and try to “grab” the string as it comes down the inside of the wall. The object here is to get a string that runs from outside the wall, into the top box, down inside the wall and back out the bottom box. Patience is required and you may find that a helper makes this easier.
7. Once you have that fishing line back out of the bottom box you’re ready to start running cable. I generally do it this way: tie the fishing line around two thin wires or cables. Pull them from top box down to the bottom box. Unhook one cable, but use the second cable and pull it back up with the fishing line attached. Now you have the fishing line ready to go for another round. Keep doing this until you have all the TV cables you need run through your wall!
8. Depending upon your wall plate you may now be attaching cables to jacks or you may simply be dangling your cables out of the plate. Either way, once you attach the wall plates to the junction boxes with screws, you’re pretty much done! You now need to either hook up your flat screen TV and peripherals with more cables or plug them into the existing cables that are now run through the wall and completely hidden from view.
After all that work you deserve a break. Why don’t you sit back and enjoy your flat screen TV without having to worry about seeing those ugly cords!