October 08, 2012
| by Phil Lozen
Television makers are spending more time than ever on the designs of their sets— thin bezels, shiny chrome, anything to add some pizazz to your entertainment center. Makers of other components like DVRs, set-top boxes, even receivers, are paying more attention to how their products look in addition to how they work. After all, who wants a bunch of ugly components cluttering up their viewing room?
But no matter if you choose the sexiest TV or the sveltest AV component, nothing can save the aesthetics of your room if there’s a mess of cables cascading around. Unless you’re moving into a newly built house and have the option to run cable before drywall goes up, you’re faced with the sometimes daunting task of trying to hide cables without ripping up an already finished area.
There are plenty of products that will help you obscure your cables in plain sight, some better than others. But if you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty, there are options for hiding cables in a finished room as well.
Step-by-step guides for each of these methods would make for a long article, so consider this a primer for the methods you can use to hide cables. We’ll give you some ideas, point you in the right direction, and let you run. We also look at how each of the four options rank in terms of difficulty, aesthetics, and cost, where a one means it’s the best of the four methods in that category.
1. Go wireless
Hiding long speaker wire runs tends to be the most problematic for people. Sure, there’s a nest of cable behind your components, but as HDMI has become the de facto standard, most people only have to worry about one cable from components to their wall-hung TV.
The solve the speaker wire problem, use wireless surround speakers or devices such as the Proficient Zero, which can wireless send audio to any speakers (also good for multiroom audio). Wirless subwoofers (or subwoofer kits) are also easy to find from companies like Velodyne, Sunfire, Paradigm and others. For sending your high definition source signals (Blu-ray, DVR, game console…), wireless HD transmitters like these from DVDO or Actiontec will let you hook up without the cable. Unfortunately, one of the big downsides of wireless is the cost.
Difficulty – 1
Aesthetics – 2
Cost – 4
DVDO Air WirelessHD.
2. Carpet or rugs
Floor coverings can be a great place to hide cable. Simply run the wire underneath a rug to a speaker on a stand and then feed the wire through the stand’s cable management system. If you’re in a room with hard floors, all you’d need is an area rug large enough to cover your cable run. If you’re getting new carpet, put wire down before the padding goes in. It might help to consider flat speaker wire to prevent unsightly bumps in your carpet. Sewell is one of many brands that make flat speaker wire, some that is adhesive and can be painted for completing the cable run from the floor to a wall-hanging speaker.
Difficulty – 2
Aesthetics – 3
Cost – 2
3. Concealing products
If the carpet option isn’t available, it’s might be time to start thinking about products aimed at concealing wires. eTailers like Cableorganizer and Monoprice specialize in these types of products, though you can likely find similar options at your local home goods store. Options include crown molding designed to hide cables or simpler raceways that adhere to floor molding. Simple to use and easy to install, this option also is likely to have the largest impact on your room’s aesthetics.
Difficulty – 3
Aesthetics – 4
Cost – 3
4. Minor surgery
If you have a basement under your theater area, you have one of the best wire management systems around: your basement rafters. This option requires some measuring and drilling, but the end result is the cleanest looking way to run cables and wires. In carpeted rooms, it might require pulling back a small section from the wall near your components. Drill a hole into your basement and run the wires through the ceiling to where they need to terminate. If your speakers are hung, you can even use the wall cavity to bring the wires up from below for complete concealment, though be sure to adhere to the old axiom “measure twice (or 3-4 times) and drill once” when using this method. Try to avoid exterior walls when possible since pushing cable through insulation gets difficult. Always make sure your speaker wire is CL2 rated for in-wall use.
Difficulty – 4 (adhering flat cables to walls requires some effort)
Aesthetics – 1
Cost – 1 (assuming you have tools like drills and tape measures handy)
These four methods, while certainly not all-encompassing, represent four of the more popular DIY ways to hide cables. You could of course go full cosmetic surgery and tear your walls up, but that’s another article. Just a note, building code is different in every location. If you’re concerned about any of these methods you can always call your local building inspector for more information. For the most peace of mind, hire a consumer electronics pro. If you need help finding one, look here.