FlatWire: Scared Off by the Spackling
FlatWire can help remove your A/V cable clutter, provided you're capable of spackling, sanding and painting.
The wires range from 4/1000 of an inch to 13/1000 of an inch thick.
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November 21, 2008 by Richard M. Sherwin

When I first saw the FlatWire box and advertising materials at a summer preview in NYC and later in Denver, I thought this might be the be-all-and-end-all way that gets my family off my back for the clutter of wires stretching throughout our home. My wife, who has complained on these pages about our home’s CE clutter, was also enthused to install wires that are so flat that they are virtually invisible.

And it sounded easy, so easy, in fact that maybe, just maybe this was something we (two not-in-the-least-bit handy homeowners) could do ourselves with the help of the poodle who could step on the flat pieces to keep them in place. Since FlatWire also makes hidden sconces, we thought we could dress up the room in addition to installing our component audio equipment, TiVo, six speakers and assorted Blu-ray players.

The Demo
So we sat down and watched the instructional video, which was kind of like an infomercial on late night TV. It looked pretty easy, but I’ve been burned enough times trying to do things around the house myself, that I had my doubts. So I decided to ask my niece’s husband Chip, a full-time fireman and part time DIYer with lots of contractor experience, to oversee the project. (To FlatWire’s credit there are many warnings on the packing and the video that you might need some expert help do the project of installing these components properly.)

The Revelation
After a couple screenings of the video demo, we were ready to begin. But we suddenly realized that while laying the FlatWire and electrical conduits may be a smooth process, it’s the taping and spackling that could get messy. Most people can’t spackle a nail hole from an old picture without it being noticed, never-mind covering several feet of wire and recreating the invisible finish shown in the demo. A bad spackle job might look worse than tangled cables.

Our expert team also realized that FlatWire missed a key point in the video demo. There’s no mention of a primer which is needed prior to painting to make the job less noticeable.

I saw these instructions on the FlatWire site: “Conceal the wire with the included mesh tape, and cover with joint compound (not included) and then paint! Or simply paint directly over the wire to make it disappear.”  Paint right over the tape? How crappy would that look? I thought the whole idea of this FlatWire process was to make things look professional.

And here’s a caveat with a completed FlatWire install. What if somebody decides to hang a picture and puts a nail or a screw through the wire? While it may be safe, will the damage force you to start all over again?

Regarding the installation of the sconce, it might be easier to cut a small access hole behind the light, snake the wire down through the wall and out another small access hole and into the low-voltage transducer which is placed in the outlet (see Page 4 of Installation guide for visual). This requires much less painting, spackling and sanding.

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Richard M. Sherwin - Contributing Writer
Richard Sherwin is a former syndicated technology columnist and TV/Radio analyst, who has also been a marketing executive with IBM, Philips, NBC and a chief advisor to several manufacturers and service providers.

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