Pro Provides the Finishing Touches
Sometimes DIYers need a hand to get a complex project done right, as was the case in this installation.
October 19, 2010 by Arlen Schweiger

Do-it-yourselfers can’t always do everything themselves. The Minnesota homeowner who started this project was headed in the right direction, but eventually raised the white flag. A friend of his recommended JML Media Technologies in St. Paul, Minn., and the homeowner is now a very satisfied customer.

“He had done some work on his own, wiring the first and second levels of his house, and was finishing his basement,” says JML’s John Laugerman. “He was doing a lot himself but wanted some professional help to finish the media closet, which was getting to be too much of a mess with components on top of components.”

The referring friend’s home that JML had outfitted was a new construction, but it gave the DIYer a taste of the company’s work. This job would require more than simply tidying up the basement equipment closet, though.

The homeowner had run component video and left/right audio cables to the home office and three bedrooms, and wired the living room, kitchen and office for video. He’d installed in-ceiling speakers throughout, and routed the audio wiring to a multizone receiver—creating a system in which the three rooms fed off the one source (he installed volume control in each). He also wired the upper-level rooms for phone, Ethernet and IR signals from a Xantech multisource IR repeater.

But the wiring tipped off his amateur status. “There were wires on top of wires. He had stuff tacked in, but the problem was that there were about six entry points from the ceiling into this room instead of one,” says Laugerman.

Laugerman and JML’s Trey Thorson drilled into the ceiling, pulled wires through a cavity they created in the wall (a 4-by-6-inch pop-off panel provides access), and terminated and trimmed everything. They installed two Legrand enclosures to house phone, network interface and audio distribution modules, Ethernet switch, firewall, cable modem and coax splitters.

In the wall JML added six Niles HDMI baluns to help distribute 1080p high-def and digital audio.

Rather than use a traditional vertical rack, JML saved the owner on cost by placing three shelves on the wall for components: two TiVos, an Apple TV, an Onkyo receiver for the main level audio distribution, a Yamaha receiver for the master bedroom, Cyber Power UPS/surge protection, Apple Airport Express, a network switch and a DVD player.

A third receiver will handle A/V in the impending basement finish, which will have a bar, living room, secondary sitting room, wine closet and wine tasting room. We’re guessing the owner will raise a glass to JML when that project is complete.

What It Cost
Going pro can have its benefits. Aside from a clutter-free equipment rig, this DIYer earned a discount on labor (actual hours were double than those listed below, Laugerman says) thanks to his standing as a customer referral.
Pre-wire: $1,000
Equipment: $2,500
Labor: about $1,920 (32 hours at $60/hour)
Total: about $5,500

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for and Electronic House magazine.

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