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How Can I Safely Run Ethernet Cable Outdoors?

2013-06-26_105414

You want to link your home network to an outbuilding, like a garage or workshop, and wired is the only way to go. How do you run the Ethernet cable safely to the secondary building?

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader Yoyoyoyosef is ready to wire his garage with Ethernet, but he has a few questions:

I’m trying to extend my network to an unconnected garage that’s about 20 yards away from my house. What’s the best way to do this?

1. Is there special outdoor-rated cat5e/cat6 I should use?
2. If put it in a dug trench, do I need to put it in conduit?
3. If I run parallel to electric, how much separation do I need, and do I go UTP or STP?
4. If I do an overhead run, how should I properly ground it against lightning?

The best way to avoid a minor accident (or a big tragedy) later on is to ask good questions before you start a project; he’s off to a good start here.

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Jweede offers some advice:

Yes. This article answers most of your questions.

Is there special outdoor-rated cat5e/cat6 I should use?

"Preferably, special exterior or direct burial CAT5 cables should be used for outdoor runs instead of ordinary CAT5."

If put it in a dug trench, do I need to put it in conduit?

"Exterior-grade Ethernet cables are waterproof and thus do not require conduit."

If I run parallel to electric, how much separation do I need, and do I go UTP or STP?

"5-20cm (6-8 inches) and at least that far away from power lines or other sources of electrical interference."

If I do an overhead run, how should I properly ground it against lightning?

"Accordingly, CAT5 surge protectors should be installed as part of outdoor Ethernet networks to guard against lightning strikes."

Another contributor, Keck, suggests combining the two installation techniques:

In my experience, it doesn’t hurt to combine both trenched conduit and direct burial wire. Expansion is great. Direct burial alone tends to get eaten rather easily if you have any sort of rat/mole/gopher digging around. Straight conduit can leak if done improperly, but the combo is a reliable combo. If you’re concerned about dealing with conduit, flexible “liquid-tight” grey pvc tubing is “very” easy to route, but does cost a bit more than standard pvc.

When it comes to underground/remote cable installation, it’s definitely worth the extra money up front to do it right (and avoid the headache of pulling new cable, fixing a sloppy installation, or otherwise doing the whole thing over at a later date).


Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

 

 

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/4/13

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