CAT-6 Installation Cost

The cost of installing CAT6 cabling is around $750.

In this guide

Pros and cons
Types of cabling
Shielded vs unshielded
Connector and cabling types
Installation considerations
Labor
Materials
Wireless vs hardwired
Internet Service Providers
Enhancements and improvement costs
Additional costs and considerations
FAQ

How much does it cost to install CAT6 cabling?

Category-6 cable (also called CAT-6) is a type of twisted-pair Ethernet 1 cable that was developed to carry more data faster than before. Even with a long run, CAT-6 can manage 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) and up to 10 Gbps at short distances. Standards for installation of Ethernet cables in commercial buildings are set in publications by the Telecommunications Industry Association Electronic Industries Alliance (TIA/EIA). These standards provide guidance to consumers and producers but don’t constitute actual legal requirements. Information specific to the use of CAT-6 cable was first outlined in the 2001 document ANSI/TIA/EIA 568-B.

Of course, Ethernet cables are not just for commercial buildings. While many people opt for wireless technologies, anyone with a serious computer system, server, home automation system, or gaming system will want to opt for the more reliable and consistent means of transmitting data, which involves the use of Ethernet cables.

While your needs may vary depending on the type of technology you’re utilizing, the average home user ultimately installs roughly 200 feet of cable per line, with 10 lines installed for a total of 2,000 feet. The associated cost for this project is roughly $750 for the materials and installation.

Pros and cons

CAT-6 cables consist of four twisted pairs of copper wire that are encased together in a shielded jacket. The cables transmit data with little interference or “crosstalk” between the wires, allowing you to receive and send data at faster speeds with reliable consistency.

CAT-6 is currently the most commonly installed type of Ethernet cable in residential settings. While there are both older, less expensive versions and newer, more expensive models available, at this time most users agree that CAT-6 is generally sufficient for most people’s needs.

Pros

  • The biggest pro to CAT-6 cabling is the fact that it can transmit 10 gigabits of data per second over short distances. Most people install 200 feet of cable per line, and the majority of that distance can transmit at much higher speeds.
  • CAT-6 cabling also has less interference and crosstalk than older cables, as it has the option to include shielding within the jacket. This is now standard but not an option for older models.
  • CAT-6 cables have 2 or more twists per centimeter, which is an improvement over the 1.5-2 twists per centimeter of older cables, and which allows for two-way communication, as well as the faster, more reliable speeds.
  • CAT-6 cables are also backward compatible, which means that you can upgrade cabling without needing to upgrade the rest of your system.

Cons

  • The cons mostly include the higher cost over CAT-5e. Some CAT-5e manufacturers have begun to include nylon shielding, which can enhance use, so for households without a lot of heavy use, the higher costs of CAT-6 may not be worth it.
  • The breakdown of speed at distances further than 164 feet is the other main drawback of CAT-6. CAT-6A and CAT-7 cables may provide more consistent speeds even at greater distances. Depending on your particular set up, these distance limitations could be a significant factor.
  • With each generation of cables the increased wires also increase in thickness, resulting in more difficulties with DIY installation as well as for increased costs.

Types of cabling

While some of the older types of cabling have become obsolete, there are several types to choose from in addition to CAT-6. Each has its own pros and cons that may make it a better fit for your needs.

CAT-6 vs CAT-6A (Category 6, augmented)

CAT-6 and CAT-6A are the most commonly compared cables, as they are the two closest upgrades that are considered standard.

FeaturesCAT-6CAT-6A
Speed10 Gbps up to 50 meters10 Gbps up to 100 meters
Maximum length164 feet or 50 meters for maximum speed328 feet or 100 meters for maximum speed
Performance (frequency)Up to 250 MHzUp to 500 MHz
Gauge (wiring)2+ Twists per cm2+ Twists per cm
Cost$750 for 10, 200-foot lines$900 for 10, 200-foot lines


CAT-6 vs CAT-5e (Category 5, enhanced)

CAT-6 was developed as a better alternative to CAT-5e, which had been the previous standard for most companies.

FeaturesCAT-6CAT-5e
Speed10 Gbps up to 50 meters1 Gbps
Maximum Length164 Feet or 50 meters for maximum speed100 meters (no drop in speed)
Performance (frequency)Up to 250 MHzUp to 100 MHz
Gauge (wiring)2+ twists per cm1.5-2 twists per cm
Cost$750 for 10, 200’ lines$600 for 10, 200’ lines


CAT-6 vs CAT-7

While CAT-7 is not considered standard, it does have higher speeds at greater lengths than previous types of cables, including the current standard of CAT-6. The following table contains a comparison of some features of CAT-6 and CAT-7, but a more detailed comparison might be necessary to make a decision.

FeaturesCAT-6CAT-7
Speed10 Gbps up to 50 meters40 Gbps up to 50 meters and 100 Gbps up to 16 meters
Performance (frequency)Up to 250 MHzUp to 600 MHz
Maximum length164 feet or 50 meters for max speed52 feet for max speed, 164 feet for second best speed
Gauge (wiring)2+ twists per cm2+ twists per cm with additional sheathing
Cost$750 for 10, 200 foot lines$2000 for 10, 200 foot lines


Shielded vs unshielded

Previous generations of Ethernet cables were unshielded, meaning that the wires were uninsulated within their jackets. This sometimes resulted in interference or “cross talk” between the cables.

Beginning with CAT-6, cables could be shielded, usually with nylon. This shielding significantly cut down on the amount of interference and crosstalk, but also made the cables significantly thicker, and therefore more difficult to work with, increasing installation costs.

CAT-6A is generally more insulated than CAT-6, while CAT-7 shields the individual twists as well as the cable within the jacket.

Connector and cabling types

While connectors are backwards compatible (a connector designed for CAT6 cable will work with CAT-5e cable), the connectors used on a CAT-6 cable must be made just for that purpose.

All cables, connectors, and topologies are defined by TIA/EIA-568-B, and those connectors defined by this section to be used for connecting CAT-6 cable are known as RJ45 connectors. This is a type of 8P8C modular connector. The most important component to keep in mind when selecting connectors is the diameter: is it wide enough to accommodate the cable. Because a CAT-6 cable is wider than a CAT-5e, you cannot use an older connector on a CAT-6 cable. However, there is no separate connector defined for CAT-6A so those cables can use the same RJ45 connector.

Installation considerations

In most residential settings, when you’re installing Ethernet cables it’s for a specific purpose. The process can be time consuming and expensive, so many homeowners tend to plan ahead for future upgrades at the same time. For example, if you intend to add things like security cameras or home automation later, you may wish to install the relevant cables now.

Therefore, the path the cables take, the network speed you need, the number of ports or connectors you have, and where each of these locations is within your home will greatly impact the installation.

In most cases, minimal remodeling or finishing work is required, but, in some cases, the wires cannot be easily fished (fed through walls) and a larger section of drywall 2 may need to be removed/replaced to complete the installation.

Keeping in mind that the speeds on a CAT-6 cable will degrade after a set number of feet, you may wish to locate equipment closer to the terminals than further away, particularly if network speed is required.

Labor

The labor portion of the installation is typically carried out by the line, with most lines costing roughly $50 to install by an electrician, and most homes utilizing roughly 10 lines to provide you with all the necessary connections. The actual labor varies depending on your home setup. In most cases, bringing the connection into the home is done fairly discreetly by drilling a hole to run the cable through the exterior wall and then caulking 3 around the cable.

The cable is then run through the walls of your home to the designated end points, where the cable is ended with a connector at an optional panel. The average home will run these cables roughly 200 feet each, but they could be shorter or farther depending on your needs.

The cables themselves cost roughly $200 for 2,000 feet, making the total around $700 for basic installation. These costs could be higher or lower depending on whether you desire additional materials, or need to run longer lines.

Materials

The cabling itself is only one part of the equation when installing an Ethernet cable in your home. There are other materials involved, some necessary, others optional, which will complete the installation and allow the system to run properly.

To complete the installation, you will need a gang retrofit box for each line. These cost roughly $2 each and are used to house the plug, or the RJ45. You will also need an Ethernet switch or central hub to plug your electronics into to capture the Ethernet. These typically cost under $20.

Optional materials

Depending on the installation and location, you may also decide to include some other, optional materials such as:

  • Patch panel: a switchboard that connects multiple devices, which you may choose to use instead of a switch for more lines ($30 and up).
  • Plastic grommets: if necessary for retrofitting cables ($5 and up).
  • Plugs: which may also be necessary for retrofitting or finishing cables ($2 and up).
  • Short patch cables: if you are moving from one setup to another within the same room ($0.80 and up)
  • Router 4: (this may be supplied by your ISP) ($100 and up)

Wireless vs hardwired

Many households are going wireless, meaning that instead of using cables and plugs, they use a wireless modem and router to get their internet. This is a less expensive option for both installation and materials, as most ISPs will provide a wireless router for no charge, but it does have drawbacks.

Wireless setups are not as fast or as reliable as Ethernet systems. They can drop or lose the signal, which can interfere with use. If not properly secured, they can be pirated by neighbors or those nearby. Even if “locked” with a password, they may not be as secure as a wired Ethernet connection.

For most typical households, wireless is sufficient, but for home automation, servers, and those who do a lot of gaming, an Ethernet or hardwire connection will give you more consistent results.

Internet Service Providers

The Internet service provider (ISP) provider you choose will also have some influence on the type of cabling you ultimately use, mostly due to costs and speeds that they may offer. ISP prices vary by state and some states may offer limited choices for who your provider may be. There are several companies that offer services nationwide. The plan that you choose will determine the speed of your data, as well as the final costs. Because some companies may actually offer less speeds than a CAT-6 cable is capable of carrying, you may find that things like cable distance don’t matter.

A partial list of companies that may do business in your state include:

  • Comcast: offering speeds up to 1 gigabit with costs ranging from $19.99 to $115 per month.
  • Time Warner: speeds ranging from 1 Mbps for $14 per month to 50 Mbps for $65 per month.
  • Earthlink: offering speeds up to 20 mbps for $60 per month.

There are many other providers available, with many doing business in 5-20 states. Contact your local provider to get exact pricing and top speeds available in your neighborhood.

Enhancements and improvement costs

  • If you have multiple users on your network, you may want to invest in a file server to separately store individual files. Costs start at $400.
  • If you currently use a router, you may wish to upgrade to a gigabit switch starting around $40.
  • You can turn your computer into a security system by installing a DVR card for $200 and up.
  • You can have a digital phone added to the system for around $9.99 a month.

Additional costs and considerations

  • It is not possible to tell the cables apart by color, you need to read the category printed on them. CAT-6 cables are typically thicker than CAT-5e because they have more twists per cm.
  • Make sure you test all connections before connecting to the network.
  • You may need additional cable shielding to help improve performance in areas with high electromagnetic interference.
  • It is possible to save money by running the cables DIY. In that case, you would save $50 per line on installation.
  • CAT-6 cables are backwards compatible to a minimum of CAT-4 and in some cases CAT-3 equipment.
  • While some manufacturers offer a CAT-6e cable, suggesting that this is an upgrade, there is no standard for CAT-6e. CAT-6a is a standard, while CAT-7 is an ISO standard but not a TIA standard.
  • Over the last several years, CAT-6 cables and connectors have become a basic requirement in new buildings. This is to support network applications and bandwidths 5 of up to 250MHz.

FAQ

  • What is the difference between CAT-5 and CAT-6?

CAT-6 cables are thicker, with shields that help reduce cross talk. They can transmit up to 10 gbps over 50 meters in comparison to CAT-5, which can transmit just 1.

  • What does CAT-6 mean?

CAT-6 is the standard abbreviation for Category-6, the 6th generation of twisted pair Ethernet cables.

  • What is better CAT-5 or CAT-6?

While some households may find that CAT-5e is sufficient for their needs, most businesses will be greatly benefited by the speeds and capabilities of CAT-6.

  • How many pairs are in CAT-6 cable?

There are four twisted pairs in a CAT-6 cable.

  • How far can you run a CAT-6 cable?

You can run a CAT-6 cable as far as you need, but the fastest speeds are only achievable with runs up to 50 meters, after which speeds downgrade.

  • What is CAT-6 Ethernet cable?

CAT-6 Ethernet cable is the 6th generation of twisted-pair Ethernet cables, which can transmit speeds up to 10 Gbps.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Ethernet: A system used to connect computers to form a local area network (LAN). A LAN allows computers in the same area to access shared data. It is also used for metropolitan area networks (MANs), such as for an entire city or campus
2 Drywall: Type of plasterboard, commonly used to build walls and ceilings, composed of gypsum that is layered between sheets of heavy paper
3 Caulking: A chemical sealant used to fill in and seal gaps where two materials join, for example, the tub and tile, to create a watertight and airtight seal. The term "caulking" is also used to refer to the process of applying this type of sealant
4 Router: A device used to share data packets between computer networks
5 Bandwidths: The amount of data that electronic communications systems can send and receive within a certain time period. Bandwidth is measured in bps (bits per second)

Cost to install Cat-6 cabling varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Aberdeen, MD
-8%
Anaheim, CA
+21%
Arlington, VA
+38%
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Austin, TX
+13%
Bakersfield, CA
-6%
Baltimore, MD
+12%
Belleville, IL
0%
Buffalo, NY
-1%
Cary, NC
-5%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Colorado Springs, CO
-3%
Columbus, OH
+5%
Cupertino, CA
+33%
Denver, CO
+1%
Des Moines, IA
+1%
Desoto, TX
+7%
Detroit, MI
+16%
Eudora, KS
-21%
Everett, WA
-14%
Fort Worth, TX
+6%
Fresno, CA
-6%
Grandview, MO
+11%
Harlingen, TX
-33%
Highland, IL
-15%
Houston, TX
+24%
Hudson, FL
-31%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
Irving, TX
+10%
Jacksonville, FL
-1%
Kansas City, MO
+4%
Keller, TX
+20%
Killeen, TX
-27%
Mansfield, TX
+5%
Marietta, GA
+10%
Memphis, TN
+11%
Mesa, AZ
-2%
Miami, FL
+1%
Milpitas, CA
+33%
Milwaukee, WI
+12%
New York, NY
+77%
Newark, CA
+35%
Newton, MA
+41%
Norfolk, VA
-6%
Orem, UT
-25%
Palmdale, CA
+9%
Phoenix, AZ
0%
Plano, TX
+24%

Labor cost in your zip code

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