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Hiding power cable and HDMI cable for wall-mounted TV

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Picture of Hiding power cable and HDMI cable for wall-mounted TV
After doing this instructable , I wanted to make it a completely clean look by eliminating the HDMI cable and the power cable. The plan was to install a new power outlet behind the TV, and install 2 (not sure what they're officially called) media boxes, which let me pass the HDMI cable (or any other component cables) through the wall. 


 
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Step 1: Tools and Supplies

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Tools and supplies in the pics.

Disclaimer: this instructable involves, among other things, messing around with wires in your wall. I am not an electrician. I've done a lot of light fixtures and ceiling fans on my own, but I never have anything inspected by a professional. Though everything functions as intended upon completion, I might have done something incorrectly. Feel free to correct me, or add tips for other people in the comments below.

Step 2: Preparation

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The type of media boxes I'm using are the only type I could find locally, and they were only available in white. I didn't want any white behind the TV, I thought it would catch the eye when viewed at an angle. I purchased some Valspar plastic paint, gloss black. I separated the face plate on the media box, taped off the bristles, and followed the instructions on the can (wait 24 hours for full cure, so this had to be done in advance).

There was a slight texture to the plastic, so the paint shows this texture, but I don't mind because it'll be mostly hidden from view. If I wanted a very glossy look, it would have been easy to sand it down. Any scratches in the paint during installation I touched up with a black Sharpie. Cheap, but again, it will be mostly hidden from view.

Also for preparation, before removing the TV from its mount, I taped off where the corners of the TV were on the wall. This allowed me to quickly see where the edges of the TV were, without having to make a lot more measurements once the TV was removed. Not seen in the photos, I also marked where the hooks on the TV were located on the mount itself (low-tech method of dabbing my finger in the accumulated dust). With these reference points, it was easy to locate the best spot to place the media box, so the HDMI cable would run directly into the desired input port on the back of the TV from the wall.

I also marked the best spot for the power outlet. I knew my TV tilted forward, and the power plug needed a few inches of space once plugged in, so I located it above the bracket where there would be enough space. A recessed power outlet could also be used, if more space is needed for the plug.

Step 3: When Old Meets New

First up, I did the power outlet. Make sure everyone knows you're about to cut some power off, or everyone freaks out when their internet and/or TV doesn't work. Be sure to flip the breaker and cut power to the proper location. Getting shocked most likely won't kill you, but it's not fun. I use my tried-and-true method of plugging a working lamp in the socket I intend to use, and being sure it turns off when the breaker is flipped.

I was lucky enough to have a power outlet located below the TV. My plan was to install a new outlet directly above it, pull romex cable through to the preexisting outlet, and wire it to that (is that 'in series'?). I consulted with people who I believe know more than me on the subject, and they said this would be fine.

I removed the preexisting outlet from the wall, and familiarized myself with the wiring. This particular outlet has a wall switch that controls the upper outlet (indicated by a red wire, this outlet/switch is used for a lamp), and the lower outlet has constant power (indicated by the usual black wire). I wanted to connect my new outlet to the constant power source, so the wall switch didn't turn my TV off. I also removed one of the access hole covers in the top of the metal box that the outlet was mounted in, by prying it off with a screwdriver.

I marked my location for the new outlet using the new "old construction power box" (the white one in the pic on step 1) as a guide for size, and cut the hole. Save the piece you cut out, don't let it fall in the wall, it's always good to have on hand in case you make a mistake and need to make a patch on the wall. Then, using the fish tape, I pulled the romex cable through the wall, through the access hole in the top of the box, being sure to pull some excess through to keep it from falling back into the wall once cut.

I cut the bottom of the cable, stripped the insulation and paper lining (the blade slits and cuts the outer insulation easily), separated the 3 wires (black, white, bare ground), and stripped off about 1.5" of insulation from each one using the wire cutters (wire strippers would work too). Using the needle nose pliers, I bent a hook shape into each one, so they could easily attach to the screws on the outlet. 

I attached each wire to their corresponding locations on the lower portion of the outlet. The old black wire was pushed into a hole in the outlet, so I wrapped the new black wire on the screw next to that hole, and tightened it. I did the same with the white wire and ground (see pic for details). I tightened each screw, then I shoved it all back in the metal box, screwed the old outlet back into place, and screwed the face plate back on.

Step 4: Power!

On the new voltage box, I removed the tab covering the access hole on the bottom, and fed the upper end of the romex cable through. After slipping the box in the wall and verifying the hole was the proper size, I tightened the two screws that mount it to the wall. This raises the two wings on the back, and brings them to the back of the sheet rock, tightening it to the wall. 

I cut the romex to length, and stripped off the insulation and separated the wires just as before. Again, I bent the wires with the needle nose pliers to easily attach to the screws. I attached each wire to the correct location, and tightened the screws. I shoved the new outlet into its box, attached it with the two screws that came in the package, and attached the new face plate with the screw that came in its package. 

I had my son watch for any sparks/flames/sounds ("yell as loud as you can if you see/hear anything") and I ran downstairs to flip the breaker back on. The breaker didn't trip, and my son didn't scream, so that was good. I went back upstairs, and tested each outlet with the lamp. Both new outlets worked, and didn't shut off when I flipped the wall switch. Both the old outlets still worked, and the upper one turned off with the wall switch, as desired. Huzzah!

Step 5: Some Holes

After rejoicing the success of the power outlet, I moved along to the media boxes. Looking at the back of the TV, and the tape marks on the wall, I determined the best location for the upper media box. The HDMI cable I use is thick and not very flexible, so I wanted the media box located in such a way that the HDMI cable would come straight from the wall, directly into the desired input on the rear of the TV.

After marking my location, I held up the new "old construction low voltage box" and marked the 4 holes for the cut guide. I cut the hole. I then attached the voltage box by placing it in the hole, verifying it fit, and tightened the two screws. For the lower media box, I wanted it to be located as close to center (in relation to the TV) as possible, and the same height as the power outlets and surround sound outlet. Careful not to place it in a location that would cause the cable to cross a stud (not as close to center as I would have hoped, but still good), I marked its location and did the same process of marking holes and cutting. I installed the voltage box there in the same manner as before.

By this point I'm pretty hungry and ready to finish, so I don't have as many pics, but they're not really needed. I also encountered an unforeseen problem, which I'll discuss at the end. 

Using the fish tape, I pulled the HDMI cable through.  I attached the media boxes, mounted the TV, and verified that the HDMI cable did indeed line up to the media box. Prior to mounting the TV, I wound up a few coils of the power cable, and zip-tied it in place so the excess wouldn't hang below the TV. I tilted the TV forward (the desired final resting position), and plugged the power cable in the new outlet. It works, more success!

Step 6: Unforeseen Problem

I didn't discuss this in the rest of the instructable, because I don't think it's a common issue. I knew where my walls studs were from my prior project of mounting the TV on the wall, and working with the surround sound. What I didn't know about, though, was a metal strap that runs diagonally along the wall. According to my mother-in-law, who had the house built, it was an optional addition during construction that helped steady the wall during framing, and/or to add additional strength in the same way that hurricane straps do (they tie the roof rafters to the wall studs). This wall is easily 15 feet high, so the additional straps were understandable.

When cutting the hole for my lower media box, I ran right into this. In my hungry and frustrated state, I contemplated cutting the metal for a moment, but decided against it.  I was able to move my hole over a little without causing additional damage, but the strap covered about half the hole. I figured I could make it work. I had to trim a bit off one of the the voltage box tabs, but it still fit nicely. Also, the back of the media box protrudes a bit (it looks as if it's intended to help organize multiple cables), so I trimmed that down as well. The HDMI cable also has thick insulation, and has a webbed sheath, so I was not worried about it coming in contact with the metal strap, which didn't have a sharp edge. All said and done, it worked great!

But prior to be being "all said and done", I was trying to guide the fish tape from the upper hole to the lower hole. Somehow, I'm really not sure, I must have hooked the power cable that runs horizontally in the wall. The little bent portion on the end of the fish tape is pretty tight, so I'm not sure how it easily hooked on the power cable. After trying all sorts of maneuvers, and after much frustration, I resolved to cut the fish tape and leave about 3' in the wall.  Oh well. With the end of the fish tape now a sharp, pointed nub, I no longer had to worry about getting it caught on anything, but it also made it useless for attaching wires that need fishing. I bent it into a horrible hook, and that worked fine.

But taking into account how many things I've done for the first time, with the surround sound, media boxes, and power outlet, I'm surprised this was the only problem I ran into. I'm thankful for that! 
Cool, I never even thought about doing this! I don't have a flat screen yet, but when I do, I'm certainly going to incorporate some of these ideas; makes for a nice clean install.

Thanks for sharing.
ishmael623 years ago
Thanks for the work you put into sharing this! But, have you heard of the Sewell WallBlade?  It has all the parts you need to do this in one package, with up-to firecode cable.  Check it out: http://sewelldirect.com/WallBlade-by-Sewell-Recessed-Wall-Plate-Cable-Drop-With-Power.asp
oakback (author)  ishmael623 years ago
There are several products like that, but I wanted to buy something locally and not order online.
novex3 years ago
i did a similar thing, however i just grabbed a holesaw, cut a hole into the room (alcove area with fridges and shelves) put one of those hole cover things for office desks into it then placed all media boxes on a shelf over the fridge.

i then got an IR repeater / extender so that i could still control all the boxes. and result is a perfectly clean wall with TV.

I also made a shelf that sits on top of the TV wall mount bracket and just under the top of the Tv which is great for sitting the remotes on.


also american wiring and outlets scare the hell outa me with their exposed terminals.
oakback (author)  novex3 years ago
My son's bedroom closet is on the opposite side of the wall I used. I thought about installing the components in there using an IR repeater, but ultimately decided this would be easier. I may still do that in the future, though.

What do you mean by exposed terminals? How are they in other countries?
svirbt3 years ago
You can use this, yea it's a little pricey, but you can do it without having to be an electrician and you are still covered if anything happens your insurance company will still cover you.

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/PowerBridge+-+In-Wall+Power+Extension+Cable+Management+for+Most+HDTVs+-+White/9854446.p?id=1218186068186&skuId=9854446&st=power%20bridge&cp=1&lp=1
BorikX3 years ago
Also if you have low profile Wall Mounting kit, it good to use "Leviton 689-W Recessed Duplex Outlet", this way the plugs are not in the way...

Borik
Tonspaa3 years ago
Just remember that if something happens, the insurance doesn't cover the damage if a certified electrician hasn't inspected the circuits
oakback (author)  Tonspaa3 years ago
Each person should check with their own homeowners policy. This can differ based on location and the insurer.
jmyler3 years ago
So on the preexisting outlet at the bottom of the wall you just doubled up the wires on the screws to run to the top (new) outlet?
oakback (author)  jmyler3 years ago
The screws were unused, the existing wire was pressed into the holes you see in the pic, on the back of the outlet. Old wire in hole, new wire on screw.

Except the ground, that has 2 wires on one screw. Or one wire on the screw, the other wrapped around it, I can't remember.