Buying a new high-definition LCD TV can be very exciting. The image of a sleek, new TV can be quickly tarnished by tangled and unsightly cords hanging from the back. Here's how to put those cords in their place and get back to enjoying your favourite shows. This can be done through camouflaging the wires, with a wall-mount conduit, or through hiding the wires behind the wall.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- LCD flat-screen TV (shelved or wall-mounted)
- HDMI, DVI-I, Composite, S-video or RCA patch cables of appropriate length
- Black zip-ties (OR substitute with small Velcro straps OR black vinyl electrical tape)
- Electronic label-maker
- Wire snips (OR heavy-duty scissors)
- (method 1 - optional) black cord-concealing tubing, 1 to 2 inches diameter
- (method 2) PVC tubing cut-to-length and two mirror-mount clips
- (method 3) 2 dual-gang low-voltage brackets and 2 cable-run wall plates
Choose this "quick and dirty" method if you want a simple solution that's easy to maintain. This method works best for a free-standing TV, but may also work well for a low-hanging wall-mount TV. Start by arranging all of your A/V equipment (DVD player, cable box and game console, for instance) in its permanent places.
Run the power cord for the LCD TV; plug it in the back and leave the other end on the floor. Also run the cords for your equipment to their proper inputs. Use the label-maker to tag cords on each upstream connector (the ends away from the TV) showing where each one goes.
Gather the hanging strands together as a single "trunk". Use one zip-tie to loosely hold them together about one foot from the rear panel, then loosely add another zip-tie about one foot away from the first one.
Wrap the boot of cords carefully toward the rear-centre of the TV; "massage" the cords so that the different lengths encourage the whole trunk to hang dead-centre. Be careful not to bend the wires too tightly because that may degrade your TV signal. Let the natural weight of the cords do the work for you.
Cinch the first (closer to panel) zip-tie when the cords are all bending towards the centre. When you let go, the cords should hold themselves in place. Cinch the second (further from panel) zip-tie to give the trunk its shape. Zip-ties are cheap, so if it's not working the first time, just cut it off with the wire snips and try a new one.
Trace the TV power cord to the outlet/power strip you want to use, leaving it out of the remaining cinches. Connect the shortest patch cord to its respective equipment. When a cord pulls away from the trunk, leave it out and continue to cinch the remaining cords about a foot apart.
Add another zip-tie back at the top of the trunk, where it's roughly level with the base (on a free-standing TV). Take another zip-tie and wrap it around the "neck" of the TV stand.
Thread one more zip-tie through those other two zip-ties together; thread up through one and down through the other. Cinch together those last three zip-ties so that the trunk pulls in toward the backside. This hides the cords even more, holding them directly behind the TV stand.
Finally, use wire snips to remove the zip-tie ends and clean up the overall appearance of the wires. When the TV is on, hardly anyone will notice the trunk of cables on the back. Many electronics shops will feature black tubing that conceals the cables, which is fine as a cosmetic improvement.
Standing TV Camouflage
Make a "conduit" that reaches the floor and can be painted to match your wall colour. Measure how far the rear panel is from the floor. Also measure from that same point on the floor to where each piece of equipment (cable box, DVD player and/or game console) will be.
Install the wall-mount kit, but do not mount the TV yet.
Add the measurements together, in inches. The average patch-cord is 72 inches (6 feet) long. If your measurements add up to more than 60 inches, purchase longer cords or extension cords for your equipment. Consider this as well for the LCD TV power cord; a replacement PC power-supply cord of adequate length should be compatible.
Once you're confident that your equipment cords and the TV power cord are long enough, take one more measurement of the exact distance from the floor moulding to the bottom edge of where the TV will hang.
Go to a home improvement store and order some PVC pipe, cut to the length of that last measurement. Ask about various shapes; some are flat-sided. You'll also want to purchase two mounting clips, the kind you would get for a door or bathroom mirror.
Cable-runs are available at electronics stores. They are fine as a cosmetic improvement but sometimes are not durable. If you do purchase such a kit, it will act as a substitute for the PVC pipe and mounting clips.
Place the TV---screen-side down---on a soft cushion. Be careful not to damage the screen. With the rear panel exposed, connect the ends of all cables to the panel, including the TV power cord. Make some labels and tag the ends of the cables so you know where each one goes.
If you've purchased a cable-run kit rather than use PVC pipe, take some time to trim the cover to the length measured in step 3.
Gather all the cords as a single large "trunk" and arrange them so they bend downwards, towards the bottom-centre of the TV. Be careful not to bend the plugs. Hold them together firmly with one zip-tie, about a foot away from the panel, then add another zip-tie---also firmly---about a foot further down.
Gauge where the cables will reach the floor, based on your measurement in step 3, and add one more zip-tie there. It doesn't have to be tight or exact, but it should keep the cables together. Start threading the loose ends of the cables through the PVC pipe or cable-run.
Some cable-run kits are flat, only leaving 1/2 to 1 inch of space from the wall. If your trunk of cables is too thick, consider splitting it into two trunks. This can be helpful if some equipment is placed in an opposite direction from the TV mount.
Unplug the cords from the rear panel of the TV once you have them hanging from both ends. If you're using the PVC pipe, screw in one of the mounting clips next to the floor moulding, directly below where the TV will be, with the gap pointed upwards. If you're using a cable-run kit, follow the directions for mounting the cover.
Take hold of the PVC pipe and the trunk of cords at once and place the bottom edge on the mount and hold it vertically on the wall. Carefully screw in the second clip to hold the top of the PVC pipe in place. When it's done right, the top of the conduit will be hidden just above the lower edge of the screen and the cables will have enough room to curve gently above the floor.
If you're using a cable-run kit, the cables should exit just above the floor moulding (roughly three inches above the floor). This is important to allow the cables to curve gently rather than bend at a sharp angle. Bending cables will shorten their effective lifetime and could degrade your TV signal.
Primer/paint the PVC pipe or cable-run to match the wall. Give the paint enough time to dry. You might need two coats to completely hide the markings on the PVC pipe.
Once the TV is mounted, simply reconnect the cables as they are tagged, then run the other ends to your equipment. Keep using zip-ties to group cables together, then trim the zip-tie ends with the wire snips. Turn on the TV and enjoy.
Choose this method to hide the cables inside your wall from the TV to the floor, where the cables re-emerge. Given that something is standing in front of the floor moulding---like an entertainment-centre cabinet---the cables will be practically invisible.
This method will require much planning and time to complete; days, maybe weeks.
Measure and mark where the wall-mount will go. Also measure and mark where the edges of the TV will be, so it appears like an outline on the wall. Lastly, measure and mark roughly where the rear connection-panel faces the wall. Do all of this BEFORE installing the wall-mount kit, if at all possible.
Plan a hole somewhere within the outline of the TV, about four inches square. These are known as "dual gang" holes. Take care that it doesn't conflict with the wall-mount kit, wall studs, the new power outlet or any electrical wiring. Plan another hole of the same size straight below, near the floor.
If you had an outlet professionally installed, you may have learnt where the electrical wiring inside the wall is located. That knowledge will be quite valuable with this step.
Install the two brackets you bought; they should fit perfectly in those holes. Tighten the clips so that they are firmly held on the drywall. You can now start to thread the cables down through the wall.
Use a "guide line" to run cables behind walls. This means using a string or fishing line with a small weight tied to one end. Carefully lower the weight from the upper hole and use a coat-hanger or pliers to fish it out at the bottom. Then, tie the line to one or more cables and pull the other end to run them behind the wall.
You may consider taking a section of flexible air-hose, such as from a clothes dryer, and run it down before running any cables. This helps the cables drop smoothly through the wall and protects the cables from moisture, mould, pests and other inner-wall hazards.
Thread the ends of the cables through each of the wall-plates once they have all been run. Fasten the wall-plates to the brackets you just installed. The cables are now hidden inside your wall.
Complete the wall-mount kit and mount your TV. Connect the dangling cables to the TV and the other ends to your equipment. Paint to match and enjoy!
Behind the Wall
Tips and warnings
- If your TV features both rear and side panels, use the rear panel for permanent connections. Leave the side panel for temporary connections.
- Try to keep cables gently curved and minimise strain on plugs.
- If you're frustrated by having too many cords, consider getting a multi-mode HDMI switchbox to move the cord-clutter away from the TV.
- Measure twice, cut once.
- Cable plugs may seem strong, but they will break easily with enough force.
- Do NOT attempt to cut into the walls of your home or perform electrical service installation on your own. Always consult a certified professional.
- CAUTION: Running a power cord behind a wall---even just for one TV---could be a violation of local, municipal, county and/or state building/fire codes. In other words, don't do it.
- You may be surprised how simple it is to get an extra outlet installed next to the wall-mount. Talk to a local certified electrical professional for more information.
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