How To Manage Your Speaker Wires
[Note, This article orignally appeared on April 26, 2014 and was edited on July 21, 2017]
One of the biggest complaints about surround systems is that the wires/cables running around the room are an eyesore. There are a number of ways to minimize the visual impact of those speaker wires ranging from very easy and next to free to requiring carpentry tools and potentially expensive. Let's review a few of the speaker wire management schemes.
Cheap and Easy Speaker Wire Management
One of the easiest and least expensive ways to minimize how much your wires stand out is to use zip-ties to bundle them together. You can pick up a bag of 3-1/2” zip-ties at any home improvement store for under $5.00. By wrapping your wires with a zip-tie every foot or so you’ll keep all of the wires together in a single bundle that is less obtrusive and neater than individual wires running along the same path. I offer a few tips here. First, do not tie the wires too tight. When you go to move the wires, if the wires are bundled too tight, it is difficult to get a pair of wire cutters in between the wires to cut the zip-ties. Secondly, remember to cut the tail ends off of the zip-ties. Nothing says lazy like tails on zip-ties that aren't trimmed. Not only that, aren’t we trying to clean up the space? A small pair of wire cutters makes short work of those unsightly tails. Finally, don’t be afraid of using a bunch of zip-ties. They only cost pennies each. If you space them 6” apart instead of 12”, the wires will be neater and appear less intrusive.
Another relatively easy and inexpensive option is to use cable wire loom. I picked up some Cable Zipper from my local hardware store for the example pictured below. The package in the picture below contained 8 feet of loom and cost $15.00. If you have a long run around the edge of the room, this option will be a little more costly than the zip-ties above. However if a clean look is your objective, the cable loom beats the zip-ties hands down. One advantage of the cable loom is that you can have cables exiting at any point along the length of the loom. You will see a CAT5 cable leaving the bundle on the left side of the picture below. Another nice thing about the wire loom is that it is flexible. This means that you can run it around corners. This material is also ideal for cleaning up the wires going up to your wall-mounted flat screen TV.
Next on the list of ways to manage your speaker wires is wire molding. Wire molding is arguably easier to use and less obtrusive than the cable wire loom, but it is also a more expensive and a more permanent addition to your room. I got a “Cord Management Kit” made by Wiremold from my local home improvement store for $25.00. The kit consists of 3-each, 4ft lengths of molding and various coupling pieces. A few things I liked about this kit are the double sided tape on the back of the molding for attaching it to the wall and the ability of the molding to accept paint. Please note, if you do not own your home, attaching the wire mold to the wall may not be the best idea. The double sided tape is strong and doesn’t like to be removed.
Installation is easy. Peel the cover off of the double sided tape, and press the molding to the wall. To put the wires inside, simply pry the molding open, run the wires through it and snap the molding back closed again. I installed the molding with the opening up as this is easier for installation, but if you don’t want to see the seam where the molding opens you can also install it with the seam down. Once the molding is painted to match the existing trim color it becomes nearly invisible.
Moving up the scale of difficulty is a trick that can be used to hide the speaker wires completely. This is another technique that should only be used on homes you own. On all newer homes the sheetrock used on the walls is installed snug to the ceiling. This leaves a small gap between the bottom of the sheetrock and the floorboards that is usually covered by baseboard molding. Often this gap is the perfect place to run speaker wires.
You can hide speaker wires behind the baseboards in your home.
To run your wires, carefully remove the baseboard molding from the wall using a flat pry bar. Use a stud finder to find the location of the wall studs and only pry at the stud locations to avoid accidentally punching holes in your walls with the pry bar. Using a length of scrap molding material between the wall and the pry bar is also a good idea. If there is already a sufficient gap under the sheetrock, simply run the speaker wires to where they need to go and replace the molding. If the gap is a little too narrow you can remove a little of the sheetrock material using an oscillating tool with a cutoff blade. I find that using a small piece of molding material as a guide between the floor and the oscillating tool will give you a straight cut on the bottom of the sheetrock. Using a shop-vac along with the oscillating tool will help keep dust to a minimum. Once the gap is cut, run your wire and re-install the baseboard molding.
When re-installing your baseboards, be careful to nail high enough that the nails won’t hit your newly installed wires. Apply some putty to the nail holes and re-paint the baseboard. You may also need to notch the bottom of the molding for clearance where the wires go in and come back out. You now have completely hidden speaker wires.
There are a few important notes to remember when hiding wires using this technique. Be sure to only use wire that is rated for in-wall applications. This insures that the insulation is sufficient for fire codes. Also, make sure the wires are going where you want them and that there is sufficient slack on both ends. Once you install wires behind your baseboards, they are difficult and time consuming to remove.
Properly managing your wires is a step that is often overlooked in the excitement of setting up a new home entertainment system. If wire management is done properly, your speaker wires will be unobtrusive or even completely hidden. Now the only things your friends and family will see are your home theater components and a room without unsightly wires.
About Brian Hill
Brian Hill is a home theater enthusiast who has an extensive background in sales. His interests include music & movies, F1 & NASCAR auto racing, hot rods (he has a '56 Nomad) and hockey — Go Sharks!
Brian Hill's full author bio and article archive...