Confused on bulk cat5e cable diameter

bozrdang

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Aug 3, 2004
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I need to make some custom length network cables and I've been looking at bulk cat5e cable. I get that there is both riser and plenum rated cable, and I gather that I only need riser. I went to home depot to pick some up, but I was surprised how thin it was. So thin that the boots I was planning on using don't fit properly. It almost looked as though the sheathing was heat shrunk around the twisted pairs. The overall diameter was lumpy and not really round. All the patch cables I've bought and the wiring throughout my house are thicker and pretty much round. I even cut one of my patch cables and my boots fit it fine.

The plenum cable I looked at looked more like what I'm used to seeing, but it's twice the price and overkill for my needs. What do manufactured cables use? I assume they are not using plenum cable. So why is there such a difference between them and the riser cable I'm seeing?

I know the smaller diameter probably doesn't matter, but it just looks wrong when using boots and there's a gap around the cable and I rather the boot fit the cable (I know. I'm anal.). I'm especially concerned about buying online as I won't be able to see it before I buy it.
 

The Spyder

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Did you buy solid or stranded cable? I have never seen stranded forsale at Home Depot. Wall/Riser/Plenum solid cables are designed to run in walls/ect. Stranded is for patch cords.
 

RocketTech

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Jacket material, composition, presence and type of pull cable, gauge and type of conductors will all contribute to cable diameter. You want to look for 22-24ga 8 conductor CAT5E or CAT6 UTP CMR (for non-plenum) cable with pull string which carries the UL rating HOLOGRAM on the exterioor of the box. There is alot of knock-off cable out there, if you don't see the UL Hologram on the box, I would pass it by.
If you are really detail oriented, I would buy from a full-line supplier, such as ICC where everything is garanteed to work together and fit.
 

bozrdang

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Thanks for the reply guys.

The Spyder - What I have is solid wire. But even so, the wiring throughout my house is also solid, but it is thicker and it fits boots just fine. After doing some more reading I see you're right about stranded being used for patch cords.

RocketTech - Everything I see that is cat5e seems to be 24AWG as is the stuff I have. I can see where the jacket material and everything comes into play in terms of overall thickness. I'm just trying to figure out how to know which to get. I already have modular plugs that I really like. They EZ-RJ45 and the boot is crimped together with the plug. Fortunately, the plugs are rated to be used with both stranded and solid cable so they will still work if I switch cable.

So now I also wonder... should get stranded cable instead if I am only going to be making patch cords? How much does it matter?
 

RocketTech

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Stranded cable is more resistant to breakage from bending and flexing; it would be ideal for connections subject to movement. Solid cable is ideal for in-wall installation and infrastructure where the cable never moves. Patch cables are pretty much exclusively made of stranded cable.
The above is not meant to convey solid cable cannot be used as a patch cable or vice-versa, just each type is designed for certain roles. Solid cable is also typically cheaper.
 
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EZ plugs don't work so well with larger solid cable - there's a chart on their website if you need to know about a specific match, but 23awg is the limit with most brands of cable.

The very thin cat5 you're talking about gets used in a lot of places that rely on outsourced/contracted cable installation. The jacket is probably plastic, which is a code violation that happens to grant the cable the powers of super strength and super resistance under tension and torsion. It is weak in the presence of UV light.

As for solid vs stranded - stranded cable can withstand more flexing. If the goal is to install things once and never touch them again, it is probably ok to use solid for everything. EZ-RJ45 connectors need to pierce the cable insulation, so they might work marginally better with solid cable.
 

bozrdang

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Thanks for all the help everyone. A lot of food for thought. I think I'm going to try to find some stranded cat5e and this way I'll have both for any scenario.
 

jjeff1

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Jul 29, 2011
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One more note, unless you have a very specific need for cable lengths, you will always be better off just buying cables.

99% of the time I have issues with cabling, it comes down to the worksmanship of how the cable was terminated.

And unless your time is worth nothing, pre-made cables are cheaper.

monoprice.com has really cheap cables.
 

Electrofreak

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Aug 5, 2008
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One more note, unless you have a very specific need for cable lengths, you will always be better off just buying cables.

99% of the time I have issues with cabling, it comes down to the worksmanship of how the cable was terminated.

And unless your time is worth nothing, pre-made cables are cheaper.

monoprice.com has really cheap cables.

Going to QFT this. Unless you've got a cable tester, better off buying pre-made. I can't tell you how many connections I find running at half-duplex because someone decided to put together their own cable and plug it in without testing it.
 

jeffmoss26

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We keep patch cables in all the stock lengths here, even have custom made 6" and 8" for patch panels to switches.
Every so often I have to make a custom length (long) cable to hook a machine up to a network jack in the shop, though.
 

Grentz

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Just order patches from monoprice. They are so cheap its a no-brainer. All the color choices, length choices, etc.

I buy bulk cable from suppliers like Grainger/ADI/etc. Stuff I like the best so far is the Proflex brand.
 

bozrdang

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I buy bulk cable from suppliers like Grainger/ADI/etc. Stuff I like the best so far is the Proflex brand.

Do you buy stranded in bulk? I can't find it at Grainger and I can't seem to find Proflex anywhere.
 
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