I recently installed a garden office phone line, and thought I’d share some observations and findings. I’m a telephone engineer , and used to getting cables both into and out of unusual places!
The customer was coping by dangling her cordless base station out of an open house window to get a signal, whilst managing multi-million pound engineering accounts for a multinational. Not ideal.
So, it was a case of “just” running a cable from the existing cabling to the garden office, a converted double garage, “just” across the patio from the kitchen. (In doing this work, I never like to hear the word “just”…!)
Why? Because with cabling work in homes, some of the shortest distances can be challenging. Especially when everything is neatly-built, and finished. Which leads me to my first suggestion.
Plan Ahead! Install a Duct! A services duct (a pipe!), installed at a very early stage, is ideal. It’s what the professionals use. In there, you can put power, data, telephone cables, and even, if big enough, plastic bendy water-pipe. And know exactly where it is. After all, If you are supplying power to the office, you are going to have to “dig” anyway, either to bury a cable (according to Part “P” Electrical Regulations of course) or install a duct. Now, if the term “duct” sounds expensive, fear not. A 25mm diameter heavy-gauge plastic conduit can suffice, although a little on the small side. It’s freely available, cheap, and has lots of fittings to get around obstacles. Bigger is always better, however. Imaginative use of 40mm waste pipe is even cheaper and effective. There’s even the Openreach/BT-specification 52mm grey duct available on-line.
Persevere with Wireless. If cabling is out of the question, would a relocated cordless base station, cordless repeater, or different type of cordless give you a service into the office? Some cordless phones give good range. However, some will show “five bars” then mysteriously drop the signal. Appliances, steel work, and random interference can cause irritating intermittent problems. A number of years working in the radio paging industry taught me a healthy scepticism towards all things wifi and cordless. But, if it works for you, then bravo! You didn’t need to get the spade out.
If You Use Cable, Then Use Proper Cable. There can be a world of difference between cables. Do not use internal-grade (white sheathed) cable for outdoors, unless you want to have to replace it in a few years time. The sheath is not weather-proof. It will eventually crack, and your line may become hissy and crackly. Your broadband will slow to a halt long before this. Decent-quality external cable has a black sheath, and will last for years. Openreach use “No. 10 Drop-wire”, to hang from poles into your house. It’s available on-line, and there’s plenty for sale in pre-cut lengths on eBay. You will, however, need to to joint it to your existing cables with a Scotch lock Jelly-filled connector, as the copper core is slightly larger than internal-grade cable. Don’t direct-bury it – the cable is not designed for throwing straight in the ground. Use steel-wire armoured BT-specification 5-pair cable, also available on-line. Again, these professional-grade items are available cheaply on-line. However,If you are considering burying armoured cable (hence digging), then put in a duct…
Use Overhead Cable. The aforementioned drop wire is designed to span from pole to house, not to be slung in the ground. You can get a kit on-line that will allow you to do this. It’s the quickest and easiest way to get a cable to a building, which is why BT use it when a duct is not present. If it won’t be obtrusive, then overhead cable is perfect. However, this may be slightly beyond the scope of even an advanced DIY-er. Time to find an independent local telephone engineer.
Take Professional Advice and Use Your Imagination! I routed my cable along a house wall, cable-tied to existing cable, in conduit under a path, under some huge timber raised flower-beds (with a convenient gap underneath!), along a horizontal fence rail, under another path via more conduit, and into the office. Years of hiding cables (and trying to find them) have taught me some good routing tricks. You may be able to find your own. But, when you hire a telephone engineer, you get a head full of experience, as well as a box full of tools and someone to use them.
Please drop us a line! It was actually quite fun installing a garden office phone line. The customer was delighted when she first heard the dial tone. And it didn’t rain.
We are based in Teesside/North Yorkshire, but are prepared to travel as required. We also know of similar independent engineers across the UK.