Installing an Attic Antenna

by Josh on November 7, 2009 · 5 comments

in Projects

When my house was built in 1923, the builders couldn’t anticipate the wiring demands of occupants 86 years later.  I am gradually separating circuits and updating electrical wires, but wiring for telephone and television is also outdated.

For the TV, our too-cheap-to-pay-for-cable household has used a set of rabbit ears on top of the entertainment center since we moved in.  The trouble is that the wire mesh in the stucco exterior makes a pretty good faraday cage so I have had trouble with tuning dropouts since we upgraded to a digital TV.

After a consultation with my friend who does television antenna repair in Perth, my solution is to install an antenna in the attic and to begin a coaxial cable network to deliver that TV signal throughout. The antenna itself is larger and designed for HDTV reception, and the attic placement means the antenna doesn’t have to see through the wire mesh and stucco that surrounds the main floor.

Antenna Collage

I bought most of the equipment for this project a couple months ago anticipating when it would fit into my attic bedroom project.  But once I got started I realized that I needed some tools to run the cables. Fortunately the helpful staff at my neighborhood True Value Hardware took me right to the 5/8 spade bit and flexible drill extension I needed for boring into the wall cavity.

The antenna itself mounted easily to the crawlspace decking with a few screws. Then my plan was to run the cable from the antenna, through the main floor wall cavity to the basement where I would install a distribution splitter and then have wires back to the sunroom on the main floor and the master bedroom on the upper floor.  Basement placement of the splitter will make it easier to send TV cable to other main floor rooms in the future, and simplify the option of connecting to cable or a dish.

To run the cables, I took careful measurements on the main floor to locate the wall in which to make the cable run.  Then I transferred those measurements to the attic crawlspace, using a square and chalkline with my tape measure to keep the measurements true. Plus some extra framing around the joists near my drill mark indicated the corner and reassured me that my drill wouldn’t pop through the ceiling.  After drilling the hole, I sent a fishtape down into the wall cavity.

TV Outlet Opening

I made an outlet box opening on the main floor and although the opening was too small for my hand to fit far inside, my mother, who was visiting that day, helped my find the fishtape.  She also helped feed cables and move furniture for the project– so having an assistant made a big difference.  Thanks, Mom! From the wall opening, I pulled two cables up to the upper level– one to run from the antenna to the splitter and one to run from the splitter to the master bedroom.

In the basement, I located my drilling location by following the supply conduit for the electrical outlet right next to the new TV coaxial outlet.  I had to knock out a bit of plaster in the ceiling of my utility area to drill into the wall, but this also went smoothly and I was able to pull down three cables from the main floor, including the two from the attic and one more to supply the sunroom from the basement splitter.

coax outlet installed

After all the wires were pulled and connected to the splitter, I attached the box cover to the sunroom opening, moved back the furniture and connected the TV. (I had the outlet opening pretty straight, but the cover turned out crooked when installed– grrrrrrr.) Checking the signal strength meter on the TV showed a noticable improvement over the rabbit ears.

We have now lived with the attic antenna for several days and I am thrilled with the antenna project .  We have yet to experience a signal drop on any station and channel change speed has also noticeably improved.

Disclosure:  I was one of five bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program and my DIY project as well as my posts about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Luke Spencer November 12, 2009 at 8:56 pm

I did something similar to this in my house, but cable is necessary in my house (Kids are addicted to Mickey Mouse:). I used a low voltage, old work cable box from True Value. I think it might be a little easier to plumb when you use the box.
Luke

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Elaine November 13, 2009 at 6:10 pm

We’re too cheap for cable too 🙂

But I’m really sick of look at the rabbit ears with the tin foil embellishments!

Can you tell me your antenna’s basic specs?

Thanks!

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Josh November 15, 2009 at 12:03 am

Luke– Good advice. I didn’t use a box for the cable and that surely would have helped the outlet cover turn out straight.

Elaine– I don’t have antenna specs, but here is a link to the exact antenna I bought. It isn’t a huge antenna, but my house is in the city and only 10 miles or so from the TV transmission towers.

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Elaine November 16, 2009 at 12:27 am

Thanks for the antenna link. I’ll check it out.

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