Build It

How to build a home network cabinet

My home network is a little… disorganised. I have 2 or 3 switches residing around the house, PoE, WiFi, and various cobbled together partially wired sections. Time to get organised. Time to get a rack!

##I like racks##

If you haven’t seen 4Cabling, go have a look. They sell all sorts of networking gear at reasonable prices and they deliver fast. They shipped a rack to me in 24 hours for $10 shipping. I have no idea how that is even possible, given that I’m two states away.

I purchased a shiny new 6RU wall mount rack, a patch panel, a 24 port GigE switch, and 24 patch cables that are too short.

To mount a rack, here are the tools you will need:

  • drill
  • level
  • hole saw (maybe)

You will also need timber screws or timber bolts – with enough strength to hold the rack to the wall.

Installing the cabinet

network rack cabinet

1- First things first. Measure up the network cabinet. Have a look at all the access points. You need to decide where the cables are going to come in. From the top, side, or base. Remove the cover over that panel. The front door will (hopefully) mount on either side.

find a nice place for network cabinet

2- Find a nice place to mount it. Check that you have space to open the door.

wall mount cabinet for network switches

3- Double check those measurements. Go back to the rack and look for some mounting holes in the back. Those holes should be in a removeable mounting panel. Remove the panel.

network cabinet layout

4- Go back to your installation location. Use a stud finder to find two wall studs (unless you have brick). Mark the centre of the studs. The stud spacing should match up to 2 of the holes in the mounting panel. Match the holes to the studs, and mark the holes on the wall. Hold a level up and ensure the holes are level (you may need to adjust the holes up or down a bit.)

Stupid broken drill bit

🙁 I broke a drill bit, then I had to use a bigger drill bit to drill it out.

Picture of a very attractive bolt

5- This is the type of bolts I am using to mount the cabinet. They are high tensile galvanised wood bolts. To use these, first pre-drill a hole the same width as the timber bolt. The hole should be slightly deeper than the length of the bolt. If you don’t do this, it will be very hard to drive in.

A rachet doing rachety things

6- Use a rachet to drive the bolt in (going through the mount plate and into the stud). Put some petroleum jelly on it first, so it is easier to drive in. Make sure you go slowly and carefully. If you go too fast, you will snap the head of the bolt off. It is easier to snap than you might think.

a levelled mounting plate

7- At this point, check the mount plate is level. You may need to loosen one of the bolts and adjust up or down slightly, then re-tighten. If it is not level, your cabinet will not be level.

a hole saw

8- Remember how I asked if you want side or top entry cables? That’s important now. You will need to drill a hole with a hole saw in either the ceiling or wall for the cabling to run through.

ghetto conduit

9- I used 90mm PVC (storm water!) pipe. I put a 90 degree bend in the ceiling (from the top!) and attached 2m of pipe. This means I can easily feed cable through from inside the ceiling. It’s a bit neater to use proper conduit, if you have it on hand.

network rack wall mount cabinet
a cabinet with the reflection of a developer 🙂
Who’s that good looking dude?

10- Now lift the cabinet up into place. I found that I had to bend the metal mounting tabs on the mount plate outwards slightly. You can probably remove the door to lighten the load a little. Once done, re-mount and open the door and put a couple of screws back into the mount plate. Stand back and admire yourself..*cough*.. admire your work.

All done! The rest is easy. Just install a cat6 patch panel, gigabit switch, and run cable through your walls. No worries mate.

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