Wall-Mounted Flat Screens: Hiding the Cable Box

February 25, 2008

DoorThis is a follow-up to my ‘How to Wall-Mount a LCD or Plasma’ article from 2006, I never really expected that piece to generate the kind of response it did and I certainly never expected so many follow-up questions. What I want to tackle today was one of the most asked questions after the original article, simply put: Now that we’ve wall-mounted our flatscreen, where does the cable box go? Innocuous enough question but the answer could spiral into a lengthy conversation and I wanted to give the topic its own space, apart from the original post.

So in a nutshell (yes the photo above is a giveaway) nine times out of ten my answer to this question is in the closet. It could be any closet, one nearby or on the other side of the house, the only real determining factor here is how easy/hard hard is it to conceal the audio/video cabling between the display and cable box (this applies to any video source, not just cable boxes). Remember our best method of concealing cables is to go “down” into an unfinished crawlspace or basement and then “up” to the display (through the wall).

Alternatively if there’s no unfinished space below the desired location, “up”’ i.e. into the attic and back down is another alternative (obviously easier in a one floor dwelling). From there we get into hiding the cables under and behind baseboards but that’s quite a bit beyond the scope of what I wanted to cover here today, just keep in mind that closets, cubbies and other out of the way concealed locations are where we hide our cable boxes for flat-panel installations.

Now all this tucking the cable box out of site is fine and dandy, that is until you try to change the channel. The majority of cable boxes (and many satellite receivers) use infra-red as their transmission protocol and IR means line of sight to the box. Not to fear, there are several different ways around this problem as well.

Controlling the Cable Box: Ok so now we need a way to control this cable box, DVD player, HTPC or insert-device-here that we’ve tucked away in a nearby closet. The easiest way is to use a universal remote with a RF base-station, these remotes can be set to transmit IR locally as well as “talk” to the base station (in the closet). It’s all a lot simpler in practice than it sounds by description. Several different companies offer universal remotes with RF base stations but the one that comes to mind first would have to be Universal Remote Control. Another solution would be Terk’s “Leap Frog” line of IR repeater systems, this is more of an add-on solution but for our purposes it should suffice in most cases. In essence the Leap Frog system(s) consists of a base-unit that receives IR commands and a second unit that can “transmit the code to the desired device. This isn’t quite as refined as the IR/RF remote with a base-station solution but it should get the job done in most cases.

The last solution involves pulling another wire along with the audio/video cables you pulled to the nearby closet and in many cases offers the most reliable means of controlling a remote device, (cable box in a closet) especially if you don’t want to replace your existing universal remote. An infra-red (IR) repeater system consists of a wired receiver that transmits your IR code to a connected blaster or emitter, a connecting block and a power supply, this essentially turns your IR code into an electrical signal that travels between the receiver and emitter. These systems are fast reliable and fall mid-ways in expense (often in the $200 range for a complete kit) between an all new RF remote and the leap frog systems.

Summary: So there you have it, is this little project for everyone? probably not but if you managed to wall-mount your flat-screen without outside assistance this might be right up your alley. Should you need any tips I’ll try my best to answer any questions here in the post. Oh, about the new commenting system, I really didn’t want to go to a login only comment system but somewhere after the millionth Russian bride, spam comment and right before the ten millionth link-drop spam I gave in. I know there are some glitches with the current system, it’s only a temporary solution however.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Home Theater How-to


Comments

  • Ron

    Did you resolve your cable box issue with the IR port? I have the same issue and need an inexpensive solution also.

    Ron

  • Dhines823

    Hello, I installed my wallmount with my 40 inch samsung tv and I made a hole going directly into the room on the other side and onto a shelf. My only problem now is I need to operate my cable box without being in front of it. All of my other equipment can operate through my tv. Ive tryed a remote extender,no luck I just took it back and spoke with someone about another option. I found that there is an IR plug on the back of my box. Can I just plug a sensor directly into this plug and then pull the sensor through the whole and stick onto the tv? Im trying to keep this as cheap as possible. Please help.

  • Dhines823

    Hello, I installed my wallmount with my 40 inch samsung tv and I made a hole going directly into the room on the other side and onto a shelf. My only problem now is I need to operate my cable box without being in front of it. All of my other equipment can operate through my tv. Ive tryed a remote extender,no luck I just took it back and spoke with someone about another option. I found that there is an IR plug on the back of my box. Can I just plug a sensor directly into this plug and then pull the sensor through the whole and stick onto the tv? Im trying to keep this as cheap as possible. Please help.

  • vinceNJ

    I JUST BOUGHT A 50″ PANASONIC TC50-PS14 WHICH I just WALL MOUNTED. The outlet, cable line and s-video,blue and red wires {but not green} are running into a neatly finished “hole” in the wall where I mounted my TV.The s-video, as well as the blue and red wires are exiting the hole in the wall a few feet from the TV at the basebaord. My problem is that after I placed the cable box in the hole, plugged both the TV and cable box in the eletrical outlet inside the hole….I can't use the cable box remote b/c the DAMN!!! TV is in the way! {I used an HDMI cable from the TV to the cable box and not the other wiring}..What Do I do now? Any answers would be greatly appreiciated…Thank you..Vince

  • bgreenway

    Al, it really depends on the distance, if we're talking 20-35' then in my opinion yes it would be worth it. On the other hand if you're talking 45' or more (of total cable length, not just as the crow flies) then you might be better off with some sort of balun for HDMI connectivity.

  • al

    I have cat 5 five wires and the cable wire running from the wall (TV) into the closet, where the cable box and dvd player will be located . Should I still run a HDMI wire from the closet to the wall

  • B.Greenway

    JeL, it doesn't sound cheap at all, that's why they call it custom A/V :)

    The first, easiest and most obvious way would be to share the cable box out as a second zone on a A/V receiver, some of the newer receivers dual video outputs and you could just pipe the sound into the room as remote speakers.

    If an AVR isn't available you could split the component signal I suppose, you wouldn't see much signal degradation with just one split. Again you'd need a way to get audio there as well, probably just split the low-level audio outs as well, if it was a long run you might need a small distribution amp however.

  • B.Greenway

    JeL, it doesn’t sound cheap at all, that’s why they call it custom A/V :)

    The first, easiest and most obvious way would be to share the cable box out as a second zone on a A/V receiver, some of the newer receivers dual video outputs and you could just pipe the sound into the room as remote speakers.

    If an AVR isn’t available you could split the component signal I suppose, you wouldn’t see much signal degradation with just one split. Again you’d need a way to get audio there as well, probably just split the low-level audio outs as well, if it was a long run you might need a small distribution amp however.

  • JeL

    Thanks for the great How To posts. I’ve learned alot so far. I’m currently waiting for my 55″ Samsung LCD to arrive and I’m wondering if there is a way for me to use one cable box for two different TVs? I know I sound like a cheap bastard but the last thing I want to do is give Comcast any more of my money if I don’t need to.

  • JeL

    Thanks for the great How To posts. I’ve learned alot so far. I’m currently waiting for my 55″ Samsung LCD to arrive and I’m wondering if there is a way for me to use one cable box for two different TVs? I know I sound like a cheap bastard but the last thing I want to do is give Comcast any more of my money if I don’t need to.

  • Jack B

    Hi, nice article. I just bought a 40 inch Samsung LCD and I need to install it in an armoire where I had a 36 inch old TV. I have not been able to find a stand that I can bolt to the top of the armoire and that can extend 10 inches. Can you point me in the right direction

    thanks

  • Jack B

    Hi, nice article. I just bought a 40 inch Samsung LCD and I need to install it in an armoire where I had a 36 inch old TV. I have not been able to find a stand that I can bolt to the top of the armoire and that can extend 10 inches. Can you point me in the right direction

    thanks