Cable Management - Raceway and Wiring Duct
Raceway, also called conduit, is a hollow plastic stick used to protect cables and keep them out of sight after installation. Keeping cables protected after they are installed increases the cables overall lifespan and cuts down on maintenance. Being made of solid plastic, raceway provides more than adequate protection in most non-extreme environments.
Regardless of whether cables are in a home or running through an office, raceway is widely considered a great solution for hiding cables as well as protecting them. Having bare wire hanging against the wall looks ugly. A simple plastic stick is much smoother and provides a more professional aesthetic for anything from a home TV antenna cable to a cable connecting a projector in a business office.
While raceway is not terribly complicated, there are a few factors to take into consideration before purchasing. There are different sizes of raceway available depending on how many cables will be going through it. Small raceway, for example, measures at ¾” and can hold anywhere from 1-4 ethernet cables. The next size, 1¼”, holds 5-7 ethernet cables, and so on and so forth as the sizes get bigger.
Standard raceway comes manufactured as sticks, most commonly measuring either 6 or 8 feet in length. These sticks can be cut down using a simple raceway cutting tool. Each raceway stick also has an adhesive back, allowing them to easily stick to walls or ceilings without needing to secure them some other way. Raceway is most commonly available in lighter colors, typically white, almond, and/or ivory.
Aside from the big sticks of raceway, there are smaller pieces in other shapes for maneuvering the path of your cables as well. For example, one piece covers up joints when connecting two sticks while another can make a 90-degree turn. When selecting pieces like these, make sure they are the same size as the sticks or they will not fit together.
A connecting piece used to transition raceway into a drop ceiling
On the subject of compatibility, always purchase any and all of your raceway products from the same manufacturer. Even if two raceway items measure at the same size, they will almost never fit together correctly if they were made by two different manufacturers. Manufacturers want users to be repeat customers and making items only compatible with their own brand is their way of enforcing that.
While sticks are the most common form of raceway, they are not the only type available. A newer option is raceway on-a-roll, which comes in 50-foot rolls. A full roll comes flat and folded up on itself, making it very easy to transport to a job site. Pieces of any length can be cut off the main roll and unfolded for installation. Raceway on-a-roll is fairly small, about the same size as a ¾” solid stick, but its flexibility, mobility, and ease of installation is making it more popular for installations that cover just a few cables.
When setting up any type of raceway, another common tool is a junction box. Like raceway, junction boxes are self-adhesive and can stick right onto a wall. A junction box has a hole in the front the size of a wall plate, allowing users to install wall plates anywhere without having to actually pull cable through a wall. Any standard sized wall plate can work with a junction box, from a simple phone wall plate to a self-customized keystone wall plate.
Wiring duct is similar to raceway but more open instead of surrounding cables with solid plastic. Typically, wiring duct sees use with large cables or groups of many cables that are too big to work with raceway. The non-solid sides of wiring duct are flexible, allowing more cables to be squeezed in when necessary. Wiring ducts can also be equipped with top covers to prevent any cables from falling out after installation. While not self-adhesive like raceway, wiring duct has mounting holes for easy attachment to flat surfaces.