Rough wire, unlike other electronic components in a project presents a special challenge for installation and documentation because a rough wire will actually exist and need to be documented in two locations, the start and the end of the pull.  In addition to these two locations the rough wire could be attached to one or more devices or junction boxes further complicating the documentation process.

In order to property track and ID rough-wire we would need to keep track of the following bits of information:

  1. Where the wire pull is started from.  This would normally be the unique room name but could be expanded to building, floor, room, rack if necessary.  In installation and estimating reports this is where the wire would be noted as “from” and would show up in that rooms reports.  This is the room that “owns” the wire.
  2. Where the wire is going to.  This could be the same room, another room in the same building or another room in another building.
  3. What device’(s) the wire is attached to.  This should be broken down into two components:
    1. The Component ID of the unit of where the tail end of the wire is attached
    2. The Component ID of the unit of where the arrow end of the wire is attached
  4. The unique ID of each wire (AUD-001)
  5. The type of wire (Audio)
  6. The Sub-type of wire (4C)

Every wire on every system integration project needs a wire label.  It would be impossible to install and troubleshoot a project if the wires were not properly labeled.  There are two basic methods for accomplishing this aspect of documentation.  One would be to run each wire as specified and then tone and label each one at the time of trim out or equipment installation.  This would not be the best use of skilled labor.

Another way would be to label the wires as they are being run.  The methodology used for this process would be to pre print out all the wire labels needed sorted by room.  Bring the wire to be run into each specific room.  Label the end of each wire and make the pull to the wire destination.  At that point you have eliminated all the extra labor involved with toning out each wire and each wire has a professional, permanent label from the start.

Below is an example of a rough-wire layout that details a simple volume control and speaker layout for the Master Bedroom in a residential low voltage system.  Notice that each component has a specific and unique ID# and each wire is either attached to a device or is going to another room or headend.

Simple volume control rough wire layout

The data-set on this wiring infrastructure would be based on each individual wire, the devices that the wire is hooked up to and the start end point location of each wire.  In order to facilitate proper printing of wire labels and reports the following abbreviations will be used.


Name Abbrev Example
Wire Point A – From, tail end of wire WP-A Master BR
Wire Point B – To, arrow end of wire WP-B DA Closet
Wire ID #  – Based on wire type and unique auto generated number WID# AUD-002
Device ID 1 – ID # based on the device type and unique auto generated number that represents the tail or from end of the wire DID-1 KEY-001
Device ID 2 – ID # based on the device type and unique auto generated number that represents the arrow or to end of the wire DID-2 CEI-002
Type of wire – This is used to differentiate multiple runs of the same wire from the same location but used for different purposes WTP AUDIO
Sub Type of wire – used to further differentiate similar wire types WST 4C

The rough-wire installation report on the above drawing would contain the following data










AUD-006 Master BR DA Closet KEY-001 N/A AUDIO 4C Liberty 4C
AUD-002 Master BR Master BR KEY-001 CEI-002 AUDIO 2C Liberty 2C
AUD-004 Master BR Master BR KEY-001 CEI-001 AUDIO 2C Liberty 2C

Based on this dataset we can automatically create a number of different types of wire labels that can be used for various aspects and functions on a project.

¾” W X 3” Sample flag style label

Types and functions of wire labels The flag style label.  The flag style label using Brother TZFX formula labels have a number of useful purposes and advantages.  The flag style label is easy to install, can take a lot of abuse, works well with small diameter cables and offers a sizeable print on area.  This label has identical printing on both sides that stick to each other around the wire on install.  These are tough labels.  Informal testing has shown that they will stay attached to the wire under all normal and some abnormal circumstances.

Notice the company logo and custom message.  When this type of label is properly used they will be like permanent little sales people branding the project with your logo and contact information.  Another useful aspect of this style of flag label is that the custom message can relay important information on who to contact if a wire has been inadvertently cut.

A flag style label can be used at both ends of the wire if desired.  It is a simple matter to print two copies of the same labels and attach one to the wire as the run is finished.  In the case of multiple identical wires running to the same destination from the same room the installer could easily note on the wire box what the ID# is of the wire and find the appropriate wire label.

The wrap around wire label. Wrap around labels are a good choice when trimming out wires and a neater, less cluttered look is desired.  Wrap around labels do not work well on small wires because they can obscure the print if they over-wrap.  Because of this size limitation you can not fit as much information and the font is usually smaller and harder to read.

Wrap around
Label with wire
ID# only

Wrap around labels come in two forms.  One of then simply has the Wire ID # repeated across the entire label.  This is useful but some sort of key is needed to determine the exact function and location of the wire.  The other label uses all the information from the dataset but in a more compressed mode.  This style is useful because all the information is available on the label.  The only real drawback is that the information is hard to read.

1X3” Wrap Around Label
with six lines of text

The ideal solution would be to document the projects wire runs with the appropriate label for the stage of the job.  When the project is in the rough wire stage a flag style label should be used at each end because of the visibility and professional look of the label.   This label should be used on both ends of the wire so there will never be any confusion during the installation as to the function and location of the wire.

During the trim phase of the project the flag wire labels will probably cut off and one form or another of wrap around label will be used.  At this point the project will be finished and the marketing functionality of the label will not be needed.  A simple, neat and clear explanation on the functionality of the wire is all that is needed.  Either style of wrap around label accomplishes this goal.

The only objection to properly labeling and documenting a project at this level is the actual cost of the labels.  The Brother labels mentioned in this document cost less than .20 cents each.  For less than.80 cents per run a company can have each end of the wire professionally labeled twice and eliminate countless hours of toning and troubleshooting poorly documented projects.  Considering that wire labels would have to be applied in any case the additional cost of doing this job right the first time is close to zero.

Wire groups and a methodology for documenting wire loops will be covered in a future document.