Can You Run Cat6 Underground? (With How-To & Depth Guide)

can you run cat6 underground

The last time you bought ethernet cables for your home, you probably selected Cat6. After all, it can support transfer rates as high as 1000 megabits. But cat6 lines are not cheap, and the last thing you want is to expose them to elements that may destroy them. This is why the question of burying ethernet cables worries laypeople. They don’t know whether the practice is safe. If this issue keeps you awake at night, the guide below will offer some clarity.

Can Cat6 Cable Be Run Underground?

Cat6 cable can be run underground when you use cat6 direct burial cable. They resist UV rays and can survive temperatures as low as -20 degrees. If you don’t have direct burial cables, run your ordinary indoor ethernet cables through a conduit.

You cannot expect delicate indoor power lines to survive outside or underground. The stresses they encounter below ground will destroy them. Ordinary Ethernet cables have a similar problem. These cables have a thin jacket that cannot withstand the elements.

The polyvinyl chloride sheath can only tolerate the basic pressures found indoors. It will degrade once you expose it to the sun’s rays.

If you want to run an ethernet cable underground, buy a cat6 direct burial cable.

If the manufacturer included a polyethylene jacket, the cables can withstand UV rays as well as temperatures of -40degrees. You can install wires of this nature directly underground, hence the name ‘Direct Burial Cables.’

These wires are not invincible. Pests can still bite through the jackets unless your cables have armor.

If you don’t have direct burial cables, run your ordinary indoor ethernet cables through a conduit. A direct burial cat6 cable doesn’t require a tube, but the regular variety won’t survive these pipes.

It is worth noting that some contractors pair direct burial cables with conduits because the wires are vulnerable to wet soil. It can compromise the integrity of the cables.

But conduits are not perfect either. That additional layer of protection can become a threat once the pipes fill with water.

Why does Cat6 Cable need To Run Underground?

This is a good question because no one in their right mind would choose to run cat6 cables underground. It is a labor-intensive undertaking because you have to dig and fill long trenches. So, why do people do it? Why do they run ethernet cables underground? The practice has its benefits, including:

1). Less Damage

An open-air run sounds like a sensible choice because it is so much easier. Additionally, the wires don’t have to withstand dangers such as pests and moisture.

However, the dry air flowing over the cables will generate a bothersome static discharge that can threaten the safety of delicate components and devices.

Underground runs make more sense because the cables are out of the way. Think about it. Contractors rarely lay electrical conductors above ground. The same is true for water pipes.

Ethernet cables are no different. They are safer below ground. Although, some applications require open-air runs. If you have a contractor on hand, they will advise you accordingly. 

If you leave them above ground, the wires are susceptible to snow, sunlight, ice, lighting, and other threats. Depending on where you live, the local wildlife could destroy the cabling. Running the cables underground keeps them out of the way.

2). Combat Interference

Underground installations defend against interference. Ethernet cables have shields that combat radio wave frequency interference. But the soil can provide an additional barrier.

Underground installations increase the distance between the cables and the power lines above.

3). Saves Space

Underground installations save a lot of space. This is true for phone lines, electrical conductors, and water pipes.

Ethernet cables above ground tend to get in the way. You can suspend them in the air, but they can become a nuisance if you want to construct multi-storied structures. If you hide them underground, you can do whatever you want above ground.

4). Aesthetics

Above-ground installations are ugly. They can ruin your landscape, especially if you have wires with brightly colored sheaths that can’t blend into the environment.

People with ordinary ethernet cables would rather bury them in a conduit than leave them above ground. They are not appealing to look at.

It is also worth noting that cables above ground are a threat to passersby, especially if you encourage the contractors to run them along the floor. They can become a tripping hazard.

If you hire a professional to install your cat6 cables, they will determine whether underground installations are more or less appropriate than open-air runs. You can express your desires, and they will try to accommodate you. But at the end of the day, they will choose the option that makes the most sense for your situation.

For instance, they may veto the underground option because the cables you want to buy cannot survive the pests in your area. Pests are not solely a problem for open-air installations. There are plenty of pests belowground that can destroy ethernet cables.

Best Way To Bury Cat6 Cable

Do you want to install cat6 cables underground? Have you decided to perform this task yourself? Keep the following in mind:

1). Do you have a permit? This question won’t make sense to you if you’ve never performed any significant installations in your home. Some locations expect homeowners and contractors to apply for permits before digging up their homes and installing wires.

Your local authorities may reject your plan because of the impact on other installations in the area. If you forego the permit, they may fine you. Keep this in mind before proceeding. Don’t assume that you can install the cables without a license until you check.

This is the advantage of hiring a contractor. They know all the rules and can apply them accordingly.

2). Make a plan. You can’t just start installing cables anywhere you want. Create a blueprint that shows the path the wires will follow. Decide ahead of time whether you want above-ground or underground installations.

Your choice will determine the type of ethernet wire you will buy. If you intend to use conduits, you can make that decision here. The last thing you want is to dig the trenches and lay the cables only to realize they require pipes.

3). I want you to consult your local utilities. They need to identify the buried gas, electricity, and water lines in the area.

4). If your area has underground rodents, you should pull the direct burial cables through a conduit. Usually, you can install direct burial cables without a pipe.

5). You can only install ethernet cables along the ground if they are rated for outdoor use. On the other hand, if you prefer to connect lines between poles and buildings, use a messenger.

6). Pay attention to the length. Longer cables require signal boosters. Without a booster, increasing the distance will also elevate the signal degradation.

7). You can enhance the cat6 cable’s defenses by applying the waterproof tape, waterproof gel, and PET tape. The tape is easy to use because you can just wrap it around the wires to keep out moisture. But the gel is messy.

How Deep Should You Bury Cat6 Cable?

Aim for 8 inches below ground. Some contractors may encourage you to raise that figure to 12 inches. They base their recommendation on NEC Article 820, specifically the clause that talks about the minimum depth of a bare cable.

Ten inches is a good compromise. You don’t have to worry about shovels reaching and harming a cat6 cable ten inches below ground. You can also trust those 10 inches to protect the wires from frost.

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