Q: Wires for the audio equipment for my TV and Bose radio/CD player are an eyesore in the family room. How can I remedy this problem?
A: Various manufacturers have come up with solutions for corralling a tangle of wires. These include simple ties and clips that keep cords bundled together and flexible tubing that cords can run through. They are great for organizing and hiding wires that cross a desk or fit behind it. But you need something suitable for cords that dangle along a wall that’s in full view. It’s a common problem, and far from a new one.
Wiremold, one of the most prominent brands with products that help people manage various kinds of wires, introduced its first products in 1916. The challenge then was to add electrical outlets in homes that typically had only one or two per room — not enough for easy use of the many electrical devices coming to the market, such as toasters and fans. Adding more outlets usually meant snaking wires behind walls, which was costly and often required cutting into walls, then patching them.
Wiremold’s innovation was a lightweight metal conduit that would blend in with baseboard molding and look tidy enough to run across walls or ceilings. The fittings included outlets and couplers, corner pieces and tees. Wiremold, now a brand of Legrand, a French electrical equipment maker, still makes products that add outlets, but today it also offers products that simply hide cords. And Wiremold isn’t the only company with products that do this.
Raceways, which are enclosed channels for wiring, come in plastic or metal versions. Both types have a base piece and a snap-on cover, and there are various accessories.
A 5-foot section of Wiremold’s white PVC raceway costs $8.95 at Home Depot, and a kit with three 4-foot sections plus assorted fittings sells for $21.98. The PVC raceway comes with a pre-applied adhesive backing on the base pieces, so you can just press the raceway in place. That makes it especially easy to install, and you can make it match wall or trim colors with regular water-based paint.
Plastic channels come in 10-foot lengths, but some stores only sell them in shorter pieces. If that’s what you find, be aware that you might need several coupling pieces, which will be quite visible. The result will probably look like a cheap DIY project rather than the more tailored finish you could get with a metal channel, which is readily available in longer lengths.
To attach the metal type of raceway to a wall, first screw on special brackets, then press the channel into those. The overall project will probably cost less, but that may depend on how many corner pieces or other fittings you need. And you can also paint the metal type to match your decor, but the instructions say to use an oil-based finish. Sabrina Snyder, director of product marketing for Legrand, said oil paint will adhere best, but you could also use water-based paint.
Another option is to use a type of channel shaped like quarter-round molding, with a flat back and base at a right angle and a curved piece connecting the two. Commercial Electric’s 1/4 round cord channel kit ($15.72 at Home Depot) includes fittings with a cutout where you can add wires for speakers or the radio. With the Wiremold systems, you’d need a tee fitting or an elbow fitting to add cables mid-run.
Cord raceways are often installed just above the baseboard and are painted to match either the wall or the trim. But in a case like yours, where the speakers and radio sit on a low dividing wall, you might want to install the raceway directly under the lip of the trim board that tops the partial wall. Then each cord could disappear into the channel without dangling down the wall. Above the wall outlet, a tee fitting and short piece of raceway would be a tidy way to direct the cords to the outlet.
If you don’t want to pursue the raceway solution, there’s also a quick way to make the wall look less cluttered. You can hook the extra lengths of wires on the wall. That keeps them off the floor, which makes cleaning easier and, if you have pets, probably discourages them from playing with the cords. But the tangle of cords could make them even more noticeable than if they were loose on the floor.
It might help to simply tuck them into a box that’s designed for fire safety and sits on the floor, such as the DMoose cable management box ($25.99 at amazon.com). If you need to free up a plug on the outlet, add a plug strip and hide that in the box, too. Later this year, Wiremold is coming out with a similar device with a built-in plug strip, which it will call its powered cable management box, Snyder said.