Supporting cable above suspended ceilings

Q: All the cabling contractors we use appear to have only cursory knowledge of the cabling standards of the Tele-communications Industry Association (tia--Arlington, VA). We have been very cautious about and critical of their work. The most frequent problem we see is in suspending cables. Our contractors wire-tie cable to anything in the ceiling. In fact, I have found cable bundles tied to water pipes and electrical conduit and draped over and around air-conditioning ducts.

Q: All the cabling contractors we use appear to have only cursory knowledge of the cabling standards of the Tele-communications Industry Association (tia--Arlington, VA). We have been very cautious about and critical of their work. The most frequent problem we see is in suspending cables. Our contractors wire-tie cable to anything in the ceiling. In fact, I have found cable bundles tied to water pipes and electrical conduit and draped over and around air-conditioning ducts.

My position is that, if the contractor agrees to install the cabling system in accordance with tia/eia-568a and tia/eia-569a, he or she is agreeing to the cable-support guidelines in these standards as well. The contractors argue that the cable must be supported above the ceiling tiles and that the owner must specify the type of support required. Is this common? Am I overly concerned about this, or is this an area in which our contractors are attempting to cut corners?

Morrie Verner

Brownsville Independent School District

Brownsville, TX

A: You are right and they are wrong, but that`s of little consequence when your cabling system is improperly installed. The practices you refer to are very common, but if your contract states that the installation must meet requirements in tia/eia-568a and tia/eia-569a, then the contractor is not meeting the contract deliverables and you have a contractual remedy. You don`t have to pay them until the oversight is corrected.

My guess is that the problem is not related so much to "attempting to cut corners" as it is to the "cursory knowledge" you refer to. Before the National Electrical Code addressed cable being laid on ceiling tiles, it was common practice to just pile it on the tiles. When that has been done, good luck lifting the ceiling tiles near the telecommunications closet. Now most untrained installers see nothing but the tiles themselves as fair game for cable support. Had eia/tia-569, precursor to the current tia/eia-569a, been followed, there never would have been cable on the ceiling tile in the first place.

And that brings us to the training part. If you don`t want to continue holding these after-the-fact ad hoc installation-training sessions in school buildings throughout your district, require trained installers. But trained by whom? And to do what? For more information on training, see www.bicsi.org/install.html.

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