Ask Unclutterer: Cable clutter and wall-mounted televisions

Reader John submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

I am mounting a flat screen TV over my fireplace and the cable and electric receptacles are several feet away. What is the best way to eliminate the cable clutter in order to give it a clean look?

The first thing I need to say is that mounting a flat screen television above a fireplace almost always nullifies the warranty (even if you don’t use the fireplace, and even if it’s gas).

Secondly, codes in your area might require that you install a plug immediately behind your television above your fireplace. In many states, it is against code to have exposed wires above a fireplace. I know this is true in Virginia because two of my close friends learned this when they recently had their homes inspected.

Noting these two things, it is best for me to recommend that you hire a licensed electrician to: 1. Wire a new outlet above your fireplace, and 2. Wire HDMI cables (an any other cables you need) back through the wall to a nearby outlet. You might also consider hiring a professional installer to ensure that your TV is well secured to the wall.

You will still need a component console to hold your DVR, cable box, Blu-Ray player, or whatever boxes you want to connect to your TV. Set up your component station next to the HDMI wired outlet. Then, replace the damaged drywall, paint up the patches, and call it a day (or, more likely, a week).

You will have to decide if putting a TV over the fireplace is really worth it: Your TV instantly goes out of warranty, you have to pay a licensed electrician to install a new outlet that is up to code, you have to repair your wall, and you still need a console in the room to hold your components. But, for some people, the time, effort, and expense will be worth it.

Thank you, John, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

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47 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Cable clutter and wall-mounted televisions”

  1. posted by John in Pasadena on

    Duh! So to make ice, you put water in the freezer? Should we use clean or dirty water for this!?!? Help. Help. Please!

  2. posted by FupDuckTV on

    I haven’t actually seen “a flat screen television above a fireplace … nullifies the warranty” in print. BUT if damage occurs because of external heat, you can bet the mfr. will hide under the standard “abuse” exclusion present in every product warranty. Try hitting your bumper-to-bumper warranty covered car with a baseball bat and just see if the dealership fixes your car for free….

    I personally don’t like a flat TV mounted that high, it hurts my neck.

  3. posted by Peter on

    Who’s got the power? the power to read? Who looks into books for the answers we need?

  4. posted by Travis on

    Here’s an interesting concept, the flat wire.

    http://www.decorp.com

    You can conceal it with paint or wallpaper, however I’d hope that nothing would ever go wrong with it. The replacement would become quite an eyesore.

    also, I have never been able to figure out a nice way to display the components. The mounted TV will look nice and slick and then in the corner you’ll have this unsightly cabinet filled with black and silver boxes.

  5. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Peter — Awesome.

  6. posted by Jason on

    This does sound like a super-big problem. Perhaps Super Why can help!

  7. posted by Jason on

    (Dang it! Beaten to the bunch by Peter.)

  8. posted by Andy S. on

    I’ve found that PowerBridge provides a more reasonable solution than actually wiring an entirely new outlet into the wall. Rather, the PowerBridge is like an in-wall extension cord:

    http://www.powerbridgesolution.....ridge.html

    I went this route instead of a whole new outlet because I wanted to be able to ensure that the power to my TV is run through a surge protector, and this seems to be the easiest and least-cluttered way to do that.

  9. posted by Michael on

    Don’t do it! It may look sexy when company comes through the door, but it’s going to destroy your neck.

  10. posted by Brandon on

    Yeah, putting a TV up that high probably isn’t a good idea.

  11. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    I, too, would be leery of putting up a tv over the fireplace. My friend recently remodeled their home complete with a beautiful new fireplace and a beautiful large screen plasma over the fireplace. What they found after once use is that the fireplace got too hot. So as long as the tv is above it, they can’t use the fireplace.

  12. posted by Linda on

    We had our flat screen installed over the fireplace when we built our house two years ago. There has been no problem with the heat. We were careful to keep the fireplace and TV as low as possible to keep the TV at a comfortable viewing angle. The TV is plugged into the wall directly behind it and the components are in a closet in the hall behind the fireplace. So, there are no wires visible. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

  13. posted by Catherine on

    I think it looks so tacky to have a flat screen TV dominate ones living room that way. Traditionally, a piece of art or treasured family heirloom goes over the fireplace as the focal point of the room. Do we have so little of worth or beauty left in our lives that our most treasured possession is our television?

  14. posted by Heidi on

    Ours is mounted on the wall, not above a fireplace. We used a power bridge and ran all wires through the wall to an outlet near the floor behind the piece of furniture with our components (I even got them to install an additional plug behind the TV for my lighted garland at xmas). In the bedroom we installed a surge protector outlet behind the TV.

    It might look nice to have the TV above a fireplace, until you want to watch it. Terrible viewing angle.

  15. posted by Rue on

    Yeah, I always thought that putting a TV over most fireplaces makes it too high up to view comfortably. I like the look of it; I just don’t think it’s practical.

    That being said, to those who do want to wall-mount theirs and don’t already have the outlet on the fireplace – that’s an awful lot of trouble to go through just to mount your TV. Makes me want to stick with an entertainment center one of these days when I finally have a) a house, and b) a flat-screen. I’d rather mount my TV on a regular wall and just stick with putting a piece of art over the fireplace.

  16. posted by Sherri (Serene Journey) on

    This came at a great time. We just mounted our flat panel on the wall and yup the cords are UGLY and everywhere!

    @Travis and Andy S. thanks so much for the links! I’m going to look into both and hopefully one will work for us. I like these as an alternative to rewiring just for the TV. Thanks!

  17. posted by timgray on

    you cut holes in your walls. Hire an electrician, integrator and drywall guy. It will cost you about $2500.00 to get done what you want.

    honestly though be ready to replace your TV a lot if you use the fireplace. Heat from the fireplace will roll up and into the TV. making it’s life far shorter. I have one client that replaces their 68″ plasma every 18 months because of this.

    Note if that is a REAL fireplace and not the fake gas type, it will cost about $3800-$6000 to get all the wiring there. cutting troughs through masonry is not cheap or easy. the viewing angle is also horrible.

    I’m a high end systems integrator I’ve had my guys do that exact job at least 12 times in the past 3 years. out of those 12 we have had 6 of them have us relocate it elsewhere within a year and undo the changes to the walls.

    P.S. hope you dont want surround sound. as in wall speakers are even more money.

  18. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @timgray — You reminded me of a great point … of the two friends I’ve had mount their televisions above their fireplaces, only one has kept it (the one pictured).

  19. posted by Cat on

    Erin, usually I am a fan of your thorough responses, but this one wasn’t very helpful – could you give some suggestions for those of us with the same problem, minus the fireplace/code/heat aspect? For example, our home has concrete block walls behind the plaster (old condo building), making chiseling out a path to a new outlet (or a path to hide the cords) messy and expensive. The TV hides any damage behind it nicely, but other construction just isn’t really feasible.

    On a related note – can anyone recommend a good starter set of wireless speakers for surround?

  20. posted by Keter on

    @Catherine – thank you. I’ve always hated the ugly TV sitting out. “Back in the day” TV makers produced cabinet TVs that were made to look like furniture when not in use. The closest approximation these days is a cabinet that raises and lowers a flatscreen.

    I’ve heard what timgray says many times from people I’ve known – no matter where they initially put their TV, they end up moving it, so paying for an expensive installation might not be worth it no matter where the TV is installed.

    As for fireplaces and TVs – my son went through a phase in which he was fascinated by fire and was burning stuff in the fireplace between the end of school and the time I got home. To put a stop to that, I decided to block up the fireplace…and as I was figuring out how to do that, I saw the TV sitting on a table next to the fireplace. Bingo! I put the TV (his great love) in the fireplace and that’s where it lived from that moment on. The fireplace was big enough to hide the cable box and the Nintendo clutter, too. I could draw the curtain and the whole mess would disappear. The cable and power wire were routed against corners in the brickwork and concealed with strategically placed tschotkes.

    After he grew up and moved out, I got rid of my TV, and don’t miss it – the Internet is way better. Now I wish I had some elegant solution for hiding the ugly flatscreen monitor, and fantasize about 60″ of HD browsing. ;o)

  21. posted by Red on

    We actually took this a bit differently… the fireplace is in one room and we have the tv against the chimney in another (love the look of the tv in front of the brick!). However, we used a media cabinet to set the TV on top of instead of attempting to mount it into the brick. TV sits atop a clean cabinet top, all wires drop behind the cabinet, playstation, cable box, DVDs, CDs, and surround sound box all inside the cabinet, with the speakers on the sides of it. You can’t see a single wire and still get that great look.

    Then again, I agree wholly with Catherine that the TV should not dominate the room. Part of why we decided to keep the tv and sound system in a separate space.

  22. posted by Suzanne on

    We’re very happy with our TV wall mounted above the fireplace. We live in a small condo and it’s the only place to avoid taking up precious floor space. Our wall mount tilts forward so you don’t have to crane your neck to see it. Our condo was built with a cubby to the left of the fireplace which is the perfect spot to store our dvd player, receiver, etc. We cut a hole in the wall to mount the tv and passed the cables through to the cubby. No cable mess and with the wall open we added extra framing to support the weight of the TV.

  23. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Cat — I suggest you go to Monoprice (http://www.monoprice.com/) and see if you can find cables in the exact length and color that you need. You can replace the cables to your components with ones that match your wall color.

    Additionally, you may be able to run the wires through your crawl space or behind baseboards/molding once the wires reach the top or bottoms of your walls.

    I didn’t make this recommendation in the above article because then I would have been giving advice that was against fire codes.

  24. posted by Andrea on

    We have our tv mounted on the wall above the fireplace and it works very well. It tilts forward, so I’ve never felt like it was too high to see, and we’ve never used the fireplace, so we don’t have to worry about the heat issues. Also, in our case, due to the layout of the room (one end open, one wall half-height to open stairs, windows) the only place we can put a wall-mount tv is over the fireplace. And we only have the one living room so we can’t just use a separate space altogether.

    For those wondering about options where you don’t rip out the wall to install wiring, here’s what we did. We have windows on either side of the fireplace, so there’s only a couple inches between the fireplace front and the window frame – not enough space to open up the wall and install wiring. We just tied the cables together to keep them neat and ran them around the edge of the fireplace tiles. Then I put up a garland around the outside of the fireplace as a seasonal decoration that has the advantage of hiding all the wires. It’s not as clean and elegant as in-wall wiring, but I think it looks nice, and it was cheap and easy.

    For all the game consoles, receiver, etc, we have a wood cabinet (open shelves in the center section and glass doors on the side sections) under the window to the side of the fireplace. As long as we put away all the controllers etc and close the doors, it looks fine, though there is the usual mass of wires hidden in the back.

  25. posted by Benjamin on

    A friend of ours cut some PVC pipe in half length-wise, fixed it to the wall over the cables, and painted it the same color as the wall. It’s cheap, easily removed or modified, and blends in with the wall, especially if most of it runs behind some furniture. Obviously it won’t work over a fireplace, though.

  26. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Benjamin — That is a great suggestion for a non-fireplace mount.

  27. posted by Big Dan on

    My cousin recently remodel their craftsman style house and put their flat screen about their fireplace (they only burn candles in the fireplace). They fretted and stressed over what to do with the components for weeks. I happened to be over at their house when they were discussing it and reminded them that they have a closet 12′ away from the screen. A little conduit and a IR repeater system from Xantech and the problem was solved. All equipment lives happily in the closet and is out of sight.

  28. posted by gerette on

    Is it sad that I only came to the comments to see if anyone made “Super Why” references? Loves me some Princess Pea.

  29. posted by AZF on

    We mounted a flexible cord cover on the wall, ran the cables through it, and then texturized and painted it to look like the rest of the wall. Most people don’t notice it, or if they do, they mistake it for molding.

  30. posted by Carrie on

    Wands up!

    And now I have the SuperWhy theme song stuck in my head again.

    We are in the process of finishing our basement, and will be adding extra framing for a future wall mount tv, along with power and cable outlets. We will have the tv over a fireplace, but we are going with an electric fireplace, not gas.

  31. posted by Vince on

    Aside from the installation difficulties of mounting it above the fireplace, you also need to consider that the TV is awkwardly high. Depending on the size of your room it might be like sitting in the front row of a movie theater.

    Most people want their TVs at eye level when sitting on a couch. The weird thing is that even if you mount it on a bare wall (no fireplace) at this level, it looks strangely low in the context of the rest of the room. There’s usually a ton of space above it.

    I ended up going with setting it on a sofa-table (the kind that usually goes behind a couch.) It’s a little high, but not bad and I already had the table sitting around anyway.

    http://picasaweb.google.com/ch.....8418448850

  32. posted by Seriously Tim Gray? on

    Tim – I am going to respectfully call BS at your statement. First and foremost there is no 68″ plasma. And even thought there are 65″, 60″, 58″ and similarly sized plasmas there is no way in Hades that you are replacing a TV every 18 months due to heat unless you are integrating on one of the polar caps which would require the fireplace to run 24/7 if the homeowner had no other source of heat and the TV was actually over the fire as opposed to being mounted on a wall above it.

    I challange any of you with fireplaces to put a digital thermometer on top of your mantle and then put one on the top of the vents on a 50″ or larger TV. My bet is that you will get simiar temperature readings. Also, you must not understand a fireplace works. The heat does not radiate right up the wall otherwise the drywall would likely ingnite long before your plamsa stopped working as surface temps would be outragous.

    Finally, while a typical fireplace does not allow for mounting a TV at optimal heights, the tilting mounts available today will mitigate much of the issues with the viewing angle of the TV. The visual look ultimately a matter of opinion.

  33. posted by Lynda on

    Bravo to the people who said the TV would be too high; I can’t comment on tilting wall mounts, and would want to see that in a room before purchasing.

    Why spend money on a large TV and be dissatisfied with the picture because you’re watching it from the wrong distance or wrong angle?

  34. posted by allen on

    if you want to mount it, but don’t want to A) hire someone else to do the electrical work (that is really just silly work to add this) of making a new outlet behind the TV, or B) don’t want to rip up your drywall, or C) CAN’T rip up your dry wall, becuase your walls are actually concrete covered by plaster from the late ’40s (that’s MY home, by the way), then my i suggest hidding the cables behind paintable, wire-covers, such as:

    http://www.wiremold.com/diy/pr.....center.asp

    i don’t work for them, but i have used wiremold products from the local hardware store to cover, and run wires in a couple parts of my home. Seems like the much simpler soloution. You can paint these guys too, after you’ve got it all up, and then it just disapears into the wall.

  35. posted by julia1060 on

    I second allen’s suggestion. We used a similar product we found at Ace Hardware when we mounted a tv in our family room. It’s like a mini-sofit for the wires and can be painted to match your walls. Simple, inexpensive, functional. We found ours at a local Ace Hardware.

  36. posted by Chris on

    There are TV covers to help you protect your TV: http://www.tvcoverz.com/

  37. posted by tod on

    I have to agree with Cat on this one, you dodged the real question and went off on the tangent of hanging the TV over the fireplace. While I agree with your recommendation to not put the TV over the fireplace, the article lacks your usual creative suggestions for managing/hiding the cords (the real question I feel was being asked). I found a few in the comments, to which I would like to add decorative molding could also cover the wires and be done in a fashion to match your decor.

  38. posted by Blog Blip: Newsreader Showdown | Leyline Web Promotion on

    [...] a while, I found this article in my newsreader inbox: Ask Unclutterer: Cable clutter and wall-mounted televisions. HOW COOL IS THAT? A couple of things to [...]

  39. posted by jimmy on

    You can always ask one the many installers- Ie http://hdinstallers.com/San-Di.....ation.html

    to clean up the cable clutter without alot of expense you may want to try 1 or 2 gang recessed cable plate- some instructions here:

    http://www.mosscovers.com/AV_Connect.html

    -J

  40. posted by Eva on

    I have a TV above fireplace and never seen a problem with it. It is not uncomfortably high despite the “bad wishers”, when I sit down and rest my head on the couch, it is actually perfect height. The picture is great from all angles (and I don’t have any super expensive TV, just a regular LCD), it never gets hot due to fireplace if it is on, plus who really burns fireplace every day, right? The cables are the only issue and I think I am gonna cut the hole in the drywall, no biggie though. And as an aesthetic statement? I think it looks a lot better than some cheesy paintings and the usual candlesticks most people put on a fireplace. Why hide the tv if it’s something you use often?

  41. posted by Newsreader Showdown -Think[Around]Corners on

    [...] a while, I found this article in my newsreader inbox: Ask Unclutterer: Cable clutter and wall-mounted televisions. HOW COOL IS THAT? A couple of things to [...]

  42. posted by Sillygirl on

    So what do you do if you mount a tv on a wall but also have a wii or playstation or other gaming system that people on the household use regularly? How do you make the area look neat without having to unhook everything every time? Suggestions? Thank you!

  43. posted by AbyssUK on

    Hi guys my dad had problems with TV cables.. so he tried plastic pipes and plastic cable hides and they all quite frankly looked rubbish even when painted the same color as the wall. So he made something himself which both hid the cables and looked good, everybody who came around said it was brill and they wanted one.. so long story short he now sells them on his website http://www.iconceal.tv.

    Please go have a look see what you think! There is a video on there showing just how simple it is to use too.

  44. posted by Ianbee on

    Mounting above the TV or not or the height of the TV is not the issue here. Where ever you want to put it and at what ever height you want it…the cabels are going to be a problem.Even so called “wireless TV’s still need a power cable / cord!! You only have two choices….put the cables inside the wall, or at least buried in the plaster or put them ontop of the wall and put a cover over them..thats it. The problem of putting them in the wall is a) its expensive and disruptive and B) what happens when you need to add a new cable or change a cable ??on the oteher hand if you put them on the wall with a cable cover…do you want to paint it and try to hide it or do you want to make a feature out of it? The iconceal system Abyss mentions above is a perfect solution for hiding cables ontop of the wall covering. Why? It is adjustable so you don’t have to measure it and cut it to length you choose the height you want your TV. Its made of high quality aluminium and not cheap plastic, and it looks great unpainted as it comes in Black or Silver…or the Silver can be painted or have wallpaper / wallcovering put on it.The best bit of all is in most cases you wont even have to drill the wall out to fit it as it bonds to the wall with HIbond adhesive strips….and it’s over 4″ (100mm) wide and will take upto 17 cables!!…it can be fitted in under 4 minutes…see the vid at http://www.iconceal.tv…I got two of ‘em one I painted and the other I didn’t…one product two different looks

  45. posted by A year ago on Unclutterer on

    [...] Ask Unclutterer: Cable clutter and wall-mounted televisionsWhat is the best way to eliminate the cable clutter from my wall-mounted flat screen TV in order to give it a clean look? [...]

  46. posted by luke on

    i was wondering where would i put the dvr cable vox etc if i want to mount my lcd on the wall over my couch , so there is no room …

  47. posted by Jeff on

    The above suggestion of the ‘Powerbridge’ is a good idea if you aren’t afraid to cut some holes in your walls, provided your walls are hollow. The problem with the Powerbridge is that it costs about $120 which is kind of outrageous. You can go to an electrical supply shop and get the same type of parts for about $20.

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