Learn How to Install a Flat Screen TV
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Learn How to Install a Flat Screen TV

Locating the TV in the room and installaiton tips.

As more and more people are purchasing flat screen televisions, there is a need to know how to safely install wall mounting brackets that can be bought along with the flat screen. The challenge is to combine state of the art technology while maintaining the functionality of the room with safety. The weight of flat screen televisions is considerable more than pictures or shelving, so special care must be taken when selecting anchors and locations.

Deciding where to mount your flat screen TV

Usually you have a television in the room already, so your new flat screen will be mounted on the wall above this location. If you choose to install the TV in some other location in the room, make sure you can bring power and cable over to that spot. The mounting bracket is basically a C-channel where it is attached to the wall with an additional return at the top and bottom to hold the TV. Holes are in the back of the C-channel to allow for power, cable, and audio wires to be routed to the back of the unit without being seen. You have a few options, you can either let the power cord and cable run down the face of the wall to the cable jack and outlet; you can cut a hole behind the flat screen and fish the power and cable through the wall and then cut another hole near the floor to connect them to the nearest outlets (not recommended); or you can install a new outlet and cable box behind the bracket to conceal all wiring there. I will describe the last scenario since this is the most difficult.

 Flat screen bracket (left) and Flat screen TV

Before installing the flat screen, two holes need to be cut into the drywall; one for the television cable and the other for an electrical receptacle that would provide power to the TV. If you chose to run additional wiring for speakers or a universal remote sensor, you can bring them into the cable box since they are low-voltage. You can also use structured home wiring which have modular plates and different wires can be run to various boxes. This is a little more involved for the do it yourselfer as most of the new components utilize Cat5E or Cat6 for the speaker wire.

 Structured Wiring Wall Plate

For a standard installation of a new outlet and cable jack here is a description of the process.

Safety First! If you don’t feel comfortable doing the work yourself, hire a licensed electrician for $100 - $150 to install the power and cable boxes.

Electrical codes restrict the number of lights or outlets that can be connected to one circuit. Typically, you can have no more than eight lights or outlets on a 15-amp circuit. To determine the amp rating of a circuit, just look at the number on its breaker or fuse in your main electrical panel.

Codes also limit the number of wires that can enter an electrical box, depending on the inside volume of the box and the gauge of the wires. The outlet-addition methods we show here are based on the most common wiring (14-gauge wire on a 15-amp circuit) and an 18-cu.-in. box (typical inside dimensions are about 2 in. x 3-1/4 in. x 3 in. deep). Plastic box sizes are stamped on the inside at the back. Always confirm the required box size with your local building inspector. In most regions, you have to obtain an electrical permit for this work from your local building department. This helps ensure a safe job.

If you can route the wire through to the basement, this is your best bet and will cause the least amount of damage. You will need to locate the bay in the wall where you want to pull the wire, and drill at least a ½ inch hole in the sill plate of the wall and sub-flooring. If you can locate the area in the basement, or it is too difficult, you can run the wire to the nearest outlet and run the wire from there.


Electrical Tester

Drill with ½ inch drill bit

Drywall Saw

Electrician’s Fish Tape or additional piece of wire

Needle Nose Pliers


Utility Knife

Tape Measure and Pencil

Wire Strippers

SuppliesElectrical Tape

Wire Nuts

Old Work Outlet Box

15-Amp Receptacle (Outlet)

14-Gauge Wire (for 15-Amp circuit, standard residential)

At Existing Outlet

1. Turn off the power at the main panel, unscrew the outlet and use a voltage tester to double-check that the power is off. Use one tester lead to touch the ground wire (bare copper), and touch the other lead first to the neutral terminals (silver colored), then to the hot terminals (gold colored). If the light glows with either contact, the circuit is still live. Find the right breaker and turn it off.

At Existing Outlet

2. Feed a length of new cable through one of the knock-out holes at the back of the existing box (punch out the hole with a screwdriver). Feed through enough cable to reach the new box, plus an extra foot. Use 14-gauge wire for a 15-amp circuit.

At Existing Outlet

3. Strip about 10 in. of plastic sheathing from the new cable to expose the black, white and copper wires. Run the new cable, with sheathing, at least 2 in. up inside the box, and double over the excess wires to help hold the cable in place. Strip 5/8 in. of insulation off the ends and connect the wires from the new cable to the existing bundles—white to white, black to black, and ground to ground. Use new wire connectors of adequate size for the four wires in each bundle. Note: You can also connect the white wire from the new cable to the silver terminal on the outlet and the black wire from the new cable to the gold terminal on the outlet. The ground will have to be connected with a wire nut as mentioned before.

At New Outlet

4. Mark the opening for the new box and cut it out with a drywall (also known as a keyhole saw) saw. Fish for the new cable with a hook made from a wire coat hanger. Pull the cable through the opening cut in the wall. Then strip about 9 in. of sheathing off the end of the cable, insert the cable so the sheath extends about 1 in. into the box and mount the box in the wall as shown. If the existing outlet is too far away, you may need to cut a series of holes with a drywall saw to reach the outlet. Since you have to pull the wire, you should remove a single piece of drywall that straddles the stud so there is space on either side. The hole should be about 6 inches high and 8 to 10 inches wide. Drill through the studs with a ½ inch drill bit, but use caution to make sure that there are no other wires in the area. After the new wire is fished through the wall, replace the pieces and spackle.

At New Outlet

5. Connect the new wires to the new outlet: white (neutral) wire to a silver-colored terminal screw; black (hot) wire to a gold-colored terminal screw; bare wire to the green grounding screw. Make sure the cable sheath remains secured inside the box.

Turn the breaker back on and verify that the outlet has power and that nothing trips. Use a tester to verify polarity.

You can follow the same procedure for the television cable, or route it to the basement and connect it to the existing splitter. If you don’t have any more ports on the splitter, you may be able to replace it with one with more ports, however sometimes you lose the quality in the reception due a low in signal strength measured in dB. You may want to contact your cable provider to replace this for you. This is especially true if you have a splitter coming off another splitter. Cable splitters come in 2, 3, 4, 8, and 16 ports, so there should be a problem with replacing it. They aren’t very expensive, and they are balanced and digital ready.

 3-way cable splitter

Back to the Bracket

Once the wires were in place, mount a ¾ inch plywood spacer on the wall that is cut to the same size as the C-channel section of the bracket. Mark and cut the holes out of the plywood to match the large holes in the bracket or just cut out a rectangular hole that allows access to both the power and cable. Screw the plywood directly into the wall studs by pre-drilling holes for the screws. Use 2 inch screws, drywall screws are fine, but use caution as these are brittle and can snap if over-tightened. Attach the mounting bracket into the plywood using heavy-duty lag screws. If none are provided in the mounting bracket kit, use 3/16 to ¼ inch lag screws that are 1 to 1-1/2 inches in length. Remember you only have to go into the plywood now. Pre-drill the lag screw holes with a 1/16 inch bit for 3/16 inch screws and 1/8 inch bit for ¼ inch screws. With plywood you don’t have to be as precise with the size of the pre-drilled holes since it won’t split.

Set the flat screen on a table so the power cord and cables could be attached. The brackets on the back of the television hook over the mounting plate on the wall, transferring the TV's weight directly to the wall studs. Once in place, the hanging system is locked so the set could not be accidentally knocked loose. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for this process.


Check your owner's manual or TV box for the words VESA Compatible. VESA stands for "Video Electronics Standards Association" at www.vesa.org and is the organization that formulates standards for flat-screen mounting brackets (among other things). "VESA" will be followed by a number or combination of numbers that will indicate what type of VESA standard your TV is set up for (i.e VESA 50/75/100). Make sure to get a mounting bracket that matches the number on your TV.

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Comments (3)

Sorry for the typo (Sscreen) in the title.

Typo fixed