Structured wiring is great for phone service, Ethernet networking, and cable or satellite TV, but it doesn't lay down a foundation for distributed audio across several rooms in a house.

Tom Wells, president of Integrated Media Systems, an audio/video installer in Sterling, Va., says now that more builders understand the benefits of structured wiring, it's time they started learning how to prepare new homes for distributed audio systems.

Wells says the time to think about distributed audio is well before the drywall gets installed. "The last thing you want to do is start ripping up the walls after the house is done," he explains. "Most builders understand wiring for security and structured wiring but not for distributed audio."

Wells tells builders to run wire from where the stereo would go in the family room up the wall to the light switch near the door of the room the audio is going into, loop it, and then staple the wire to the inside of the studs.

By doing this, when the installer arrives, he can cut a small hole parallel and to the right of the light switch and easily find the wire. The installer can then put in a volume control keypad to take the place of the hole. Wells recommends 16-gauge, 4-conductor wire for sound and Category-5 wire for the keypad. Typically, installers put wire in five or six rooms, including the family room, the living room, the kitchen, the master bedroom, a guest room, and the outdoor patio.

"The beauty of this is no one will ever know the wire is there unless the customer requests a music system," says Wells. "And in the event the customer wants the music system, the wire is right there by the light switch."