It’s one thing to obsess over the aesthetics of your flat-screen TV — the beveled corners, the screen size, the color temperature. But without thoughtful installation, you can wind up with a beautiful rectangular display surrounded by a rat’s nest of cords, or worse, 40 pounds of glass and electronics that might fall off the wall at any moment.
Todd Anthony Puma, chief executive of The Source Home Theater in New York, sees poorly installed televisions all the time — equipment not mounted on the studs or barely held in place with just a couple of screws or anchors. “What would happen after a period of time is that the TV would slowly but surely come off the wall, and sooner or later, you have a television that’s on your floor and possibly could injure somebody in the home, which is the worst-case scenario,” he said.
Here’s what to consider if you want to mount your TV securely without sacrificing the room to a tangle of cords.
Before you do anything, make a plan
Think about all of the devices you’ll need to connect — not just the boxes, such as gaming consoles or a cable box, but also your audio receiver, speaker or soundbar. Make sure that your shelving unit or cabinet has enough space to hold everything, and that you have enough cables and wire for every device you plan to connect, and that they’re all long enough.
At Wirecutter, we recommend always planning to add one more HDMI cord than you think you’ll need, just in case you add a device later, after everything is set up. It’s easier to install that cord now than to do so once everything is in place. “When you know how many wires you’re going to have, then you’ll know how to hide them,” Mr. Puma said.
For gaming or for a household with a lot of internet use, you may want to consider wiring an Ethernet cable to your TV and console from your modem instead of relying on Wi-Fi. You’ll get the best speed with a direct line for the machines that gobble up the most bandwidth.
Also, consider light, wall support and height when you choose a place for the TV. If you’re mounting it on the wall, make sure you’re mounting it to wall studs or solid masonry, and choose a TV mount rated to hold the weight of your set. Wirecutter recommends the Sanus VMPL50A-B1 Tilting Wall Mount, which can tilt up and down and works for TVs from 32 inches to 70 inches in size. For a TV in a cabinet or nook, choose a full-motion mount so you can pull the TV out for viewing.
Christine Lin, principal for Form & Field, an interior design firm in San Francisco, suggests you avoid placing your TV opposite a window in order to avoid glare. When considering height placement, she said, “I always recommend that the center of the TV should be at eye level when you’re seated. Often TVs are placed too high up on the wall which can cause a lot of neck strain.”
Keep in mind that some AV sources don’t have cords at all, so they’re much easier to hide. Stick-style streaming media players like the Roku Streaming Stick or Chromecast aren’t much bigger than a thumb and can draw power from your TV’s USB ports. Flat indoor antennas (Wirecutter recommends the Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse), can sometimes stay hidden behind a wall-mounted TV if reception is good enough.
Use the right electrical cords
We don’t recommend hiding regular TV power cords behind the wall. It’s a fire hazard and against the National Electrical Code. A regular power cord behind a wall can overheat or get damaged where you can’t see it.
Mr. Puma explained, “If cords are not insulated or sealed, like the Romex cables or BX cable that is permitted in our area, when you’re pulling through the wall, a nail or screw can hit it a certain way. One thing leads to another, you turn on the TV after a few hundred times, it lights up and then puts your house on fire.”
There is a code-compliant way to pass cords and cables behind drywall, though. Chris Heinonen, Wirecutter’s resident TV expert, recommends a kit that costs about $70 and you can install it on your own. “For a TV I use something like the PowerBridge TWO-CK Dual Outlet Recessed In-Wall Cable Management System since that’s O.K. with fire code and lets you run the cables inside the wall.”
If you live in Chicago and Cook County, Illinois or New York City, PowerBridge offers a compliant metal junction box and metal-clad wire version. (Check your local building code to make sure you’re getting the right version if you plan to do this, though.) Cables should also be rated CL — which you can find on the packaging or in the product description online — for wall insulation.
If you mount your TV on a brick wall and install a power bridge, you can use paintable cord covers to keep them all bundled and out of sight. Mr. Heinonen recommends cord housing like the Legrand CMK10 Cable Management System, which has double-sided adhesive so you can run it along a window frame or art and then paint it to match the wall color.
Ventilate your gear properly
All of the devices you connect to your entertainment system produce plenty of heat, which can shorten their lives or damage other electronics without proper ventilation.
“The one thing I always recommend is to keep your equipment properly ventilated,” Mr. Puma said. “Don’t put a TV in the perfect fitted box; make sure there’s a little space, so if you wanted to, you could get your fingers in there to take the TV down, or if the service guy has to come in from one of the TV manufacturers, they’ll be able to easily maintenance it as well.”
Give everything enough clearance, and make sure any cabinetry you use has ventilation holes for heat. You may even prefer to install a cabinet cooling fan to circulate air.
Know when to call a professional
If you find that the power outlet isn’t near enough to your setup, avoid using an extension cord. Hire an electrician to add an outlet where you need it if you’re not absolutely confident doing it yourself. According to research from the National Fire Protection Association, electrical distribution and lighting equipment (including cords) were the leading causes of fires in the living room and bedroom from 2012 to 2016, with extension cords being the most common cause of fire among cords and plugs.
You should also call a pro if you’re dealing with challenging wall materials like brick, which is naturally inconsistent, or walls with plumbing on the other side. “I think if there is anything extra on the walls like tile you’ll probably want a professional to deal with that drilling unless you’re pretty handy,” Ms. Lin said.
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A version of this article appears at Wirecutter.com.
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