So it’s finally time to re-do your backyard oasis and add some sound. While Bluetooth speakers can add a lot of fun to a party, a wired speaker system offers the best performance for outdoor audio. But before you start enjoying the music, you’ll need to get everything set up. If you want the cleanest look, you’ll have to bury some cables underground. So how do you do this?
You can run speaker wire underground. Burying it inside PVC pipe or conduit is best practice. You should bury it at least 6″ deep or more for more protection. After you have the materials and plan the run, it’s as simple as digging the trench, laying the wire, and testing.
While running cable is relatively easy, you’ll want to be careful not to hit any underground cables that already exist. With just an afternoon and a bit of hard work, you can have your outdoor speakers set up and ready for your next BBQ. Ready to learn more about running speaker wire underground? Read on!
Can You Run Speaker Wire Underground?
Absolutely. Part of making an outside setup look seamless and sleek is burying your cables. Before you start, though, you’ll need to consider a few things. Mainly what kind of wire you’ll need to be running and whether electrical cables are necessary.
Some speaker systems don’t use a whole lot of juice. This means you usually don’t have to stress too much about how deep you are burying your wire.
If you use beefier speakers that require an additional electrical cable for power, you’ll want to treat the project much more seriously. Not only are there building codes to consider, but also electrical safety.
Some speakers don’t require a power cable to be run with them. If this is the case, burying the cable should be fairly easy.
You’ll want to use something like this Outdoor Rated Speaker Wire from GearIT (on Amazon). You’ll also need some tools to accomplish the task, but you may already have them on hand.
Additionally, you may want to consider using a conduit of some sort to protect the wires from damage.
You’ll also want to make sure you won’t be damaging any existing underground cables when you start work. The last thing you want is to cut something important and have to deal with fixing the problem.
How Deep Does Speaker Wire Need to be Buried?
Okay, so we know you can bury speaker wire, but how deep should you go? Well, this is going to depend on whether or not you are providing additional power for the speaker. If you are, it will mean taking more precautions and following specific building codes for electrical wire laying.
If you don’t require the extra power and are using low-voltage speakers, you can get away with a shallow 6″ burial. Even still, you may want to bury deeper to protect your wires from yard activities.
Another factor that comes into play is soil type. While sandy soil is easy to dig, other soil types can be rocky and not give you much of a choice when it comes to depth. Soil that is made up of a lot of clay or rocky material would fit this category.
Softer and sandier soils will give you an advantage if you want to bury your speaker wires deeper in the ground.
When burying lines into the ground, especially when dealing with electrical supply lines, here are some things to know:
- 6” — Shallow trenches are easy to dig but make sure you use a sturdy conduit material to keep things protected.
- 12” — At this depth, you can get away with using PVC as the conduit material.
- 18”+ — These depths will give you the most protection but are the most time-consuming to dig. If you are running long lengths of wire, it may be better to keep things shallow.
While it might seem like shallow is the way to go, there are some problems with shallow trenches. First, you’ll want to make sure everything is protected.
This could mean opting for more expensive metal conduits to ensure nothing gets cut during normal lawn and backyard maintenance, but PVC may do just as well. But dealing with a cut cable is no fun, and it can cost you quite a bit to fix.
Can You Run Speaker Wire and Electrical Wire in the Same Conduit?
Whether you can or can’t run speaker wire and electrical wire in the same conduit will depend on a few factors. First is how much power is running through the electrical wire.
While you can use high-voltage rated speaker wire to help combat any problems, you may still experience some interference from the wires.
This can come in the form of audio dropouts and static. In a Hi-Fi setup, this can be quite an annoyance.
It’s best to keep things separate if you can. This situation only really starts to be an issue when we are dealing with electrical cables that are running quite a bit of power. If you can, keep cables at least 6″ apart and make sure your speaker wire has shielding.
For some speakers, you won’t need to worry about running extra wire. With more powerful systems, you will. A good strategy is to leave room for upgrading if you can.
That means you might want to run the appropriate electrical wires to upgrade your speakers in the future to save you installation time later on. This can also add value to the outdoor speaker system, which could be a positive if you decide to sell your home later on.
What Type of Conduit Should You Use for Underground Speaker Wire?
When it comes time to protect your newly laid cables, you have a few options. Keep in mind that some might be a bit overkill for speaker wire but will still allow for protection against things that might cut the wire.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you’re taking into account how you’ll be using the area. If you happen to be placing wire through your garden, it might be a good idea to opt for the extra protection.
In most cases, PVC conduit will do just fine. But there are other options to consider. Here are a few:
- Metal conduit — Certainly the most secure, but it can be a bit too much for just speaker wire.
- Flexible (non-metallic) — Flexible conduit can be easy to use and store. Non-metal versions, like this Non-metallic Liquid-Tight Electrical Conduit (on Amazon), can be cheaper and easier to work with.
- Flexible (metal) — For extra protection, you might want a metallic version of the flexible conduit like this Aluminum Flexible Conduit (on Amazon).
While in most cases, you can use PVC, depending on the depth and types of wires you are running, you might opt for a different style of conduit.
How To Bury Underground Speaker Wire
Okay, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about the process. First, you’ll want to gather all the tools you’ll be needing.
More often than not, you’ll already have everything you need lying around already. If not, you can easily find most items in most hardware stores and online.
As we just touched on, you probably have all the tools you need already. Let’s take a look:
- Adjustable wrench
- Corded Drill
- Spade or trenching shovel (on Amazon)
Plan it Out
First, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly where you are going to be placing your cables.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to lay everything out to give yourself a good idea of where everything is going to go and how much speaker wire you will need.
Run your wire in the area you want speaker access. Lay the wire on the ground almost exactly where you’ll be digging the trenches.
This will give the best idea of where everything is going and whether or not you’ll need to add conduits.
Dig the Trenches
Using your spade or trenching shovel, start cutting a line right down where your cable was laying. Cut the line as deep as you need the run to be.
Try and keep everything as close to the cable run as possible. You don’t want to damage the cable laying on the ground, so dig right next to it.
Once you have made the first push-in, use the shovel to move the ground enough to make a trench. It doesn’t need to be too big, just enough so you can push the cable in without needing to dig anymore.
A quick tip: make sure the ground is wet. Either water the ground a few hours before digging or wait till a few days after rain.
Lay the Cable and Test
Now that you have your trenches dug, the next step will be to lay the cable. Push the cable into the newly dug trench.
Make sure you get as close to the bottom of the hole as you can; this will ensure you are reaching the appropriate depth. Once you have everything in place, push the earth down with your foot to cover the trench.
Next, you’ll want to test and make sure everything works before finishing up. This is a good step because once everything is said and done, you’ll be beating yourself up if you fail to test and something goes wrong. T
The only remedy will be re-digging and replacing the speaker cables!