While it might be tempting to paint unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cables or patch cords to match wall color or other surrounding environments, you could be painting yourself into a corner.
UTP cables are NOT designed to withstand exposure to the chemical compounds found in common paint products. In fact, Belden's longstanding policy is that cables should not come in contact with any type of paint contamination, regardless of application.
Cables that are exposed to paint (or paint remover for that matter) are not acceptable for general use and will not be covered by Belden’s 25-year system warranty or component-level warranty. Remember, Belden certifies the performance of the cabling for the life of the structure—unpredictable interactions between paint and cabling call into question the long-term performance of the cabling system.
Here’s more on why.
While the jacketing on indoor riser- and plenum-rated UTP cables may seem impervious to liquids, it is actually porous. Paint contamination, regardless of the type of paint or the extent of the contamination, can therefore alter the properties of the materials used in the construction of the cable (i.e., jacketing and insulation). That can affect the cable's ability to continue meeting original mechanical, electrical and environmental specifications.
Paint can act as a source of combustion or alter the jacket’s compounds, thereby changing the cable's flame and smoke ratings. In fact, when the Conformity Assessment Services Department of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) reviewed the issue of paint contamination on UTP cables, they concluded that flame and smoke performance of paint-contaminated cables would be altered and likely degraded.
Paint on the jacket of the cable will also obviously obscure the legend that is used for identifying cable type, application, standards and safety listings and ratings. This can lead one to think that an old Category 3 voice cable can be plugged into a computer.
Few, if any, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) will allow painted cable to pass safety inspections to meet building codes. Don’t bother trying to remove the paint with paint remover to pass inspection—once a cable has been exposed to the paint chemicals, its jacket may have already absorbed some of the chemicals. And paint remover itself is considered a contaminant that may compound the damage.
While paint on cables can often happen by accident when spaces are given a fresh coat, even a small amount of paint is not acceptable. Whether the cable was sprayed, brushed or rolled, the only remedy is to remove and replace the painted cables. Besides, paint can cause cables or cable bundles to adhere to other cables or surrounding pathway materials. This makes moves, adds and changes pretty much impossible.
Instead, make sure that exposed cables are removed from the area before any painting begins. And for those of you that thought you could simply paint cables to match their surroundings, there is a better option. Belden offers several standard jacket colors for premise UTP cable—red, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, white, gray and black. And feel free to contact us to discuss custom jacket colors to meet your unique needs.
Greg Funk began his career in 1984 as a distributed computer network analyst. Serving Belden for more than two decades, Greg is one of Belden’s data center experts and a recognized speaker at industry seminars and events. He has fulfilled a variety of functions and today is a systems engineer providing network engineering sales support in his region.