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Question: I would like to know your opinion of roundwire vs. tapewire.

I use both and I like both, but they are each especially good for certain things.

Solid wire; the good

  • SolidWire is quick to install and the fixtures come attached to the wire so there is no screwing around... when you put in the power, the light comes on (assuming the fixture is good... more on that later)
  • Professional builders in shops prefer solid wire because there are fewer daemons that magically make a light stop working the day after the "finished" dollhouse is delivered. 
  • SolidWire; the bad:

  • the fixtures all have to be in place for the house to be completed.  Any re-decorating means shaping the changes around the electrical choices you already made or tearing out flooring and baseboard to re-do the wiring.
  • Solidwire needs a place to be the "connection hub" where all the wires come together and connect to the power supply.  this can turn into a knot of stuff and needs some space (under the foundation is great).  Tapewire doesn't strictly need this, although my preferred method of getting power into a project is with an E247 Jack and Plug, which is a "knot" too.
  • Solidwire makes a strong case for flooring and baseboard - an additional purchase and additional work unless you put in conduit which has its own liabilities.
  • Solidwire fixtures usually have 18" of wire attached to them (some only have 12").  If you are building a room setting, that's a lot.  If you are wiring a mansion, that means soldering and shrink-tubing more wire onto the attached wire.
  • Tapewire; the good:

  • Flexibility - If you fully wire a house, you can put anything you want anywhere you want any time you want.  5 years down the road, you can completely change where the fixtures are with a small price to pay in re-finishing.
  •     you don't have to know where everything will go before you build the house
  •     you don't have to buy everything all at once
  • Replacement of fixtures: Fixtures go bad.  They are subject to all the same shortcomings of workmanship and materials as the fixtures in your full-sized house.  With tapewire you can just unplug the fixture and plug in a new one.
  • Finishing before fixtures: you can paint and wallpaper and completely cover the wiring underneath without marker brads or dangles
  • Tapewire; the bad:

  • Tapewire is less robust than solidwire.  Sections of a tapewired project can, unaccountably, go "off line".  There are ways to minimize the chance of this (and I use them), and fixing an "off-line" section is usually easy, but it does require someone to roll up their sleeves and do it.  So, if the project will be a long way removed from the "roll up their sleeves" person, this becomes a consideration.
  • Attaching fixtures is more difficult: All the fixtures on the market are built as solidwire.  That means you have to do stuffto make them work with tapewire.  It's usually not a big deal, but I recently backed up a builder who was not scrupulously correct in where the bare copper went, and I had to step in and "do magic" to fix the "finicky" fixtures.  This is just common sense for me, but I was building Heathkit radios in grade school.  I recognize that this isn't common sense for many people.
  • Tapewire costs more and requires a specialized tool (but can be less than solidwire plus flooring plus moldings)
  • I guess I differentiate between solidwire and tapewire based on the size of the project, how many fixtures there will be, and whether I am certain where they will go.  If I have a large build, with lots of fixtures or if I am not sure where they will go, I choose tapewire.

    Happy building

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