Raceway & Sleeving & Wire Loom ... Oh My!

BY: CableOrganizer.com

Raceway, Sleeving, Wire Loom…Which to Choose?

We're all pretty much in agreement about the benefits of cable management in general, right? I mean, you're on a site called CableOrganizer.com, so the chances are that you're at least vaguely aware of the importance of taming your cable clutter. And of course, given that we have literally tons of items devoted to the wire management, it's no secret that there's more than one way to skin a cat – er, organize a cable (…seriously, who is out there skinning cats at all, let alone finding new ways to do it?)

However, when you look at some of our more popular cable management products, such as Raceway, Sleeving, and Wire Loom, they might seem superficially similar: they're conduits that allow bundles of cables and wires to pass neatly through them, instead of dragging on the ground, or tangling behind a desk, or slowly wrapping themselves around you while you sleep (maybe?). But in what situation should you use, say, a Raceway over some Wire Loom? Well, we're glad we asked that question as if you had asked us that question. Because we happen to have some answers!

Cable Raceway: the Wrong & the Right Way

What's Raceway?

Vroom, vroom! Surface Raceway is, in short, a cable channel that travels at least some distance in a straight line, and is affixed to a surface by way of either screws or adhesives. Raceway may be enclosed, with a latching or sliding top, or it may be “J Channel” style with an opening that allows for easy installation of (and access to) wires.

Raceway is usually plastic, but can sometimes be metal. It's available in many styles and sizes, but is typically a straight, rigid and inflexible conduit. If you want your cable bundle to split up or change direction, there are accessories available, such as T-junctions and elbow corners. It's usually affixed to a flat surface, such as walls, floors, desks, or furniture…there's even a quarter-round variety that runs discreetly in the space where the wall meets the floor.

So when is Raceway the right choice? Well, since it needs a surface to be affixed to, it's excellent for hiding speaker wire or other wall-crawling cables in your home theater or office. J-Channels are great for keeping desk cables elevated and off the ground as well. The plastic construction and rigid nature of most Raceways also means it can be painted to discreetly match your surrounding décor. It can also be easily cut to size to meet your specific needs. The enclosed nature of latching or sliding top Raceway provides protection for cables from minor abrasions or liquid spills, which is typically enough for any normal indoor home or office setting.

The Bottom Line: Raceway is great for aesthetically hiding cables on a flat surface, in non-extreme environments.

Cable Sleeving: the Wrong & the Right Way

What's Sleeving?

Cables, as far as we are aware, don't wear clothes. So Cable Sleeving isn't something you'd find on a tiny holiday sweater lovingly knitted for your wires. It is kind of like clothing in a way, however: it's constructed of woven (or “braided”) fibers that surround a cable (or a bundle of cables) to protect them. Unlike Raceway, which is rigid, Sleeving is designed to conform to the shape and path of the cable. It's flexible, and often expandable due to the woven nature of its construction. It's also made from a wide variety of materials: Kevlar, Stainless Steel, Nylon, Fiberglass and more.

There are two main methods of installation, depending on type. Split Sleeving (also known as Side-Entry or Wrap-Around) features a slit up the side of the Sleeve that allows cables to be applied or removed at any point in the run. They can sometimes feature button, hook-and-loop, or zipper closures. The other type is solid, non-slit Sleeving, in which cables must be fed through the entire length of the Sleeve. Sleeving is best cut with a Hot Knife, which cauterizes the ends to prevent fraying of the fibers.

The variety of materials used in the construction of various types of Sleeving means there's lots of versatility in the applications it's suited for. PET (Polyethylene) Wrap is a great general purpose option, but specialty Sleevings exist that are specifically designed to be resistant to heat, abrasion, chemicals, vibration, and many other extreme or harsh conditions.

So When Should You Use Sleeving? Sleeving is great for industrial applications, including manufacturing, automotive, military and even aerospace. General purpose and aesthetic Sleeving is available, but specialized options make it great for challenging environments.

Wire Loom: the Wrong & the Right Way

What's Wire Loom?

Wire Loom is, in many ways, similar to Braided Sleeving. It's a tube-like structure to house cables or cable bundles, that can be split/side entry or non-split/solid, just like Sleeving. However, somewhat paradoxically, Wire Loom is often corrugated in texture, rather than woven, despite having “Loom” right there in the name. It's usually composed of plastics such as Polyethylene (PET), Polypropylene (PP), or Nylon, though some varieties may be composed of fiberglass, or feature a metallic coating.

Wire Loom, like Raceway, can be used in conjunction with accessories such as T-Connectors, Fittings and Locking Clamps (to keep Loom in place in heavy vibration areas). There are also tools to aid in the tedious process of installation. Since it's corrugated, not braided, it can usually be cut to size with a normal blade without fear of fraying.

So, you've got some wires to protect and bundle, and you need them to remain flexible. Should you go with Wire Loom or Braided Sleeving? Well, some of it depends on your own preference. Sleeving tends to be more aesthetically pleasing. It can also fit into tighter spaces, since it can expand and contract to conform better to the shape of cable bundles. But, when made out of comparable material, Wire Loom provides more solid protection from things like abrasion and radiant heat.

So When Should You Use Wire Loom? When made of comparable materials, corrugated Wire Loom offers more protection than woven Braided Sleeving. It can also be more economical (again, when made of comparable material): Nylon or PET Sleeving tends to be more expensive than PET Wire Loom of similar length and diameter. They are often used for similar applications,for everything from general purpose cable management in home or office to automotive and marine applications. However, Wire Loom has a more limited range of material options, typically plastics or fiberglass, while Sleeving can be found composed of everything from Nylon to Carbon Fiber (and everything in between).

And there you have it. Choosing a cable management solution involves taking a lot of factors into consideration, including application, budget, and aesthetics. Hopefully now you have a little more insight into which option is right for you!