Speakers placed around a room sound great, but all that wire can be an eyesore, an annoyance when you vacuum, even a tripping hazard. You may be able to keep low-voltage wires out of sight and out of your path simply by running them under rugs and behind furniture. If not, here are some solutions for hiding speaker wire—or just about any other type of low-voltage wiring (for phones, thermostats, doorbells, low-voltage lighting, etc.).
Raceways come in a range of sizes and shapes, are paintable and often have an adhesive backing for quick installation. You'll hardly notice a narrow version like the one shown here if it runs along the top of baseboard. Raceways are a lot more noticeable when they run up walls or around doorways, though. Whether you paint your raceway to match the wall or the trim, avoid fussy brushwork by painting before you install it. Touching up any nicks and scratches after installation is easy.
A variety of raceway systems like the Cordmate brand shown are available at home centers and hardware stores.
Getting wire inside walls takes more time than other methods, but it lets you run wire anywhere invisibly, even past doorways. And it doesn't have to be a huge project. If there's an unfinished basement below the room, you can run wires through the basement and into walls. First cut holes in the wall to accept junction boxes. Center the holes 8 to 10 in. from the floor, and you'll be able to drill down into the basement with a spade bit and extension. Then push a stiff wire (such as wire from a coat hanger) up from the basement and use it to pull the speaker wire down into the basement. You can also run wire through the attic and feed it down into walls, but that cramped, insulation-filled space makes the job a lot more difficult. Any wire used inside walls must be UL-listed.
Flat, adhesive-backed wire comes in versions for just about any low-voltage purpose. The speaker wire shown here is thinner than a credit card. You can paint it, wallpaper over it or even skim a layer of joint compound over it to make it completely invisible. There's one situation where this wire becomes noticeable: If you need to turn a corner (to run wire up and over a doorway, for example), you have to fold the wire back over itself. That folded corner creates a slight lump. At the speaker end, simply leave speaker jacks hanging off the wall. Or for a neater look, install junction boxes. Then run the wire right into them and connect the wire to a faceplate with built-in speaker jacks.
In rooms with wall-to-wall carpet, you can often force wire between the carpet and the baseboard. This is the fastest, easiest way to hide wire. It's also the least certain, and the only way to know if it will work is to give it a try. There may be enough space for heavy-duty cable, or you may find it tough to push in even the smallest wire. If there's a doorway between the power source and the speaker, run the wire all the way around the other side of the room to avoid it. A ruler or paint stir stick makes a good wire-pushing tool. Don't use anything sharp that might cut into the wire's insulation.