Oy, how many times have I done this with a friend. I also had to wire an existing 5 story business when I was younger in my Network Admin days.
The best job I ever had a hand in was a guy who built his house with conduit piping. That way if anything ever changed, it was easy to replace. I know it sounds silly but it really wasn't that expensive in the end. Think central vacuum systems! He did land up using basic Cat5 with a base 100 network, cards and router. As for the type of router and NICs I wouldn't worry much, they all do the job.
Personally I have three rooms networked through the heating system at my place. My "computer room" has 5 computers networked and the living room has my Vista/PVR box. They are all hardwired along with a jack in the bedroom.
I have wireless G running on the laptops and for what the laptops do, they work just fine.
As for the networks, I'm running Vista, XP, Linux and an old Novell box and the network works just fine, but for beginners stick with Vista and for once, I think MS did a good job on setting all that up.
Just some thoughts I thought I would put down, I'm sure many of us could talk on this forever. Heck, I've even seen a network piggyback existing telephone systems in a house. So many things...
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