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When it comes time to purchase materials for a telephone system or to ask for advice at your home center or hardware store, it helps to know the nuts and bolts of telephone wiring. The following components are the building blocks of home systems.

LINE CORD: Line cord is flat, multi-conductor cord that plugs into a jack to connect a telephone or other accessory, such as a fax or modem. Long extensions can be created by using a small coupling that allows you to plug two line cords together (you should never splice line cords); but if you want to place a telephone more than 25 feet from an existing jack, it's better to run more-permanent station wire to a new jack and plug the phone into that.

HANDSET CORD: This cord connects the handset to the telephone. It can't be used as line cord to connect a phone to a jack; it's wired differently, and its modular plug is a different size. Some telephones (usually models with the dial in the handset) require special handset cords; when replacing a handset cord, be sure to buy the type you need.

TELEPHONE STATION WIRE: Station wire is the telephone equivalent of NM cable; it connects to the phone company's network interface jack, which is the box or block where the phone company wires enter the house. Standard station wire is intended for indoor installation and should never be used outdoors without special protection, such as conduit. A solid-core version is available for outdoor use.
Station wire can contain four, six, or even eight conductors, each sheathed in distinctive color-coded insulation. In a typical installation, only one pair of wires the red and the green is for basic telephone service; the others can be used to connect additional phone lines, for grounding, or as spares if a problem develops in the pair used for basic service.

WIRE JUNCTIONS: Think of these as junction boxes for telephone wires. The traditional 42A block is one option; a 4-line wire junction is another. You could also make phone connections using a standard junction wire nuts.

MODULAR JACKS: Phone jacks are connection points between the line cord and the station wire. You'll find a whole slew of single, double, and combination jacks at hardware and electronics stores. A representative selection is shown below.
Basically, you can choose between flush-mounted and surface-mounted designs. New construction usually calls for flush-mounted jacks; these install atop standard housing boxes that are fastened to wall studs before wall coverings are put in place. When remodeling, you can bring station wire to a cut-in housing box or simply slip a special bracket atop an opening in the wall , then screw the jack's cover plate to the bracket. Even simpler to install are surface-mounted jacks; these mount to baseboards and other existing surfaces with short screws or adhesive tape. A dual-outlet adapter lets you add a fax, a modem, or an answering machine to a single phone jack. A triplex adapter connects three devices on either one, two, or three separate telephone lines.

Once you're familiar with the basic components of home telephone wiring systems, take time to acquaint yourself with some routing logistics before you begin stringing wire. Sketch a floor plan of your home, showing the location of each existing jack and where you want to put the new ones. This plan will help you choose the simplest type of system to install and the shortest routes for the new wires.
You can wire a phone system in one of two basic ways. Each has its advantages, so consider which one best meets your needs.

Daisy-chain wiring connects many telephone outlets on one wiring circuit. The wiring begins at a wire junction connected to the phone company's network interface jack, then simply runs from jack to jack. The advantage of this system is quick, easy installation.
Home-run wiring connects each telephone jack to a common point (usually a wire junction or splice box adjacent to the interface jack). This type of system is recommended for larger homes and for homes in which an office is installed or planned. Home-run wiring requires a little more time and hardware to install, but it provides several advantages. If a wire breaks or shorts, for instance, the damage is confined to one jack, and the problem can be quickly identified and repaired. In addition, the system can be upgraded easily for more complex communications needs.

You can extend wiring from existing jacks or from a wire junction located near where the wiring enters your home, or you can combine methods if that will produce the shortest runs of wire. Distance is the only major limitation on your work: jacks should be installed no more than 200 feet from the point where the wiring enters your home.
Since telephone station wire is thin, it's relatively easy to route along baseboards or through or inside walls. However, some situations are best avoided. To prevent corrosion, route wires away from steam or hot water pipes and air ducts. To reduce interference, separate telephone wiring and jacks from electrical receptacles by several inches. For safety, never let phone jacks and electrical outlets share a conduit or junction box: a short in the line-voltage wire could transfer excess current to the phone wire.
Also, never install jacks in locations that would permit someone to use a telephone near water: stay clear of bathtubs, laundry tubs, wash bowls, kitchen sinks, and swimming pools, and wet areas such as damp basements. jacks installed in a kitchen should be located a reasonable distance from grounded surfaces such as sinks, refrigerators, and ranges.

A telephone circuit requires that at least two wires be used at all times. This basic pair consists of a "tip" wire (usually green) and a "ring" wire (usually red). It is very important that you maintain the continuity of this colorcoding throughout your home. Always connect red to red, green to green, and so forth.
Some types of wire have a different color coding than standard station wire. However, the two types can be easily integrated by connecting the colorcoded conductors shown at left.
Although telephone lines conduct low-level electrical current that's unlikely to cause any harm, you should take the following precautions when working with any telephone wiring.
Never work with an active telephone line. Since a higher current is used to ring the telephone, an incoming call could produce a small but unpleasant shock if you're touching any bare wire. Before you begin any work, disconnect the wiring at the interface jack or take a telephone handset off the hook. (Some telephones with lighted dials draw power from a low-voltage transformer instead of the telephone line. Check the electrical outlets near your phone; if you see a small, cube-shaped transformer, unplug it.)

•Never handle bare wires or screws. Always hold the insulated portion of wires and use insulated tools.
•Never work with telephone wiring during a thunderstorm. A lightning strike could send a strong, dangerous surge down the phone line.
•Never work with telephone wiring if you have a pacemaker.

Whether you're simply adding a jack to your present phone line or doing major wiring, the basic steps are the same: tapping into the phone system, routing wire to new jack locations, and installing new modular jacks. Here's a closer look at all three steps.

The easiest way to extend a modular system is to route new station wire from an existing modular jack or wire junction using daisy-chain wiring . Special screw terminals inside both types of junctions allow you to connect station wire quickly and easily. No wire stripping is necessary; the conductors insert directly into slots that pierce the wire insulation when the terminals are tightened with a screwdriver.
If no jack or junction exists where you want to install new wiring, a nearby station wire may be used as the starting point for a new wire route. Often you can find an existing wire on a baseboard, in a closet or cabinet, or attached to joists in an attic or basement. If you obtain at least 3 inches of slack, you can cut the wire and attach it to either a modular jack or a wire junction.

Additional station wire can then be routed from the jack or junction to another location. If no slack can be gained, an alternative is to cut the wire and install two wire junctions (or a jack and a junction) at least 2 inches apart. Each end of the cut wire can be attached to a junction, then the junctions can be bridged with a separate length of wire.

When extending a phone line, you can save a great deal of time and trouble by leaving the new wiring exposed. However, routing wiring beneath a floor, above a ceiling, or in a wall requires less wire, is more attractive, and provides better protection. It's definitely the way to go in new construction.

INSTALLING EXPOSED WIRING: Choose a route where the wire will be inconspicuous and well protected. If possible, run it inside cabinets and closets or beneath shelving. In paneled rooms, you can conceal wire under panels, hollow corner trim, and baseboard molding. Wire also can be routed along baseboards, around door and window frames, and along picture molding or chair rails. If you do the work carefully and use telephone wire clips or staples to anchor the wiring in place, it won't attract much attention at all.
Wire can also be run beneath carpeting, where the carpet meets the wall. If the carpet edges are tacked down, remove tacks with pliers or a screwdriver tip, or use pliers to lift up a tack strip.

ROUTING WIRE THROUGH WALLS: Drilling through a wall is often the easiest way to route wire from room to room. In homes with typical gypsum wallboard walls, this is usually a simple job. Find a hollow spot between wall studs, then use a 1/4-inch drill bit at least 5 inches long to drill through the wallboard just above the baseboard.
Feeding the wire through the wall is easier if you push a soda straw through the hole first, as shown.
FLOOR-TO-FLOOR WIRING: Running wire horizontally within walls is nearly impossible without cutting holes in the wall surface. However, running a line vertically is somewhat simpler, and a route from floor to floor is often the most practical path for taking a phone line from one room to another-even when both rooms are on the same floor. Usually, you'll be running the wire through one wall into the attic or basement, and from there into the wall of another room. Adapt the same wire-routing and fishing strategies detailed for electrical cable.
Feeding wire through a wall
Since telephone wire is limp and difficult to fish through a hollow wall, push a soda straw through first, then insert the wire through the straw. Once the wire is through, remove the straw. Holes can be sealed with putty or a paintable caulking compound.
Routing along a baseboard
To add a new jack near an existing jack, simply plug a dual-outlet adapter into the old jack, then run line cord along the baseboard as shown at left. For a more permanent installation or for distances over 25 feet, plan to hard-wire new and old jacks together with station wire.

Installing your new modular jacks is the last step in extending or rewiring your home telephone system. It takes a matter of minutes and requires only a screwdriver. Three of the most common types-the flush-mounted jack, the wall-phone jack, and the surface mounted jacks are shown. jacks with swivel covers, jacks that team up with a cable outlet, and outdoor jacks are also available. Always read the installation instructions provided with each jack, and make sure all colorcoded wires are attached to the correct terminals. Better quality jacks have special terminals that can accommodate extra station wire or line cord, allowing you to route wire to another jack in a daisy-chain extension. Never insert more than one conductor into each slot of a terminal.
After installing any new jack, conduct the tests to make sure you've connected it correctly.

Since all new telephones and accessories are designed for use with modular jacks, you may have to convert to modular connections before adding new phone lines and jacks.

HARD-WIRED JACKS: The most common type of telephone connection installed before 1974 is referred to as "hard-wired," since the telephone cannot be unplugged, There are two kinds of hard wired connections: the block, which is attached directly to the wall or baseboard; and flush-mounted connections, which are actually in-the-wall housing boxes and can have either round or rectangular faceplates.
A hard-wired block connection can be converted to a modular one simply by removing its existing cover and replacing it with a modular jack converter as shown below. Like most modular phone products, the package contains complete instructions for installation.

As shown below, flush-mounted connections are also easy to change, using a slightly different converter.
FOUR-PRONG JACKS: A type of non- modular outlet that was often used for portable extension telephones is called a "four-prong jack." This type of jack may be mounted in a housing box covered by a plastic faceplate. You can change four-prong jacks over permanently with the modular jacks shown, or you can use a plug-in adapter, as shown.

HARD-WIRED PHONES: Hard-wired telephones are ones with a permanent, non-modular connection between the line cord and the body of the phone itself. Hard-wired desk phones are easy mspot, and you uanquickly convert rt them for a modular he cord by ~ removing the phone housing and installing a line cord converter.
Old, hard-wired wall phones can't be converted; you'll have to remove the telephone and install a new modular iack Most older wall phones have a small U-shaped hole where the coiled handset enters the phone. Inside this hole is a tab. To remove the housing, use the eraser end of a pencil to push the tab up while pressing he bottom of the phone toward the wall with your other hand. The housing should pop free easily,
Wall phones that don't have these U-shaped holes are attached with screws, usually concealed beneath the telephone number card. To expose these screws, use a bent paper clip to remove the clear plastic cover, then lift out the number card.
After the housing is removed, remove the screws securing thetelephone base to the wall and lift off the phone, exposing the wires. These can be cut, but don't let the loose wires fall down inside the wall == you'll need them toconnect a new modular jack.

Today's communication needs have made two, three, and even four separate phone lines commonplace-especially in a home office.

INSTALLING A SECOND LINE: If you're thinking of adding one new line, you may need only to call the telephone company and sign up for the service. Because standard phone wire has four conductors, and only two are typically used, the other two may be prewired to existing jacks as a backup pair or to allow for future needs. If not, you need to connect the additional wires to existing jacks or add new jacks. To plug in a multiple-line phone, you'll need a so-called RJ-14 (two-line) jack instead of an RJ-11 (single-device) version. If the jack is already wired for two lines but has only one outlet, you can plug in a multiline adapter that supplies access to both lines.

ADDING MULTIPLE LINES: What about adding even more phone lines? You'll first need to have the phone company make the connections at the network interface jack; if necessary, the service person will install a new, larger interface. Then you must run station wire to a wire junction, housing box, or patch panel (all three options are shown below). New wires branch out from there, in home-run fashion.

You can buy standard station wire with at least three pairs of conductors. Or look for so-called Category 5 communications cable, which comes with four twisted pairs of wires. If you need even more conductors, you'll need to run multiple station wires or Cat-5 cables side by side.
Modular jacks and line cord that handle six conductors-or three phone lines-are readily available, but standard wire junctions can accommodate only four conductors. Installations that call for four or more phone lines may require you to carefully orchestrate which station wire, line cord, and jack goes where.

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Updated: 02/2018   copyright 2012 U-Repair.com