DIY Phone Jack Installation

I am declaring a victory over our telephone/internet provider. Our modem/router is set up in the basement and has been for a couple of years. We had some line stability issues and a couple of years ago a technician installed a new jack in the basement and set it up there.

We were given a VoIP system for Christmas and it needs to be connected directly to the router so that you don’t need to have your computer on all the time. I set it up and tried it out on Sunday and it worked well. The downside is that our base cordless phone also has to be plugged into the system when it is plugged into the router. Since we don’t feel like making all of our phone calls from the laundry room. I wanted to move the router to the kitchen so that we could set everything up where the base phone is currently. When I plugged in the router to the phone jack it didn’t work so I called our provider to find out why our router wouldn’t work on a different jack. I suspected it was because the phone line itself looked quite old. I think it is probably at 30-40 years old. The internet service person on the phone said “that is because you need to have someone come and activate the phone jack for DSL.” Of course there would be a nominal fee of $75 for that service. I said no thanks.

I know a little something about phone lines and doing internal wiring. I had a house during university and wired the whole house myself with four phone lines (there were six of us living in the house). I figured I could probably sort out the issue and save myself $75, especially since I already had a coil of phone wire in the shop. As it turns out – I was right!

Anyone can do phone wiring and there is no risk of electrocuting yourself – unless you are attaching the wires to electrical wiring, in which case you are doing it wrong.

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Image of the bundled phone line wires inside a phone cable

The first thing to know is that every internal phone cable comes with the capacity for multiple phone lines. Each line requires a pair of wires. Fortunately they are colour-coded and typically each pair is twisted together.

Inside each jack there are an even number of screws depending on how many lines the jack can handle. Usually you will see four or six screws. They will have short coloured wires attached to them in some way, typically with a flat u-shaped copper end.

Image of the wiring inside a phone jack

This jack is The standard jack that you are likely to find in your house for phone lines. In order to connect your phone wires to the jack you need to pick a pair of wires from those in your phone cable and then strip the ends of the wires of their plastic casing. You can do this with wire cutters, scissors or a sharp knife. The casing is very thin so you need to be careful not to cut through the wire itself. If you aren’t sure of your ability to remove the casing without cutting the wire I would suggest scraping the casing with a sharp knife. Once you scrape one side of the wire, you should be able to peel it off the wire and then remove it with scissors.

Image of old phone wiring

This is the old wire that I removed, but it illustrates my next point.

To attach the wire to the jack, bend the bare wire into a hook shape. Loosen two of the screws in the jack. You need to pick one on either side of the part where you plug in the phone cord. Usually in the pairs of green and red or black and yellow. Then hook one of each of your pair of wires around each screw and tighten the screws. Some jacks have different coloured wires than the standard red/green, yellow/black.

Image of an ADSL POTS Splitter used for splitting and filtering phone and internet lines

In the case of the work I was doing, it was a different kind of jack. This is the one I moved from the basement. It is an ADSL POTS splitter. It does not involve internal screws and has one line coming in which is actually the phone line coming into the house and the other is a line out to the junction box in the basement where the other wires for the other jacks in the house are connected. This is because this jack serves as a filter for the DSL line.

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This was my set up while testing to see if the phone line and the DSL line were both working through this splitter or if I was going to need to install a separate line for the phone. You can see more copper wire than when I finished it up. Once I knew it was working I cut the bare wire down to the required amount so that there was no bare wire showing. With a jack like this you push in the white buttons that you can see and insert the wire and then release the button locking the wire into place. It is slightly easier to do that loosing a screw, but not as aesthetically pleasing so I placed the splitter under a wall mounted shelf so you can’t actually see it and to ensure that nobody will be horrified by the ugliness.

Image of a toddler drinking milk and holding a phone cable attached to the wall

In the process of doing this work I worked closely with my assistant to remove the old wire and run a new cable. Admittedly she was drinking on the job, further evidence that anyone can run a phone line…

The other end of the phone line needs to be attached to something otherwise there will be no signal. This will depend on the set up in your house and where you are running the line from. You will need to attach it to a junction box of some sort. In my house it is a box with four posts with washers and nuts on it (I’ll include a photo later). It is where the phone line comes in to the house and all the wires run to their respective phone jacks in the house. Much like the inside of a standard jack, you attach the wires to the post and tighten the bolts.

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If you have one phone line coming in to the house or you are only using one line in the house then you will only be using two posts. If you attached a blue and white pair of wires to your jack then you will need to attach the same blue and white set to the junction box on the other end. If you did it right, you will have a dial tone when you plug your phone into the jack.

Your junction box may also look something like the splitter I was moving where you insert the wires into a box with a clip instead of around a metal post or screw. You can also tie your wires into a junction box somewhere else in the house or even use an existing jack as a junction box if you want to install a jack in a different part of the room or in an adjoining room. This is much easier than drilling holes in the walls and floors to run a new line directly from the main box, which is likely in your basement.

All-in-all it is a fairly easy process and worth the effort to save yourself the “activation” fee.

Let me know if you have any questions. Answers will only cost you $75!

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