How To Install A New Telephone Jack

Have you ever wanted to install another telephone jack? This article gives readers an easy guide how to install a new phone line.

So you've decided to add an extra telephone jack or a few to your house? It's one of the best ways to make answering the phone more convenient, and more reliable than a cordless phone battery. The best part is, under many circumstances, you'll be able to save a lot of money by doing it yourself, installing a single jack for under $30 plus the cost of any tools you don't already have.

Before buying a single piece of equipment, plan ahead. Decide where you want your new jack based on where it can actually go. Remember, you're going to have to get phone wire to a spot on the wall, and many situations will make that difficult if not impossible. In general, everything will go much more smoothly if you have a basement or crawlspace under your house. Installations on the second floor above such a space will create more problems than the floor immediately above the basement, unless you already know of an easy way to get the cables snaked upstairs (such as an unused laundry chute). Finally, running phone cable through insulated walls (such as the outside walls of your home) is nearly impossible.

Unless you already have several phone jacks, you will need to prepare your house before installing the new jacks themselves. Find out where the phone line enters your house from the Network Interface Device (NID), which is the box outside your house. (Hopefully, this will be in a basement or crawlspace, or somewhere else that is exposed; otherwise, you will need to do some ceiling repair work as well.) Somewhere along this line, you will need to install a junction box. (If you already have multiple jacks in your house and are installing another, you'll just need to check your existing junction box to see if there is are enough terminals for an extra extension.) A junction box is merely a box containing one "input" set of terminals and several "output" sets of terminals; it is where the outside phone line is split to accept several extensions.

Installing the junction box will require the following equipment:

* the junction box itself (be sure to read the instructions, since there are a few brands which do not require stripping the phone wires)

* an appropriate method of mounting the box, usually screws

screwdriver (whether flathead or Phillips depends on your junction box and mounting screws; for the mounting screws, you may prefer to use a drill with screwdriver bit)

* wire stripper (unless you prefer some other method of stripping cable)

* wire cutter

* utility knife

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: Whenever working on phone lines, you should ALWAYS go outside and unplug the inside lines at the NID. Use an existing phone line to make sure you have unplugged the right connector. Although the small amount of current used by a phone system is rarely fatal, it can still cause injury and is especially dangerous for people with pacemakers.

To install the junction box, disconnect your inside phone lines at the NID. Decide where along the existing phone line you are going to install the box (if available, a fairly central location in your house is best). Mount the junction box to a ceiling joist or whatever solid location is readily available at your mounting point.

Now, cut the existing telephone line, leaving yourself a few inches of extra wire in the direction AWAY from the NID, towards the existing jack. Use a utility knife (the wire stripper won't work on this) to cut about three inches off the outer sheath of the phone line, exposing the inner wires. In most American phone systems, there will be four inner wires: green, red, yellow, and black.

Take the inner wires and strip about one-half to three-fourths of an inch of the insulation off the end of each. Then, connect each wire to the appropriate color-coded terminal on the junction box. The instructions on the junction box packaging will give you specific directions, but in most boxes, you will twist each wire around a screw and tighten the screw down. At this point, you will be ready to work on the phone jacks themselves.

To install the phone jacks, you will need the following equipment:

* jack faceplate (there are two basic kinds: wall jacks allow you to mount a wall phone, flush jacks do not)

* wall box specifically for phones (if you're working with finished walls, you'll need the kind designed for mounting in drywall or plaster)

phone cable (buy more than you think you need)

* wire stripper

* wire cutter

* utility knife

* fish tape (it's best to use a non-electricity-conducting nylon one if you may get it anywhere near a power outlet)

cable staples (if you are running the cable along ceiling joists, as in a basement; please note there are kinds that are hammered in and kinds that require a staple gun)

* drill and bits

* drywall saw

* electrical or duct tape

* measuring tape

* a partner (only needed for a few steps, and technically optional then, but a partner will make life much easier)

First, decide where the new jack will go. Cut a hole in your drywall or plaster, according the instructions provided with the wall box. Do not install the wall box yet; this will leave you a little extra room to work.

Next comes the hardest part: getting the phone wire where it needs to go. Usually, this will involve using your measuring tape to find, in your basement or crawlspace, the exact spot (within a one- or two-inch margin of error) the phone line will have to go up to reach the hole you have made in the wall. You will have to measure distances from a landmark that is visible from both the room and the basement--heating ducts work particularly well, as do water pipes, and outside walls.

Once you have found the spot, drill a hole from the basement upwards, into the wall space. Thread the fish tape up through the hole. If you have a partner, have him or her watch for the fish tape as it comes up past the hole where the phone jack will go. Tape one end of the new phone line to the end of the fish tape, then retract the fish tape, pulling the phone wire down into the basement.

Remove that end of the phone wire from the fish tape. Pull wire down until you can get that end of the wire to the junction box, leaving a little bit extra, and making sure you do not accidentally pull the other end of the cable down into the wall space. Use the cable staples to secure the wire to the ceiling joists, if applicable, pulling enough slack out to keep from having loops of the cable dangling.

Back at the jack hole, pull the wire up until you have pulled out any slack, without pulling the wire tight. Cut the cable several inches from the wall, in order to leave yourself some extra. Feed the cable through the back or side of the wall box, and install the wall box according to the directions on the package. (You may need to tape the cable down during this procedure to keep it from falling through and back down into the wall space.)

Use a utility knife to cut off about three inches of the outer sheath of the line, exposing the four inner wires. As before, strip one-half to three-fourths of an inch of the insulation off each wire. Connect them to the terminals on the actual phone jack, matching color to color. This will again most likely mean wrapping each wire around a screw and tightening the screw. Screw the jack into the wall box using the provided screws.

If you haven't already done so, disconnect your inside phone line at the NID. Take the end of the cable near the junction box. Using the same procedure you used when connecting the outside line to the junction box, expose the four inner wires, strip each, and attach them to the junction box.

Finally, plug the phone lines back in at the NID. All that remains is to test your installation by hooking up a phone, and enjoying the convenience of having phone jacks exactly where you want them.

© High Speed Ventures 2011