TBS Structured Wiring Jacket Colors

Like this article? Please help by Liking, +1'ing, Tweeting or Pinning. Thank you!
Color coding your structured wiring can make it easier to install and maintain. It can also help mishaps like having a contractor cut into the wrong wire by mistake. Unfortunately there's no standard for structured wiring jacket colors so let's come up with our own residential structured wiring color guidelines.

Structured Wiring Cable Color Convention

We're going to separate our cabling into 2 types. Premise wiring and patch cords. Premise wiring is the wiring that runs throughout your home, mainly between your central distribution area and jacks. Patch cords are used to make connections between devices in your central distribution area such as connecting a port on your network patch panel to a port on your network switch.

Cat5e cables are really the only cables that give you much of a choice when it comes to jacket colors. You can easily find them in blue, green, purple, orange, yellow, red, grey, white and black. I chose to not use grey, black and white because those are the only colors some other cables come in so I reserved them for that use. I chose not to use yellow and orange for premise wiring because white, yellow and orange are commonly used for electric wiring and I wanted them to be easily distinguished visually. These colors may be used as patch cords however.

I'll go into more details but here's the basic color coding for residential structured wiring.

Here's an example of what a structured wiring panel may look like using this configuration.

Video Wires

The wires you run for your video distribution will generally be coaxial cable (RG6 Quad Shielded preferably) and it really is only easy to find in 2 colors, black and white.

Black

Since every cable and satellite installer I've seen use black cable we're going to designate black coaxial cable as cables that connect you to incoming video signals (A) whether it be from cable, FiOS, satellite or your over-the-air antenna. That will help us identify these input sources both in the wall and at the patch panels.

Black patch cords should be used at the TV if you need to connect one or more devices via coax like a Satellite receiver to a TV.

White

White is one of the colors I really wanted to avoid but with coax there isn't much choice if we wanted to use more than one color. I recommend running the premise wiring (wiring between your distribution center and wall jacks) using white coaxial cable (D) to help differentiate it from the incoming wires. White coax should also be used for patch cords in your distribution panel.

White should also be used for the patch cables (G) that run between wall jacks and devices to help differentiate them from other patch cords that go between devices.

Phone Wires

Gray

Incoming telephone lines (E). We don't usually have a choice what color cable the phone company uses but in my experience they usually use grey so we'll stick with that for the incoming lines.

Green

Green will be used for telephone premise wiring (C) as well as patch cords that connect the phone system together (F) at the distribution panel.

Data Network Wires

Blue

Blue will be used for the premise wiring (B) and patch cables (H) that connect the distribution center to the wall jacks as well as for patching those wires to a network switch. Many installers already use blue for networking which is why I thought it would be a good choice.

Orange

For connecting devices to the network such as servers, wifi access points, routers, etc, I chose orange (I) patch cords.

Making these colors different helps identify these devices on the switch when maintaining them compared to the patch cords that feed the wall plates.

Purple

Purple is used for crossover cables (J). Crossover cables are network cables that are terminated as T568A on one end and T568B on the other. They are used for directly connecting two devices without the need of a switch or hub between them. You'll probably only need them if you have more than switch that you want connected together. Since crossover cables are wired differently it's important that they have a different color so you don't mix them up. 

Even though many switches can auto sense whether a cable is straight-through or crossover and adapt, I still think it's best to use crossover cables to help visually mark these types of connections.

Fiber Optic

Red

If you're running fiber optic cables I would suggest using red to differentiate them from the other cables. Both for premise wiring and patch cords (K). If you're using multiple switches they may have a fiber interconnect.

Wall Jacks

Slightly related is the choice of colors for the ports in your wall plates. For the most part I feel you should stick with a port color that matches the wall plate for aesthetic reasons. The only time you should deviate if you have 2 ports that have the same type of connector that serve different purposes. In those cases you should use different colors to differentiate them.

For example, if you use RJ45 jacks for both phone and network, phone should match the wall plate and network should be blue. You don't want to accidentally plug in your computer's network card in a phone jack because the voltage in the phone line could damage it. If you're using RJ11 jacks for phone and RJ45 for data you can keep them both the same color as the wall plate since you won't be able to accidentally insert a network cable into the phone jack.

If you're running 2 lines of coax (maybe cable and over the air antenna) you may want to choose different colors but I think it's best to just be consistent with always having the left and right ones (or top and bottom) be for specific services on all ports.

1 comment :

  1. This is awesome thank you! You've put a lot of work into this site! I like all the graphics and simple instructions.

    ReplyDelete