TBS Structured Wiring Jacket Colors

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.


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 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


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 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 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.


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 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


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.
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Where to Put Structured Wiring Wall Jacks

One of the most difficult tasks in planning a structured wiring project for your home is identifying the location to install your wall jacks. You want to find a location that will minimize the use of long patch cords for safety and aesthetic reasons while still allowing you to move furniture around. Here are some of my tips.

How Many Wall Plates Per Room?

Most rooms should have at least one wall plate that can provide at least a phone line and one network line. Larger rooms such as bedrooms, offices, living rooms, etc should have at least 2.

Step 1: Determine Furniture and Traffic Patterns

In some cases furniture will only fit in a room a certain way, a bed will only work in a bedroom on one particular wall for example. In most cases though there's some flexibility.

What I find works best is to try to identify traffic flow between fixed elements such as doors and windows. These will restrict the locations where you can place furniture. Sketch out your floor plan and mark the major paths people would flow through the room. For this tutorial I just grabbed a floor plan from 2dplan.com and drew arrows indicating the major flows of traffic through the rooms.

Notice how the traffic patterns split the rooms in 2 or 3 sections. Furniture will need to be laid out in a way that doesn't restrict the flow of traffic. The most convenient location for the jacks will be near certain furniture. Since the traffic patterns help guide furniture placement we can also use them to place wall jacks.

In the Master Bedroom for example we have 2 main flows. From the entrance to the window wall and from the window wall to the bath/dresser/porch doors.There are really only 2 ways the bed can be placed in that room. Either on the left wall as shown, or on the top wall. (Okay, 3 if you count in the corner between those two walls but I'm not a big fan of beds in corners.)

Step 2: Put a Wall Plate In Each Traffic Zone

The paths of traffic split up the room into different zones. In Bedroom 1 for example, there's one main traffic path from the entrance door to the patio door that splits the room in half diagonally. The bed is in the top half and the desk is in the lower half but it could easily be set up the other way around.

If we place one wall place on the top wall and one wall plate on the bottom wall we can easily hook up a phone on a nightstand next to the bed, a computer on the desk or a TV opposite the bed in all reasonable furniture placements without having to run wires across the flow of traffic (trip hazard) or without having to run long, unsightly patch cables.

Also consider most rooms will have a sitting/sleeping location, a viewing location (location of TV). The traffic patterns will normally split things up into workable sitting and viewing locations but make sure you can accommodate different sitting/tv locations with your wall plate locations.

Here is how I would run structured wiring and install wall plates in the sample floor plan to get the most functionality and versatility. Each orange dot represents where a wall plate would be installed.

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RJ11 Phone to RJ45 Jack

Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6 cable is frequently used for wiring telephone jacks. You can send up to 4 telephone lines on one 4 pair cable that terminates at a RJ45 (8P8C) jack. The problem is most phones, even multi-line phones, don't directly plug into an RJ45 jack. We'll discuss some options for connecting phones with RJ11 connectors to an RJ45 port.

Jack Configuration

Before we get into separating the phone lines, lets understand what's going on in the jack. Nobody uses the old quad (green, red, black, yellow) phone cable anymore in new wiring. It's mainly Cat3 or better cable which consists of 4 twisted pairs of wire in blue, orange, green and brown along with their white wire that has a colored stripe (white-blue, white-orange, white-green, white-brown). Since a standard telephone only needs one pair of wires per line, we can send up to 4 lines on each cable. This offers a lot of flexibility and saves time and labor running phone cables in a multi-line system. Even if you're only going to be running a single phone line, you have room for expansion.

For consistency, the ability to utilize all 4 lines and to save space in the wall jack, phone installations are typically terminated in an 8P8C (8 pin 8 conductor) jack. This is the same jack used for your ethernet cable. This is a bigger jack than you might normally expect for a phone which is typically a smaller 6P6C or similar (RJ11, RJ12, etc). 6P6C supports up to 3 lines, 6P4C 2 lines and 6P2C is a single line jack but they all use the same plug. Only difference is the number of wires in the cable.

There are three standard ways of wiring a phone jack. T568A, T568B and USOC. The difference is what colors are connected to what pins on the jack.

T568A is the preferred method for wiring telephone and ethernet jacks and the only method suggested in the residential TIA-570-B specification. Somehow T568B became popular in U.S. commercial installations but T568A is used more outside the U.S. and the Federal Government specifies T568A for their installations. To all the naysayers... See sometimes the government can do things better than the private sector. :) USOC isn't commonly used anymore but is the type of wiring scheme telephones use. 

It would make sense to wire ports following the USOC specification but by using T568A a cable can later be easily switched from voice to data or vice versa in the future. You'll notice that Line 1 and Line 2 on both T568A and USOC are identical. If you have a two line phone, you can plug it directly into a T568A wired jack and both lines will work. The smaller RJ11/12 plugs will fit directly inside an RJ45 jack. It's not preferred since you might damage the other pins but it is designed to work that way.

Unless you need to match a currently installed pinout plan, try to always use T568A. Either way, it's important to know how your jacks are actually wired.

Telephone Jack

Compare the above jacks with old style 2-line phone jacks that used to be used on walls and are still used in phones. They look like this.

The above is a standard 6P4C telephone jack that supports 2 phone lines. Line 1 is on the center pins line 2 is on the next set of outer pins. If twisted pair wiring is used the colors would be white-blue for green, blue for red, white-orange for black and orange for yellow.

If you hook up a single line phone it will only make a connection with pins 2 and 3 (line 1). With a two line phone you'll use all 4 pins.

Connecting Standard 4-Line Phone to RJ45 Jack

The Jack supports 4 lines, the phone supports 4 lines this should be easy right? Nope, not usually. The problem is that most standard 4-line phones don't have a single 4 line RJ45 jack, instead they usually have 2 6P4C (RJ11) jacks that support 2 lines each.

There are a few ways to handle this correctly but let's first talk about how not to do it. You may think that it would make life easy if you just split the pairs of cables behind the wall plate and use 2 RJ11 keystone jacks. This will theoretically work and considering it's just phone there will be minimal issues with interference having a bunch of exposed pairs but it can lead to problems. You will obviously increase the chances of having interference, the wires will be easier to damage, you're going to be taking up extra space in the wall plate and you lose the ability to easily change that port to a network port in the future. It's also prohibited in the spec.

RJ45 4-line to 2 RJ11 2-Line Adapter

There are a number of different splitters (usually named 400E) like this Suttle 400E Cat5 Splitter that plug into the RJ45 Jack and have 2 RJ11 jacks each with 2 lines. These are fairly easy to find but just make sure you're not getting a regular telephone splitter (1 RJ11 to 2 RJ11). It needs to have a male RJ45 on one side and 2 female RJ11's on the other.

Taking a close look at the wiring diagram it appears to follow T568B on the RJ45 side. You can still use it with T568A pinouts but line 2 and 3 will be swapped. If your phone jacks pinouts follow USOC this adapter won't work.

Break Out Cable

If you can't find the splitter above, you can make a breakout cable from twisted pair cable.

On one end you'll crimp an RJ45 jack following the pinout used in your wall jack. On the other you'll crimp 1 or more RJ11 jacks. If you just want to pull one line out for a single phone, pick the pair of wires for the line you want and insert them in the center pins of the RJ11. You can also do 2 2-line RJ11 plugs, 4 1-line RJ11 plugs, whatever works for you.

Break Out Box

Manufacturers of structured wiring systems also have premade break out boxes that will allow you to access the 4 lines in different ways. The Leviton 47609-4x4 4x4 Breakout Module is one example.

Since the Leviton systems are geared towards residential installations the Leviton 47609-4x4 is wired according to the T568A pinout unlike the splitter above which is T568B.

DIY RJ45 to RJ11 Break Out Box

If you can't find the break out box above or have special needs you can make your own break out box.

You can make one anyway you'd like but to give you an example let's make a a 4 port box that takes an incoming cable and splits it up to L1&2, L2&1, L3&4, L4&3 similar to the Leviton.

We'll need:
For tools we'll need:
  • Punch down tool with 110 cutting and non cutting blade
  • Modular Plug crimper
  • Screwdriver
We're going to daisy chain 2 pairs on 2 ports for Lines 1 & 2 and then do the same on 2 other ports for lines 3 &4 so we'll have 4 jacks wired like this:

With this configuration we can connect:
  • 4 separate 1-line phones to one RJ45 jack to access all 4 lines.
  • 4 2-line phones 
  • 2 2-line phones
  • or some other variations like one 4-line phone a fax machine and a single line phone.
It's snowing and I don't have any phone jacks handy so I'll be wiring it up using standard 8 wire Cat5e jacks. Same principle but I'm punching down the wires on different pins than I mention in the instructions.

Step 1: Strip cable

Strip the outer jacket of the cable fairly long (maybe 8-10") so you have plenty of wire to work with.

Step 2: L2&1 Jack

We're going to start with one of the center jacks (Lines 2 & 1) and work our way out on either side.  Untwist the orange pair of wires near the base (don't untwist the pair completely) and punch them down to pins 3 & 4 (orange and white-orange) using a non-cutting 110 blade. I'm using the plastic punch down tool that comes with the jacks. Repeat for the blue pair on pins 2 and 5 (white-blue and blue).

Step 3: L1&2 Jack

Next we'll do the Lines 1 & 2 Jack using the same blue and orange pairs except we'll punch them down on the opposite pins as before. 3 and 4 for blue and 2 and 5 for orange. This time when we punch down the wires we'll use the cutting 110 blade to trim off any excess wire.

Have a look at the jack and visualize how you want it to appear in the surface mount box. For me, I'm going to want to punch down the next jack to the right of the first one. Your jacks may be different so stop and check. Remember the pins will be on the top when mounted in the box.

Also, position the next jack far enough away so you have ample wires to position the jacks in the ports on the surface mount box. 

Step 4: L3&4 Jack

Now on the other side of the L2&1 jack we're going to add a jack for Lines 3&4 using the green and brown pairs on pins 3&4 and 2&5 respectively as shown in the previous diagram. 

Use the non-cutting blade and leave enough wire to be able to position the jack in the surface mount box.

Step 5: L4&3 Jack

The last jack is the lines 4 and 3 jack. We'll punch the green pair to pins 2&5 and the brown pair to pins 3&4 using the cutting 110 punch down blade.

Step 6: Insert Jacks In Surface Mount Box

Put the dust covers on the jacks if supplied then install the jacks into the ports on the surface mount box. Mark the surface mount box above the jack so you know it's function (L1&2, L2&1, L3&4, L4&3 or whichever configuration you chose.)

Step 7: Crimp RJ45 Connector

On the other end of the of the wire crimp on an RJ45 connector using the appropriate pinout for your wall jack. Either T568A, T568B or USOC.
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Deciphering A Structured Wiring System

If you purchase a newer home (or office) that already has structured wiring installed it's important to figure out how it works and where all those wires go. In this article I'll provide some tips to do just that.
I recently received an email from Jon who is trying to make the best use of one of these structured wiring panels but is having a hard time figuring how it's all connected. Jon writes:
Hi Tom,
We recently moved into our home that was built in 2000. It has a patch panel in the mechanical room/closet and we're trying to decipher what's going on here. I've made an album on imgur and described everything and I was hoping you could just let me know if I'm on the right track with my current thinking.
Thank-you so much!
Jon included a lot of pictures of his setup. Unfortunately it's very difficult to figure out what's going on without actually being there. There are some standard ways of doing things for some aspects but not all and some installers will do things their own way, sometimes the wrong way.

I can provide some tips however on how Jon can help figure things out himself with a bit of work. These tips will also help you even if you have a different brand of structured wiring cabinet.

Step 1: Review Labels/Documentation 

If you're lucky someone will have left some sort of documentation. It may be a simple map showing where the wires go or something more complex. Even if it's just a set of labels on the different ports that may be just enough to help you get going.

If you live in a development, you can check with management to see if they have any documentation. If you know the builder you may be able to content them.

Unfortunately for Jon the panel wasn't labeled and even though the individual cables were labeled, it was just a numerical code that he can't decipher.

Step 2: Identify the Manufacturer

In these types of residential systems it's common that all the components are from one manufacturer. Knowing this can help you see what types of standards they have and know what other components you can add in the future.

This is Jon's Structured Media Panel.

It appears to be a Honeywell FutureSmart SuperPro panel. Not sure if these systems are still made as there are a lot of broken links on Honeywell's site in reference to these systems but I did find this Honeywell FutureSmart Brochure that lists various components. I recommend downloading that in case it disappears too.

The top part of these panels deal with wiring that goes to the jacks and the bottom portion is where special modules are used to deal with incoming voice, data and video lines and distribution. 

On the top, each horizontal line of connections is one zone. A zone can be a single room or a single wall plate in that room.

Step 5: Identify Jacket Color Conventions

These panels are wired with coaxial, category (twisted pair) and sometimes fiber cables. The type of cable used helps identify what it's for. Coax for video, fiber and category cable for networking/phone.

Category cable comes in different grades, Cat3, Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, etc. If you have Cat3 and another such as Cat5, it's likely the Cat3 cables are used for phone. Most installers though will just use the same type of cable (Cat5/5e/6) for both phone and data. In these cases some will have their own color coding conventions to help identify the purpose of the cable. For example blue may be for data and white for voice. Some other cables such as incoming lines may also have different colors.

As I mentioned, there are no standards but many installers do stick with their own conventions. If you can identify what conventions they use, it can help speed things up.

Step 4: Trace Wires Between Panel and Jacks

The first step is to figure out how all the jacks are wired to the patch panel. This is the backbone of the wiring system. Wires will run between the wall jacks and eventually be punched down to the back of the panel. This is more or less 'fixed' wiring. It's just a way to bring the jack connections down to a central location, the panel.

In the SuperPro panel Jon has, all the jacks will be punched down in the back of the top portion of the patch panel. I'm not very familiar with these panels but my understanding is each row of ports is a zone (room) and there are two sides (Interactive A and B) which can be used to distinguish between two wall plates in the room. All the ports on the left will be for Wall plate A and right will be for Wall plate B in each room. Looks like Jon's installation may be following this convention based on the types of ports used on each side.

There are a number of ways to do this but the fastest and easiest way to do this is to pick up a Klein Tools VDV501-809 VDV Scout Pro Tester Kit.

In addition to testing cable, it comes with a number of remotes for RJ45 and F type jacks. You insert these remotes into the jacks upstairs, then you go down to the panel and figure out which ports in the panel map to the jacks that have remotes in them. This is an older model that has only 5 remotes for each type of port. It's a pretty good value. If you want the newer version which also has more remotes check out the Klein Tools VDV501-825 VDV Scout Pro 2 LT Tester and Remote Kit.

In Jon's case, since the wires were labeled at the panel, it's possible they are also labeled behind the jacks. Popping off the wall plate cover and inspecting the wires might reveal labels that make it easy to figure out where those jacks are terminated on the panel. There are two concerns with doing it this way. It's possible the labels fell off or were mislabeled but more importantly it prevents you from buying a new toy. :)

Step 5: Identify Incoming Service Lines

All incoming lines should be terminated in this panel. That's the hole point of having a panel like this. Doesn't look like that's the case for Jon though as the video installers may have terminated their lines somewhere else.

You can use the Klein Scout to help identify these as well but hopefully these are a little more obvious. The Klein Scout has a tone generator and together with the Klein VDV500-060 PROBEplus Tone Tracing Probe you can trace the lines.

In the FutureSmart SmartPro system that Jon is using, the incoming lines should be terminated at the bottom of the panel where the distribution modules are.

Step 6: Identify Patch Cords

At this point we should know where all the jacks come in on the panel and where all the incoming service lines are connected. The way the incoming signals are distributed to the various jacks is by use of patch cords between the top zone ports and the bottom distribution ports. Let's look at the picture of the panel again.

That's the top portion of the panel. It shows the patch cords connected to the ports that lead to the in-room jacks.

And here's the bottom portion of the panel that has the distribution modules.

The patch cords we see here should be the other end of the patch cords in the first photo. Remember, fixed lines are generally punched down in the back and then patch cables are usually used in the front to connect fixed wiring to services.

If you want to send a video signal to zone 1 wall plate B for example you'd add a patch cable between an output jack in the Coax Distribution HUB and the port on the right of the first row of the top of the panel. Same for data and phone using their respective distribution modules.

In this Honeywell system you can connect multiple inputs to distribute them over the same wires as long as those signals don't overlap. For example you can have a CableTV input as well as input from something like an over-the-air TV antenna or the output of a DVD player together. Satellite however doesn't tend to play well on the same cable as other feeds. The Honeywell Coax Distribution HUB Jon is using is also amplified. Signals lose their strength over long runs and many splits so the amplifier boosts the signal to ensure the signal at each port is strong enough.

Next the voice jacks need to be patched into the incoming voice services somehow. This can be done in a number of ways (patch panels, 110 blocks, 66 blocks, etc.) In Jon's case it looks like the module underneath the Coax HUB does just that. Looks like a 4-line telephone distribution module which can distribute up to 4 incoming lines on each cable.

There are also some 2 line distribution modules but it does not appear that they are used.

Finally, the data jacks need to be patched into the network. Unlike video and voice that can just be tied together, networking requires a network switch to deliver the best performance to the network. This is a smart device that routes network traffic to the specific port that the traffic is addressed to.

I haven't seen a networking switch in any of Jon's photos but I assume it must be there somewhere.  Either a Honeywell Switch Module or an external network switch mounted outside the panel. Patch cables will need to be used to connect the jacks (top part of panel) to the ports on the switch. One switch port for each RJ45 jack that you want to enable for data. Also connected to the network switch will need to be the incoming internet connection.

Label and Document Everything

All long the way you should document everything you find. Create maps, Label wires and patch panels. Before you do though, stop and come up with a good naming convention.

In my post on Organizing Cable Clutter I mentioned I use the Brother Easy Handheld Label Maker (PTH100). I chose it because not only can it create labels that you can use for marking patch panels but you can also use it for creating cable flags.

If you're a professional installer there are better choices that really save time and create nicer cable labels but they also cost a lot of money. The Brother costs about $20. You might need to trim some of the labels to get them to fit nicely on patch panels but it's much better than trying to read my chicken scratch.


While we were looking at a specific brand of structured media panel here, you can use the advice above for most structured wiring installations as they follow similar conventions.

Room Jacks are terminated to the back of a patch panel.

Incoming lines are also terminated in some fashion to a patch panel or a distribution device.

Patch cords are used to connect jacks to incoming services.

Once you break it down to those 3 types of cables it becomes a little easier to understand.
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Organizing Phone Lines In An Old Home

These days most new construction has well laid out voice, data and video lines but in older homes things can be a bit messy. I recently worked on a small phone project and thought I'd share some tips.

I've helped a family member run some new phone lines a couple of times over the years. The last time being a couple of weeks ago. That's when I was reminded about what a mess some of the phone wiring was which caused us some problems running the wires.

Back when this house was built there where usually only one or two phone jacks installed. One in the kitchen and one in the master bedroom. Over the years as phones became cheaper more rooms started to get phone jacks and eventually it was common for homes to have multiple lines.

As new phone jacks were added it was common to just run a line from a nearby phone jack to the new location or even just splice an existing wire in the middle of a run.

It was just easier to run phones in series like that. The problem is, just like Christmas lights that are wired in series, if ones line goes bad all of them could, or at least all the ones that follow after the problem and it's difficult to figure out where the problem is.

These days it's recommended to have all wires start from a common point with a single wire going to each jack without running cables one jack to another or splicing the wire in between jacks. This is referred to as a star topology and makes it easier to troubleshoot and repair bad lines in the future.

You have your incoming lines from the telephone company enter your home and connect to a device like a 110 or 66 block then you'll run your phone lines to each phone jack from there and make connections between the incoming lines and the lines to the jacks.

Sadly, this can be quite difficult to do in an older home without tearing through some existing walls. Luckily for us most of the jacks were wired in a star topology with only a couple of jacks upstairs running off of the only line that ran upstairs from the basement. We could keep that for now.

The big issue though was that there wasn't a 110, 66 or similar device installed that was capable of handling that many connections. To my knowledge, these types of telephone hubs aren't very common in older residential phone installations.

Instead there was just a standard telephone wall jack used to make all the connections as a sort of junction box. It was bad enough there were so many wires that it was difficult to keep them secured on the screw terminals while attempting to add more lines but the installer never even bothered to attach it to anything. It was just floating in between a couple of floor joists in the basement. Adding a new phone line usually meant disturbing an existing one and sometimes the wall jack would get jostled while using the storage shelf below it and some of the wires would get knocked loose.

I had originally planned to install a 110 block but since this was a very simple phone system with only one line I opted to go with a Leviton 47689-B 1x9 Bridged Telephone Module (with bracket).

It's a simple device that consists of 10 110 punch down connectors that allow you to connect up to 4 incoming phone lines to up to 9 phone jacks. It's also smaller and easier to use than a 110 or 66 block. All you have to do is punch down the incoming phone lines and the lines that lead to the phone jacks without worrying about making connections between the two.

Looking at the back of the Leviton 47689-B  we can see that it's just 10 110 punch down connectors mounted to a circuit board with each pin of the connector connected to all of the other pins with the same color of the other connectors in series using traces.

This is designed primarily for residential phone systems and fits into Leviton's structured media cabinets. You don't need a structured media cabinet to use it though. There are 2 black push connectors that are used to attach it to the cabinet but I removed both of them carefully with a pair of pliers, leaving 2 holes that I could use to screw the bracket down pretty much anywhere I wanted.

Telephone Wire Color Standards

Over the years the standard wire used for telephone installations has changed. The original wire installed was the old 4 conductor (green, red, black and yellow) that was a fairly thick gauge. This wire is called JK or quad cable and sometimes referred to as Christmas/Haloween cable because of the colors.

Some point later another jack was added using a thinner gauge JK cable. After that the standard wire used for phone installations changed to unsheilded twisted pair (UTP). A couple of runs of 3 pair Cat3 and one run of 4 pair Cat5e were used, a couple of which I helped install.

Cat cable uses a different color scheme. Each pair consists of a wire with the primary color and a second wire with the secondary color striped with the primary color. For example line 1 is a blue wire paired with a white wire with blue stripes. One thing that hasn't changed however is that each phone line still only requires two wires, a tip and a ring.

There are a couple of options. You can try to replace as much of the old JK wiring with Cat5e wiring as possible. Category (Cat) cable is preferred because it can reduce unwanted noise from interference and crosstalk (where you can hear the conversations on one line when connected to a different line.

If you have multiple phone lines or use ADSL you should try to replace as much of it as you can with Cat cable for better quality in your phone service. In our case, we only had one line to worry about so we opted to save the hassle of pulling new cable. Some of it would have been easy since we could just use the existing cable to fish the new cable up to the jacks but there's always a risk of something going wrong that would require us to get into the walls which we didn't want to do.

As long as we followed the color coding standards we could we would be fine.
LineCat colorsOld Colors

With that knowledge in hand I was ready to start wiring up the new panel after mounting it to a wall.

Do one cable at a time

I thought it was a good idea to identify and label the cables while we were working on them again. Some of them seemed obvious but there were some surprises so I'm happy we stopped to do that.

I would cut one cable from the wall plate that was used as a junction box then we'd check to see which phones stopped working and make a label. We repeated this until we had identified all the lines. We did the incoming line last as we were fairly certain which one that was.

Telephone Wire Splicing

There was one more small problem.. The older, thicker gauge JK wire I believe was thicker than the 110 connectors were designed to accept. I did manage to punch down one of the thicker wires (and the phone worked) but I decided to splice a short section of thinner gauge Cat5e cable onto the other thick JK cables just to make things easier.

I used these Gel Splice UY 2 Port Wire Connectors to splice each wire from the old JK cable to the new Cat5e cable following the color conventions above. These wire connectors work great. You don't need to strip the wires. Just slip one wire from one cable in on one side, the corresponding color wire from the other cable, make sure they're in all the way then squeeze them with a pair of pliers to make the connection and secure the wires.

(Ooops I just noticed in the photo that the first connection I made on the right I mixed up the tip and ring. It should be green, red, black yellow from top to bottom. I'll fix that later. The phones on those lines still work well though as modern phones aren't too picky when it comes to polarity of the tip and ring wires)

Making the connections

Once you know how to terminate cables on a 110 connector it goes pretty fast.

  1. Trim off a few inches of the outer cable jacket at the end you are going to terminate but do not cut any of the wires
  2. Grab the string you see mixed in with the 4 pairs of wires and pull it down to make a slit in the outer jacket a couple more inches down the outer jacket. Peel back and trim off the excess jacket and string.
  3. Without untwisting the pairs too much and trying to keep as little of the unsheathed pairs showing, Start placing the wires into the grooves in the connector. The connector has colors that tell you which wire pair to insert in that spot to help guide you. The white color goes on top, followed by the primary color cable. So from the top of line 1 down the Cat cable wires should be white/blue, blue, white orange, orange, white green, green, white/brown, brown. Or in the case of the quad cable, green, red, black yellow and white  and blue for line 3 if there are 6 wires.
  4. Do one connector at a time and after you place the wire in the slots with your fingers, use a punch down tool to seat the wires in the connector. As you seat the wires, the connector makes a small slit in the insulation which is how the wire connects to the connector without having to strip any of the insulation off before making the connection. If you don't own a punch down tool a small plastic one is included with the panel but it lacks a cutting side that trims off the excess wire as you punch it down so you'll need to trim the wires some other way.
One more time here are the colors and how they are inserted in the 110 IDC.

It doesn't matter where you place the incoming phone company line as long as you put all the wires in the correct spot in the connector according to it's color code but I like having it at the end so it's easy to identify. Also, if you have multiple lines you don't have to punch down all the wires in each conductor if you only want some of the lines going to certain rooms.

Finished Panel

Now this isn't the prettiest wiring job I've ever seen, or even done but now it's a lot easier to find which wire goes where, add on additional runs easier and best of all the connections are more secure and the static that used to be on one run is now gone.
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