Residential Keystone Wall Plate Configurations

It's important to run enough cables and provide enough jacks in your home to not only provide the services and equipment you currently use but also to account for any future needs including rearranging furniture. In this post I'll go over what I think are the best practices regarding which keystone ports to include in your wall plates.

ANSI/TIA-570-C Residential Structured Wiring Standard

There's actually a standards document that was last updated in 2012 for residential structured wiring, ANSI/TIA-570-C. It provides the minimum outlets to meet 2 different grades of the standard. Each of the grades indicates you should have at least one wall plate in each kitchen, bedroom, family/living/great room, and den/study/office of your home. See my recommendations on where to put voice/data/video outlets in each room of your home.

For ANSI/TIA-570-C Grade 1 you should have at least one 4 pair UTP (Cat5e minimum) and one RG6 cable terminated in each wall plate.

For ANSI/TIA-570-C Grade 2 you need at least 2 4 pair UTP (Cat5e minimum) and 2 RG6 cables at each outlet with 2 optional fiber cables.

According to the standard all residential 4 UTP cables should be terminated according to the T568A standard.  Which I think makes the most sense. There's a misconception that T568B is newer or better, but it's not. The only difference between the two is that the green pair and orange pair are swapped. T568A is more compatible with phone systems so you can use an RJ45 jack for phone or ethernet depending how you have it terminated on the other end.

My Disagreements with TIA-570-C

The ANSI/TIA-570-C standard is a long document covering many concerns with residential wiring, most of which I agree with and I think make a lot of sense. There are a couple of things I don't agree with.

RJ12 Phone Jacks Not Allowed

This is a poor decision in my opinion. All residential phones use 6p4c jacks. While you can get a 6p4c plug into an RJ-45 jack it's not ideal. The ports should be designed to work with the  intended equipment.

I know landlines aren't a priority for most people these days but I don't agree. In the event of an emergency, the more communications options you have the better. I live in an area where most phone, cable and power lines are above ground on poles. It's not uncommon to lose power or phone service for brief periods of time. Over the past few years there have been some major events in my area. I'm only a few miles away from the site of the World Trade Center. On 9/11 you had a hard time making a cell phone call. During Superstorm Sandy a lot of people had their landline and/or power. Again, cell phone service, even wireless data was very unreliable for those that were able to keep their cell phones charged since even gas was hard to come by due to generator usage and no power at many pumps. If you're already running cables, it's not a big deal to run phone lines too and you can get

I think having a landline with at least one corded phone on each floor is important to have. Even if you don't use it frequently it's good to have for emergencies. You can strip off all the calling features and get the minimum per minute rate with free local calling in most areas for around $15 or less. You might have to spend some time on the phone with your provider but it's worth it. Get rid of all the extras like wire maintenance too. If you're reading this document and doing your own cabling you can manage to fix your phone wires yourself and save over $100 a year.

According to the spec, all Cat5e cables should be terminated at outlets using 8p8c (RJ-45) ports. You also can't split the wiring behind the outlet. That means if you run Cat5e for your phone, have 4 phone lines, one for lines 1&2, the other for lines 3&4, you can't have 2 Cat5e ports wired to 1 cable, which would be the cleanest way to work with most phones. Instead you'd have to wire the 4 line cable to a Cat5e jack then use a break out cable to split the lines externally. I have instructions on how to make a RJ45 to telephone jack breakout cable.

I don't like this at all. My recommendation. Include at least one RJ-11 6p4c Keystone ports on each wall plate. Run Cat5e even though Cat3 is more than fine for standard telephone lines. You can always change out the ports later, just make sure you allow some extra cable at the wall plate and patch panel to allow you to terminate a new connector. You'll only need to punch down the blue and orange pairs. If you have 3 or more lines (or just want 2 phone ports that you can connect to line 1 at the patch panel) punch down the green and brown pairs on a second RJ-11 keystone. See the post on the breakout cable I mentioned previously for more info. As long as you keep each pair twisted as close to the punch down terminal as possible and keep each pair of pairs twisted as much as possible there shouldn't be much risk of noise in the line.

Doing so is cleaner, neater and it helps you differentiate phone and network ports easily. While you can plug a phone plug into a RJ-45 jack, it can sometimes damage the pins. If you do that you'll also best to color code network and phone ports which I don't like. Even though I wound up ordering different colors (blue) for my network Cat5e ports I'm starting to think it looks a bit tacky and too much like an office, which I don't want in my home.

Don't even consider Fiber

I know TIA only mentions fiber optic cable as an optional feature but I don't think you should even consider it. Everything about fiber (the cable, the networking equipment the tools you'll need) is much more expensive.

Properly terminated and run Cat5e should handle 10GB/s speeds on cable lengths less than 140 ft that don't have much alien cross talk between cables which shouldn't be an issue for most residential installations. If 10GB/s speed is important to you look into Cat6a or preferably Cat7. 

Even if you only get 1 Gigabit per second speeds that should handle most residential needs, including streaming large HD video. Over the air ATSC broadcasts are less than 19.28 Mb/s per channel and the maximum blu-ray transmission rate is about 50 Mb/s. On a 1000Base-T network you can stream 50 TV channels or 20 Blu-Ray movies at the same time. Probably not something you'll be doing at home.

With some broadcast quality HD cameras you can record video at an uncompressed 1.5 gigabits per second but there's no reasonable way to play those at home right now. If you do manage 10Gb speeds you can still stream six of those movies. By the time you'll need the speeds of current fiber, current fiber technology will be cheaper and they'll be something way better.

My Wall Plate Configuration Suggestions

As I discussed in my recommended locations for voice/data/video wall plates you should strive for at least 2 outlets in each room and at least one in the dining room since most people use their dining rooms for other purposes these days.

More details in the other article but basically in each room you have at least two areas where you'll need connectivity. In a family room you'll have the area where you'll put your TV and other video equipment where you'll need RG6 and networking cables (maybe even phone) and you'll have your sitting area where it's nice to have phone and networking. In a bedroom you may have a bed, desk and TV where it's nice to have connectivity but you can serve 2 of those areas from one wall plate.

Wall Plate Labeling and Port Numbering

A quick aside before we get to the wall plate configurations. I think labeling wall plates and using colored keystone ports looks tacky and too much like an office for my tastes so wall plates won't be labeled and all keystones colors will match the wall plate except in rare instances like if you need to easily identify a PoE (power over ethernet) port to avoid damaging equipment. In a future article I'll show you how I'm mapping out my own installation so you can see how easy it is to manage without labels on the wall plates. 

Since there may be more than 1 type of cable present, all cables will be numbered from left to right and top down. So let's say you have a 6 hole wall plate with 2 coax on top and 4 RJ-45 network ports. The two RG6 cables will be video 1 on the left and video 2 on the right and the 4 RJ-45's will be data 1 and data 2 from left to right on the middle row and data 3 and data 4 from left to right on the row under that.

No need to label the cables V, D, P or anything like that for video, data and phone, the different types of connectors and cable colors (see my residential cable jacket color recommendations) will take care of identifying the purpose of the cable.

Bare Minimum

At the very least, every room should have 1 RG6 port, 1 RJ-45 network port and 1 phone port. 

There should be at least 2 wall plates in most rooms. One on either side of the main traffic pattern of the room or other obstacles. 

Each wall plate should have at least 1 ethernet port except where you're wiring a location for a wall mount phone. For example, if you plan to keep things down to cut costs and you're installing 2 wall plates in the bedrooms, one for phone near the bed, one for RG6 on the opposite wall for a TV, also run a Cat5e for networking to each wall plate even if you currently don't plan to use a wired laptop in bed, desk or you don't have any TV equipment that's currently networked. Chances are you'll want to have as many options for networked devices as possible.

I have a very good WiFi setup but I always prefer to have a wired networking connection. Wired will always be faster and as more neighbors get WiFi mine gets occasional hiccups.

Dual VDV Wall Plate

In an ideal world, if money and number of holes you can drill was not an issue, you would run at least 5 cables to each and every wall plate. This will give you the most freedom to rearrange your furniture and equipment without having to alter any of the structured wiring.

This is also the most versatile solution for new construction where you or the builder may not know how the furniture will be arranged.

Two RG6 cables. One can be used for a paid TV service and the other can be used for rooftop over-the-air antenna or you can just have two feeds, one for a TV, one for a media center. You can also just use one as a feed and the other to send an RF signal back to the distribution panel then back out to another outlet if you want to do something like share the output of one cable set-top box with another television set.

Two RJ-45 ports to connect to your home's ethernet network. Two is ideal but you may need more than 2 in some locations. For example in a family room with an internet connected TV, Blu-Ray player and a couple of gaming systems 4 ethernet jacks would be ideal near the TV.

Two 6p4c phone jacks. If you have more than one phone line (including VOIP lines) you can split them up between the ports so you have lines 1&2 on the left and lines 3&4 on the right, or if you only have one phone line you can send the line up twice, once to each jack, by connecting the blue pair and the green pair to your line 1 dialtone bridge. See my post on how to wire a 110 block for more information.

You may want to run 2 separate Cat5e cables, one for each jack even though you may only be using 1 or 2 pairs from each. It's nice to have an extra cable in the wall if your phones are important to you. Sometimes a cable or even just a pair can get damaged. I stuck to 1 because even I realize landlines aren't as important. 

One Dual VDV and One Dual DV

We don't live in an ideal world and money, time and how many cables we can run is limited. If you've lived in your home a while and aren't the type of family that constantly rearranges furniture drastically, you may omit the RG6 cables from any wall plate that you don't currently have or want the option to install a TV.

In your family room for example you'll have two walls plates (as in most rooms). The one closest to the TV will be the Dual Video, Data and Voice configuration while the one near your seating area will just be dual data and voice. You can even omit the phone cable by the TV if you want or run a third network cable.

This is the setup I'm going with. RG-6 cable is the most problematic to run. It has a larger diameter so you can't run that many through holes or conduit. (See my post on how many cables you can fit through a hole.) It's also thicker and harder to pull and more expensive to run and terminate. I do plan on leaving a bit of slack looped up in the wall, attic or unfinished parts of the basement so that if there's ever a need to move the TV to the other side of the room moving the RG6 cables from one wall plate to the other will be easier.
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