Tuesday, July 15, 1986

Telephone wiring

July 1986

The first change I made to the house was to install a patch panel or switch box in the garage for the telephone lines. We had two lines coming in -- the assumption was that we would probably need one for a phone line and another for a computer modem. We had 5 phone outlets in various rooms in the house -- one in the kitchen, another in the living room, the office, the master bath, and the "computer room". Since we didn't know what lines would be needed or used for what, I wanted both lines to come to one place and then be able to redirect them to any of the 5 phone jacks in the house.

At the time, there really wasn't much available to do this. Now, you can get complete systems at Home Depot (among other places) which provide a complete wiring panel. But even now, these units are expensive and rather limited in what they can do.

What I did was to get just a metal box -- like the box that the circuit breakers are in -- and attach it to the garage wall. I ran the two incoming lines down and attached them to two of the standard phone jacks. These are small square units with an RJ-11 jack in the middle of the face. This allowed me to run a patch cord from the incoming line to an outgoing line. It is fairly easy to get a small bar with one incoming line and 5 outgoing jacks, which makes it easy then to run one incoming line to up to 5 outgoing lines.

This worked for 10 years or so, but after the divorce, Leanne moved in, and wanted a phone in her bedroom. Jeanne had insisted that there would be no phones in the children's bedrooms, so no lines had been run to the bedrooms (except for the master bedroom). I could run the lines to the bedrooms, and install the outlets in the rooms, but there was no room in the patch panel box for the extra lines. So, temporarily, to get things working, I just tapped into the line in the attic and let it go with that.

Later, after Leanne moved out, my daughter Kathryn moved into the back bedroom and wanted her own phone line. That was not difficult, since we had provisions for two lines to come into the house, but Kat really wanted to be able to answer both her own line and the line for the rest of the family. She bought a two line phone, but I needed to run additional wire for the second line.

And we needed extra lines for a new computer in the dining room, and by the TV and to the kitchen counters. And it was difficult to label the plugs so we knew which was which. With 4 bedrooms, we could label the plugs "Bedroom 2" and "Bedroom 3", but which was which?

So clearly, I needed a better patch panel. We lived with this until I replaced it with a better design in 2007.

The solution I currently have is to paste a copy of the floor plan of the house -- clearly showing which room is which, -- on to a piece of plywood. The floor plan is about 2 feet by 3 feet in size. I marked on the floor plan the position of each telephone outlet. Then I drilled a hole at each of these points. I mounted the floor plan in the attic, and ran the actual wires to each of the corresponding holes, thru the hole and to an RJ-11 jack. Doing the same for each of the two incoming lines, and then running them to a 1-to-5 distribution bar.

Now it is easy to make up little patch cables and run a patch cable from the incoming distribution bar to the plug for any of the lines in the house. And I can easily tell exactly what line is where -- no need for knowing which is "Bedroom 2" and which is "Bedroom 3", or if the phone on the counter between the kitchen and the living room is a kitchen phone ("Kitchen 1" or "Kitchen 2"?) or is a Living room phone.

The cost of this was fairly minor. Fourteen RJ-11 jacks. These are somewhat hard to find now, but I believe I got them at Radio Shack. The plywood backing. The copy of the floor plan. The tool for making patch cables. The real cost, of course, over time, was the wire to run from the attic to all the rooms in the house and the boxes and outlets for the phones.

$98.37 in 1986.

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