telephone wiring removal and cleanup

sophie123March 21, 2012

We currently have our telephone service thru our cable provider and a cable modem box in our basement storage room. I'd like to refinish the room and close off the ceiling (the house is built in 1940). The telephone wiring is a mess in that room. There are wires junctioned with loose tape three different places in the room.

Additionally in our front hall we have the original termination from western electric mounted on the baseboard with 2 cables running along the hall - one apparently into the original kitchen mounted wall plate which we no longer use and the other goes into the baseboard probably into the basement. I'm getting the hall repainted and i want to remove whatever wires i don't need as the kids are already snagging on them and pulling them loose (and also they are ugly).

So i've pulled off the cover to the western electric box and disconnected one of the cables (goes into baseboard probably to basement) and as far as i can tell it has no effect on any phones in the house.

The other cable has black, yellow, red and green wires and only when i disconnect the red do the phones not work. it seems flakey. This is from the cable that goes into the plate where the old kitchen was (best i can tell - it goes into the wall just above the wall plate).

There is also some other wires in the western electric junction box that apparently were for the ringer (?).

So my questions are:

1) Why would it need one wire (red) at this junction box to operate all the phones in the house? It doesn't make sense to me.

2)Is there a ternination box that i can buy and mount in basement to clean this mess up and allow us to finish the basement room ceiling?

3) Is there a tool to check "liveness"? Some of these wires go no where I'm sure.

I'll try to take some pictures but looking for suggestions on an approach.

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1. The phone service is provided over a circuit which uses two wires -- in your case the red and green wires. The yellow and black are probably not being used. It sounds like the green wire is tied to ground which means without it, the ground portion of the wiring "floats" or "doesn't work well".

2. Yes there are many variations of terminal blocks available at your local home center. Make sure you put it in a place that is accessible so that you can change the connections or add new wires in the future if your needs change.

3. Yes, there are voltmeters and testers that can be used to check "liveness" of a circuit. Assume that all wires are energized unless you prove otherwise.

In a residence, there are no separate wires for ringers. When the phone company wants to ring your phone, they simply put a 90 volt signal on the wires. This is almost the same voltage as the power that's in a regular receptacle (120V). Many people are quite unpleasantly surprised when they're holding onto a bare phone wire when a call is coming in.

With appropriate respect for your DIY spirit, my recommendation for a fix to your problems would be to hire someone who is knowledgeable about telephone wiring.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 8:36PM
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Thanks for your response. In my case my cable company is providing my telephone service. It runs thru the CATV cable to a converter box (like a modem) and then connects to all the wiring mess. No phone company involved. So i wouldn't think there is a 90 Volt signal when the phone rings or am i wrong on this?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 6:02PM
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If you have standard telephones, you would be incorrect. Only if you're using "digital" telephones would the voltage be reduced. There's a very high probability that your converter box produces the 90V 20 cycle AC needed to ring an old-fashioned phone. Let us know the make and model of the converter box (or one of the phones that is connected), and we can let you know whether it's a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) system or not.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 10:35AM
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It is an Arris TM602 box. It is telephony modem. In goes a CATV and out goes a telephone cable to the mess of wires for telephone. If i turn that off/disconnect (it has a battery) before i mess with the wires wouldn't that stop any potential shock?

I actually disconnected the western electric box and have the wires pulled up from the wall and so far all the other phones works fine. Not sure why it didn't work that one time. I tried to pull one wire back into the storage room but it wouldn't budge. I may disconnect what wire i think it is in the storage room and see what happens.

My understanding is that the telephone wiring is more or less like a bus. You connect in and are live. If you break a connection back to the Arris box then the phones connected from there on don't work.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:23AM
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Me again - wondering if i can use the western electric box to wire together all these cables instead of the crazy splicing going on. it has 2 term points per color wire.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 10:21AM
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The Arris TM602 box plugs into the wall, and produces normal residential telephony voltages (48vdc and 90vac). Rather than anything drastic, just detach the house telephone wiring from the converter by unhooking the RJ-11 jack (a standard small telephone connector) on the converter.

You can use any splicing block that is designed for telephone service. The trick isn't in the block, but in connecting or disconnecting the right wires.

Make diagrams of the wire connections before you disconnect or change anything so that you can restore it to the "way it was before" if it doesn't work the new way.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:24PM
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