Cleaning Up Telephone Wiring

ntl1991April 12, 2011

Hello. I'm trying to gradually clean up all of the wiring in my basement, and after installing junction boxes here and there where they were needed, removing CATV coax wires which were cut and never removed, removing old, unused thermostat wires which were run up hallways along the baseboard trim or around door casing, etc, I've gotten to my telephone wiring mess.

The house is a 3-family home and therefore, I have three main telephone entrance cables entering from the protectors outside. That's the only clear thing. Then, I've got junction blocks, some used and unused, and entrance bridges... To complicate this even more, I'm not even sure I'm getting ANY service from the telephone company. I have Cox Communications which sends the telephone signal over their CATV network, and my modem gives me my telephone jack (which I have wired into a jack to provide wired telephone through my apartment. The second floor has Verizon telephone, which I'm guessing uses the same type of system as Cox, because there is a battery backup in the basement. The 3rd floor hasn't subscribed to any landline telephone service as he uses his cell phone only.

Can any of this wiring be cleaned up myself? I know I can remove the old (original = circa 1948) telephone wiring which has been cut near the junction blocks which goes up to the 1st and 2nd floors. The 3rd floor is tied into the original wiring. Also, there's the white junction block which is unused I can remove. I know I probably can't touch the active junction blocks or entrance bridges, but can I call anyone to clean this mess up? Does Cox do telephone wiring service like a regular phone company would?

Overview of all the telephone wiring

Network Interface Jack (for 2nd floor, I believe) and Verizon Interface Unit with Battery Backup

Junction Blocks and Entrance Bridges (Used and Unused)

Original Telephone Wires Cut for 1st and 2nd Floors:

More Wiring

Grounding Straps for the Junction Blocks

My next job is to reroute the active CATV wiring through holes in the joist rather than being mounted to the bottom of the joists, and getting rid of the unused or unnecessary splitters all over my basement... I also have electrical that is unused and can be removed as new circuits have been run...

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I can understand your desire to clean up the mess but I don't agree with removing or cutting out existing wiring - it could end up be very useful for future expansion, installations, and other "not thought of yet" uses.

The VoIP may not use copper to the premises but still typically uses traditional methods once within the home for distribution. What if a new third floor renter desires a land line connection?

I would say, disconnect known (and verified) unused wiring but leave all the wiring intact, label their destinations as best as possible, and leave the grounds alone.

The same goes for all the coax distribution/runs as well which only continues to grow in usefulness.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 8:53PM
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Thanks. I'm not a fan of mess and I'm just trying to clean things up. My desire for basement organization, however, is in direct conflict with the nature of a 63-year-old home...

You are correct in that the existing wiring which is already running through the walls up to the floors may become useful in other ways down the road. Also, even though my mostly younger tenants won't be using the Telephone company for service, it would be a necessity for that little old lady who might rent from me in the future...

With the CATV wiring, my goal is to fish it through the joists rather than it being stapled to the bottoms of them.

Would it be reasonable to remove the unused junction block? Could I enclose the splices in a junction box, perhaps, to neaten things up?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 9:12PM
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As yosemitebill points out, telephone wiring really hasn't changed in the past 100 years. That means that the telephone wiring you have in place is potentially useful.

Your upstairs tenant is a Verizon FiOS customer, which can mean CAT5, coax (RG-6), or telephone wiring is being used. In addition, as you mentioned, there's a power supply and battery in the house, so one of the cables will connect the battery to the ONT (optical network terminator) outside.

You can certainly rewire anything you like to reroute things more neatly, but you'll need to identify both ends of the wires before you do that. I'd recommend creating a wiring diagram of everything that you have in place before starting any such project.

Most telephone connections are made on some sort of a block, instead of inside a junction box. Modern blocks are quite a bit smaller than the ones that you have. Just like with residential power, all junctions must be accessible (not buried inside a wall).

Honestly, other than a sloppy job of leaving slack in the wires, and not stapling the wires to the joists, I don't see any real problems. With three apartments, you're bound to have a bit of complexity when it comes to wiring voice, TV and computers.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 9:38PM
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The coax looks "relatively new" since it uses compression fittings but I can't tell if it is a 3-way splitter, diplexer, or other type of coupler.

The telephone connections appear to use a standard splice connector which doesn't require a junction box indoors.

You could relocate the coax "splitter" using the build in mounting flanges, but it may need an often over-looked ground connection. The telco connections can be put in a some type of j-box if really desired - but it is not needed.

You may want to look a getting a cable staple-gun and move the wires up a little higher and neater. The stapler has a horseshoe type end that goes over the wire/cable and staples of different sizes that go over the wire without damage to the wire or cable.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 9:46PM
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Thanks. I think getting the wires up out of the way would be the easiest way of getting things tidied up. Without having any of the telephone splice connectors, I don't think I could move the wires into a J-box, unless one end is easily removable from the junction block.

I was thinking about a junction box because I did the very same thing about a week ago when I moved all of my thermostat wiring splices (I have three boilers in the basement) into a J-box. The splices are where the old thermostat wiring ties into the new near-boiler wiring. It really neatened things up overhead around the boilers.

The splitters you see are all 3-way splitters if I'm not mistaken. I have about 5 or 6 in the basement, and there is one outside which is grounded to a stake in the ground. The coax is quite new. I believe most of it is only 5 years old or so. Cox came and ran all new wires when someone had an issue with their cable modem due to a poor signal. They didn't do the nicest job at keeping it neat and organized, but coax is easy enough to work with; disconnect it, re-route it, and reconnect it...

The rest of the old coax (black in color) is running up the sides of the house to get to the 2nd and 3rd floors. The first floor wires run up through the floor, and the 2nd and 3rd floor run straight through the exterior walls. Perhaps someday I'll complain to Cox about the wires hitting the siding when it's windy and have it all replaced with new, white cable to match the white vinyl siding.

Also, I made a mistake when I said telephone "protectors" outside. I checked yesterday, and I have only one protector where all three main black telephone lines go through into the house. I would've thought each floor had it's own protector box outside...

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 2:02PM
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Thermostat wiring, telephone wiring, and communications wiring (coax or pairs) are power limited and do not require boxes or enclosures for splices.

None can deliver enough power to cause a fire so the wiring rules are greatly relaxed.

Enclosures are not required, and often add to problems trying to troubleshoot if anything goes wrong.

Simple crimp splices are allowed.

The box outside for the TELCO is called a Network Interface Device (NID) and is the legal boundary between the TELCO wiring and your house wiring.
You are responsible for the house wiring, the TELCO only has to deliver a dial tone to the NID.

NIDs can handle multiple lines in a single box.
if you have three separate lines, inside the customer side of the NID there should be three jacks and terminal strips.
One for each phone number.

Unless you understand TELCO wiring, coax cable wiring, and thermostat circuits you need to be very careful trying to "clean up all of the wiring in my basement."

You are on the hook to make it all work, and the respective companies tend to have rather stiff charges for fixing YOUR wiring.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 9:11PM
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If you need to cut and splice the telco wiring to reroute the wiring, the crimps are readily available at Lowes/Home Depot in small plastic bags. Just make sure to map it all out first.

Also, if you really want to put the splices into j-boxes don't mix the individual lines. If one line then ends up using DSL at some point down the road, it has the potential to create crosstalk into one of the other lines. Of course label all the cover plates for any future troubleshooting.

You mentioned the coax (black) runs up vinyl siding. Even if the service entrance is grounded, that coax against the vinyl siding can build up quite a static charge. So an additional ground at the splitters, just from the same telco grounding access point should help dissipate that charge.

Again, nothing looks too bad... just a little sloppy.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2011 at 11:05PM
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I'll be sure to ground those splitters that supply the exterior coax which runs up the siding. Very good point.

Also, if I do clean the wiring up, I didn't even think about crosstalk between the wiring. Another good point.

I'm very comfortable with coax and thermostat wiring, and comfortable enough with Telco wiring to wire phone jacks and whatnot. It's just the antique junction blocks that had me a little deterred... But now that I've read up and understand the job of junction blocks and entrance bridges, I'm more comfortable with it.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 12:01AM
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I would also ask who is responsible for the wiring. That is, are you or your tenants paying Verizon to maintain the in-house wiring? If so, I would leave it alone. If not, then it is up to you, but if you break it, you fix it.

The old white thing doesn't look like it has anything on it, so pull it out. The old phone wiring from outside is probably that old 'large' stuff as well as the old cloth-wrapped stuff. Two wires are all that are required for a phone line. One will be at Zero volts, the other at 50Vdc (or -50Vdc, depending on how you look at it). The color code for those wires that have colors is Red and Green for the first line, Yellow and Black if a second line on the same wire 'bundle'. That's if the colors are solid. The other standard I think is White/blue and Blue/white for the first line. I'd have to go look up the order of the others (white/green + green/white, white/orange + orange/white, white/brown + brown/white or whatever).

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 1:58PM
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Thanks for that. I'm going to be removing that white junction bloc, and I'll see if I can't clean up the slack in the wiring and then staple it up high to keep it out of the way and out of sight.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 8:47PM
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