How To Install a Phone Jack

Installing a phone jack in your home can seem intimidating, but with the right materials and a bit of know-how, it’s actually a pretty straightforward DIY project. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the entire phone jack installation process, from gathering the necessary supplies to connecting your new jack. We’ll also provide tips and tricks for installing jacks in various locations throughout your home. By the end, you’ll have the skills and knowledge needed to install phone jacks with confidence.

What You’ll Need To Install a Phone Jack

Before getting started, you’ll need to gather a few necessary materials. Here’s an overview of what you’ll need:

  • Phone jack – The most important component. Choose an RJ11 or RJ45 jack depending on your needs.
  • Phone cable – Choose solid core Cat5e, Cat6, or Cat7 for best performance. You’ll need enough length to run from your network terminal to the jack location.
  • Cable stripper – For stripping the outer jacket and wires of the phone cable.
  • Crimping tool – Ensures a tight connection between the wires and jack terminals.
  • Wall plate – Mounts the jack neatly on the wall. Choose a single, double, or decorator style.
  • Drywall saw – For cutting drywall to mount a recessed wall plate. A recessed look is more attractive and professional.
  • Fish tape – Helps route cables through walls. Useful for hard-to-reach spots.
  • Ethernet wall jacks – If you want your jacks to support computer networking. RJ45 style.
  • Screwdriver – For securing wall plates and punching down wires.
  • Wire connectors – For joining and extending wires. Helpful in tricky cable runs.
  • Tone and probe kit – For tracing cables behind walls. Non-essential but very handy.
  • Cable staples – Fix cables neatly against studs and joists when running cables.
  • Wire strippers – For stripping cable and wire insulation.
  • Ethernet Cable Tester – For testing connectivity and verifying the cable works after installation.

Phone Jack Types

Before purchasing a phone jack, you’ll need to decide which style you need. There are a few basic options:

RJ11 Phone Jack

  • The standard for traditional landline phone connections.
  • Supports one phone line only.
  • Use for installing extensions to existing phone wiring.
  • More limited than RJ45 but also less expensive.

RJ45 Jack

  • Supports up to four phone lines.
  • Also used for Ethernet networking.
  • Allows you to have phone and Ethernet over the same cable.
  • More versatile. Lets you adapt to changing needs down the road.

Decorator Jacks

  • For a more stylish, finished look.
  • Come in a wide variety of colors and finishes to match your décor.
  • Cost a bit more than basic plastic jacks but worth it for visible locations.

Weatherproof Jacks

  • For outdoor locations such as patios and decks.
  • Seal out moisture for safe and reliable connections.
  • Ideal for installing phone lines in a garage, shed, or exterior networked cameras.

Where To Install Your Phone Jacks

Carefully consider where to install your new phone jacks. Some good options to consider include:

  • Bedrooms – Convenient for lamp-side alarm clocks and phone chargers. Allow guests to plug in their devices.
  • Home office – For desk workspaces. Can also provide Ethernet for computer networking.
  • Living spaces – Easy access for frequently used equipment like TVs and game systems.
  • Kitchen – For wall-mounted phones, intercoms and smart home devices.
  • Hallways – Out of sight but accessible. Allows you to plug in devices anywhere in the house.
  • Basements and garages – For access in unfinished spaces. Also useful for wiring security cameras.
  • Patios and decks – Weatherproof jacks allow you to install speakers and other outdoor electronics.

When choosing locations, try to think ahead to future needs. Having ample jacks in all the right spots makes your network more versatile and saves costly rewiring down the road.

How To Install a Phone Jack on Drywall

Drywall is by far the most common interior wall surface, so there’s a good chance your jacks will be mounted to drywall. Installing on drywall is straightforward:

Step 1: Mark the Location

Mount the wall plate centered at your desired height. 18-24 inches above the floor is common. Use a level to ensure it’s straight. Mark the screw holes.

Step 2: Cut the Drywall Opening

Use a 1″ drywall saw to cut an opening slightly larger than the wall plate. Cut carefully along the lines.

For double or triple wall plates, make one long opening spanning all cutouts.

Step 3: Mount the Wall Plate

Use drywall anchors if there’s no stud at your desired mounting spot. Secure using the provided screws.

For decorator plates, remove the outer mounting screws first. Align the inner plate and replace the outer screws to sandwich the wall.

Step 4: Prepare the Cables

Verify your cables are long enough to reach the jack location comfortably. Avoid pulling tightly.

Strip off about 8 inches of the outer jacket from the end using cable strippers. Untwist the internal wire pairs.

Step 5: Connect Wires to the Jack

Use a crimping tool to attach each wire to the jack’s terminals. Follow standard T568B wiring color order.

Alternatively, you can punch wires down into a 110-style IDC termination jack.

Step 6: Mount the Jack

Plug the wired jack into the wall plate. Be sure the retaining clip clicks into place. Attach a wall plate cover for a finished look.

How To Install a Phone Jack on a Stud

For a more secure mount, you can attach directly to a wall stud. This provides a sturdy base for the wall plate and jack:

Step 1: Find the Studs

Use a stud finder to locate studs in the area. Mark their position on the wall with pencil.

Ideally position your jack with studs available at either side for mounting.

Step 2: Mark Screw Holes

Position the wall plate over the stud mark at your desired height. Mark the centers of the outermost mounting holes on the stud.

Step 3: Drill Pilot Holes

Use a 1/16″ drill bit to drill pilot holes at the marks. This prevents cracking the stud.

Step 4: Mount the Wall Plate

Hold the plate in position and drive screws through the outermost holes into the stud. Then install the remaining screws.

Step 5: Install the Jack

Follow the same steps to connect wires and mount the jack into the wall plate as with drywall. Screwing into studs provides enhanced stability.

How To Install a Recessed Phone Jack

For a cleaner, more flush appearance, you can install a phone jack in a recessed outlet box:

Step 1: Trace the Outline

Press the outlet box against the wall and trace a outline around it with a pencil.

Choose a standard single-gang or double-gang old work box for this project.

Step 2: Cut the Hole

Use a drywall saw to cut along the outline, plunging the blade through the drywall. Make neat cuts just inside the line.

Step 3: Prep the Cables

Drill or knock out a cable access hole on the side or back of the box. Pull your cables through the hole into the box interior.

Step 4: Mount the Box

Fold back the drywall tabs on the box and insert it into the cutout so the tabs press against the back of the drywall. Secure it with screws driven into the tabs.

Step 5: Terminate the Jack

Attach the jack to the cables following the methods described above. Mount the wired jack into the outlet box.

Step 6: Attach the Cover

Screw a plastic outlet box cover onto the box to provide a clean exterior appearance once finished.

Fishing Cable to a New Spot

Sometimes you need to run new cables for jacks in tricky spots with no existing wiring. “Fishing” lets you route cables inside walls:

Step 1: Drill Access Holes

Drill a 1/2″ hole near the jack location and another near the phone terminal. These access points allow fishing the cables.

Step 2: Thread the Fish Tape

Feed the stiff metal fish tape into one hole and out the other. Keep a few feet exposed on both ends.

Step 3: Tape Cables to Fish Tape

Use electrical or duct tape to firmly adhere the cables end-to-end to the fish tape.

Step 4: Pull Cables Through

Have a helper feed the fish tape back through the wall while you pull the cables from the opposite access hole.

Step 5: Install Jack

Finally, terminate the jack as usual. Seal up the access holes with drywall compound.

With practice, fishing can make running cables easy even in finished walls.

Installing a Phone Jack Outside

Exterior phone jacks are super handy for plugging in outdoor equipment like sprinkler controllers, holiday lights, and surveillance cameras. Here are some tips for proper outdoor installation:

  • Use exterior-rated Cat5e cable. It’s waterproof and UV-resistant.
  • Weatherproof RJ45 jacks are a must for surviving the elements. Seal connections thoroughly.
  • Mount the jack box in an overhang or other protected spot if possible. Avoid direct sun and rain exposure.
  • Consider running cables through conduit for maximum protection. Use outdoor-rated conduit.
  • Use caulk and/or duct seal around cables, conduits, and boxes for extra sealing.
  • Place cables underground in PVC conduit for connections between buildings.
  • Lightning protectors are wise to protect equipment from surges.
  • Test lines to be sure the cabling wasn’t damaged during installation.

With weatherproof parts and careful sealing, outdoor phone jacks can be highly durable and maintenance-free.

Installing Phone Jacks Throughout the House

Once you know the basics, you can install phone jacks at multiple locations to build a connected home. Here are some tips:

  • Decide which rooms need phone access to determine the number of jacks and their placements.
  • Draw up a wiring diagram to plan your cabling and terminations. Indicate jack and outlet locations.
  • Use existing wiring if possible. Phone cables usually run to a central junction box or terminal.
  • Label your cables clearly at the central terminal using numbered tabs. Record where each runs.
  • For new cables, fish wires through walls and ceilings to link all locations back to the main phone terminal.
  • Consider conduit like PVC piping to protect cables that run through unfinished areas or underground outside.
  • Install jacks in the desired spots following the methods described above. Test each one.
  • Use a phone system punchdown block to connect them all to the central phone wiring junction point.

With good planning and some handy work, you can put interconnected phone jacks anywhere you need them.

Troubleshooting Phone Jack Problems

If your new phone jack isn’t working correctly, a few simple steps can help identify the problem:

  • Check connections – Make sure cables are securely attached to the jack and wall plate, and plugged fully into the associated equipment. Loose wires can cause issues.
  • Test cables – Use a cable tester or multimeter to verify cabling is OK. Look for breaks or shorts. Ensure cables are connected to the correct terminals.
  • Redo terminations – Sometimes wires get punched down incorrectly or in a faulty spot on the jack. Re-terminate them per the instructions.
  • Check for dial tone – Phone problems can also indicate larger service issues. Plug a known good phone into the jack to check for dial tone.
  • Replace the jack – If jiggling cables makes the jack cut out, the ports are likely faulty. Swap in a brand new jack to remedy this.
  • Verify compatibility – Make sure the jack is suited to the intended purpose. Use RJ11 for phones, RJ45 for networks.
  • Update drivers – Networking issues may be driver related. Update network adapter and modem drivers to see if that resolves any connectivity problems.

With some basic testing and troubleshooting, you can remedy most issues and get your new phone jack working properly.

FAQs About Installing Phone Jacks

What tools do I need to install phone jacks?

The basic tools needed are a crimping tool, wire stripper, cable cutter, screwdrivers, a drywall saw, and a stud finder. Useful extras include fishing tape, conduit, wall plates, and a network cable tester.

Can I plug a phone into any phone jack?

If wired correctly, yes. Phone jacks are interchangeable, so you can plug a phone into any RJ11 style jack in your home. Just be aware that all lines may not necessarily be active.

How do I wire a phone jack for Ethernet?

Use RJ45 style jacks. Wire them following the T568B standard (green pair to terminals 4 & 5, orange to 3 & 6). Connect the other end to a network switch or router LAN port.

What wires do I connect for a phone jack?

For RJ11, connect the red and green wires (line 1) and yellow and black (line 2). Extra unused blue and white/blue wires can be trimmed back.

How can I tell if a phone jack is connected?

Plug in a phone and check for a dial tone. You can also use a tone and probe kit to determine where cables from jacks terminate. Trace them back to find if they are connected to your main phone terminal.

Can I convert two phone jacks to one Ethernet jack?

Yes, by joining wires from two separate lines in the proper configuration, you can convert two unused phone jacks to a single RJ45 Ethernet jack. This is handy for repurposing existing wiring.

How do I connect my wired security cameras to a phone jack?

Run exterior-rated Cat5e cables from the cameras to RJ45 jacks near your NVR recorder. Crimp RJ45 connectors on the end. Plug the jacks into your recorder or a network switch to complete the connection.

What color wires go where on an RJ45 Ethernet jack?

Follow the T568B standard:

Orange/White – 1
Orange – 2
Green/White – 3
Blue – 4
Blue/White – 5
Green – 6
Brown/White – 7
Brown – 8

Can I plug my DSL modem into any phone jack?

Usually yes, but it’s best to use the main home phone line direct from the outside box. Using other lines that join farther down the line can weaken the signal. If performance is poor, try swapping which jack your modem uses.

Do unused phone jacks need to be capped?

It’s not strictly necessary but is a good idea to prevent dust or critters from entering the lines. Use snap-in plastic RJ11 caps available at most hardware stores for a quick and easy seal.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to install phone jacks is a valuable DIY skill to add to your repertoire. With a handful of basic tools and components, you can put connected jacks wherever needed in your home or office building. Pay close attention to wiring standards for a reliable installation free of issues. Position jacks conveniently to bring phone and networking access anywhere. Once comfortable with the process, you can install jacks in no time while saving on electrician costs.