New year, new project

Happy 2007! Everyone in the Jarrett House is waving or wagging at you, hoping you will have a wonderful and prosperous New Year.

And it was only 12 hours into the new year that I broke out a house project. Specifically: completing the media wiring that is installed under the wine cabinet in the kitchen. Today’s task was getting the phone jack working, and I learned a few lessons along the way.

While the new wall was open during the construction of the new opening between the dining room and the kitchen, I insisted that we spend a little extra money and get the electrician to run phone, network, and coax to an outlet over the little desk—because, after all, it would be much harder to make that run afterwards. The electrician ran two lengths of Cat-5 and coax up through the wall and connected it to jacks in an outlet, but didn’t connect it to the structured media wiring panel—not that I asked him to. I figured that doing so would be a pretty straightforward task. Heh.

The project as I saw it would take two steps for each cable:

  1. Finish running the cable from its current drop location in the garage to the structured media panel in the utility room.
  2. Tie each cable into the appropriate part of the panel.

Step 1, however, took a lot longer than I anticipated. Snaking the wires along the existing infrastructure took a long time, fighting every step of the way to keep the cables from tangling or binding. Then came Step 2. I confidently hooked the phone line into the block in the structured media panel, hooked in a test phone… and nothing. No dial tone.

Aside: We activated a second phone line to the house last month, and decided that this would be what we would use at the new kitchen desk. This information becomes relevant shortly.

With no dial tone, I knew I had to check a few things. So I pulled the outlet cover off to verify the colors of the wires that were connected to the jack, then double checked how I had wired it at the block. Because I wanted to make the second line primary on this unit, I had tied the blue and white pair from the Cat 5 to the second block on the phone jumper unit in the box. This was tied to the yellow and black pair coming in from the outside (Cat 3) wire and should have connected the primary line for that jack to the second line coming in from the street. But it still wasn’t working.

Everything looked correct inside the house, so I stepped outside in the freezing rain to check the outside wires. And I discovered that back in 2004, I had only hooked up one pair of wires in my hurry to get the phone working. Aha! So I returned with a wire stripper and connected the second yellow and black pair to the terminal for the second phone line…

And it still didn’t work. Now I was getting mad. So I checked a few things and realized that inside I had connected the yellow black pair with yellow first, but I had switched them outside. So I corrected the error outside and tried again… still no love.

And then I had an aha-erlebnis. I ran back upstairs and plugged the phone into the network jack instead of the phone jack… and got a dial tone. The Cat 5 line for the network jack was the one that I thought was the phone line, and vice versa. Not having done that initial wiring myself cost me a good hour of confusion and frustration—and I’ll still have more work to do to finish the job because the other cat 5 line isn’t long enough to reach the structured wiring box. But the second phone line is working, and there was no bloodshed. Hey, I’ll take it.