Restoration Guide - Phone and Network Cabling

Shannon Lee

Editor's Note: This is article 7 of 8 in Chapter 7: The Electrical Guide of Old House Web's Home Restoration Guide. This guide was developed and edited for old homes from original materials in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rehab guide.


Section 1--Overview

Though many home restoration projects call for preservation of old-fashioned amenities, that is not the case with phone lines and communications cables. As modern conveniences require more intricate and reliable wiring, home renovation should always include a solid upgrade of cables to keep up with today's communication requirements.

Section 2--Modern Wiring Systems

Much of today's phone wiring consists of either two, three, or four insulated conductors bunched together into a single thick, insulated wire. These cables were designed to carry voice communications from one residential area to another. However, these simple cables often allow for interference. If you've ever picked up the phone and heard someone else's phone conversation, you've dealt with "crosstalk" interference.

New cabling called the unshielded twisted pair (UTP) is used to combat this interference. Thick paired conductors are twisted together at regular intervals, thus helping to isolate and preserve signals. Many newer telephone systems won't work at all unless UTP wiring is used.

Many modern phone systems share cables with computers, modems, and more. To handle this increased need for clear signals, telecommunications wires offer high-quality categories of bandwidth, enabling the wires to transmit different levels and qualities of data. Interference, static, and other problems can still occur, even with the newest wire available. The remedy for this interference lies in figuring out where the problem starts.

The phone cable enters the home at the Network Interface Device, or NID. The cable that leads from the phone pole to this device is the responsibility of the phone company. The cables that lead from the NID into the home are the responsibility of the homeowner. Problems with these cables can be referred to a local contractor, charged on an hourly rate by the phone company, or solved on your own with a bit of detective work.

Television cabling has gone through an evolution similar to that of the phone cable. The common 20-gauge RG-59 coaxial cable was intended to serve the television industry when there were only 12 channels available in the entire television spectrum. Now that there are hundreds of channels available through digital satellite systems and high-definition television is making its mark, more reliable cables are required. The RG-6 coaxial cable answers this call, and higher quality cables are on the near horizon.

Section 3--Updating Wiring in an Old House

There are things you can do with existing wiring in your old house that will open up the advantages of modern phone systems, television, and computer bandwidth:

  1. Repair the insulation. Wrapping cracked insulation or frayed wire with electrical tape can be a temporary fix, but it reduces the quality of the signals you receive through the cable.
  2. Rewire the home. Deteriorating cables and insulation, significant interference, and inadequate bandwidth can be resolved with a rewiring of the cables. Use the highest quality cable you can afford, and be certain of the fire code before you begin the work.
  3. Rewire with cable raceways. Much like raceways for electrical wiring, running your cables through raceways means you don't have to rewire throughout the home. Raceways designed specifically for communication cables are always best for the highest quality performance.

Updating your wiring can bring your old home into the modern era without detracting from any of its charm.


About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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