Telephone Wiring Color Code

Telephone Jack Tip and Ring Color Code

Dear Mr. Electrician.  What is the telephone wiring color code for the phone jacks in my house?  I want to replace all of the old telephone jacks, but I am confused by the tip and ring color code.  The new telephone jacks have red, green, yellow, and black terminals, but the telephone wiring inside my walls has eight wires with different color stripes.  How do I connect the new telephone jacks?

Answer:  I have put together a residential telephone wiring color code chart to help you understand how to connect the existing four-pair telephone wiring in your walls to the new telephone jacks.  You can see it further down on this page

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Table of Contents

The four-pair wire is capable of having four separate telephone lines at each jack location.  However, if you only have one telephone line for your house, you should use the same color pair for each new phone jack that you install.

There are two types of common residential modular telephone plugs.  The most common is the RJ-11, which uses only two of the wires in a four (or more) conductor small cable.  It is the same kind of plug that you use to plug your household telephone into the phone wall jack.

The other is the RJ-14, which uses four wires and it’s used to handle two telephone lines or 2-line phones.

TELEPHONE COLOR CODE FOR JACKS IN YOUR HOME

Wall plate with built-in telephone jack
Wall plate with built-in telephone jack

Tip refers to the one side of a two-wire telephone wire circuit connected to the battery’s positive side (+) at the telephone company’s central office.

“Ring” refers to the one side of a two-wire telephone wiring circuit connected to a battery’s negative side (-) at the telephone company’s central office.

Generally speaking, the phone company connects the phone lines at their termination block in a certain order.  The blue pair is; first, the orange pair is second, the green pair is third, and the brown pair is fourth.  So for one phone line, the blue pair should be the correct line to connect to.

However, there may be instances where the phone company found a problem with the blue pair and had to use the orange pair instead.  In some circumstances, it is possible that there was a problem with all of the telephone pairs going into your house, and the phone company had to split between pairs of wires.

When removing the old telephone jacks, take note of the telephone wire color code and which wires are being used on the old jacks.

The rear of the phone jack with blue pair attached
The rear of the phone jack with blue pair attached

The blue pair is connected as the primary telephone line.  The solid blue wire is the “Ring” and gets connected to the red jack terminal.  The white wire with a blue stripe is terminated on the greenTip” screw.

One pair of wires is used for one telephone line.  The pairs of wires are twisted together to avoid crosstalk between telephone lines.  This helps the sound quality.  When looping the bare telephone wire around the terminal screw, loop the wire in the direction that the screw will tighten (Clockwise).  This will cause the loop to close on itself and make a better connection.

Tip +
Ring –

Green

Red

Black

Yellow
Pair 1 White with
blue stripe
Blue
Pair 2 White with
orange stripe
Orange
Pair 3 White with
green stripe
Green
Pair 4 White with
brown stripe
Brown

 

Orange pair connected as the primary telephone line
Orange pair connected as the primary telephone line

The solid orange wire is the “Ring” and is connected to the red jack terminal.  The white wire with an orange stripe is terminated on the green “Tip” screw.

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Blue pair and orange pair both connected to the telephone jack
The blue pair and orange pair are both connected to the telephone jack

A splitter plugged into the jack will enable the use of two separate telephone lines.  The solid blue wire is the “Ring” and gets connected to the red jack terminal.  The white wire with a blue stripe is terminated on the green “Tip” screw.  The solid orange wire is the “Ring” and is connected to the yellow jack screw.  The white wire with an orange stripe is terminated on the black “Tip” screw.

A telephone jack splitter
A telephone jack splitter

A telephone splitter enables the use of both pairs of telephone wires connected to the jack for two separate phone lines.  There are many splitter types available.  Some can be used on 3-pair and 4-pair jacks.

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Cat 5e four twisted pair unshielded telephone wire
Cat 5e four twisted pair unshielded telephone wire

Cat 5e is available with each pair shielded as well as the whole cable shielded.  For average residential telephone installations, a shielded phone cable is not usually necessary.

Leviton Telephone Jack Wiring Diagram
Leviton Telephone Jack Wiring Diagram

I recently purchased a Leviton Decora style telephone jack and the above phone jack wiring diagram was included in the package.

Below is a diagram for four pair wire on a plug and jack.  Notice that the blue pair is in the center.  You can plug a standard two-pair phone plug into this jack for standard phone service.

Four pair telephone plug and jack wiring diagram
Four pair telephone plug and jack wiring diagram

PRINCESS TELEPHONE

Princess telephone cord wires with color code and crimped fork terminals
Princess telephone cord wires with color code and crimped fork terminals.

The red and green wires on the princess phone are the same as any other telephone.  The yellow and black wires were usually used to power the lighted dial.  I think the white wire was used for a nightlight on the phone.

Click here for princess telephone wiring diagrams in PDF format.

Every once in a while I find an old Western Electric light gray or beige colored low voltage transformer plugged into an electrical outlet in someone’s basement.  I recall having one of my regular clients get me over to check their phone wiring after a telephone repair person told them that they had voltage on their phone wires.

I knew exactly what was causing the voltage on the phone wires.  It was the above-mentioned long forgotten transformer.  The original purpose of that transformer was to provide power to a Princess Telephone which had a dial that lit up.  Those phones are no longer around, but many of their small gray or beige power supply transformers still are.  If you see one in your house, or more likely in your basement, just unplug it.

The low voltage wiring to the princess telephone power transformer was ordinary cat 3, two pair telephone wire.  The color of the conductors is red, green, black, and yellow.  I think it was the yellow and black wires that were connected to the terminals on the transformer.

An example of a plug-in transformer used to power the light on a princess telephone
An example of a plug-in transformer used to power the light on a princess telephone

TELEPHONE TOOLS

I don’t advertise myself out to do telephone wiring as I am geared up for electrical work.  However several times when I have been in clients’ homes I got asked to install one or more telephone jacks.  So I bought myself a telephone wire punch-down tool and a tone tracer to identify the correct pair of wires.

The telephone tone tracer is fabulous for tracing telephone wires, but it does not work as well on complicated electrical circuit wiring.  There are other electrical circuit wire tracers available especially for electrical circuit wiring.

I also bought a spool of the satin phone cord that is used to connect the telephone to a phone jack along with some RJ11 plugs.  This required a special tool for assembly.  I bought a cheap phone plug crimper to make phone cords any length that clients wanted.

Click here to see my specialized electrician tools.

Wiring diagrams of mine for bathroom fans, ceiling fans, two-way switches, three-way switches, four-way switches, and motors can be found by clicking here.

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