What are these wires for?
April 10, 2009 7:14 AM   Subscribe

What are these wires for in my kitchen?

I am doing some reno this weekend, and removed a wall plate to find these six white wires that look like telephone wire. The wire colours are red, yellow, black, green. Why would 6 telephone wires be run to the kitchen? This house was built in 1992. It is not wired for media as far as I know (no evidence of wires/jacks elsewhere in the house). It does have a security system, but those wires are all running to the control panel located by the front door.

I would like to just cover these up permanently if they have no use, but I don't want to do that if they are charged.

Any ideas why they would be here? Can I drywall over them?
posted by SNACKeR to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
By the appearance and the color and number of individual wires, those are standard telephone wires. Of course, that doesn't guarantee they're used for telephone.

I would have thought the security system was a good guess. Are you sure it couldn't be that? In particular, maybe it was wired for a potential extra control panel, intercom, etc.?
posted by musicinmybrain at 7:27 AM on April 10, 2009

They are phone wire. They could have been used for a hardwired intercom system. Those typically used phone wire and the control panel was usually in the kitchen.
posted by Lame_username at 7:27 AM on April 10, 2009

Back before wireless phones were common the kitchen was the default location for the phone. Builders back then probably put a jack in the kitchen, and maybe master bedroom, by default.
posted by COD at 7:30 AM on April 10, 2009

IANAE(lectrician), but in my experience that most certainly look likes telephone wiring, color and all, although it could very well have been used for a different purpose. I'm not a construction expert by any means, but this looks like in-wall telephone wiring to me.

If the possibility of electricity running through the wires is your main concern, you might try checking them with a multimeter to see if they have any charge.

Since it only appears to be connected on one end, it's PROBABLY safe to clip them where ever you'd prefer to do so, and then tuck them away behind the drywall.

Good luck!
posted by dinx2582 at 7:34 AM on April 10, 2009

A telephone wire is just a low voltage wire with a color code. These could be for anything from an intercom system to a security system panel to a fire-control system, or even just a telephone.

My guess is that they were for the previous version of the security system, maybe from the days when individual sensors were needed for every window, versus the glass-breaks of today.

Cover 'em up but mark the spot somehow (say, a decorative wall hanging or something?) so that you can get to 'em again if you find the pot of gold.
posted by TomMelee at 7:53 AM on April 10, 2009

IANAE either. If you're concerned that they're carrying current, you could get a multimeter and test them. Fortunately, even if they are, standard phone current is (I think) 5 mA, an extremely low value (which is why it is OK to talk on a wired phone in the tub).

If the house was built in '92, it's possible that they ran a ridiculous number of phone lines through the house as a "future-proofing" measure. This was before everybody had a cellphone and broadband Internet, so it probably seemed like a good idea to allow for a main phone line, an Internet line, a fax line, a line for each of the kids, etc. I remember having phone service hooked up a few years before that, and the installer telling me that they were transitioning everyone to 4-pair lines to allow for additional lines in the future.
posted by adamrice at 7:58 AM on April 10, 2009

If it was '92, I doubt anyone was even thinking of a dedicated line for internet access. In any case, if you figure out where the other ends go, you could probably use those to run ethernet, though probably only at 10 Mbps.
posted by Good Brain at 9:27 AM on April 10, 2009

Not sure if you mean the wires are all white but just look like the colored ones. If they are all white, they aren't phone wires. They for something else. The electrical box in my house has the phone lines close by. Go to the electrical wiring panel in the house. See if the same wires are in there. You may find a clue there.
posted by Taurid at 9:47 AM on April 10, 2009

A pre wired security system
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 10:09 AM on April 10, 2009

That many wires in the kitchen? I somewhat doubt it is part of the security system unless there once was a secondary panel there, but even then I would think they would have different color wires going to that . Is there evidence of anything else in the house like an intercom or speakers for a home entertainment system? They could very well have been run for something during construction and then the owner decided to skip it at the last minute. In any event it is not a problem to cover them up even if they are powered. Just cap them off properly so nothing hot is exposed.
posted by caddis at 10:23 AM on April 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback. There is no evidence of the wires temrinating anywhere else in the house (other than phone jacks possibly). I will check in the garage nhear the electrical panel, that is a good idea. I think the intercom is the best theory - I'll get my hands on a multimeter, see if they are active, and cap them off before I cover them up. Thanks for all the input!
posted by SNACKeR at 1:55 PM on April 10, 2009

If you are really curious you could always get a tone generator set and see if you can pick up the tone near the phone/utility panel in the house.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 7:33 PM on April 10, 2009

The temp. control for my central air system also uses a phone line. It goes from the air handler to the wall control.
posted by nuke3ae at 1:09 AM on April 11, 2009

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