Where are my phone jacks?
August 9, 2020 12:30 PM   Subscribe

I appreciate all the help I had from Metafites when I was offered this work at home job, which required a landline and a certain speed of computer. Well I got everything, and now I can't find any phone jacks. (This is so laughable since I have already spent probably 4 hours with their hire paperwork.)

This place was built in the 1970s, surely there's a jack somewhere? I have looked on all the baseboards as well as shoulder-height in the kitchen (a tip from a neighbor).
I have also spoken to the office manager, but that was Friday afternoon so I will not hear from him until Monday at the soonest.
The only other piece of information I have that is possibly related and/or useful is that when Cox came to set up internet for the first time (I believe) they ran the cable cord through a marble-sized hole in the living room and down to the basement. I believe I am going to go look at that.

It would be nice after 5 months off work to have a couple dollars, I hope you can help.
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Technology (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It would be strange for a house built in the 70s, but it might have the old 4-prong style of phone jacks (that need to be converted or you need to use an adaptor.) Is there anything along the baseboards/etc that you can't identify, like a small box or some kind of connection?
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:52 PM on August 9, 2020

Best answer: Older houses didn't come with phone jacks - there were four (?) wires from the wall that were wired directly into the phones. This was because the phone company owned the entire infrastructure, phones and all. What we think of as a phone jack didn't really exist until the mid-70s. That being said, it would be surprising to find that at some point the house you're in didn't have phone jacks installed, but you never know.

See if you can find some places on the baseboards or at shoulder height in the kitchen with wires protruding (maybe taped together). That might be where your phone jacks were. If you see a small box on a baseboard, that might be also be it. Mine (house built in 1972) has plastic boxes where the phone wires are, with a hinged cover over where the phone cord goes.
posted by ralan at 12:54 PM on August 9, 2020

Best answer: Is this a single-family home, condominium, or apartment? I would expect a modest single-family home built in the seventies to have been originally built with, at best, two phone jacks — one in the kitchen and one in the master bedroom. I've seen homes of that era built with the kitchen phone jack at shoulder height on a wall, on a wall just above the counter, or, less often, at the back of a built-in pantry. I would expect a phone jack in the master bedroom to be near the floor on the wall behind the head of the bed. If you've already checked the obvious places, I would closely examine the rear of the pantry cabinets and behind the bed.

Alternatively, locate where your phone line enters your home. Often this is at a phone utility box on the exterior of the home, but if you have a basement it might be there. If you are lucky you might be able to trace the phone line cable to see where it leads. If all else fails, you can usually pay the phone company an extra fee to install a phone jack where you want one as part of the installation service.
posted by RichardP at 12:55 PM on August 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Ralan makes a good point — older homes often don't have RJ-11 jacks that you usually see today, they might have the older style that look like little boxes or round wall plates. If you open the little box or remove the round wall plate you will find four screws for wiring the phone. Typically the phone wires would be connected to these screws with spade connectors.
posted by RichardP at 1:01 PM on August 9, 2020

What did you buy/order for phone service, and what did the installer, if any, come out and do?
posted by fritley at 1:03 PM on August 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

The RJ-11 phone jack was invented in 1973 (per Wikipedia), and it didn't become widespread for some time. The house I lived in for my first ten years (to 1978) didn't have them; the two phones in the house (one upstairs in the kitchen, one downstairs in the finished basement) were hard wired to the wall. The next house I lived in was built in 1960 but at some point before we moved there in 1978, the owners had RJ-11 jacks placed in the kitchen, master bedroom, and semi-finished basement.

I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn't have added at least one at some point in the residence's history. If it's a single-family house, I second RichardP's advice: find out where the phone line enters the house, if you can locate it. If it enters in an unfinished basement, it's pretty easy to trace the wiring to where it goes up into the wall.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:18 PM on August 9, 2020

Another place to look: near windows. I've lived in houses that had the phone jacks on the wall adjacent to or just below the window frame.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:22 PM on August 9, 2020

You just reminded me that I replaced the phone jacks in my old apartment with flat face plates and forgot to turn them back when I moved out, potentially vexing the new tenants. If there are any flat plates where you might expect an outlet to be in your kitchen or bedroom, unscrew it--it might be hiding the telephone wires.
posted by k8lin at 1:56 PM on August 9, 2020 [10 favorites]

I don't understand. Did you order POTS (and if so from whom and what did they say? Did they come out?)

or VOIP? (and if so you aren't looking for phone jacks I don't think. You'd be looking for how to plug it into your computer.) Did they give you a phone to use and what does it look like?
posted by miles1972 at 2:21 PM on August 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you got a true landline, call whoever set it up and ask for their help. Do some scouting before you call, because they're going to ask you to anyway. As others have said, there could be phone wires hidden behind a blank panel (like an electrical outlet with no holes). These might be near baseboards, near shoulder-height in the kitchen, or if you have any weird little wall recesses that are just big enough to hold a phone, there. Or as you've suspected, it might be in the basement (especially if this is an older multifamily dwelling). It's also possible you don't have any internal phone jacks, and a technician from the phone company will need to come run one for you from the phone box on the outside of your building to your desired room (often this is free, sometimes there is a fee that will appear on your next phone bill).

If you got VOIP service from your internet provider, and the appropriate VOIP-supporting phone, you don't need a phone jack--your phone should be plugged into your computer or modem. You should be able to Google the make and model of your phone to download an instruction manual, if you didn't get one with the phone.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:43 PM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you got your phone service from Cox, your cable modem will have a phone jack on it where you can plug in a landline phone. If you want the phone far away from the modem, buy a cordless phone, preferably one of the ones like the Siemens Gigaset that have a separate base station and charging cradle.
posted by wierdo at 2:52 PM on August 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I lived in the upstairs of an ancient 2 family house about ten years ago and the only way I could get internet was through the phone line. I had a phone jack but somewhere behind the walls something wasn't connected. My simple solution was to run my own phone wire out through the window down to the phone service box. I bought the wire and the jack, cost a very few bucks. Worked perfectly the whole 8 months I lived there. So, go look for a phone box on the outside of the house. They are smaller than an electrical box, maybe ten inches by ten inches. Of course this wont help if you're in a big apartment building, but if you're not you can maybe figure out which one has wires that go to your apartment. This will also give you a general idea of where the line goes into the house that might lead to an existing jack disguised behind whatever. Good luck!
posted by mareli at 3:56 PM on August 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: rhiannonstone: They won't let us use VOIP, I already asked.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 5:09 PM on August 9, 2020

Sorry, in your previous ask you had an "or" clause regarding VOIP: the company would let you get VOIP from your internet service provider if it was fixed address. Is that not the case?

The employer may have meant that Skype or Google phone is not allowed. But internet companies will give you a phone number for an extra fee. You call Cox, get a phone, and plug the phone into the jack in the equipment the Cox gave you. That is the "landline".
posted by perdhapley at 5:27 PM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Can you update us what you’ve discovered OP? You favouriting makes me think it was a VOIP solution but then you also say VOIO isn’t allowed.
posted by miles1972 at 5:46 PM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: perdhapley: that was 100 percent conjecture with the limited knowledge I have of phones and computers. I started out on a 386 with a dial up 2400 modem. Mercy, please.

[The HR lady: "I don't know what VOIP is. But you'll need a phone and a phone jack to plug it in to."]

miles1972: since it's a Sunday I'm not willing to be 125 in the queue. I do think I found the outside box, but there's nothing on the inside that corresponds. Not sure which post you are referring me to favoriting re: VOIP but please consider it null and void (see above comment to perdhapley).

According to their web, Cox will add a phone line for 38 dollars/month. That doesn't seem too terrible of an investment for a job I may not even like or keep, who knows what they will charge me to find and/or add a jack. But is 100% digital a landline?
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 7:44 PM on August 9, 2020

Response by poster: And now I see where yes indeed it does say that about a VOIS, I copied and pasted it from the website/job offer/job description. I guess I don't know anything -- or more accurately, their HR doesn't. Smile.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 7:51 PM on August 9, 2020

Cable companies internally use IP to handle their voice service, but that isn't what your company means by "no VOIP." They mean they don't want you using phone service that is delivered over the Internet, they want you to use the phone or cable company's service, which are equivalent.

Even the actual phone company only sells IP-based phone service in a lot of places, after all.
posted by wierdo at 9:29 PM on August 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Go outside; you'll see wires coming to the house and a telephone interface box. There's probably a phone jack on the other side of that wall.
posted by theora55 at 10:05 AM on August 10, 2020

Can you go into the basement and look up, to try to find the phone wiring?

Usually it's a cream-colored cable (inside of which are individual wires colored...red, black, yellow, and green?). It should run along the joists, and suddenly lurch upwards out of view. If you see a jacketed wire with four colored wires curling out of it, those are your guys!

If you can find finger-diameter holes in the baseboard trim coming up from the basement, then someone may have removed the phone cables at some point. I agree that any blank faceplates are almost certainly buried phone wires.

Another place to look for phone wires is tacked to the edges of kitchen cupboards: sometimes wires were routed along there to hide them. Same for window frames, or running along the top edge of the baseboards.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:50 PM on August 10, 2020

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