Phone Jack Installation
August 24, 2007 11:46 AM   Subscribe

I need to have a phone jack put in for AT&T service in Chicago (Andersonville), because the previous tenants converted all the phone jacks to cable outlets. Can anyone recommend the services of a handyman, or even suggest who I would have to look up to get it done more quickly than AT&T will?

Those guys are slow as molasses, especially now, with all this flooding. Or at least, that's what they're telling me is making them slow.
posted by Lieber Frau to Technology (17 answers total)
I don't have specific recommendations, but I would suggest that when you find that person, you ask what they're going to do before they start work and see if you're kosher with it. With all installations I've seen in the past 10 years, the installer drills right through exterior walls and runs the cable in a tacky manner along the exterior walls. The least damaging method is to run cable through the attic and down through the top plates of wall framing.
posted by zek at 11:59 AM on August 24, 2007

Long shot: Did you check that the phone lines had been pulled? Perhaps they're still there (behind the cable plate) and just unattached.
posted by nightwood at 12:02 PM on August 24, 2007

Response by poster: Nightwood: Hmm, no, I haven't! I will now, though. Will it be immediately obvious if the phone lines are still there? I know NOTHING about phone jacks.
posted by Lieber Frau at 12:06 PM on August 24, 2007

Please, stick to AT&T. I wasted $100 with a handyman installing the phone line unsuccessfully.
posted by nasreddin at 12:07 PM on August 24, 2007

Nightwood beat me to it. Most likely the old cable is still there. Just unscrew the faceplates and look. You might find 4-wire (red,green,black,yellow) or 8-wire (blue, orange, brown, green stripes and solid). Either of these will work. You can get new faceplates yourself (including ones that accommodate both cable and telephone wire) and hook them up yourself, or let the phone company's installer do it.

If you do it yourself, get some keystone modules and a keystone faceplate. If you have 4-wire lines in the wall, you can hook get 4-wire RJ-11 keystone modules and hook those up with red/green on the center pair of conductors, and black/yellow flanking (this will let you have two lines on one jack). If you have 8-wire, you'll want to pick one or two colors (say, blue stripes/solid for line 1 and orange stripes solid for 2) and hook those up so that one pair goes on the center pair of conductors, and the other pair flanks them. Then tell the installer "I'm running blue on line 1 and orange on line 2.
posted by adamrice at 12:12 PM on August 24, 2007

Response by poster: Jesus h. christ, that sounds complicated.
posted by Lieber Frau at 12:24 PM on August 24, 2007

Response by poster: But really useful, so, thanks!
posted by Lieber Frau at 12:24 PM on August 24, 2007

Can you get any money back, or better yet have the landlord pay for it? What did they have to say about this?
posted by doorsfan at 12:37 PM on August 24, 2007

Response by poster: The landlord is a very "laissez-faire" kind of a guy, he has no idea what you do in your apartment, nor does he care. So he didn't realize that they'd put in cable at all.
posted by Lieber Frau at 12:47 PM on August 24, 2007

I pay a local installer about $50/hr for extensions and wiring work. If the wiring is still in the walls it'd take about 15min per jack for a qualified phone person to crimp and punch everything back into place.
posted by rhizome at 12:49 PM on August 24, 2007

Response by poster: Oh yeah? Hmm... Would you say $75 is too much to pay for the job, then?
posted by Lieber Frau at 12:50 PM on August 24, 2007

$75 is a not a bad deal to have somebody come out to your house to do any kind of low voltage or electrical work. Most companies have a minimum service call rate (usually equal to 1 or 2 hours labor) because it's really not worth their time to drive out to your place, do 15 minutes worth of work, bill you for it, drive back, and then respond to any "call-back" problems that may crop up. In other words they've got overhead that they need to cover, even if they just come out, jiggle a wire, get back in the truck and drive away.

My money's on the wires being there already, unless the previous tenants were totally inconsiderate and used the existing cable as a pull string without pulling new to replace it.
posted by contraption at 1:37 PM on August 24, 2007

As for who to call, most electricians or handyman companies will have the equipment and expertise to properly terminate a phone jack (there's really only one right way to do it if the other end's already done, and if it doesn't work it'll be immediately obvious.) The problem, as zek suggests, is when it comes to drilling new holes in your walls and figuring out which path the wires should take. If you end up needing that, I'd recommend finding a company that specializes in low voltage/network wiring.
posted by contraption at 1:55 PM on August 24, 2007

If the wires are there-- and even if they're not-- low voltage wiring is an easy DIY project. Check out Phone-Guy for all the information you'll need. Your local library will also have books to help you out. $75 bucks is a lot of money for something this easy, but if the phone wires aren't still there, you might want it done "professionally" to avoid the hassle of doing it by yourself.
posted by jstef at 2:36 PM on August 24, 2007

The AT&T switch is at about 5100 N. Clark (i.e. just south of Foster in Andersonville). I frequently see techs hanging out in the parking lot.

Why not ask one of them if you can pay him/her if they'll do it for you for cash off the clock?
posted by rbs at 3:24 PM on August 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Don't dismiss AT&T out of hand. Check with them to see if this is covered by the monthly interior line charge, then sign up for it (about $2 per month). Not sure if they charge for initial phone installation, but they'll do all the work, repeatedly, until you are satisfied and your phones work at NO additional charge if you pay this.

By the way, just in general, I have always found that interior line insurance well worth the $25 per year. If you ever have a problem with the line once it enters the house, this will save you hundreds of dollars. They actually came in and fixed our poorly-installed DSL line, which we had done and messed up the phone lines ourselves. They fixed it at no charge. They were here almost 8 hours before it was all fixed, and they installed an extra jack in a more convenient place just for the nice of it. And they came at my convenience.

You're right about cost though. If the interior line charge doesn't cover this kind of work, you will pay through the nose for AT&T (I think it's $40 for every 15 minutes or portion of 15 minutes).
posted by nax at 7:34 PM on August 24, 2007

Response by poster: You guys have been great, and thank you so much. I can't pick one best answer because they've all been good. I had a guy in yesterday, and I can highly recommend him. The company is iWire of Chicago, and as it turns out, yes, the previous tenants did sever the lines, and yes, he had to drill numerous holes through brick, mortar and plaster, all while perched precariously on a ladder and dodging spiny foliage. All in all, I'd say the job took about five hours, and the guy charged me probably half of what AT&T would have charged for such strenuous work.

I love metafilter!
posted by Lieber Frau at 10:04 PM on August 25, 2007

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