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I'm in the process of removing an old telephone jack that has wiring running along the wall. The jack is easily removed, but I'm unclear on what to do with the wiring. It seems short sighted and foolish to just snip it off.

On the other hand, the wire seems to lead into the crawlspace below the house, and I'd rather not go under if I can avoid it.

Pic 1

Pic 2

Pic 3

  • 1
    Do you still have a land line in the house? – mikes Oct 28 at 19:25
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    Nope, no active service and never will have an active service. – R.D. Oct 28 at 19:26
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    True story. Buddy and me went to this halloween party back around 2009. Older house, phones in every room. Owners were good friends and had just moved in to old inherited estate with plans to demo many walls and of course take out the phones. So my buddy gets this idea to go in the crawlspace, quietly pry the staples on the RJ11, and start tugging on the lines. We do. We're down there tugging on these lines, old phone handsets are clattering down, people are screammming their bloddy heads off and running out. We weren't invited back, though we remain friends. In my mind, this is the only "righ – bishop Oct 29 at 5:34
  • What you might do with it? How many wires are in that cable and what could you use them for? – Robbie Goodwin Oct 30 at 2:09
  • I have a lot of such old cable under the floor of my house. Where possible we took it out, but if you can't reach it, how much choice do you really have? Some parts are snipped at both ends. – Mast Oct 30 at 9:06
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If you are removing it, remove it.

It's only "short-sighted" if you have any conception that you might want a landline phone there.

You MIGHT be able (depending on how snug it is, and how many layers of paint are on the cable making it fatter) to just stuff the (uncut) cable down the hole in the floor once you have it unstapled.

But simply snipping it off is perfectly reasonable under the "you never envision a landline in that location, or perhaps anywhere in your house, again" premise.

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    If there's any slack at the floor level (and it looks like there may be), pull the cable up tight, snip it there, then push the remains down. It doesn't have to fall all the way to the crawl space, but the snipped end would be below the floor surface and allow for a little wood filler to cover the hole & "rebuild" the trim for the next paint job. – FreeMan Oct 29 at 12:27
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    If there's no slack at all and you can't push the whole wire down, you can still chop it off and then push it down with a suitable size punch or dowel to allow patching the hole. – Ecnerwal Oct 29 at 18:33
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    I think "short sighted" does not refer to "short sighted to remove it at all"; it refers more to "it might be a bad idea to just snip it off from an electrical/safety point of view". – Joe Oct 31 at 12:00
  • Even if you envision landline again, stabled cables along the corners of walls are a non-starter. They make it impossible to paint properly, maintain trim, etc., and their condition will ruin any data signal on the same line. If you want them back, run them properly through the wall and add a panel with jack. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Oct 31 at 22:19
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Even if you never have a landline, you might want to use that wire again. I have repurposed old phone wiring for many things = thermostats, alarms, doorbells, etc.

If you really don't like looking at it, you could clip it off just above the staple above the baseboard. If you ever need to re-use it, there's enough to work with.

I would terminate the cable in a screw terminal surface mount jack on the baseboard.

surface mount telephone jack

These jacks are very inexpensive, readily available, and can be installed in just a few minutes without any special tools. If someone ever wants to repurpose it, they can use the jack or extend from it by splicing on the screw terminals.

This way if you or someone else in the future ever wants to use that wire, you can easily splice on at the screw terminals and extend the line where ever you want.

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    In the OP's case, the new jack won't cost a dime, since he's holding one in her hand in the first pic. Just re-mount that one just above the floor. – FreeMan Oct 29 at 12:25
  • That's true, that one's a flush jack for a wall phone though. – batsplatsterson Oct 29 at 13:11
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    Terminating in a jack is a good idea too because it's a bad idea in general to leave wires with exposed tips lying around, or to risk crushing two conductors together if your wire cutter is dull, even if you're sure the line isn't powered (for now). The previous owners of my house left two cut phone lines in the basement that are still wired up to the (now active) landline, both of which I found by getting an unpleasant shock while working on other things. – zaen Oct 29 at 19:20
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Cut it off at the floor level and push it down; out of sight, out of mind is applicable and safe in this situation.

If you are sincere in regards to your question title:

What's the right way of removing an indoor telephone line?

then get in the crawl space and cut it back as far as you can.

enter image description here

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If you can find the other end of the cable (where it connects to the line coming in from the road) and disconnect it before you cut through the cable, that might be a good idea.

That way if the cut end of the cable is ever shorted for any reason, it wont render all the phone jacks in the house useless. You may not need the phone wiring for anything, but it might come in useful for somebody down the road and a hidden short can be a pain to find.

Plus it's never a good idea to cut through cables unless you're 100% sure that they're dead and no idiot has hooked them up to something they shouldn't have.

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    When I bought my house, it came with an old telephone (say, 1940s). It was near, but disconnected from, a cord that ran into the wall. I located where it came out of the wall into the basement and found the other end. Part of it ran to an old POTS junction, but another part ran to an electrical plug. Apparently, the same cord was used for the phone signal and the power source for the heavy set of ringer bells on the phone itself. I don't know if this was standard for phones of that era or not, but I certainly wasn't expecting a phone cord to be plugged into a live electrical outlet. – chepner Oct 30 at 19:58
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Land-lines have been on their way out for years now. It may be prudent to keep at least one telephone jack working, but there's no requirement for a phone handset in every room of the house. I don't see any point keeping the jack.

While it is theoretically possible to use telephone wires for Internet, basic telephone wire is terrible, and leaving it in a crawlspace for decades hasn't helped; you're better off just using WiFi. In general, I'm unaware of any actual uses for a telephone wire that aren't telephone-related.

Leaving the cable in place may be useful if you plan to replace it with cat6 at some point. (Basically, tie the cat6 to the end, and pull it through from the other end. That way you can get a cat6 cable in place without going into the crawlspace.)

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    CAT 6 won't fit in the holes, it's (significantly) bigger than 4-conductor round wire, and the wire in the crawlspace is probably stapled in place, so ... no. You won't be pulling in a CAT 6 with this wire. – Ecnerwal Oct 28 at 20:14
  • actually, telephone cable would make a great RS485 connection for sensors, but those tend to move towards wireless – Jan Dorniak Oct 30 at 10:18

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