How To: Install an Ethernet Jack in a Wall

Most of us don’t have the luxury of having a home pre-wired for ethernet – thankfully, adding a network jack to your house is a simple do-it-yourself project!


First, you will need to gather the necessary tools for the job.

  1. In-Wall Rated Cat6 Ethernet Cable (1000 ft) – buy an appropriate amount for your job. 1000 ft doesn’t go far if you want to do your whole house! I find Cat 6 to be a good compromise between cost & performance.
  2. Cat6 Punch Down Keystone Jack
  3. Punchdown Tool
  4. Single Gang White Keystone Wall Plates, 5 Pack
  5. Single Gang Low Voltage Old Work Mounting Bracket
  6. Self Lock 25-Foot Tape Measure
  7. Drywall Saw
  8. 2-Piece Screwdriver Set
  9. Cat 5 & 6 Cable Jacket Stripper – or buy an RJ-45 Crimp, Cut, and Strip Tool (you’ll probably want it anyway!)
  10. Drywall Fixed Utility Knife
  11. 50 Ft. Nylon Fish Tape
  12. Electronic Stud Finder (optional)


Start by identifying approximately where you want your new data jack. Locate existing studs, then measure and mark where the new data jack will go – the studs are off limits. I recommend measuring from the floor to the bottom of one of your current outlets and transferring the measurement to where you want to locate your new box. Remember – measure twice, cut once; it is a lot easier to cut the drywall than it is to repair it, so get it right the first time! I placed my old work box on the wall, then traced around the outside with a pencil. Afterwards, I shifted the box side-to-side and marked the portion of the drywall that needed to be cut out of the way. All this tracing serves two purposes: first, it is a good visual indicator of how the box will look. Does it line up with the other outlets on the wall? Is it square (don’t worry if it’s a little out)? Second, the inner portion is where you will make your cut.


Making the Cut

Time to get serious and do real damage. Once you’re satisfied with the box location, score the inside lines with the utility knife. Drywall has three layers – paper, gypsum, and another layer of paper; your goal is to cut through the first layer of paper. Cutting into the gypsum won’t do much other than quickly dull the blade on your utility knife. With the first layer of paper cut cleanly, carefully use the drywall saw to cut completely through the drywall. Remove the piece and test fit your old work box. It is better for the cut to be too small than too large; I had to trim the opening until my box fit.


Install the Old Work Box

Insert the old work box into the wall opening – the box should fit snuggly. With the “flags” out towards the drywall, tighten the screws on each corner of the box until snug. Don’t overtighten the screws as you will break your drywall. That’s it!


Fish Wire to the Box

This is the hard part – the ethernet wire needs to be run to the box. Some locations will be easy, other will be a nightmare. Using a good quality, heavy duty fish tape will help make the job easier. The nylon coated fish tape I recommended above appears to be a good option. Evaluate the  best way to run wire to your box – is it though the attic and down a wall? Up from the basement? Or maybe you’re lucky and merely need to run it through a wall. This part requires creativity, a lot of patience, and likely a good partner.

Wiring the Jack

Congratulations! You managed to guide the Cat 6 through the wall and to your box! The next part is a cakewalk in comparison.  Using the stripper, strip about 4″ of the outer jacket away from the Cat 6 network cable, then untwist the pairs of wires. Now take out your keystone jack & punchdown tool. You will need to place each wire into the corresponding pin/punchdown area of the jack. Try to leave as little wire between the jack & the outer jacket as possible – this helps insure the the network will work as intended & is also necessary to secure the wire. You also have a decision to make: network cable is wired one of two standard ways – EIA/TIA 568A or 568B. It does not matter which one you choose as long as you are consistent (if one end is 568A, then make sure the other is 568A. The same goes for 568B). If one end is 568A and the other is 568B, you will create what is known as a crossover (cable); this is undesirable for in-home wiring. Once you have the wires in place, put the punchdown tool over the wire, line it up with the slot, and push down. The inside of the jack is designed to cut through the wire’s insulation and make contact with the conductor inside. Finally, place the over the cable jacket & press it onto the back of the keystone jack. At this point, the wiring is done.


Final Installation

Install the keystone jack into the wall plate; it helps to tilt it into position rather than press it straight in. You should feel it click into place. Now push the extra wire into the wall, line the wall plate up with the holes in the new work box, and lightly screw the wall plate in. Make any adjustments necessary then tighten the screws. You’re finished! Enjoy your new, professionally installed data jack.