Toning door and window contacts


Active Member
So my ultimate nightmare has ocurred. The notebook I recorded all the wire label #'s in when I pulled the wires for the house has been "misplaced." So my toner and I are becoming very familiar with each other.

Anyway, short of pulling the contacts out of the door and window frames, is there a way to generate a tone on door and window contacts?
RandyKnight said:
Anyway, short of pulling the contacts out of the door and window frames, is there a way to generate a tone on door and window contacts?
Why would you need to? If you place a continuity tester on the bare end of the wire just go around and open doors and windows until you hear the change in tone.
If only it were that simple. I ran Cat5 for everything. There are over several hundred Cat5 wires coming into the wiring closet. Thye go to everything from door and window contacts to motions, smokes, automated ceiling registers, glassbreaks, voice, data, keypads, thermostats, etc.
Sorry to hear of it...

Are all your cat5 cables the same color? I assume your cables are coded, and that the notebook contained the code-to-location maps? It's happened to all installers, so while you're kicking yourself, I'd like to make three recommendations to all future cable-pullers in the hopes that it saves someone else the same agony:

1) It takes more time, but make sure you label both ends of the cable with the same identiifer
2) Do not under any circumstances use non-descriptive IDs... all identifiers should be understandable to you AND the next homeowner. Plain english works well.
3) Do not use cable identifiers that "stick" to the cable. There should be no way for the cable to come off. Also, don't use paper identifiers... they tend to get shredded.

I recommend a binary search. You should be able to eliminate many of the cables from the list of possible candidates through toning. Connect all the remaining window/door contacts to zones and see what announces when you open them. Renting a few zone expanders (buy/ebay/etc) will save you HOURS of frustration.
The binary search is basically what I'm doing. It's doubly unfortunate because my plan was to make sure I got doors, windows, and smokes done and worry about the rest later. But at this point I'm having to tone everything in order to get there.

The mistake we made was just using sequential numbers for the pulls since that was faster at that time, rather than descriptive identifiers. I've essentially lost the "key".

The voice and data ones are in LV boxes and have the numbers at the other ends as well so that will eliminate several. But for post of the sensors I split the cables into pairs so lost the #'s at that point.
Are the door/window contacts already wired? Did you standardize which colored wires were used for the contacts?

For anyone else stuck in the same situation:
If so, wire every unknown blue/white (if that's what you used) to an elk zone (build an automation rule to announce when ever zone is open it talks) and then go around and open all the windows and doors. As each is opened, you'll hear a zone violated or not, which tells you which cable that was. This method words best if you can divide all the unknown cables in half (eg: have enough zones for at least 50% of the unknown cables... 50 unknown cables, have 25+ zones)

You do not want to be doing this cable-by-cable under any circumstances. An Elk let's you do 16 at a time... but with a couple of rented zone expanders, you can do 50 at a time, and it should go pretty quickly.

Best of luck!
In many cases the 2 wires used for the contacts were split out of a Cat5 used for other things as well, so the colors were not standardized. But they were all written down (in the misisng notebook of course).

I'll definitely use the M1 to help track things down ... trying to use process of elimination for other things first.

One good thing, I wired for doorstrikes in all the doors and those wires are available to tone and are split out from the same Cat5 as the door contacts. So that narrows it down to 6 wires. Figuring I always would have used the same color pair for a contact, it's really just 3 possibilites.

Windows are another story but I'll worry about those last.
I hate to rain on a bad situation but powering a door strike on a 24 gage wire is not the best idea. It is also not acceptable to install a smoke detector on anything less than an 18 gage conductor wire. Fire alarm wire is not red because its pretty, it is red so that it can be easily identified as part of a life safety system.

Now that I have covered the legal stuff...I feel your pain. After years of painted over wire markers and lost ID lists, I use color coding of all systems. Red fire, yellow keypad, green glassbreak, white motion and all colors of the rainbow for doors and windows. If you have 6 colors for windows you have just cut your tone task to 1/6 of what it was. This works on CAT5 too, Blue data, white phone, yellow incomming feed, grey alarm. I pull tons of wire and don't label any until I land the wires. One bone head can cut every wire lable off in 3 seconds, its not perfect but It works for me.