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Tips for Passing an Electrical Inspection

Posted by on March 13th, 2014

Just this morning, my local township electrical inspector stopped by and reviewed the electrical work I had performed for our home office improvement project.  He gave us a passing grade, which means I officially have approval to cover the framing with drywall and finish the room.  He pointed out a couple changes I need to make before he returns, so I do need to take care of those issues.  This is probably the third or fourth time he’s been out to our house for an inspection so I’ve learned to prepare for the things he likes to see.

electrical-inspection

9 Tips for Passing an Electrical Inspection

If you are considering attempting your own electrical work on your next project, I implore you to apply for electrical permits from your local government.

Applying to do my own work was a simple process.  In this case, all I did was fill out a couple of simple forms where I stated my name, address, the scope of the work being performed (adding 4 recessed lights) and the estimated cost of the work related to the permit.  After about two weeks, the township called me and let me know my permit was approved and ready for pickup.  I paid a $61 fee to the township and got started on the rough-in work.  Once I complete the rough-in work, I schedule the inspector and he pays me a visit.

The most anxiety inducing part of this process is the rough-in inspection, but if you follow these general guidelines, you’ll be much more likely to pass the first time.

1.  Ask the Inspector First.  When you schedule the inspector, try to actually have a conversation with him or her about what they expect to see and what pitfalls you can avoid.  All inspectors should be looking for the same checks, but some have additional requirements or pet-peeves that can fail you.  Checking with them first is a great way to establish a name to a face and get a sense of their general requirements.

2.  Don’t Add Any Devices.  During the rough-in inspection, there can’t be any devices on the circuits you are adding. No outlets, no lights, no switches, nada, nunca.  If you are adding an outlet to an existing circuit, then the NEW outlet should also not be installed either.  The rest of the outlets on that circuit that were originally there are probably fine, but if you disturbed the wiring in any outlet, it shouldn’t have a device for the inspection.

tie grounds

3.  Tie Your Grounds Together.  In each outlet or electrical box location, the ground wires should be tied together.  This is something my inspector noted today.  Don’t tie anything else together though.  The hot and neutral leads should remain separate.

fire block

4.  Fire Block.  Any holes or penetrations from one floor to the next or from one wiring passage to the next needs to be blocked so as to prevent a fire using the hole as a breathing hole or chimney.  Typically, you can use fire block expanding foam (which is bright orange in color) or regular fiberglass insulation to fill or plug these kind of holes.

plug holes

5.  Plug Holes in Boxes.  This one was new to me and I’ll have to fix it.  The electrical box I used have these bendable tabs where the cable enters.  Well one of these tabs snapped off.  The inspector told me I need to plug it.  I’ll probably use insulation and jam it in the hole here.

proper breaker

6.  Use Correct Breaker.  Another correction I’ll have to make is the circuit breaker I installed.  The breaker in this application needs to be an 15 amp Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) and I had installed a regular 15 amp breaker.  The AFCI’s prevent arcs and are required on all circuits that feed living spaces (I think).  You can buy AFCI’s in any hardware store and they are several times more expensive than regular breakers.

7.  Don’t Power the Circuit.  Although the wires for the new circuit can be tied into the new breaker, the breaker needs to remain off or unpowered.  It shouldn’t be powered up until all the devices are installed.

wire nuts

8.  Cover the Wires with Wire Nuts.  All the wire ends need to have wire nuts on them even if they don’t have any exposed conductor.  Same goes for the ground wires.

9.  Secure Cables with Staples.  Cable runs need to be secured to framing every so many feet with cable staples.

That’s pretty much all I have for the rough-in inspection.  If you have any others, please leave them in the comments.  If you’ve never done your own electrical work, then I suggest you work with someone more experienced before you attempt it yourself.  Be safe and good luck.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it. 

Have any inspection horror stories?  I’d love to hear those too, so leave them in the comments section.

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical. Tagged in ,, ,

Wiring for the Office Lights

Posted by on March 10th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn 

- How to use chalk lines to mark for center

- How a compass and a drywall saw are used for ceiling light holes

Late last week, I got a call from our local township that our electrical permit was approved.  Right after I picked it up, I got started.   When I last left off, the coffered ceiling was all framed out.  We decided to go with four lights in the room: three in the center section and one over where the desk will be located.  Let me start by showing you how I marked and cut the locations for the lights, since it’s a fairly useful trick to learn.

Wiring for the Office Lights

The three lights that would be in the coffered ceiling section of the office would be centered in the middle of a few of those ceiling squares.  To make marking the center of the squares easier, I snapped a chalk line from opposing corners.

marking the center

Where the two lines intersected is the center of the box.  Next, I used a compass and drew a circle 4″ in diameter, which is what was required for the lighting fixtures we bought.

can light circle

After the circle was drawn out, I used a hand held drywall saw to cut the hole out.

cutting circle

With all the holes cut out in the ceiling, I proceeded to run some Romex cable in the tracks created by the coffered ceiling I-beams to each hole location.  As required by code, I also stapled the cables to the structure every few feet.  Later on, before the rough-in inspection, I’ll fill in those holes in the framing with fire block foam.

wires run

Just to give you a little more details on the wiring… I used 14-2 sized Romex.  That means it’s 14 gauge wire with 2 conductors.  14 gauge is used for 15 amp circuits and therefore needs to be tied into a 15 amp breaker.  This lighting is going on it’s own circuit, which is created when I add a new breaker in the breaker box.  The breaker box I own is a Square D brand box and the 15 amp breaker I buy needs to be a Square D breaker in order to install properly.  It’s kind of a waste to be adding an entire circuit just for four lights, so I’ll probably tie in additional basement lights into this same circuit whenever we get around to finishing the basement.

As I mentioned, the office will have four lights, with three being controlled by one switch and the fourth light getting its own dedicated switch.  I’m locating those switches in a place where I previously had a switched outlet for the office.  I’m removing the switched outlet setup and just adding these two new switches for the overhead light.

Because I’m adding this coffered ceiling framing, it made running the wires to these lights considerably easier than if I didn’t have the framing.  Without the framing, the wires would need to come up inside the walls and into the joist space.  To pull that wire through, I’d have to cut holes in the drywall and the ceiling in multiple locations.  Overall, it’s be easier NOT to do the coffered ceiling, but since I’m already doing it, the wiring is made easier.

At this point, I’m ready for my rough-in inspection.  Once the inspector passes the work, I’ll be given the go-ahead to start drywalling the bare wood.  He won’t need to come back until the room is completely finished.

This isn’t the first time I used a chalk line to help me with my electrical work.  I also used in when we installed an additional outlet in the dining room.  If you’re interested in how I ran cables, definitely check that post out as it goes into more depth than this post.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, please share it. 

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical,Lighting. Tagged in ,, ,

Workbench Charging Station

Posted by on September 2nd, 2013

We hope all of our American friends had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day!  Our weekend was filled with family visits and some much needed down time.  Today we’re going to show you how we finished up our new garage outlet and how we added a workbench charging station.

Let’s start with the garage outlet.

Last week we had our rough-in inspection from the township electrical inspector.  It went well.  He passed us so we can “device out” the work, which means add the new outlet.

To power the new outlet, we tapped into the power from an existing GFCI outlet in our basement.  I had to remove this basement outlet as part of the rough-in work and show the inspector I ran the cable properly to the box and tied it in appropriately.

gfci outlet box

After inspecting this box, he recommended I increase its size to accommodate the additional cable.  The box already had three cables going to it and this new circuit added a fourth.  Thus, he wanted to see a slightly bigger box.  So, I had to untwist all my cables, pull them out of the box, take the box off the lumber and then add a bigger box.

The new box is considered “new work” whereas our garage outlet is “old work.”  The difference is the basement outlet box is being directly attached to a wall stud.  The garage outlet was placed into a finished drywalled space.  The new box is also plastic and has a couple 1/2″ tabs that help me position the box onto the studs.  The box shouldn’t be installed flush with the studs, but 1/2″ further out for future drywall.

outlet box on framing

This new box wasn’t that much bigger than the first, only by a couple cubic inches.  Here’s a side by side comparison of the old grey box next to the new blue one.  I believe the grey box is 18 cu. inches and the blue one is 20 or 21 cu. inches.

outlet box sizes

The box was then rewired as before and since I had the go ahead to device out the project, I reinstalled the GFCI outlet.

gfci outlet

With the basement outlet wired, I installed my garage outlet, turned the power back on at the breaker and checked to make sure the circuit worked okay.  That’s it for the electrical portion.  In a few weeks, I’ll call the inspector back for the final inspection.

Now let’s take a look at the workbench charging station.

The only other outlet we have in our garage is on the far wall so any battery chargers for cordless tools had to sit on the floor, which wasn’t terribly convenient.  Getting them off the floor and onto the workbench was the goal.

I started by picking a spot on the workbench where my chargers would be located then drilling a hole in the workbench top with a hole saw.

workbench hole

I ran the charger power cables through the hole so the top will be less cluttered.

charging station

Next, I mounted a $5 power strip I bought at Lowes to one of the legs of the workbench.  Then I just zip tied all the cables together and plugged them in.

workbench charging station

So now all I have to do is flip the red switch on the power strip whenever I want to charge my tools.  I also looked into buying one of those 10-12 outlet benchtop power strips instead.  That’s a great option too, but it was $30 and I thought this option would be more a little more practical.   $25 cheaper isn’t a bad thing either.

We are fast approaching the end of our summer long garage improvement series.  We only have a couple projects left: adding another application of epoxy to the garage floor and painting the interior door and steps.  There are a few yard projects I also want to knock out before we get into October, but we’ll go more into those in another post.

How are you wrapping up your summer?  Are you looking forward to Fall or are you desperately hanging on to every last summer day like me?  Bought any pumpkins yet?

Posted in Electrical,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,,

Install an Electrical Outlet in the Garage

Posted by on August 25th, 2013

When we built our home back in 2010, we had the option of adding as many additional electrical outlets as we wanted among some other bells and whistles.  Code requires a minimum number per so many feet, but any more than that bare requirement came out of our pocket.  In retrospect we probably should’ve added a few more.  We did spend some effort trying to figure out where the TVs would be located, so we could put the cable jacks in the right place, but we never thought twice about the outlets (priorities, priorities).  So, I’m going to install an electrical outlet in the garage for my workbench and it’ll be the third outlet I’ve added since we moved in.  The first was for our buffet lights and the most recent was for our sitting room TV.

As with all of my electrical posts, I’m not going to show you how I actually wire the outlet.  That part is pretty straight forward and there are tons and tons of videos and websites that show that info.  The world doesn’t need another post on how to wire a receptacle.  However, I will show you the whole process I follow from start to finish.

Let’s start with the location where I’m adding this outlet: under the workbench.

workbench outlet

My goal here is to have an outlet right under the workbench where I can plug in a power strip. Then I’ll be able to keep my battery chargers right on top and not on the floor.  You may notice the hole that’s been spackled next to my compressed air pipe.  That hole was my first attempt at getting the air pipe through the wall.  That plugged hole on the garage side doesn’t do me any good for this new outlet, but the hole on the basement side does help.  I’ll be able to use it to run the cable into the garage.

wire through stud

So, I know where the outlet is going to be located, that’s my first step.  Now to determine where to get the power from and how to run the cable from the power source over to the hole.

I have one GFCI outlet on the other side of my basement.  It’s got one cable coming in with the power and two others going out to other receptacles.  I can tap into the power here.

gfci outlet

Since I’m installing this outlet in a garage, the outlet will need to be ground fault protected.  There are essentially two ways to get that protection.  I can tap into the power going TO this GFCI outlet and install a full-blown GFCI outlet just like it in the garage.  OR I can tap into the power on the load side of this GFCI outlet.  GFCI outlets, the new ones anyway, have a line side and a load side.  The line side is where the power from the breaker box goes.  The load side is where additional outlets can tap into.  Those outlets that tap into the load side are then ground fault protected automatically and a regular non-GFCI receptacle can be used instead.  Our kitchen backsplash has a similar setup.  We have one GFCI outlet in the corner and the next two or three outlets are the regular kind, but they all have ground fault protection from the first GFCI outlet.  I’ll probably opt to tap into the load side and use a regular style outlet for the garage.

Right above the outlet is a cable stacker.  Code requires the cable to be secured every so many feet either with staples or with these stackers.  These stackers have open spaces in them so I can just run the new cable through it.

romex cable holder

Since all the cables going into and out of the GFCI outlet  are white 14 gauge cables, I’ll use one as well.  You can buy spools of Romex NM cable from your local hardware store.  It’s not terribly expensive.

So I’ll start the cable run by turning off the power to the GFCI circuit, leaving a couple feet of slack near that outlet and running the cable through existing cable stackers until I get to the basement ceiling and then across the basement towards the hole.  At one point I encounter an area without any cable stackers and I need to use electrical staples instead to hold the wire up.

electrical wire staple

cable stapled

I’ll staple the cable to every other stud along the way.  Once I get near the hole, I’ll stop and let the slack hang out for a while.

wire hanging

Now for some garage work.  I’m using a “old work” style receptacle box, which is designed for remodeling type work like we’re going here.  If the garage didn’t have drywall yet, I’d be using a “new work” box instead.  I hold the box against the drywall and with a pen I trace out the outline of the area I need to cut for the hole.  Be careful here.  This old work box has tabs on the front that stick out from the top and the bottom.  Those tabs need to extend past the hole otherwise the whole outlet box will slip into the hole.

old work outlet

old work outlet 2

With the outline of the opening traced, I use a hand held drywall knife and a box cutter to cut an opening.

outlet hole in wall

Time for a test fit. I make sure the box fits snuggly into the opening.

outlet in wall

Okay.  The box fits nicely.  I remove the box from the hole and return to the basement.

This part can be tricky.  From the basement, I need to push the wire through the hole and try to get it to move up the wall so I can pull it through from the garage by hand.  Since this was a relatively short run, I was able to jam it into the hole and pull it out from the garage without much effort.  Luckily, my hand barely fits into the outlet opening.  Although, for a minute there I was considering making this a double outlet just so I could fit my arm down a bigger opening.

I pulled all of the slack out of the cable into the garage.

cable through hole

Clearly could’ve used a shorter cable for this.  That’s a lot of slack!  No problem though, I cut off the extra cable leaving around 10″-12″ from the hole.

Now let’s prep the old work box.  This box has bendable tabs where the cable gets inserted.  One of the tabs will need to be bent out of the way for the cable to push through.  These tabs don’t come off in old work boxes since they are designed to hold the cable and prevent it from slipping out of the box.

old work box

I push the cable through the tabs and insert the box into the opening.  Old work boxes have screws that when tightened will grab the drywall from the back keeping it firmly in place.

finished outlet

Later this week I’ll strip back the shielding and add some wire nuts for my rough-in inspection.  After I pass the rough-in inspection, I can install the outlet.  Then I’ll have to call the inspector back for a final inspection.

One last thing.  Those holes in the basement lumber need some fire blocking.  Fire blocking is essentially insulation that prevents air from going through those holes to feed a fire.  Very important to add it.

Instead of fiberglass insulation, I’ll use some fire block spray foam.

fireblock foam

The foam just gets squeezed into the space around the wire as it goes through the wood.  I’ll also add some to my compressed air piping.

fire block foam

So this whole process seems a bit long, but all together, it only took me about an hour to finish.  Actually, even with the permit fee, this costs about half of what the builder wanted to install one.

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical. Tagged in ,,

Finishing Up the Flat Screen TV

Posted by on February 5th, 2013

So it’s been around a month or so since we started setting up our sitting room. We added a couch and finished hiding the HDMI cable now we’ve just finished up the work on the power cables for our flat screen TV. We really enjoy the space so far. It’s nice to have a place to hang out upstairs without being in bed.

Last time we left off on this project, I had run a power cable to the new outlet location.

hiding flat screen tv cables

Since then, I’ve had my work inspected and was cleared to device out the box. Instead of installing a typical outlet, I added a receptacle designed to accommodate the TV plug.

flat screen tv outlet

The recessed outlet permits the plug end to avoid hitting the back of the TV. Here’s what the wall looks like now..

flat screen tv outlet 2

Once the TV was back on the mount, I used a simple zip tie to keep the long TV power cord up and out of the way.

flat screen tv hiding power

All done.

flat screen tv hiding power

Before I started this little cable hiding project, I thought I could pull it off for around $30 as compared to the Powerbridge install we did at a neighbor’s house for $90.

Here are the rough material costs. I didn’t keep receipts.

-HDMI Cable boxes (the orange ones in the wall) $8
-HDMI Cover plate $14
-Outlet box $4
-Recessed outlet $13

That’s a total of about $39. Close. Now I didn’t include any tools or cable since I already owned them nor did I include the permit cost. The permit for the dining room outlet was only about $20. For some reason, the township charged me $60 for this one. I was expecting to pay $20. So, all told, I spent about as much as the Powerbridge. Oh well. In any case, this dual box approach is a little more flexible for smaller TVs compared to the one larger Powerbridge box.

So now we have to add some furniture. More on that next time ;)

Posted in Electrical,Home Decor. Tagged in ,, ,