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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 ,, ,

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 ,, ,

Hide a Flat Screen TV Power Cable

Posted by on January 21st, 2013

Hey everybody!  Hope you all had a great weekend.  Lisa and I had a fairly busy couple days.  We picked a paint for our daughter’s bedroom and I started cutting it in.  We love the color.  I’m not sold on how it looks with the carpet quite yet, but we’ll see how it looks once the room is all setup and staged.

In other news, our permit to add an additional outlet behind our sitting room’s flat screen TV has been approved and I’m ready for our rough-in inspection.  In case you were wondering what the general process is for pulling an electrical permit..

1.  Plan work and come up with a rough estimate for the cost of the material.
2. Apply for electrical permit at local township office.
3. Receive go-ahead from local township or a call back for more info.
4. Do the rough-in work without adding any devices (switches, receptacles, etc)
5. Have rough-in inspected.
6. Device out (add outlet, switches)
7. Have finish work inspected.

We’re at step 4.  Here’s how it went…

Hide a flat screen TV power cable:

Last time we posted, we cut the hole for the outlet behind the TV.

flat screen mount after

To my delight, this interior wall happens to have studs that are 24″ on center (oc).

flat screen mount after

I was able to find the stud locations by tapping on the wall and using a stud finder.  I also popped off the phone jack and peaked into the wall space with a flashlight and a small mirror.  So, since there are no studs between the lower power outlet and the new outlet, I won’t have to remove any additional drywall.  I can simply “snake” the new cables from the lower box to the upper hole.

***ALWAYS DO ELECTRICAL WORK WITH THE POWER OFF AT THE BREAKER OR FUSE PANEL***

I remove the bottom outlet and snake the push the wire through the bottom box and up the wall.  The wire I’m using is stiff enough to get pushed fairly easily.

power tv cables

The top hole will receive an electrical box specifically designed for renovation type work or walls that you don’t want to open up.

old work electrical box

The box pushes into the wall and two screws are tightened, which flip tabs up that grab and squeeze the drywall.  Before the box is inserted however, the wire is run through the box.

old work electrical box insta

With the box firmly in the wall and the wire pulled through, the excess slack is cut off, leaving about 6″-7″ of wire hanging out of the box.

The new wire is then spliced into the bottom box’s wiring.  I’m not going to show that part. You can find a how-to on that part on YouTube.

So now we’re all set for the rough-in inspection!  Can’t wait to knock this out so I can get on with the sitting room furniture.

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

Wainscoting Painted

Posted by on August 13th, 2012

I was originally thinking about skipping all the posts on our dining room wainscoting until we were completely finished with it. Staged and all.  However, it may be another week until it’s all buttoned back up, so I think I’ll just get on with it and show everyone where we’re at.

The last couple weeks we’ve been painting.  A lot.  We finally finished painting the wainscoting and this past weekend we finished painting the walls.  We had hoped to avoid repainting all the accessible beige, but the touch ups were pretty visible, so we ended up repainting ALL of it.

One tip I learned from painting the large panels of the wainscoting is definitely worth sharing. I was getting some major streaking or flashing with the semi-gloss on some panels. You can see the brush strokes. For some reason it just wasn’t going on evenly. It was driving me mad.

To remedy this problem, I just used a small roller and applied a nice even coat just to the MDF panels and then used a dry brush to flatten it out. Worked like a charm.

Yesterday, I started adding the outlets. Since they are situated in the MDF panel part of the wall, the boxes need to be extended by 3/4.”

I was able to find outlet extenders at Home Depot. They come in varying sizes (1/4″, 1/2″, etc) and can be screwed right onto the existing boxes.

When installed, it brings the receptacle flush to the wall.

Here’s some shots of the room. We still have to finish up a few more outlets and add the oak quarter rounds to tie the walls to the floors. Then we’ll need to clean up and bring everything back in.

Can’t wait to be done with this already!! Late last week we were in DC for a couple days, which is why we skipped out on posting. We’ll be sharing some of our experiences with that trip later this week.

Do any painting this weekend? What are you looking forward to finishing?

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