After Framing the basement you are ready to add the basement wiring. Take your time to plan out the locations of your outlets, switches and lights to make your basement spaces more enjoyable to use. This article will walk you through the steps to install electrical wiring in the basement including telling you how and where to wire electric outlets, ceiling lights and switches and how to add a home run to the electric panel for a new basement electric circuit.
In this article you will learn how to:
When planning your basement wiring project you should plan on meeting the basic wiring code requirements and then add any extras that you might like. Start by locating the required outlets and then add extras for things like a home theater, bed end tables or wet bar counter top.
Some of the images in this article are taken on the main floor of the house but the same wiring priciples apply to wiring a basement.
Some of the basic code requirements relating to electrical wiring of basements or any place else in the house are:
For more detailed code information related to wiring a basement or other projects you should read the article Basic Electrical Codes.
Handy boxes are the plastic boxes that are used to wire and hold outlets, switches, lights, smoke detectors and low voltage wiring. Locating the handy boxes is the first step in installing basement outlets. The top of a electrical handy box used for outlets is typically at 14 inches above the floor to the top of the box. To make your installation look good you should mark the all the studs where you will install a handy box at 14 inches and then come back later and install the boxes. Many electricians use a piece of wood that is 14" tall and set the piece of wood on the floor in front of the wall stud that the new outlet will be on and draw a line on the stud at the top of the board.
How To Nail On A Handy Box: Handy boxes come with the nails pre installed so you only need to nail them on. They are installed by lining up the top of the box with the mark you made on the stud and making sure the face of the box sticks out in front of the stud 1/2 inch and then nail it on. Repeat this process with all the outlets switches and light boxes you need to install. If you are in a area that is too tight to swing a hammer you can use a drill screw driver and simply screw thru the side of the handy box into the wall stud, grabber screws work best.
Locate the switch boxes by marking the wall at 48 inches above the floor. Nail the box with the top of the box on the mark. Make sure the box sticks out past the stud a 1/2 inch by butting the plastic bumps on the side of the box against the stud.
There are two important things to remember when placing switch boxes next to doors:
The best way to locate a ceiling light fixture is to lay out the measurements and markings on the floor and then transfer that mark to the ceiling. Light fixture outlets are attached in the same way as other handy boxes. Ceiling electrical boxes are round.
Smoke detectors are arguably the most important part of your basement wiring project. They may save a life and that makes them very important. Building codes require that:
To put a smoke detector in a bedroom and adjoining area you use a round electric box that is used for a light fixture. They are usually attached to a ceiling joist halfway between the bedroom door and the bedroom light fixture. For more information on wiring smoke detectors read the article Installing Smoke Detectors.
Drill Holes: Before pulling wire you will need to drill holes in the wall studs. Use the 3/4 inch drill bit to drill a hole in the center of the stud. Drill about the same height as the outlets so the wire runs fairly straight across the wall, this saves the amount of wire you will need to use. If you need to drill close to the edge you can use a nailing plate to protect the wire.
Work On One Circuit At A Time: When wiring a basement, or any other area of a house, you should start at the end of the run and work your way back to the first box in the circuit. From the first box in the circuit you will create a "home run" which will be described in the next step
Pull Wire Into Electric Handy Boxes: When you pull wire into the handy boxes leave about 10 inches of wire hanging out of the boxes so you will have plenty to work with when it is time to tie up the switches and outlets. Attach the wires to the stud within 8 inches of the box using a cable staple.
This image shows an electric outlet box in the middle of its run. The box on the far right is the end of the run. The wire travels left to the box in the center of the image. It then leaves this box and goes to a third box or a home run to the power panel. The box on the left side of the double studs is a Data and Television cable box. Data and Television cable boxes should be placed on the opposite side of the stud from the outlet box to reduce electrical interference.
This image shows a cable tv box opposite a electrical outlet. They are seperated so the electrical wires do not create interference with the cable tv. Notice the staple within 8 inches of the box.
After you have run the wires between the boxes you are ready to make the "home runs" to the electric panel. A Home run is the wire that goes from the first box in the cirucit to the electric panel. To pull a home run simply run a wire from the first box in your circuit to the electric panel. Leave about 10" hanging out at the handy box and 2' of extra wire after the wire enters the electric panel.
(this is not a basement wiring image but the home run wiring principal is the same. The wire going into the floor is the home run, it goes to the electric panel. In a basement you will most likely go up to the ceiling or along the walls to make the home run). Nailing plates are only required when the hole for the wire is closer than 1 1/4" of wood protecting the wire.
step 9 Wire The Basement Switches, Lights and Outlets
Please read our articles on how to wire switches, outlets and lights on our Electrical Page or see the links at the bottom of the page.
When the new wire goes into the electric panel it will need a new circuit breaker. You should never add a new wire to a circuit breaker that already has a wire on it. Read the article How To Install A Circuit Breaker to learn how to install a circuit breaker. If There is not room in your electric panel for a new circuit then you will need to install a sub panel. A sub panel will allow you to add more circuits. Read How To Install a Sub Panel to learn how to do this.