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Old 10-17-2011, 12:33 PM   #1
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Electrician best practice questions


I've read tons of books and online resources online, but when I actually get down and dirty and start pulling wires, I find that many things are never talked about in those resources. I have some best practice questions, and really hope that the electricians here can share some trade secrets with me. (I won't tell anybody. )

1. When you run a flat Romax cable over a fairly long distance (e.g. 30'), do you untwist them so they lay flat over the girder surface it's attached to? I like to do it because it looks neat that way, but when I tried to do it with a 12 gauge cable, I found that it was a bit hard to get it flat all the way. Do you have any tricks?

2. When I run a long cable, I leave the spool near one end (i.e. the service panel) and take the cable end with me when I drag it to where the cable needs to go (i.e. the first junction box). I make sure it somewhat follows the cable stackers and then I come back to cut the end from the spool. Now, I do another round of the crawling to secure the cable into the cable stackers. The problem I found was: it's very hard to make the cable flat along the way (twisted like crazy) and inefficient. Do you estimate the length and cut the cable first? If so, how do you even measure the right length from the cable spool? Any tricks here?

3. Starting from the service panel, I'll have so many cables coming out. Many of them will following the same directions for quite ways (to the kitchen). I can have four 12-2 cables in one 3M cable stacker. How do you "stack" multiple cable stackers on the surface of a 4x12 girder in order to fasten 10 or so cables? I was going to put one near the top, one diagonally below it, and so on. What's the best way here?

4. I'm using some metal boxes, so I bought a bunch of plastic cable connector (3/8"-1/2"). I thought it says it could accommodate 2 cables (14/2 - 10/2), but I don't seem to be able to push two 12/2 in one connector.

My question is: If you have plenty of knockouts, do you always choose to use one knockout for each cable? Or, do you always try to push two cables through one hole to reduce the openings in the box? If the latter, should I just grit my teeth and push harder?

5. If you run two cables up along one stud. One enters a junction box (e.g. for receptacle). The other one needs to go higher up (e.g. to reach a junction box fastened to the same stud). Do you just bend the second cable to loosely go around the lower box, or do you run it across the bay and secure to the opposite stud, go up, secure, and then run it back across the bay to enter the higher box? This is all within the same bay between two studs and no drilling.

I know I'll have more questions once I get down to the crawl space, but I don't know what they are yet. In the mean time, hope to hear some answers soon so I can do my job like a professional electrician does.

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Old 10-17-2011, 12:41 PM   #2
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For me, I at least try to keep it so that it does not twist while pulling. Helps to have a helper. I will pull the run, then estimate at the load center side, by trying to go past about six inches or so where the breaker will be. I go no more than two nm's through a holder, otherwise, only use one per cable. As for the last, that is up to you, as long as you do not create any sharp turns or bends.

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Old 10-17-2011, 01:14 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mudworm View Post
I've read tons of books and online resources online, but when I actually get down and dirty and start pulling wires, I find that many things are never talked about in those resources. I have some best practice questions, and really hope that the electricians here can share some trade secrets with me. (I won't tell anybody. )

1. When you run a flat Romax cable over a fairly long distance (e.g. 30'), do you untwist them so they lay flat over the girder surface it's attached to? I like to do it because it looks neat that way, but when I tried to do it with a 12 gauge cable, I found that it was a bit hard to get it flat all the way. Do you have any tricks?
I make sure my cables are always flat and have no twists. It sounds like your biggest issue is getting twists in the cable in the first place. If you are leaving a roll of wire on the ground and letting it unspool as your go, your doing it "wrong" Either Unroll the wire so it lays flat on the ground, then pull it on, or pull the wire from a wire spinner. A spinner is easy to make and will help a ton, if your doing a lot of pulling. i will post instructions on how to make one, if you like.



2. When I run a long cable, I leave the spool near one end (i.e. the service panel) and take the cable end with me when I drag it to where the cable needs to go (i.e. the first junction box). I make sure it somewhat follows the cable stackers and then I come back to cut the end from the spool. Now, I do another round of the crawling to secure the cable into the cable stackers. The problem I found was: it's very hard to make the cable flat along the way (twisted like crazy) and inefficient. Do you estimate the length and cut the cable first? If so, how do you even measure the right length from the cable spool? Any tricks here?

I do not cut the wire until i am done. Yet again it sounds like your problem is getting the kinks in the wire in the first place. The wire, should never become twisted. The way i do it, is drag it along the ground, but pay attention to what you need to up, over, through, under, etc. Then i go back and make it look tidy and secure. One good trick for this, is if you have a run thats doesn't change direction for longer than like 10', i will staple one side, go down to the other side and pull it tight and staple the other side. Then staple in the middle. This makes sure the wire runs straight the entire distance, and there are no droops in it.

3. Starting from the service panel, I'll have so many cables coming out. Many of them will following the same directions for quite ways (to the kitchen). I can have four 12-2 cables in one 3M cable stacker. How do you "stack" multiple cable stackers on the surface of a 4x12 girder in order to fasten 10 or so cables? I was going to put one near the top, one diagonally below it, and so on. What's the best way here?
I don't use cable stackers unless i have to, but if i had 10 cables all running along the same path and i had 12" to work with, i would problem put one set of stackers in, fill that set up, with 6 wires or so, then put the other set in. This is what i did in the area above my panel. Most all the wires had to go along the same 10" floor joist.

4. I'm using some metal boxes, so I bought a bunch of plastic cable connector (3/8"-1/2"). I thought it says it could accommodate 2 cables (14/2 - 10/2), but I don't seem to be able to push two 12/2 in one connector.

My question is: If you have plenty of knockouts, do you always choose to use one knockout for each cable? Or, do you always try to push two cables through one hole to reduce the openings in the box? If the latter, should I just grit my teeth and push harder?
I try to always put 2 cables into one knockout. I hate coming something and all the knockouts are already full. Plus it is much easier to fold wires into a box if they come from the same hole.

5. If you run two cables up along one stud. One enters a junction box (e.g. for receptacle). The other one needs to go higher up (e.g. to reach a junction box fastened to the same stud). Do you just bend the second cable to loosely go around the lower box, or do you run it across the bay and secure to the opposite stud, go up, secure, and then run it back across the bay to enter the higher box? This is all within the same bay between two studs and no drilling.
I would probable run the cable on the opposite stud until it gets above the lower box, and then turn 90 degrees and run to the correct stud and then up. Always run your cables with 90 degree angles. Don't run the cable at a 45 degree angle to the other stud, that looks like amateur hour. Sometimes, if there is no room, i will run up the same stud, staple the cable about 4" below the box, and then staple about 4" above the box, with the cable pulled tight. Nothing should be loose

I know I'll have more questions once I get down to the crawl space, but I don't know what they are yet. In the mean time, hope to hear some answers soon so I can do my job like a professional electrician does.


Posted my answers in red. Id just like to add that running cables (or any construction for that matter) is an art. i take pride in making sure they look as good as the possibly can. There are small tricks ive learned over the years to do it efficiently. remember, all wires should make 90 degree turns (not bend sharp to damage the cable, but rather the direction the cable is going) If you needed to run from one corner of your garage to the other, you run across the joists and then with the joists, never run straight from one corner to the other
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Old 10-17-2011, 01:46 PM   #4
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Jimmy, post the spinner instructions in http://www.diychatroom.com/f98/
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Old 10-17-2011, 09:31 PM   #5
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Jimmy, post the spinner instructions in http://www.diychatroom.com/f98/

will do
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Old 10-18-2011, 03:05 AM   #6
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Long day. Sorry for the belated thank you, Greg and Jimmy! I did check the thread quickly before I turned the house power off and the detailed answers were very helpful. So, I went back to the crawl space and flattened the entire cable run. I already had cable stackers every four feet, but today I added a staple in the middle (not in every bay) to make sure there is no sag in the cable. As for the cables above floor, I made sure they are all flat, bent and secured properly. I can now understand what you, Jimmy, said about taking pride in a good wiring job.

Today's job included connecting the home run cable to the service panel, adding a GFCI receptacle 12" off the floor, and running cables from this outlet to a vanity light switch, a 2nd receptacle (connected to the LOAD side of this one), and a junction box in the attic that connects to the ceiling fan, ceiling light, fan switch, and light switch. Except for the 1st receptacle, all other outlets are pre-existing, thus with small boxes, but I did upgrade the vanity light switch to one with night light. The outlets were preexisting, but the wiring sequence was different (the previous feed was coming from knob and tubes to the ceiling junction box, then the upper receptacle, and then the vanity light switch). That's why I had to rewire to these outlets. What made it more challenging was only the back side of the wall is open. It took me ALL DAY to finish this ONE circuit! But in the end, we have a bathroom that's on a dedicated 20Amp circuit. Whoohoo!

I didn't know it before, but wiring takes core strength! I found that out when I tried to connect four cables and a receptacle in that low (12" off floor) box on my knees, when I did stapling and drilling in the attic on my stomach, and when I did cable work in a half sit up position in the low crawl space. And boy, 12-gauge wires are tough!!!

What tool do you use to grab 12-gauge wires (for bending and pushing)? I only had a pair of needle nose pliers. For fear of damaging the wires, I put tape over the pliers. There has to be a better way, right?

My major goof up today: after all the above was done, I got ambitious despite it getting late. I decided to change our ceiling fan switch to a 60-30-20-10 countdown timer switch. The switch is in an unopened wall, so it was a retrofit job. I took the old switch out, took the old shallow box out, used the wood chisel to loosen the backing wood block, and used a little hack saw blade to cut the two screws that were holding the backing wood block side ways. Lots of work there. I then put my new plastic old-work deep box in and pushed the cable through. Okay, now I was ready for the new switch. I opened the box and was puzzled by all the wires reaching out from the switch body. I was dumbfounded to read ON THE BOX that "neutral wire is required", which I don't have! That was a hour and half wasted! I wasn't too proud when the hubby came home to all my mess while I was closing up the switch -- the old switch -- in frustration. I learned a big lesson: read the manual before starting the work!

Oh, that wire spool looks cool. My old bicycle wheels come to mind. Maybe I can use one of them. Look forward to seeing your instruction, Jimmy. I still have 10+ new circuits to run.
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Old 10-18-2011, 04:00 AM   #7
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Sorry little late to join in however my answer will be in bleu so you will know my respondé is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mudworm View Post
Long day. Sorry for the belated thank you, Greg and Jimmy! I did check the thread quickly before I turned the house power off and the detailed answers were very helpful. So, I went back to the crawl space and flattened the entire cable run. I already had cable stackers every four feet, but today I added a staple in the middle (not in every bay) to make sure there is no sag in the cable. As for the cables above floor, I made sure they are all flat, bent and secured properly. I can now understand what you, Jimmy, said about taking pride in a good wiring job.

Jimmy did took his time to expain to you very clear on it and I can see you got it good so far and this what I always do before I pull any cable in the wall make sure the cable is straight and flat before you snake in the wall.

Today's job included connecting the home run cable to the service panel, adding a GFCI receptacle 12" off the floor, and running cables from this outlet to a vanity light switch, a 2nd receptacle (connected to the LOAD side of this one), and a junction box in the attic that connects to the ceiling fan, ceiling light, fan switch, and light switch. Except for the 1st receptacle, all other outlets are pre-existing, thus with small boxes, but I did upgrade the vanity light switch to one with night light. The outlets were preexisting, but the wiring sequence was different (the previous feed was coming from knob and tubes to the ceiling junction box, then the upper receptacle, and then the vanity light switch). That's why I had to rewire to these outlets. What made it more challenging was only the back side of the wall is open. It took me ALL DAY to finish this ONE circuit! But in the end, we have a bathroom that's on a dedicated 20Amp circuit. Whoohoo!

Ahh Bon! and now you know why it is good time to do this and the same time get rid of the tube et knob wiring they are little more tricky to deal with it but it is the time to modernized it.


I didn't know it before, but wiring takes core strength! I found that out when I tried to connect four cables and a receptacle in that low (12" off floor) box on my knees, when I did stapling and drilling in the attic on my stomach, and when I did cable work in a half sit up position in the low crawl space. And boy, 12-gauge wires are tough!!!

Maybe so but as we Electricians we deal alot more tougher cables or conductors which the size is much larger.

There is a tip when you work on low mounted junction box use the " mechanic chair with wheels or use the hard foam pad your knees will be less pain I have a peice of hard foam for this purpose.


What tool do you use to grab 12-gauge wires (for bending and pushing)? I only had a pair of needle nose pliers. For fear of damaging the wires, I put tape over the pliers. There has to be a better way, right?

for common 12 gauge cables normally I just use my hands unless you get into 4 inch round plastique box I will pass the tip how to deal with it in a moment.

I will not use the pliers for pulling the conductor or cable unless it is on very end the reason why due you may damage the conductor et insluating materals inside the cable you may not know about it until too late when you turn the power supply on and trip the breaker fast or trip the GFCI.


My major goof up today: after all the above was done, I got ambitious despite it getting late. I decided to change our ceiling fan switch to a 60-30-20-10 countdown timer switch. The switch is in an unopened wall, so it was a retrofit job. I took the old switch out, took the old shallow box out, used the wood chisel to loosen the backing wood block, and used a little hack saw blade to cut the two screws that were holding the backing wood block side ways. Lots of work there. I then put my new plastic old-work deep box in and pushed the cable through. Okay, now I was ready for the new switch. I opened the box and was puzzled by all the wires reaching out from the switch body. I was dumbfounded to read ON THE BOX that "neutral wire is required", which I don't have! That was a hour and half wasted! I wasn't too proud when the hubby came home to all my mess while I was closing up the switch -- the old switch -- in frustration. I learned a big lesson: read the manual before starting the work!

As far for the switch boxes any time I run new cable or conductors I always have to bring the netural in there unless it is in the conduit (pipe) then it can be added later. due majorty of new electronic timer or dimmer will required neutral for electronique controls and also it is required in the 2011 NEC codé ( not all states adpoted the new codes yet ) but in France it is mantory requirement so it become a second nature for us in France to do that.

However with three way switch arrangement if you go that route you will have to plan it ahead a little the simple way is bring the source to the first switch then use the XX-3 cable between the switches then after that back to XX-2 for luminaire or fan. ( you will have netural source in both switch box without issue but there is other metholds but will discuss later )


Oh, that wire spool looks cool. My old bicycle wheels come to mind. Maybe I can use one of them. Look forward to seeing your instruction, Jimmy. I still have 10+ new circuits to run.

Bicycle wheel will do the trick for me I just get a " lazy susan " swivel plate that will work really slick for me.

I am not sure how strict your state/ local area you may have to watch out if your state do required a AFCI circuit in finshed rooms ( unfinshed basement or garage only need GFCI unless stated otherwise in your local codes )
For 4 inch round plastique box the tip is just before you bring any cable in there grab a lineman pliar and pull the tab a little from inside that will help you to guide the cable in but just remember to staple them down 8-12 inches from the junction boxes.

If you have more question just holler one of us will help you.

Merci,
Marc
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Old 10-18-2011, 10:25 AM   #8
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Ever use one of these for romex??
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Old 10-18-2011, 10:48 AM   #9
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Thanks Marc for the blue answers.

I still have lots of work ahead of me including wiring 3 way lights on dimmer. It'll be fun. Will have to wait until weekends though. It's not like I can tell my boss everyday I'm taking a day off due to home repair emergency. Yesterday, I did because otherwise our only bathroom would be in dark. My hubby said he could live with it (and wait until next weekend), but I couldn't.

Ha, all kinds of ideas for the cable spool. I just saw a 16" lazy susan on Craigslist not far from me. May go check it out. Love straight and flat cable runs.

Under the same subject for best practice: Can you use a plastic wire connector (image in the first post) to seal a no-longer-used punch out hole in a metal box? What do we have to seal a box for? My guess is to prevent critters from getting in, so that connector should do the job. But again I have a feeling that I can't get off easy like that and will need to go buy the dedicated seal for it. Do you need to seal any unused square punch out hole/flap in a plastic box?
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Old 10-18-2011, 10:55 AM   #10
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My fingers. I use Lineman's pliers, not needle nose, when working with electrical.
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Old 10-18-2011, 11:45 AM   #11
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Quote:
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Oh, that wire spool looks cool. My old bicycle wheels come to mind. Maybe I can use one of them. Look forward to seeing your instruction, Jimmy. I still have 10+ new circuits to run.

here you go
How to build a romex spinner
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Old 10-19-2011, 05:23 PM   #12
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Good stuff. I'll see if I can put one of the old wheels to use although I may run into some resistance from the hubby because those are his treasures.

I'm planning to do some extensive wiring this weekend. Would really appreciate some more pointers:
1) Can you use a plastic wire connector (image in the first post) to seal a no-longer-used punch out hole in a metal box? Do you need to seal any unused square punch out hole/flap in a plastic box?
2) If you need to have two cables coming up sole plates between two studs and they go to two boxes one on each stud (still within the same bay). Do you drill one hole in the middle to pull the cables through? Or, do you drill two holes so each cable is somewhat straight up to its box?
3) Do you always having CAT5e cables and outlets in a different bay from any electrical outlet, let alone running the cables together (e.g. using the same cable stackers)? Is it enough to separate them just by one stud?
4) Is there any general guidelines in labeling outlets so that the labels show the topology of complex wiring? I was thinking about labeling my outlets like A-1, A-1-1, A-1-2 to indicate the circuit ID and the sequence of wiring. But I'm not sure what to do with a closed circle like in a multi light multi switch situation. Anyway, just wonder if there is a "best practice" here.
5) Do you think a surge protector at the panel is useful at all? If so, do you have any protector that you would recommend (and that I can find in store or online)?
6) We are putting in an expensive induction cooktop (240V 50Amp). I've read stories how the delicate computer console tends to fail. Should I put a surge protector circuit protector for it?

Anything else I forgot to ask?
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Old 10-19-2011, 07:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mudworm View Post
Good stuff. I'll see if I can put one of the old wheels to use although I may run into some resistance from the hubby because those are his treasures.

I'm planning to do some extensive wiring this weekend. Would really appreciate some more pointers:
1) Can you use a plastic wire connector (image in the first post) to seal a no-longer-used punch out hole in a metal box?no, get a real KO seal. Do you need to seal any unused square punch out hole/flap in a plastic box? No, don't worry about it
2) If you need to have two cables coming up sole plates between two studs and they go to two boxes one on each stud (still within the same bay). Do you drill one hole in the middle to pull the cables through? Or, do you drill two holes so each cable is somewhat straight up to its box?Im not really following what you are asking, but 2 cables can go in a single hole. I usually bunch 2 cables together when stapling on a stud. As long as they are both flat. Id probably need a picture, to actually see what your talking about.
3) Do you always having CAT5e cables and outlets in a different bay from any electrical outlet, let alone running the cables together (e.g. using the same cable stackers)? Is it enough to separate them just by one stud? I think they recommend 12" of clearance between low voltage signal cables and line voltage, in parallel runs. Its ok if they cross paths, but if they are running parallel to each other, try to keep them 12" apart at least. Having wood in between does not make a difference to your 12 inches.
4) Is there any general guidelines in labeling outlets so that the labels show the topology of complex wiring? I was thinking about labeling my outlets like A-1, A-1-1, A-1-2 to indicate the circuit ID and the sequence of wiring. But I'm not sure what to do with a closed circle like in a multi light multi switch situation. Anyway, just wonder if there is a "best practice" here. Usually just circuit numbers are marked, so that if you need to shut off the circuit, you know which breaker to flip. If you want to keep track of where your wires go, make a blueprint and draw your cables in. If you want to keep track better than that, take pictures before you drywall
5) Do you think a surge protector at the panel is useful at all? If so, do you have any protector that you would recommend (and that I can find in store or online)? Never used one
6) We are putting in an expensive induction cooktop (240V 50Amp). I've read stories how the delicate computer console tends to fail. Should I put a surge protector circuit protector for it? I can't really comment on that much, i have no idea. Id imagine they would fail anyway. I believe surge protectors are mostly used for lightning strikes. Not a common occurrence, but again im no expert on surge protectors. Only time i use them in my own house is where i need more receptacles and i place one of those stip surge protectors there with 8 receptacles or whatever. Like behind my entertainment center

Anything else I forgot to ask?
my responses are in red
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Old 10-20-2011, 12:46 PM   #14
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Thanks Jimmy for the red answers.

I'm surprised that whole house surge protectors are not that popular. I wanted to do it since we are upgrading our panel -- might as well do it now than later. But I have no idea what would be a good choice. A quick google search shows Leviton 51120-1 at the top for around $170+. I do use an APC at the computer desk and a surge protector for the entertainment center. Edit: I just found Home Depot sells Eaton Complete Home Surge Protection. It's much cheaper at $55. Hmmm... decisions decisions.

The 2nd question can be illustrated with the attached image. Do you prefer the left or the right approach?
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Old 10-20-2011, 07:20 PM   #15
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On an interior wall I would use one hole. If the wall was to be insulated I would use two hole so the insulation will fill the cavity better.

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