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How to Rough-In Wiring

Once you've determined your new home's electrical needs and planned for the electrical system, it's time for the rough-in stage. Use these step-by-step instructions to learn about this initial step.

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time for the rough in stage

Step 1: Understand the Rough-In Stage

Rough-in is a term that refers to the initial installation of all the wiring, electrical boxes and other elements needed to circulate power throughout your house. The rough-in is performed by a master electrician and his team of electricians.

Once the electricians begin the rough-in phase, which will take approximately a week, they pull all the wires through the joists, studs (Image 1) and outlet boxes into the switch boxes. Then they tie the electrical panel (Image 2) and break up all the circuits per load. You'll see rough-in boxes everywhere initially but all the devices will eventually go.

It's vital that professional electricians perform the rough-in because of the strict codes concerning electrical wiring and systems. Not only is there a national electrical code with safety standards for all homes under construction, each city or state also may have its own additional codes that address how electrical system should be installed.

During the rough-in stage, your electrical team will work from an electrical plan designed by your electrical contractor. This plan will reflect each light switch, light fixture, outlet and other electrical elements that the team will be installing during the rough-in stage.

Step 2: Mark the Needed Electrical Elements

First, your electrician will mark each place inside and outside the house where an electrical element is needed. This will be done in accordance to the home's electrical plan.

mark the needed electrical elements

Step 3: Tour the House

Next, the homeowner should go on what's called a "walk-through" with the electrical contractor and builder. A walk-through will be a tour of the house to see where electrical elements have been marked for placement. Any changes you want can be made at this point.

Some things to look for during an electrical walk-through include:

  • Whether the number and type of fixtures to be installed in a room are enough

  • Light switch placement

  • If changes are desired, making them now will be simpler and less expensive than making them once the drywall is up

Step 4: Install the Circuit or Breaker Box

The electrical team will place boxes in each area that a circuit will need to be connected as well as light receptacles, light fixtures and the switches.

During this time the electricians will also install your circuit or breaker box, which will bring all the electrical power into the house.

electrical team installs light receptacles

Step 5: Run the Wires

The electrical wires are "run" through the house. This will involve drilling through the wood studs in order to pull the wire through the house frame.

Note: It's important that your electrical team keep the wires neat and organized. That way, should they need to re-route or re-wire a circuit for some reason, the process will go smoothly and with a lessened chance of error. This is especially true when a different electrician attempts to re-route wires originally run by someone else.

run the wires

Step 6: Cap the Circuits and Mark the Wires

The final step in an electrical rough-in is to cap all circuits and mark the wires. This is basically marking which circuit does what so when the electricians come back to make up the panel and put the breakers in, they can label the panel without having to go around and test each outlet.

Did You Know? The red, black and blue wires are referred to as "hot," the green wire is used for "ground," and both the white and gray wires are "neutral."

cap circuits and mark wires

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