Tuesday, January 1, 2019

1) The Residential Electrical "Rough In"

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Electrical Rough In work can bring you to a hillside cabin in the woods OR ...

... to an expensive mansion with 24 foot ceilings. 
       See the finished cabin on  Page 3 

The Rough In Stage has 7 Steps;

1) Layout the Plan; Electrical locations are marked on the studs and floors.

2) Acquire Material; Material is purchased or delivered.

3) Nail up Boxes; Boxes and can lights are mounted in exact positions.

4) Drill the Framing; Holes are drilled in studs between the boxes.

5) Pull Wire; Specific wires are installed from box to box, through the holes, across the attic and under the crawl space.

6) Make up Connections; Wires are striped, 
connect together and stuffed into the boxes .

7) Inspection; Check your work to see what was missed or messed up and then arrange for a government inspection.

   It is best to complete each step, in the entire house, before moving on to the next step except on a large house where it might be better to follow these steps on one portion of the house at a time. For example you might start on the second floor to layout the plans and then nail up all the boxes, then drill the holes, pull all the wire, make up the connections and check your work before moving down to the main level to start the process all over again; layout the plans, nail up boxes ... etc.
  Step 2, Acquiring Material, should be done after the Layout because the Layout of the electrical plans is where you learn all the materials that will be required to complete the job. Most electricians will show up at the job with a truck load of standard materials that they know they will be used, and then after the Layout they will order the remaining missing materials.

Here is each step of the "Rough In" in more detail;

   The Rough In   Step 1   Layout the Plan   
In the "Layout Step" the location of electrical outlets is marked by transferring the electrical plans from the blue prints to the wall studs and the floor.

   The first step of wiring a house is to layout the locations of all the electrical items. 
A unique electrical shorthand or script, is used to identify the placement of items. Items like switches and lights, ovens and dishwashers. For example the letter "R" is written on a stud to identify where a receptacle will be located and the letter "S" is marked where a switch will go. Not all electricians use the same script, there is no standard. It is different from company to company, state to state and country to country. One Sparky (a common nickname for electricians) writes "S3 Kit" for a kitchen 3 way switch, another Sparky writes "K3" with the "K" representing kitchen and the "3" for a 3 way switch. Same meaning, different script. 
   Electrical script is written right on the wall studs and unfinished floors with a permanent marker or a heavy duty construction crayon. The idea is to transfer the electrical plan from concept to concrete, from an abstract idea directly onto the physical concrete, from the blueprint plan to the structure. When the layout is complete it looks like technical graffiti written all around the house. Electrical script will contain words, numbers, abbreviations and symbols.

Here is some script that might be used;

HR = When you see this written on a stud it means a "home run" wire will be run from the panel to here.
S = This "S" written on a stud means a single pole switch will be located here.
S Van = This switch will be a single pole for the bathroom vanity light (the light above the mirror.)
S3 = A 3 way switch will be here.
PH = A phone plate will be here.
TV = A coax cable will be pulled to here for a TV plate
R = A single duplex receptacle will be here.
RR = A fourplex ( 2 x duplex receptacles) will be here.
© = This symbol written on the floor tells you a can light will go on the ceiling above here.
AC = When written on an inside wall, the air conditioner will be located outside here. 

Sometimes the customers add there own script in an effort to inform you of something that they want to add. They might have an after hours meeting with the builder and decide to add a receptacle high on the bedroom wall for a TV so they will pencil in "TV and PLUG" on the wall.

It is good to notice customers script. Nail up the boxes for their additions but wait until you get verbal confirmation before you add any wiring. You need to make sure someone is going to pay for the additional wiring or the cost might come out of your paycheck.

Residential Electricians consider several sources when determining electrical locations;
✘  Government Electrical Codes.
✘  An Architect's Electrical blue prints.
✘  Instructions of the customer. 
✘  Instructions of the builder.
✘  Instructions of the Electrician's boss or company policy. 
✘  The Electricians Experience. 

Government Electrical Codes. 
   The National Electric Code and local government regulations will require specific locations on items in order to pass an electrical inspection. These codes might require an item like a smoke detector, to be placed in a specific location even if its not shown on the blue prints and the customer doesn't want it.

An Architect's Electrical blue prints.

   A drawing, on paper, showing the locations of walls, doors, lights, switches and so on, as viewed from above, looking down. The services of an Architect are expensive and more likely to be used on commercial construction or a large, expensive mansion. Work on a small house usually has no prints at all. Some builders will provide mail order drawings or a drawing they made themselves. Unfortunately, these "do-it-yourself" prints soon become worthless as changes and additions are made to the structure. An experienced electrician will quickly determine if the prints are to be taken seriously, marking the script exactly as indicated. Or if the prints are more of a general guideline or if they are totally useless.

Instructions of the customer. 

   Sometimes the person buying the home will insist on placing an electrical item in a strange location that the builder would rather not do. If it is allowed by the code the customer will usually win since they will be the one paying the final bill.

Instructions of the builder

   A residential builder or General Contractor who builds several houses with the same layout might want certain items in exact positions. They might want a kitchen sink can light centered over the sink even if this requires reframing the ceiling joists.

Instructions of the Electrician's boss or company policy. 

   It might be the standard policy of your company to have one switch for 2 attic lights even if the plans call for one pull chain light.

The Electricians Experience. 

   Or instinct. You mark a switch box next to a door. The code approves it, its on the prints, the customer and the builder want it but a problem occurs. Special, extra wide wood trim is ordered and nailed around the door. The trim is so wide it covers half of your switch box. Experiencing this problem or learning about it from a source like this, will teach you to mark and mount the box on a stud more distant from the door or to note that a small piece of 2x4 needs to be added to space the box out away from the door.

  Measure, Mark, Move on  

   The Electrician in charge of the Layout will often times mark the script while walking through the house with the owners and/or builder. They will begin by finding a starting point in a room to mark their first item. Say, for example, the first item they come to is a bedroom switch. They will determine where the switches will be located based on which way the door will swing and the number of switches by looking at the blue prints or by instructions of the customer. Then, at the stud next to the bedroom door, they will take their tape measure and mark the height where the switch box will be nailed in place. A good height for switches is 44 inches to the bottom of the box. Next, they will write the letter S near the height mark. This S represents a switch for the bedroom lights. Now, any electrician who enters this room will know that there will be one switch next to the door for the bedroom lighting. After identifying the switch location, they will move along the wall and write the letter R on a 2x4 wall stud close to where the first receptacle will be. No height is marked for general receptacles. The height can be set by holding the box on top of a standing hammer. They will continue to work their way around the room identifying every spot where a wall receptacle, phone jack or cable TV box will be located. Next they will draw a © (6 inch circle with a C in the center) on the floor below where a recessed can light will be mounted. In this example the bedroom will have 4 recessed can lights, 1 near each corner of the room. The electrician will draw all 4 can symbols on the floor, 1 at each corner. The electrical layout of this bedroom is now complete. An electrician who enters this bedroom can read the wall and floor script and determine where everything goes. They can see where to nail up the boxes for the phone, TV receptacles and light switch and that there is 1 switch for 4 can lights. Because no switch or light is marked at the shallow bedroom closet they will know that there is no plans for a closet light. This process of measuring, marking and drawing continues in other rooms and areas until the Layout for the whole house is complete.

  Succeed with Speed.  

   Construction workers are expected to work quickly at all of their tasks. In the layout, it is faster to write the letter "R" on a wall stud, than it is to write "Nail up a single gang box for one receptacle here" It's 5 times faster to write "R" than to write "Recep" Writing nothing at all is even faster but only if everything can be nailed up without missing anything. Time will be lost if a receptacle is forgotten and you have to add it after sheet rock is installed. Some houses have a small and simple electrical layout. On these jobs the electricians might mark only switch heights and appliance locations to save time. Especially if the layout of electrical plans is identical to the last 10 houses the crew worked on. Instead of marking each receptacle they will lay the receptacle box on the floor directly below where it is to be mounted as they distribute the boxes around the rooms. Recessed can lights, fixture boxes and other ceiling items are also placed on the floor below the spot where they are to be mounted. Marking the locations of each and every electrical item becomes more important on larger, more complicated houses.

The key to properly marking an electrical layout is to provide plenty of information with a few simple letters and symbols.

  Marking the Layout requires experience.  

   Beginner Electricians are not expected to perform the electrical layout but they are expected to learn the script and find all the marks. Be observant, look around. Some items, like a kitchen microwave, are marked high on the wall. Other marks on the floor might be hidden under construction debris.

   Marking switches on the wrong side of the door or forgetting to mark something like a garage freezer can be an expensive mistake to fix after sheet rock is installed. Because of this, marking the layout is usually done by the electrician most experienced in residential construction. This electrician is often assigned as the supervisor of the project. In a large complicated mansion, this project supervisor will mark the layout days before any other electricians arrive. Residential electricity uses different materials, methods and codes than commercial construction. Determining where to mark the locations of electrical items can be difficult for an experienced commercial electrician with little residential experience. It is common for a 6 year residential electrician to be a project supervisor over a 10 year commercial electrician when working on a house.

   The job foreman or supervisor will have information about the house that you and the home owner might not know about. If the owner of the house comes up to you and tells you to add another light in a hallway, the two of you may not realize that a return air duct will be in that location.
Any changes to the location of items should be brought to the attention of your electrical supervisor.

The Rough In
Layout the Plan
>Acquire Material
Nail up Boxes
Drill the Framing
Pull Wire
Make up Connections

    The Rough In    Step 2    Acquire Material    
Ordering, buying or unloading supplies.

Material arrives at the job in several different ways depending on the policy of your company;
-All supplies are in the shop. You load them into your truck and head to the job site.
-Your company or you call in an order to an electrical supply store and have them deliver the supplies to your job site.
-Your company or you call in an order to an electrical supply store and have the order ready for you when you arrive.
-You drive to an electrical supply store and purchase what you need on a company charge account.

   To most Electricians this "Step 2 Acquire Material" means; Start the day by loading the truck with basic supplies that are stored at the shop and then head to the job site. They keep a list of missing items as they work and load those supplies at the beginning of the next day.

   To an electrician who is new at wiring a house, it is best to complete the "Layout" Step first to get a good idea of how much supplies to purchase and learn of any special items that may need to be ordered. Rarely are beginners allowed to purchase supplies. Some companies don't even let the experienced electricians buy supplies but instead have an office worker do all the purchasing. Still, you should learn the location of all your company's electrical suppliers and their phone numbers.

If you are allowed to make purchases, establish good relationships with the sales staff, they can provide good insight into the latest code compliance methods and products.

   Learn the proper names and slang names of electrical supplies. There is a big difference between a 1 gang single receptacle plate and a 1 gang duplex receptacle plate. A "retrofit box", an outlet box that is cut into the sheet rock instead of nailed to a stud, is also known as a "cut in" box or an "old work" box or a "remodel box" Some retrofit boxes require 2 box support straps also called; "F" straps or "Battleships" because they look like these. The more terms and slang you know, the better you will be able to communicate or translate.

A "retrofit box", an outlet box that is cut into the sheet rock instead of nailed to a stud, is also known as a "cut in" box or an "old work" box or a "remodel box" 

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