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Thread: Rewiring a block basement

  1. #1
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    Rewiring a block basement

    I am remodeling my house and considering several options for desiring the basement. I plan to hire a licensed electrician to perform the work but feel I need to be better educated to make the right decision. I have been given three options for desiring the basement and don't know which is more cost effective. The entire basement is block walls with a poured top course and concrete foundation. The first option is to just fur out the walls, run the wire along the walls and then drywall over. Electrical cost is low but drywalling is expensive and all moulding needs to be reset. The second option is to try to fish the line through the voids in the block. We would then go back and repair damage as necessary. In this option, I don't understand how the electrician would exit the block wall at the top where the courses are poured. Can anyone suggest which option is most cost effective? Are there other options?

  2. #2
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    A couple things:

    1. Your spell check doesn't like the word "rewiring."

    2. You said 3 options then listed 2.

    3. Neither of those 2 options sounds like a cheap electrical installation. The cheapest electrical installation is going to be to stud up full walls inside the block. Your second option sounds like a lot of work for little gain. If you would just end up seeing the block at the end of the job anyway, then surface mount your electrical in EMT and avoid patching the block.

  3. #3
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    I will leave this open as long as posts are in line with "which is the most cost effective".
    As the poster is not in the electrical field, please do not post "how to".
    At my age, I'm accustomed to restaurants asking me to pay in advance, but now my bank has started sending me their calendar one month at a time.

  4. #4
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    I am not a contractor so I know nothing about about pricing, but I am a home owner, so I am going to post my advice as such.

    If are not experienced at this sort of thing and do not have a plan for the final design of the basement, then what is the most cost effective solution now can be a waste of money later when you change your mind.

    Home owners tend to end up losing money when trying and do this type of thing themselves. I suggest seeking the advice of a design professional that knows how and can coordinate the services of all trades involved.

    Trying to be your own General Contractor can be real expensive. I do not do it and advise against it.

    Just my .02 cents.
    "Electricity is really just organized lightning." George Carlin


    Derék

  5. #5
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    Finishing a block basement presents it's own challenges. Indeed, simply finishing any sort of basement has a few challenges. You'll find I have posted extensively on the more general construction details at the FineHomeBuilding forum. You can PM me if you'd like me to repeat these details.

    To get electric in your basement, the most practical manner is likely to be an exposed system, with the boxes mounted to the face of the wall and the wires run in pipe (EMT), also on the face of the walls. If you later add drywall, you can 'extend' the boxes so that they project through the new wall faces.

    Simple firring strips to support drywall will not give you enough space to run cables ("Romex") unprotected through the cavities. The firring would need to be at least 'nominal' 2x2's, and the inspector might insist upon 2x3's.

    Coming down through the block cavities is generally not practical unless it's done during the original construction. As the wall is a foundation wall, it could very well have had the cavities filled with mortar. There is also some debate whether you're allowed to run cables through this sort of wall; some would consider it a "wet" location.

    "Cost effective" is a rather mushy term. Often, it's a fancy way of saying 'cheap.' The most cost effective manner is the one that best suits your actual needs. Good design is about much more than simple price. You'll have to make plenty of other decisions for this remodel, and the cost of the electrical work is the least of your worries.

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by renosteinke View Post
    Finishing a block basement presents it's own challenges. Indeed, simply finishing any sort of basement has a few challenges. You'll find I have posted extensively on the more general construction details at the FineHomeBuilding forum. You can PM me if you'd like me to repeat these details.

    To get electric in your basement, the most practical manner is likely to be an exposed system, with the boxes mounted to the face of the wall and the wires run in pipe (EMT), also on the face of the walls. If you later add drywall, you can 'extend' the boxes so that they project through the new wall faces.

    Simple firring strips to support drywall will not give you enough space to run cables ("Romex") unprotected through the cavities. The firring would need to be at least 'nominal' 2x2's, and the inspector might insist upon 2x3's.

    Coming down through the block cavities is generally not practical unless it's done during the original construction. As the wall is a foundation wall, it could very well have had the cavities filled with mortar. There is also some debate whether you're allowed to run cables through this sort of wall; some would consider it a "wet" location.

    "Cost effective" is a rather mushy term. Often, it's a fancy way of saying 'cheap.' The most cost effective manner is the one that best suits your actual needs. Good design is about much more than simple price. You'll have to make plenty of other decisions for this remodel, and the cost of the electrical work is the least of your worries.
    The firring strips went out with the construction of the 50,s and 60,s today a they use 2x4 and size up to allow for insulation and wiring space, have some handy dandy expert contractor do your basement and it may be the most expensive basement job in the long term, the demo cost when you sell, may cost your more when it hold up a sale closing until the, the basement is made right, and all the violations are removed, we see it every day, and it is not just bad electrical, it is everything from missing construction permits, to faulty construction. Do it right the first time and save big money.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ebm17 View Post
    I am remodeling my house and considering several options for desiring the basement. I plan to hire a licensed electrician to perform the work but feel I need to be better educated to make the right decision. I have been given three options for desiring the basement and don't know which is more cost effective. The entire basement is block walls with a poured top course and concrete foundation. The first option is to just fur out the walls, run the wire along the walls and then drywall over. Electrical cost is low but drywalling is expensive and all moulding needs to be reset. The second option is to try to fish the line through the voids in the block. We would then go back and repair damage as necessary. In this option, I don't understand how the electrician would exit the block wall at the top where the courses are poured. Can anyone suggest which option is most cost effective? Are there other options?
    lf it were my basement:

    i'd use 4s boxes 1 5/8" deep, and connect them with emt, as suggested here already. surface mount them, and
    do a tidy job. use raised industrial covers with decora devices.

    you are done.

    if at some point in the future, you decide you really want finished walls, you can do this...

    lay the studs flat. take off the raised covers, and replace them with single gang 1/2" raised plaster rings,
    drywall the walls, put the devices back into the boxes, and you are done. if you need a full 3 1/2" for
    insulation plumbing, whatever, put the studs normally, and use a 1 5/8" extension ring on the 4s boxes,
    put a plaster ring on top of that, and drywall. replace the devices, you are done.

    if you are gonna finish the walls, and you know this, then fir the walls out with 2x4's, and wire with standard
    plastic boxes and romex.

    anything else you do is going to suck, imho.

    a decent electrician can do this in less than a day. so what we are talking about, is a days wages,
    and the material... and a permit.
    Last edited by Fulthrotl; 04-24-12 at 11:29 AM.
    “Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day;
    teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks.”

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by renosteinke View Post
    Simple firring strips to support drywall will not give you enough space to run cables ("Romex") unprotected through the cavities. The firring would need to be at least 'nominal' 2x2's, and the inspector might insist upon 2x3's.
    I will ask you to post the code section number that you believe supports your opinion above.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by iwire View Post
    I will ask you to post the code section number that you believe supports your opinion above.
    I wondered about that myself. as long as the romex is protected with metal nail plates where it passes thru the firring strips, I don't see any electrical code requirement that they be any special thickness. You might have an issue with getting the boxes to fit and not stick out, but that is appearance and not code IMO.
    Bob

  10. #10
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    Ordinary firring strips are of 1x lumber, and measure appx. 3/4" thick. (Some other methods are even thinner). This is substantially less than the 1-1/2" required space from the face of the wall to the unprotected Romex. You'd be required to 'nail plate' the entire length of the cable.

    "2x" lumber measures about 1-1/2" square, and ought to be enough once you add the drywall, but I have seen the point disputed. hence, my reference to the wider 2x3; at least it is possible to notch the backside of the 2x3 to allow cables to pass beyond the reach of the usual drywall screws.

    I fully agree that it is common these days to have 'free-standing,' framed walls, rather than building up the existing block.

    I did not want this to become a 'how to remodel a basement' thread. I have written extenensively on the topic for other publishers, and I know just how lively the discussion can / WILL become.

    I agree that there are many other factors to consider, apart from the electrical. We have all absolutely encountered botched jobs. Again, I was trying to remain quite close to the OP's question.

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