The circuit breaker panels in the basement

Electrical Finish

As soon as the painters pulled off the job, I jumped right in to start working on the electrical finish, which included putting all of the switches, outlets, lights, etc. in. As usual, it took me significantly longer than a professional, and I was also working on other unrelated projects the entire time, so my time was not completely focused. Also, we spent a week and a half out of town during Thanksgiving, and I was only working on evenings and weekends.

The work was not difficult, just tedious. However, I really enjoyed wiring up switches and outlets, then going down stairs and turning the breaker on and seeing the circuits come to life... Each time I plugged something into an outlet switched on a light for the first time, I was relieved to see that it worked. Since there is no easy way to test an electrical rough-in before the drywall goes up, you first chance to determine if everything is wired correctly is after it is too late to fix it easily.

On the third or fourth day, I wired up the switches for the hallway lights, and turned the circuit breaker on. POP! I had a short circuit! It really concerned me, but instead of potentially spending several days trying to troubleshoot it, I decided to move on to the other rooms and come back to the bad circuit at the end. I was very concerned that I would have to rip out drywall to get the problem fixed.

In the end, it turned out that one of the recessed lights was never tied together with wire nuts, and the exposed hot wire was shorting to ground in the box. Fortunately, it was an easy fix - just pull the can down to access to box, and tie the wires together. I felt like I dodged a bullet.

I spent a lot of time planning the electrical installation; it was nice to see it come together. Some of the things I did to make the electrical system more useful:

  • I put an outlet in a large kitchen cabinet so the toaster would not have to be dragged out every time you want to use it.
  • I put outlets above the cabinetry in the kitchen, entertainment center in the great room, and the bookcases in the office that were tied to a central timer switch. These outlets power rope lights that turn on each evening and cast ambient light throughout the rooms.
  • I put hard-wired night lights in the hallways, stairs, and in the basement landing also powered by a central timer switch.
  • I used small, four-inch, eyeball recessed lights in various places throughout the house for task and mood lighting.
  • I put motion sensors in the closets and pantry so that the lights turn on & off automatically as you enter and exit.
  • I put motion sensors in the bathroom that power rope lights tacked up out of sight on the cabinet toe-kicks so that when you enter the bathroom at night, you get enough light to see things, but not so much that you are blinded.
  • I used plenty of three and four way switches so that it is easy to turn lights on and off conveniently.
  • I put dimmers in a variety of places, particularly bedrooms and rooms with a TV.
  • I put a remote-controlled switch in the master bedroom; we store the remote in the nightstand so when we are done reading, we can turn off the lights without getting up.
  • I installed a backup power system so that we can run important circuits (furnace, fridge, kitchen & great room lights, bath lights, etc.) with a generator outside in the case of an extended power outage.
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