Electrical walk through -- what do I need to know?

northpolehomeJune 5, 2014

First time homebuilders here. We know NOTHING. Help us out with tips, questions, important things that we need for the electrical walk through. We are gathering as much information as we can. Thanks for any input.

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This is what we did...we drew out the floorplan and used DS's marker collection to draw in everything we wanted. We had a red circle for ceiling fans, a blue dot for a ceiling light, a green dot for a wall light, a yellow dot for recessed lights...you get the picture. We also put an X everywhere we wanted plugs. I also wrote some notes explained exactly what we were planning. I had also already picked out a lot of fixtures, bathroom vent fans and range hood. So, I was able to give the electricians all the information from them like amps, etc. Also, be sure to ask about the location of the breaker box (there are rules about where they can go) and ask if they will run coax and ethernet cables for TV and internet. If so, tell them where you want them run. Also, be able to tell them where your septic system will be (if you use a mechanical system) because they will have a big thick wire that goes out to the exterior. Also be able to them what type of HVAC, hot water heater and appliances you plan to install. All of this will get you a more accurate estimate.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 8:16AM
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Yeah take the time to research and draw it all out. Even thought we didn't go with what I had drawn out I at least knew what I wanted b/c I had thought through every single room, so the walk through wasn't hard. I looked at tons of pictures on Houzz to see how many recessed lights and where they had them, etc....
Of course even then I forgot stuff...argh!! I forgot to run a plug and TV outlet up on the wall of our screened in porch, dang. Be prepared for a big overage too. We added some more recessed lights and ceiling fans, plus did 12 gauge wiring for all the outlets ($600) and we still had an overage of 1200 or so dollars. But you can't skimp on lighting....a dark house will never look good. I also forgot about heated flooring in the master bath since it's summer and being cold isn't a concern right now.
Also think about where you want beds and make sure there are plugs near them for a light on the night stand. We had to shuffle a few plugs around b/c of this.
You also want to make sure that your electrician doesn't run a ton of wires to each circuit b/c then you'll have problems with your circuits tripping.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 9:42AM
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We walked through the house and tried to think how we would be living in it. For example, coming out of our bedroom what lights would we want on. Did we want to walk all the way from our bedroom to the kitchen to turn on the kitchen lights. We thought about three-way switches. We used permanent markers on studs with arrows and measurements of where we wanted outlets and switches. We then stapled labels onto the studs for all the switch information. We had already purchased all our light fixtures and ceiling fans so we had a pretty good idea. After doing all of that, we took pictures of everything!

We marked everything on our large electrical floorplan and DH stapled it onto a piece of board. We were happy we did all of that before we did the electric walk-thru. It made it easier to think through everything. We did make some changes after the walk-thru. And, we've had to make a few adjustments after cabinets went in.

One thing I'm so happy I did was to put an outlet in our master closet right inside the door. I remember reading that on one of the GW forum threads. We now have a mounted ironing board above that location. Worked out well since that was not in our original plans.

Also think about if you need outlets in the floors. We have an open family room where furniture will not be along a wall. We had the electrician rough-in wiring in our crawl space for at least two floor outlets in the family room. He said could actually install them AFTER we have furniture moved in and in place.

Do you want undercabinet outlets or lighting? What about wiring for Internet or TVs? Landline phone? Can lights and placement of them? We were having beams installed in our family room ceiling and so we had to measure everything to get location for can lights and where we were going to mount ceiling fan. If you want can lights, do you want LED bulbs? Our electrician installed incandescent light bulbs in all our can lights. We just purchased LED bulbs online (homedepot.com) and DH replaced them all.

We also had them install outlets on the fireplace sides where our mantel will be. And, I wanted to have an outlet accessible in the toe-kick of our window seat. So, they installed longer wiring from the wall to where the toe-kick will be.

There was more to electrical than I ever imagined. It's a work in progress for sure! I was glad we were around when they did the initial rough-in because they installed a few things wrong and we had them change it before they left.

Are you exhausted yet? :-) Hang in there!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 10:54AM
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Let them know if you plan to have extra fridges or freezers anywhere so they can plan accordingly. We had wiring for a future generator put in and also a freezer and fridge in the garage. All of those were separate "home runs" that needed to be specified.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 12:04PM
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Don't forget the outside of the house - security lighting, decorative lights, outlets, planning for low voltage landscape lighting. If the electrician is sourcing the lighting for you, decide whether you want motion sensor security lights. If you will have lights mounted on clapboard siding, figure out how the fixtures will be mounted. There are bases made for mounting fixtures on clapboard, but the outlet has be in the right place to use them (ask me how I know).

Also decide what type of lighting you will be using: incandescent vs cfl vs led vs halogen. I think this is especially important during the wiring phase if you will be using dimmer switches, which are different for incandescent and led. And as was mentioned below, if you are sourcing the bulbs through the electrician, make sure you don't waste $$ on one type of bulb if you are planning to use another.

Re: LED's - there's all kinds of info on the internet about choosing the right color LED bulbs. I got some of mine through Pegasus Lighting, and I found their website helpful for learning about this kind of stuff.

In the kitchen, plan for under cabinet, in cabinet and above cabinet as per your plans. Decide whether you will want recessed lighting, and if so where will it go and what size fixtures you want. Decide whether you will also want decorative ceiling lights such as pendants or flushmount lights, and where they will go. Again decide the type of lighting you plan to use. Plan for task lighting above the sink and prep areas. You want to have the light coming from in front of you, not from behind you where your body will cast a shadow on your workspace.

As I think was said below, give the electrician specs for your systems and appliances including heat, A/C, stove, etc. so they put in the right size fuses. Are you installing a standby generator? Decide where it will go, and what it will power when the electricity goes off.

We had switches put in to power wall outlets. You can have them power just half of an outlet, so for example you can turn on a floor lamp that is plugged in to the switched half (only on when the switch is on) and have something else like a table lamp plugged in to the non-switched (always on) half.

Small thing, but I didn't think about it and had to decide on the fly. What color do you want the switches and outlets to be? Ask to see samples. There aren't too many options, but I found that the white was too bright and instead went mostly with almond, which better suited my decor, and with brown for outlets in a wood backsplash area.

Another small thing our electrician suggested that I like. He put in three way switches in our bedroom - one near the door that turns on a light, and the other next to our bed that turns off the light.

If you are getting hardwired smoke and CO2 detectors (they are required in my area) understand where they need to be and if needed work on placement that meets code but doesn't interfere with design elements.

Make sure you wire for doorbells at all the doors you want. We have one just on the front door, but you might want others.

We didn't build a new house, but we had our old house completely rewired, and our electrician really partnered with us to help us plan stuff out. It was actually kind of fun. I wish the same for you!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 12:17PM
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Oh and one more thing that I think was also previously mentioned and I want to second and third. Take photos of all the wiring before the drywall goes up. This way, if and when the drywallers cover over, say, a ceiling outlet for a smoke detector, the electrician doesn't make swiss cheese out of your ceiling trying to find it. Again, ask me how I know.

Also, if you decide to make changes later, you will know where the wires are. Same for the plumbing and ductwork.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 12:32PM
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There aren't too many options, but I found that the white was too bright and instead went mostly with almond, which better suited my decor, and with brown for outlets in a wood backsplash area.

You'd be surprised.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 2:52PM
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Oooo, DreamingoftheUP, I am surprised! That is very cool, thanks.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 3:45PM
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People have already posted most of the good ideas. Here are a couple others we added: recessed doorbell (a lot more discrete than the standard kind), toe kick lighting for baths, need to know if you are doing heated flooring anywhere for the thermostat locations, automatic timers for exterior lights, night light style plates for stairways. I also asked for 4-gang outlets near the bed since I always have a lot of things plugged in there (lamp, laptop, phone, baby monitor).

Any puck lighting or in/under cabinet lighting, lights in showers, vanity vs sconces in baths or any other locations.

We were able to decide later if we wanted LED can lights vs standard. We were able to decide on dimmer locations later also. The exact locations of dining lights and island lights were not determined at walkthrough.

It can seem very overwhelming, but walking through the electrician should have a good idea of what works. You should just have in mind the extras you want that may not be included in your bid.

good luck, I know I went crazy anticipating the rough ins.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 3:52PM
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Thanks everyone! Very good ideas here. Keep them coming.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 6:03PM
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we did a mock up, same as many of the other folks
our builder was/is wonderful and walked us through very slowly asking a million questions and offering suggestions
along the way ---meeting lasted about 3.5 hours.......for a 2300 square ft house

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 10:47PM
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I did not want outlets right in the middle of my backsplash, so had it changed from the "standard" placement.

note: not my kitchen, just my inspiration photos.

This post was edited by mdln on Sun, Jun 8, 14 at 0:10

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 11:59PM
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We put in more than the required amount of outlets. There is at least one circuit per room for its outlets (the lights for the various rooms are shared across a few circuits).

We added switch-controlled outlets in the bedrooms and living room (although we have ceiling lights anyway), ran an extra wire to every ceiling box in case a ceiling fan is installed down the road (to separately switch the fan and lights), and used multi-location dimmers just about everywhere.

We supplemented our exterior lighting with floodlights and added a few exterior-mounted weatherproof junction boxes so we can add hardwired landscape lighting later.

Don't scrimp on the exterior outlets, consider adding some under the eaves (on a switch) for Christmas lighting. Run extra circuits for these. Also, check out http://www.sillites.com/ if you like candles in your windows.

Consider, if you'd like, having a photocell added to the north side of your house to have the exterior lights turn on and off at dusk and dawn. We forgot to do this and I always forget to turn off the exterior lights.

In our bathrooms we have separately switched wall and ceiling lighting. The sconces on either side of the bathroom mirror are best for getting ready.

We added recessed receptacles where our flat screen TVs will be mounted. We also added piping in the walls to pull our own data wiring (cable, phone, ethernet, HDMI, etc).

Consider, as some have mentioned above, using double-gang boxes for some of your receptacles, especially on either side of the beds and where TVs, etc, will go in bedrooms. Where we have furniture to hold electronic equipment we've used triple-gang boxes.

One thing I would stress is be generous with your circuits. I did all of our wiring here (passed final inspection too!) and I don't think there are more than seven receptacles on any single circuit (but that's just me).

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 10:51AM
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Ok, so the ideas are great, but how much do these things cost? What should we be prepared for in terms of upgrades? It is a 5500 sq ft house including basement (not including garage), but we have the cheapest builder ever, as we have been finding out. So I bet we don't have any of those things you are all talking about!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 6:33PM
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Bury a couple of PVC pipes under where the sidewalk will be in case you need to run wiring/irrigation out in the yard in the future.

This post was edited by robin0919 on Mon, Jun 9, 14 at 19:40

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 7:36PM
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Robin0919, too late for that :/. They already poured the sidewalk. So I have a sidewalk, a driveway, and steps leading to nowhere. 33 days into this and we still have no framing or any signs of that occurring soon.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 11:25PM
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That GC is doing 'everything' bassass backwards!!!!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 11:31PM
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When should I start to bury the PVC pipes?

Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 5:50AM
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As soon as you know where the sidewalks are going to be.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 10:27PM
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Our contractor had not planned outlets in the enclosed toilet area of our master bathroom. DH is a bathroom reader, and had them add an outlet in there so he could charge his tablet.

Also, if you celebrate Christmas, think about where you will put decorations and where electrical outlets would be helpful... near the fireplace mantle, strategic outside locations. We also had a switched outlet put in where the Christmas tree would go so we could turn it on and if without unplugging it.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 11:21PM
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