Under cabinet wiring -- small junction box

attofaradJanuary 4, 2013

My general contractor is also doing the wiring himself. It is common here to just bring exposed NM cable out the wall, just under the upper cabinet, tack it to the underside of the cabinet, and hard wire it into the light fixture. He tells me that inspectors have started not allowing that exposed NM, so he wants to either mount the light all the way back against the wall (no, I'm not doing that, poor position for the light) or mount a box under the cabinet and run armored flex to the light.

1. Is this reasonable?

2. Is there a really shallow box available? The one he had is pretty shallow, but I only have 1.5" of recess under the cabinet.

2b. Is painting a plastic junction box allowed?

This post was edited by attofarad on Fri, Jan 4, 13 at 17:56

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Carlon has an 1 1/8" deep plastic box but most (all?) of the very shallow boxes have clamps for non-metallic cable (Romex) OR armored cable (AC/MC) which would create a problem transitioning from one to the other. You have to get to about a 1 1/2" deep box before you get to 1/2" knockouts where you could use external cable clamps. You also need to consider box fill, which doesn't allow for much in the super shallow boxes.

1. Whatever the AHJ says, goes. If you doubt the contractor, check with your code enforcement folks.

2. Answered above.

3. Yes.

If you're looking for a more finished appearance, you might consider something like Wiremold.

Generally speaking unqualified persons are prohibited from doing work in other people's homes and multifamily dwellings. If your contractor isn't a licensed electrician he shouldn't be doing the work.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 11:19PM
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A 1.125 inch box is going to be pretty large if it has internal clamps (counts as 1 of the largest wires in the box, likely #14 in this case) to met box fill requirements.

Think at least 4 in x 4 in.

Consider puttin a smaller but deeper boc \\x ontheback wall of the cabinet and the low voltage power suply inside the box.

Pegasus lighting has 60 W, 12 V supplies that fit n a single 'device' size box.
You could also use a short piece of EMT for protection and then paint it.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 5:29PM
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Hi Brickeyee,

I wasn't really planning a power supply. Planning 120V lights, most likely fluorescent. I'll look at putting the box in the cabinet.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 7:13PM
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He could use shielded cable (armored) or WAC has small juction boxes (this is what I used for our under cabinet low voltage lighting).

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 7:28PM
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doug, can you give me a link to the junction box you used?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 8:26PM
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My non-electrician opinion:

I typically see NM cable installed nice, flat and straight to the fixture, and everybody is happy.

The inspectors probably flag it when it's a sloppy install.
I think armored cable would look ridiculous and be nearly impossible to work with for short runs in tight spaces. The space is too confined to bend it as necessary.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 8:46AM
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Even you can find smooth jacketed MC cable you would have an easy job.

It is only about 1/4 inch in diameter with a smooth aluminum jacket.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 11:38AM
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    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 3:29PM
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Thanks for the link, doug_gb, but I don't think that will solve my 120V wiring problem (maybe I don't understand it).

I'm going to suggest to my contractor that he uses brickeyee's suggestion of sinking a standard depth box into the back of the upper cabinets, then bring the MC cable from there. I'll likely need a 90 where it connects to the light.
Contractor may have another idea on the subject.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2013 at 10:48PM
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Why hasn't the contractor offered his own solution to this problem? Is he an electrician? You might reconsider making suggestions based on this thread. If you're not happy with the result, he's just going to say "well, that's what you said to do."

If you were to position the fixtures mid-way under the cabinets (from front to back), nobody is going to see or be bothered with a short length of NM cable that feeds it.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 10:34AM
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"If you were to position the fixtures mid-way under the cabinets (from front to back), nobody is going to see or be bothered with a short length of NM cable that feeds it."

More aimed at the OP than homebound. Think about maintenance. In an active kitchen the underside of cabinets can get pretty sloppy. The smoother it is, the easier it is to keep clean. In this case a cleaning job that might take a few seconds can go to to a few minutes with a lot of crapola hung on the underside of the cabinets.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 3:27PM
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homebound, the original post gave the electrician's suggestion. He said this morning that he will not have any problem implementing what I suggested, and I will have none being happy with the result.

As I said, the electrician says inspectors are failing exposed NM. I have no idea whether they actually should be failing it, as it has commonly passed here in the past. Anyway, I have zero interest in mounting the lights "mid-way under the cabinets", and I'd like to keep to a minimum the number of changes after final inspection. A box flush to the back inside the cabinet is a lot less ugly than any box underneath the cabinet.

I may eventually cover the MC with something smooth and cosmetic, at least on the one cabinet I can see under when seated at the table.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 3:09AM
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It's hard for me to visualize this as an inconspicuous solution and I'd like to understand this for the future. You don't think that stuff in the cabinets (how many cabs, btw?) will bother you?

For example, if my guy told me he wants to put a couple j boxes under some cabinets for my clients, I envision big, ugly, metal boxes and I know they would go nuts.

Alternatively, if he were installing some boxes "flush with the back of the cabinets", then I envision extra work, cost, holes (including recess in the wall behind cab), and at the very least, a little elbow in the cabinet that bumps into the dishes or whatever. Do you see what I mean? What am I missing?....or are these j boxes going behind the cabinets before they are hung?

That's why I would think using wire mould under the cabinet would be the simplest, cleanest way to achieve the protection you need. But that's me. Not to cause you trouble or doubt, but I just don't understand this as a good solution for line voltage (as opposed to thinner , low voltage wire.) and I would like to understand it. (Sorry!)

Thanks for the post. Please post pics and let us know how it works out. Good luck with everything.

This post was edited by homebound on Tue, Jan 8, 13 at 8:50

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 8:25AM
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"are these j boxes going behind the cabinets before they are hung? "

The boxes must remain accessible.

If you placed a screwed down panel over them on the cabinet back it would be acceptable, but no nails.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 12:51PM
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homebound, imagine a wall switch. Remove the cover plate and switch, and put a blank panel on it. That is how far the box will stick into the cabinet, something like 3/16". It sticks out less than the inside back bottom rail of the cabinet, so nothing will be touching it. I could even veneer the cover to match the cabinet interior, but will likely just buy a close match.

One thing you are missing is that the electrician left some of the NM cable a bit short, either assuming that the lighting connection would be on the side toward the wall rather than on the end of a forward mounted fixture, or he just screwed up. In a couple of cases, there will probably have to be a box somewhere anyway, to lengthen the connection.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2013 at 8:39PM
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