Fishing sub-panel wire from attic to basement

stripedbassOctober 4, 2013

I live in a condo building that was built in the 1920s.

I'm on the 3rd floor (top floor).

I'm upgrading my electrical situation. I've pulled a permit and have a good electrician. My electrician's assistance is amazing!

Today we managed to use the space around plumbing vent stack pipe to fish the thick sub-panel cable from the attic to the basement.

The advantage of the vent stack is that it runs from the basement to roof.

However, 4 inches above the basement, the cable got stuck. The space around the vent stack pipe is not even. Part of it is narrow, part of it is wide. As luck would have it, the cable landed on the narrow part. I can actually touch the beginning of the fishing snake but cannot grab enough of the cable to yank it down. So close yet so far!

My question: Does anyone know of a tool that I can use in the crevice to grab the cable, move it the wider section and pull it down?

Or should I try to use a sawing tool and saw off the 2 by 4 piece of wood that seems to be in the way? My only concern with this is that I do not want to accidentally cut another electrical cable or a water pipe. Another neighbor on the 3rd floor managed to use this same space to run her sub-panel cable from the basement to her condo. So I know that this is a good chase to use.

I've included a photo of the crevice. If you look carefully, you can see part of the cable that comes down from the attic.

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This photo is a general view of the basement to give you an idea of the plumbing vent stack pipe and what I'm trying to do.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 11:23PM
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Ron Natalie

This isn't plumbing. The thing you're pulling the wire with is a FISH not a SNAKE.

You're well advised to be cautious. That cast iron stack can be damaged quite easily. The fact that there is another wire in there is probably part of the problem. Fished wires have a bad habit of bending/kinking in a way to preclude things from being pulled along side of them. Try rerunning the fish or trying to put a little tension on the cable also in the space. Frankly if this had been done right in the first place, you'd not even gotten this far. I can almost bet there's a fire code violation here. The other thing to try is to run the fish up from the bottom.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 12:35PM
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Much of my early electrical experience was in adding wiring to existing houses as electrical power became available in my area. One of my "tools" is a 6' length of sash chain with several feet of 1/8" cord tied into one end of the chain. In use, the other end of the cord is tied to something so that all does not fall out of reach. Start the sash chain down and if it hangs on a narrow ledge, it will bunch up until it falls free of it's own weight. Sectional fiberglass rods are now available-- they would have been so useful 50-60 years ago. I once used a extendable pole pruner to move a cable through a very confined space with very limited access to that space. Made a 5/8" bit for drilling lengths over 8' with access height of less than 2' by using short lengths of 1/2" pipe that can be coupled together as needed for length. The bit end and driving end were made by welding and then machining on a lathe. Obviously the actual drilling depth was limited to the 18" length of the bit as the pipe and couplings would not pass through the drilled hole.

"A strong imagination begetteth opportunity."
Michel de Montaigne

Here is a link that might be useful: Rods

This post was edited by bus_driver on Sat, Oct 5, 13 at 20:08

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 5:05PM
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Wire coat hanger, cut and bend as needed. Basin wrench?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 7:53AM
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Thanks for your response.

However, the other cable that's in the hole is in a different spot. There is enough room for the cable I'm trying to pull down from the attic.

In terms of code violation, I don't see where there is one, other than probably putting fire block at the basement end of the hole, after I'm done.

Don't forget that I've pulled a permit with my city. And my neighbor, who uses the cable that's already in the hole, also pulled a permit when she installed a sub-panel in her condo a couple of years ago.

Below is another photo of the hole. With this photo you can more clearly see my fishing tape which is pulling the cable though you cannot see the cable.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 10:21PM
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Ron Natalie

Vertical holes like that usually require fire stopping that precludes just fishing in new cables like that, especially in multiunit buildings. It's not an electrical but a fire/building code issue.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 8:06AM
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Yesterday my electrician finally returned.

His assistant was upstairs in my condo (3rd floor) and he was in the basement. They communicated by cell phone.

By carefully moving the cable up and down and sideways, the cable eventually dropped down low enough that the electrician was able to grab it with a long pair of pliers and push it down.

You cannot tell how relieved I was!

Bringing a condo up to code (electrically), while there are condos below and the walls are closed, and the building was built in the 1920s, is quite a challenge.

Thanks, folks.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 1:00PM
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