Return to the Electrical Wiring Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

Posted by kempter (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 11, 09 at 16:55

I built a deck with a lot of help from people on the deck forum. My deck has 2' x 2' brick posts filled solid with mortar/concrete. We ran romex through the solid posts as they were being built and installed lights on the posts. One of the pieces of romex got a slight nick in it when I was installing the boxes for the lights. I chipped out the mortar around it, taped it up real well and hoped for the best. Which worked for two years, but now I'm guessing moisture is getting in there and I keep blowing the fuse. I have done a tremendous amount of work to isolate the problem to this piece of wire.

So, I'm going to need to chip out the box and then several bricks and mortar and splice new wire. What is the best way to do this repair so I keep this from happening again? Should I put the repair inside some sort of waterproof box?


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

Your best bet would be the pull the wire back to someplace you can make the splice in an accessible junction box. Of course the whole installation is illegal and problematic to begin with. You're embedding NM in concrete? Using it in a wet location?


 o
RE: OMG!! BzzzZOTTT!

kempter, DUUUUUDE... that installation is so non-code it's DANGEROUS... glad no one was injured/killed in the meantime... you need to make the acquaintance of Mr. RIGID conduit... or at least Mr. Sched80 PVC conduit.

Also, you canNOT have a splice or box where it will not be readily accessible when deck is re-constructed.

Please post PICS of the original set-up... curious as to how Romex transitioned from concrete to box/fixture.

PS: Filling your brick posts with mortar did approx. zero for their overall compressive/structural strength, especially if you did not have embedded steel tie rods in at least 2 axes. It also, as you're painfully discovering, makes it immensely difficult to access internal wiring.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

First, as for the posts, the entire deck was designed and spec'd by an architect. Although I can't tell you exactly what steel rods are where, I'm extremely confident that this structure is as solid as anything

Well, I trusted the brick mason on how best to run the electric from the boxes through the posts to the light boxes. It is about three feet for each light. He has a lot of experience, especially on commercial buildings, and he said he had done this many times before. So I guess he was wrong, but there isn't much I can do about it now.

It doesn't appear that I can post photos to this forum, so I uploaded one to the Garden Galleries. Search for Deck Posts and it should come up. And before you ask, when you are looking at the photo you are not looking at the underside of the deck. I built a separate roof structure below the deck structure (that is why it is 2x6/s) so the water all drains out to the copper gutters. You can also search for a photo called "roof" that should show you the top view.

The electric runs through PVC conduit to waterproof boxes above the roof and below the deck, alongside the concrete wall. It comes out of the box and approximately 3' down to the light fixture in four different spots.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

First, as for the posts, the entire deck was designed and spec'd by an architect.

Yeah, and architects can be idiots. I paid $200,000 for plans that had electrical design that was so patently against the electrical code that I am still in dispute with him after nearly a year. As a matter of fact, as a result of the electrical code disasters (which I have great familiarity with, I went out and procured the other building codes to check up on those deficiencies). The only thing I can say is that MOST contractors are smart enough to not wholesale risk their licenses on installing things that some yahoo architect misdesigned.

Listed conduit should have been run to the fixture boxes. NM is neither approved for wet locations nor embedding in concrete nor without protection from physical damage.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

Brick masons are good with bricks. They are not electricians. That cable should never have been buried direct in the mortar. The only proper way is to have a conduit up the center or strapped to the side of the post to hold the wire. You are now finding out one of the reasons for this requirement.
ALL connections MUST be made in accessible junction boxes with covers.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

A long carbide tipped masonry bit and some extensions will drill down through the center.
You then remove a few bricks and cut in with a chisel to find the drilled hole.
Install some conduit and pull wires.

Stupid installations that violate the electric code hurt when they need to be repaired.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

That's why he is a brickey and not a sparkey.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

("Well, I trusted the brick mason on how best to run the electric from the boxes through the posts to the light boxes.")

Why would one trust a mason to run wiring? On the same note why would you take the advice of an electrician to install brick?

("He has a lot of experience, especially on commercial buildings, and he said he had done this many times before.")

Experience can be very dangerous, especially when one has "lots of experience" doing the wrong things. Also what does experience in commercial masonry have to do with wiring a residential deck?

Sorry to inform you of this but the entire reason you are asking for advice in this forum now is because it was not done right in the first place. When people here informed you of this you seemed to get pretty defensive about your well constructed deck. If you dont want to hear the truth then ask the people that built your deck incorrectly in the first place for advice.

However, if you want real advice on how to PROPERLY fix your problem then listen to what the previous posters here have told you.

As a side note, had it been done right originally by the almighty architect and mason - you wouldn't be here asking for advice now - would you?


 o
it's awk-eh-tek-shuh!... lol...

1) Hard to believe any building project that truly qualifies as "commercial" would allow a brick mason to run ANY wiring whatsoever... except perhaps in a REALLY RURAL county with no effective AHJ.

2) The problem with architects is they THINK they're engineers, when in reality they're just poofty artists who work in 3-D... also, they like to say "it's fabulous" and "dreadful, just dreadful" all the time... LOL! ;')


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

My issue even involved the idiot engineers the architect hired. I guess they don't do too many residences as the circuit layout wasn't even close to code.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

Jeez, guys. Thanks for the whipping. The reason people use these forums is because often we have to do things DIY. I originally met with several contractors, but they kept trying to get me to do a standard type deck without any of the original design I really wanted and it kept coming in at over $100,000. So I decided to try and do things myself, with the help of an architect to handle the engineering, a brick mason to handle all the brick, and a concrete guy to pour the concrete. The electric seemed pretty simple for a few lights -- and although I'm sure you guys will tell me differently, not too many electricians want to come on out to your house, especially for a few different trips due to how the construction was working, just to wire four lights.

The architect did not spec the electric so he didn't screw up. I asked for advice from the brick mason -- he was wrong and I was wrong for asking for advice. Trying to handle a lot of things with the ipe floor and proper installation and roofing shingles for flat roofs, I hadn't thought about the wiring in the brick until they were actually doing it. Believe it or not, I didn't think a brick mason was an electrician So I should leave it to professionals, I guess. But you know what guys? You own a home for a number of years and you find out you have to do a lot of things yourself.

Am I defensive jmvd20? I guess I am. I'm extremely pleased with all the people I hired for the deck, and frankly pretty damn pleased with the roof I built and the ipe decking and the guttering. Most of what I picked up by reading in these forums. So I screwed up the electric. I'll disconnect it and have non-working lights. I'd rather have that than a crappy deck I don't like that I also couldn't afford.

And by the way, I know I'll get flamed for fighting back like this and not submitting, but I felt a little pissy this morning and got tired of reading about how stupid architects were instead of any useful or even remotely helpful advice on how to fix my problem.

Brickeyee I do appreciate your advice. One good idea I did get out of here.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

It simply seemed to me like you did not want to hear what people here were telling you. One of the problems with communicating via words on an internet forum is that they can be interpreted incorrectly.

Architects and masons aren't stupid, its just that they have their own areas of expertise when it comes to the constrcution of a structure. That is why I said I wouldn't listen to a mason with advice about running wire, just as I would not listen to an electricians advice about laying brick. Architects design things to be visually appealing and functional - it is the job of the mason/electrician/carpenter etc... to make sure that the final construction is done properly and to code.

Perhaps I misinterpreted your statement above - I just have a pet peeve about people asking for advice but then develop an attitude when they advice they are given isn't what they want to hear.

On another side note I did view the pictures of your deck and it does indeed look very nice.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

Is UF acceptable in a bored hole in concrete without conduit, assuming the connections can be made in a suitable box? Seems like that would be easier, if ok.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

Billhart's post got me thinking....are you sure the original installation was with NM and not UF? (Not sure it makes much difference at this point since it has to be replaced anyway.)

Just a thought from a dumb engineer...:)


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

Doesn't matter if it was NM or UF - neither one can be embedded directly in concrete or cement.

As far as having UF cable going through a bored hole in concrete, sure it can. The only thing that will be a potential problem is protection from physical damage where it enters and exits the hole.


 o
My bad! ;')

Apologies kempter... reading back, I see a lot of the snideness (incl. mine) is not directed at you personally, but was the venting of those of us who have had negative (and spendy) experiences with state-licensed "architects".

ANYWAY... finally peeked at your pic (couldn't find the "roof" pic), and that IS quite the "deck"! (Balcony, terrace, or veranda would be more like it.) OTOH, there's no reason conduit should not have been run just as it would be in any other part of the residence. (I realize you probably have NM-B and zero conduit on the interior spaces, but you get my point, i.e. you canNOT embed conductors in concrete, willy-nilly.)

As far as having UF cable going through a bored hole in concrete, sure it can. The only thing that will be a potential problem is protection from physical damage where it enters and exits the hole.

Are there bushings made for this purpose? Would certainly reduce the chiseling and destruction the OP would have to do, if he didn't have to wrangle an elbow into a bore-hole.

Also, do I understand the NEC correctly, that Sch80 PVC conduit CAN be embedded in concrete? I know RIGID metallic is good to go... but it rusts.

Thanks in advance, peace to all...


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

UF certainly can be passed through a drilled hole in concrete or cement. It just cannot be embedded in it or be subject to physical damage.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

While UF can run through a drilled hole in cement or concrete, getting it there without damage can be a real chore.

A few light scuffs and scrapes will be OK, but if it gets gouged deep enough to show the colored insulation on the wires expect the AHJ to be less than happy.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

... and if that gouging is in the middle of the wire, somewhere inside that darn post, expect the AHJ to have very good eyesight!


 o
Pic

Re: being unable to post pics in here...

This is the only one I could find on the ... garden gallery thingy.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

"... and if that gouging is in the middle of the wire, somewhere inside that darn post, expect the AHJ to have very good eyesight!"

The problem is that if ANY damage is visible the AHJ can use it to reject the entire job.

Most do not inspect very carefully though.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

Hey guys,
Thanks for some more of the comments. Shouldn't have been as defensive as I was. This was a massive project. Took me several years of planning, a lot more years of saving (we had a door off the back of our house for 8 years that led to nowhere) and about four months to build. Then a lot of work by my wife to landscape it. We really wanted a brick deck so that it would look like it was just a natural part of the house. Also wanted it to be very solid. I finally posted pics up on flickr if you are interested. Again, sorry to be so snotty.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/35401093@N02/

Here is a link that might be useful: Flicker Set


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

That's a very nice deck. I think the simple solution is to just run surface mount conduit to the light fitting - hear me out. As I understand it, the wire's in conduit up there along the joists above?

All you need is a couple of feet or so down from a junction - you may be able to use one of those small ones with the plate on the side that unscrews, because you're going to have to join the wires. I think conduit is going to look better than cutting a trench out of the brickwork to conceal the conduit, but I do have an idea either way.

1) use conduit and buy a series of sample or small pots of outdoor paint or even take a spare brick to a paint place that can do a scan and match of it. Because it's brick you will need other colours to overpaint it, to make it match. You can either cut that trench out of the brick and paint over it or perhaps try to save the face of the brick as you cut it out, and glue it back in place - it's sheltered so it will be out of the weather - or try the paint fix.

Or you can run surface conduit and paint it as above, to blend in with the surrounding brick. You could even mix brick dust into the finish or even try mixing it into a clear finish as a pigment.

If you live in a larger city where there are decorative artists who can do "trompe l'oeil" (realistic decorative murals) or film/tv set decorators, you will be able to find someone who can do it for you - like I said, you'd be surprised how good it could look.

Lastly, if you went for the cut trench and have spare bricks, use a wet brick/tile saw to cut slices you can glue in place.

Your deck looks great but do not ever use the architect or trades again, that ignorance is frightening.


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

kempster-
I don't think you over-reacted. I'd feel the same way if I asked a question and started to get used as a pinata. I think most folks here are just concerned about safe, code-consistent installations: it disturbs them when someone creates a hazardous situation, especially if that someone is a hired professional who should know better.

Now if the only construction mistake I ever made was the one you described, I'd feel pretty cocky, but...


 o
RE: Repairing romex in a solid brick.mortar post

It appears you have other problems also. You have covered your j-boxes with decking on the upper deck. The deck is incredible. I would lower the outside lights to the same elavation as the inside one's. then have the bricky come back and cut some of the brick's out at the morter joints. Just enough bricks to mount your metal box's for the inside and outside lights and to go from the top of inside box to the under side of the deck, a single gang new work box should work. Then bore a hole thru to connect your metal boxes with 1/2" or 3/4" EMT conduit. Stub a piece of emt from the top of inside box and 90 out to the underside of the deck. Have bricky re set the bricks and mortar them in. Being that your boxes are concealed in the upper deck it might be easier to run new circuitry under the deck. If light's have to stay in same location just remove some of the bricks on the outside and instead of going from light to light with emt use flexible metal conduit. If your up to it, use a grinder with a cutting wheel for masonary and remove the bricks yourself. Good Luck and again thats one nice looking deck. congrats.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Electrical Wiring Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here