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running unfinished basement wires

Posted by bleevan (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 6, 06 at 15:53

In my unfinished basement can I staple electrical wires to underside of floor joists or do I need to drill through them?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: running unfinished basement wires

staple them


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

Staple them if you don't ever plan to finish the basement, or plan to put in a suspended ceiling. Small holes in the centers of the floor joists are a reasonable alternative.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

Stapling the wire isn't an option, with a couple of exceptions. Hasn't been for a long time. Drilling holes is probably the easiest and most common method.

There are a number of references on line for drilling floor joists, but the basic rules are:
No holes closer than 2" to the edge of the joist
Hole can't be larger than 1/3 of the ACTUAL dimension of the lumber. Shouldn't be an issue as you should generally limit the number of #14 or #12 cables in a hole to 4 for several reasons

2005 NEC
ARTICLE 334 Nonmetallic-Sheathed Cable: Types NM, NMC, and NMS
334.15 Exposed Work.
(C) In Unfinished Basements. Where cable is run at angles with joists in unfinished basements, it shall be permissible to secure cables not smaller than two 6 AWG or three 8 AWG conductors directly to the lower edges of the joists. Smaller cables shall be run either through bored holes in joists or on running boards. NM cable used on a wall of an unfinished basement shall be permitted to be installed in a listed conduit or tubing.

UNK


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

Drilling the joists is what the NEC prescribes, obviously. With that said, if you have anything hanging lower than the bottom of the joists - pipes, etc. - which would mean that finishing the basement (at some point in the future, maybe by future owners) would involve a drop ceiling of some kind rather than drywall right on the joists, you can staple right to the bottom of joists.

In my basement, lots of stuff was already stapled to the joists - some BX (armored cable), some romex, but also oaxial cable and phone lines and speaker wire as well as old doorbell wire. So, when I rewired my kitchen, I saw no point in drilling all of the joists to run 8 new circuits when there are 15 others already in place. I know it's not code, but if you take care to minimize slack in the wire (having it hang low, away from joists) and secure several cables together whenever possible, it's fine. Passing inspection, of course, may be another story.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

What the heck is going on? It appears that four people posting here have written something that plainly contradicts code. Am I misreading what's been written?

The answer is, no, you cannot staple cable to the bottom of the joists. The only exception is big stuff - NM at least 8-3 or 6-2. Smaller cable (14-2 to 8-2) run perpendicular to the joists requires a running board, or else has to be fed through bored holes in the joists.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

Based on what the code says, it is only OK to staple to the bottom of the joists if a drop ceiling is already in place which would make it unexposed.

If you want to avoid drilling, just nail the running boards perpendicular to the joists and attach the cable to that.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

I know it's not code, but if you take care to minimize slack in the wire (having it hang low, away from joists) and secure several cables together whenever possible, it's fine. Passing inspection, of course, may be another story.

That's an odd definition of "fine."


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

The general guiding principle is "protect wire from physical damage". If you can do this and still violate code - i.e., staple Romex to bottom of joists - you're fine. But clearly not in compliance with code... Is that still too complicated?

I recognize that code is code and is written with the best intentions in mind, but some of its provisions are senseless - this is one of them. Every unfinished basement has the potential to one day be finished - by current or future owners of the home. Therefore, code prescribing what to do with an unfinished-for-now basement may not be the best long-term prescription.

As to the OP's question - is it code to staple wire to joists - no. Might it be something you would choose to do anyway - sure. It is routinely done by many OTHERWISE FULLY CODE-COMPLYING electrical contractors.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

And if they get caught they will either have to replace the wire correctly or loose their lisence, amd maybe both.

Is is a violation of the NEC to staple small NM cables to the bottom of joists in an unfinished basement.
END OF STORY.
If you do it and get caught (even at resale time) you can expect to pay for correcting your VIOLATION.

Giving advice that contradicts the NEC is not ever acceptable.
Smaller cables seem to atract a lot of hangers and crap and are easily be damaged.
The larger cables also attract things, but at least they are big enough to have strength.
DO NOT staple #12 and #14 NM to the bottom of joists.

I am sure all the posters above saying it is OK to violate the code will step right up and pay for the installation to be corrected if you get caught.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

If you can do this and still violate code - i.e., staple Romex to bottom of joists - you're fine. But clearly not in compliance with code... Is that still too complicated?

For the vast majority of people on this board, code violations are not fine. Is that still too complicated?

Further, cable that is simply stapled to the bottom of joists is not protected from physical damage, which, as you point out, is the whole point of the requirement.

It's one thing for clueless non-experts to give bad advice, but it's another entirely for someone who actually knows the code to suggest that violating it is fine.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

get a code book,there is no easy answer for this .Think long term and think about yourself buying this house and someone doing a halfass job that you have to correct. never staple romex too tight ,never do a job that is a recipe for a fire for the next owner.buy a national code book or ask at the supply house.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

... or ask at the supply house ...

Used to be you could do this. In recent years one of the places I used to buy electrical parts started hiring pimply-faced kids right out of (or still in) college to tend the counter.

Even for the other place, I still wouldn't take their advice without a code book as backup.

Pugo, what you do with your own wiring is your own business - until you sell your house. If there's ever a fire and it can be traced to your noncompliant work, good luck in the lawsuit. I have some bad news for you, the boys in Washington have made it a lot harder for you to declare bankruptcy to get out of paying.

Even if there isn't a fire, if I buy your house, look out! ;-)


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

Good God, people. Now my noncompliant wiring is a fire hazard and I am unable to declare bankruptcy :) ...and I am shaking in my boots about the possibility of you buying my house.

Nobody should take anyone's advice without checking the codebook. But let's get something straight - we are talking about whether stapling wire to the joists is okay. The alternatives are presumably two:
1. drill holes
2. staple wire to running boards nailed across joists.

Drilling holes is fine, but suppose you have some wimpy joists (2X6, maybe) and you drill 1-1/2" holes in them to fit your 4 12-2 cables bunched together. At some point later on someone decides they want to tile a large area on the first floor with marble and can't because the floor flexes too much due to the loss in joist strength. Am I suggesting violating code routinely as a matter of practice? No, so let's all calm the $%^& down about fire hazards, lawsuits and outrageous costs of repairs.

Don't get me started on running boards - as if a 1X can somehow make the difference between an unsafe condition and a perfectly safe one. And if at resale the inspector insists that it's fixed, I guess I'll pony up the $50 for a half-hour of an electrician's time to drill me 6 holes.

And one more thing: not to offend anyone here, but if all people needed was a check of the codebook any time they had a question, this forum wouldn't exist (or else be useless, which it isn't) and some of you who like to say things like "well, obviously you're an idiot because it sounds like you are clueless, so go call an electrician" would lose a hobby.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

"Don't get me started on running boards - as if a 1X can somehow make the difference between an unsafe condition and a perfectly safe one."

As a mater of fact (and code) a 1x running rboard prevents the most likely hazard to small gauge cables, using them as a closet rod.

The code is VERY vlear about the rules for running NM. Small cables perpendicular to joists must be run in bored holes or on running boards.

"And one more thing: not to offend anyone here, but if all people needed was a check of the codebook any time they had a question, this forum wouldn't exist"

Many of teh posters asking questins here do not have a copy of teh NEC. They have 'Wiring Simplified' and have a general idea of what is required.
When they come to something not clear in the book they ask.
While there are disagreements about some of the more arcane portions of the NEC, there iscomplete agreement about folowing the portions that are clear and specific.

A 1/2 inch hole in the middle third of any otherswise code compliant joist is not going to reduce the strength.
The nargin is large enough, and by staying in the middle third you will be close enough to the neutral line to have no net effect.
The NEC has some general rules for drilling and notching joists and studs, but the general building code (IRC and others) contain the final word on how and where structural members may be notched/bored or otherwise altered.

You are wrong to tell anyone to run small gauge cables on the bottomn of joists. If you do not understand why, you need to get a copy of the NEC and the IRC (or other general building code). AN NEC handbook might b e useful for you also.
If you do understand the implications why are you telling anyone it is OK to break the code (and the law)? It is simply asking for trouble n the long run, and possibly in the sort run if you get caught.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

1) Bore the holes or attach the running board.

2) As a mater of fact (and code) a 1x running rboard prevents the most likely hazard to small gauge cables, using them as a closet rod.

And them being 2" higher up does this how?

It does do a great job of making it harder to just sheetrock over them, though.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

Could someone elaborate more on running romex in attics. I remember hearing something about wiring that is a certain distance from the entrance hole if there are no steps to the attic. Do you always have to use running boards or bore through the joists? Or is there a certain distance from that hole where you can simply staple to the joists?


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

Where the cable is exposed in an accessible attic (i.e. a door) or within 6' of the scuttle if not otherwise accessible, the cable must be guarded when it crosses over floor joists by strips that are as tall (or taller) than the cable. The idea is if you lay something accross the joists you don't want to crush the cable.


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Accsesible

By the way the definition of accessible attic says "permanent stairs or ladder."


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

but you still can drill through the joists, correct?

which option is the better practice ... running boards or through the joist?


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

So once you are 6 feet away, does that mean you can staple to the joists?


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

Tiffer: for attics you either have to go through the joists or put strips AROUND them not running boards like the basement would have. The idea is not to allow things to sit on top of the wire directly where it crosses the joists.

Spencer: Stapled to the joists with no protection is fine more than 6 feet away from the opening.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

The Ontario Electrical Safety Code permits cables on the lower face of basement or crawl space joists provided the cables are suitably protected; in attics, cables may be run on the upper face of joists or the lower faces of rafters without protection.

But when in Rome.....

Wherever, DIYs (and so-called pros) should remember that you never drill holes into engineered wood products unless it is approved by the building inspector or the piece is pre-drilled for that purpose from the manufacturer.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

I strapped the bottom of the joists in my basement with 1x2's to clear some pipes. In one spot I stapled 12/2 to the bottom of the joist between this strapping. Was this within code since the ceiling is "dropped" 1 1/2"? Or do I need to re-run this cable through the joist?


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

I am not an electrician by any means but how does running cables through holes instead of stapling to the bottom of joists keep anyone from using the cable as a closet rod?

I ran all my cables through holes in the middle of my joists in my unfinished basement and I caught my son storing all kinds of his hobby related things on top of the cables and tying things to the cables. Running them through holes sure didn't stop him.

I think a lot of you were too hard on pugorama.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

I think the problem with stapling to the bottom of joists is that the staples are the only thing keeping the wire on the ceiling. If someone decided to store lumber in the joists using the wires to hold it up and you could have the wire pulled down and possibly out of the junction box.

I suspect nm wire is strong enough to hold a lot of clothes on hangers. So are the joists, but maybe not the staples.

There seems to be a contingent here who follow the 11th commandment, "Don't get caught." I am not an electrician and the fact that the code doesn't make sense to me, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

Is there some reason you dredged up a thread from SIX YEARS AGO to make your inane, unsafe, and ill-advised comment. You do not base your electrical safety on "what you can do without getting caught." Go crawl back under the rock you came from before someone killls someone with your "advice."


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

"You do not base your electrical safety on "what you can do without getting caught."

No you don't and I didn't suggest you should. But there are several posts here that seemed to be in that vein.

The reason I posted was that I thought it was dangerous, for this thread was left hanging with the implication that there was no difference, other than code, between stapling to the bottom of joists and drilling holes.

I thought the combination of "don't get caught" with "it doesn't really matter" is a dangerous one. SO I sought to point out that, in my uneducated view, there is a BIG difference between putting a hole in the joist and relying on a 1/8 inch thick plastic staple to hold the wire up, especially when something is hung on it.

This thread may be SIX YEARS OLD, but I just read it today. I suspect there are many other people looking for information and advice who will find it the same way I did. If it isn't meant to be read, then it should be deleted. As it stood, it was dangerous for people of the "don't get caught" mindset who may not be inclined to go to a lot of extra trouble just because the nec requires it.


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

There's a lot left unsaid in this thread. Spencer's remark about drilling joists in the attic needed to be addressed with the fact that horizontal framing members can't be drilled within 2 inches of the edges - which means most trusses can't be drilled at all and running boards would be required within 7 feet of a scuttle hole.

There are standards published by the lumber industry for permissible hole size and spacing to prevent "bouncy" floors due to drilled holes. Most bouncy floors are a result of non compliant framing.

What is a bit unusual is you finding the lack of a formal "close out" statement by someone being a problem. Code requirements were stated and most reasonable folks would find that sufficient. This forum isn't the code police, people seeking advice come here to get it. People that aren't particularly concerned about the code requirements are going to do what they want and/or think is OK anyway.

And, by the way, staples do a pretty good job of holding up the cable with stuff hanging on it. There is, however, the issue of the 4 1/2 foot spacing of staples that will let the wire droop quite a bit if weighted down, and once pulled down it won't go back up by itself. Boring the joists generally limits unsupported cable to a bit over 14 inches


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RE: running unfinished basement wires

If you have open web trusses, it's not an issue, you can run through them and not worry about staples at all. If you have solid dimensial lumber joists you not an issue. The wood I-beams will tell you where you can drill and some have knockouts already in the webbing for wiring.

We can only tell you what is proper. If you want to do it wrong that's your issue, but I'm obliged to point out when someone is giving advice that is contrary to code and good practice.


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