You just feel bad-ass doing it. You’ve got the wood dust everywhere from drilling holes. You’re pulling wire and hooking up lights. People come down to the basement and they’re like “man, you could kill yourself doing that” and your like “I know. But I won’t, because I’ve got all the right tools”.
So what do you need? Well here’s my list. I just went downstairs and inventoried my “electrical bucket”, this is everything I used to install the electrical in my basement. Enjoy!
21 Things You Need for Installing Electrical in Your Basement
If you see anything on here that you need, click on the image and it will take you to Amazon via my affiliate link (which supports this website !)
Voltage (Line) Tester – This is one tool you should always have with you if you’re going to be working on an outlet, a switch or any electrical device. Touch it to a line to see if it has electricity running through it.
Wire Cutter (Stripper) - For cutting wire (duh). Oh, and for stripping insulation off of wires and for making loops at the end of cooper wire. Don’t cut your finger in one of these… it really, really hurts, trust me.
Sheathing Stripper – More strippers? What kind of a place is this? Used for removing the white or yellow sheathing that wraps the wires within the Romex. You can make do without this tool, but it’s cheap and saves a lot of time.
12 Gauge Romex Wire – You will probably need a 100 feet or so, it really depends on the size of your basement.12 gauge is thicker and can carry more load. Commonly used for a circuit containing only plugs. Usually sheathed in yellow. I would not recommend using 12 gauge wire for light circuits.
14 Gauge Romex Wire – Thinner than 12 gauge. Carries less load but it is much easier to work with. Usually used for circuits of lights. With a light circuit you know you won’t be plugging a treadmill or anything into it so you can get a lot of lights on one 15 amp circuit.
For example, hallways. (hallways are required by code to have a switch at the beginning and end that control the hallway lights.
Be sure to buy light switches that hook up either with wire-nuts or screw terminals. Push-in type connections are allowed but the inspectors I met (and some pros) “don’t particularly care for them”. Here’s a post on installing a motion sensing light switch.
Blue Electrical Boxes – I have a entire post on blue electrical boxes. These are the very first things that I installed.
A Good Drill – You will be drilling a lot of holes. Be sure you have a good drill with 2 batteries so you can swap one out if the other one dies.
Romex Insulated Wire Staples – You will need these to secure the electrical wiring to the studs just before they go into the blue electrical boxes for both outlets and light switches. Get the big ones and don’t hammer them in to tight, there should be a little bit of play.
Wiring Nuts – Green and yellow, red and white they are children in his sight… Sorry, flashbacks. The green ones with a hole in the top are for the ground wire, you don’t have to use a special green one but it makes it easier. I like the wire nuts with wings, makes it much easier to twist. BONUS: You will get super strong hands during the wiring phase.
A Hammer - To hit yourself on the head when you screw up and cut the wrong wire… kidding, kidding of course. The hammer is for nailing in the blue electrical boxes (not sure why they don’t come with screws – but they don’t).
You can also use it as a guide for how high above the ground the electrical box should be. The bottom of the box should be about one hammer height above the ground.
Builders also tend to put a small black dot above any outlet that can be controlled by a switch. Check it out, if you have a newer house, seems to be universal.
Black Electrical Tape – Theoretically you shouldn’t need this. If you strip and twist the wires correctly within the wire nut then you should not have to wrap tape around the bottom of each connection. But, sometimes you mess up, and the tape can save you from having to re-strip the wire.
Never leave exposed wire in a light switch setup. If a little is sticking out of the wire-nut near the bottom, wrap it with electrical tape. (tape comes in colors, all of which mean something I think, so I stuck with black to avoid any confusion)
For my bathroom I bought one that has a small green LED light on it, just enough light to get your “business” done if you stumble in the bathroom late at night and don’t want to turn on the big guns. (if you are building a wet bar you’ll need a GFI there as well)
An Electrical Plan – If you want to just add a light or a plug or two then you don’t need a plan but before you get down to the main event I would absolutely plan out my circuits, plugs, light switches, etc.
If you don’t, there’s a good chance of wasting quite a bit of money and just getting confused on what you’re end game is. Check out my post and video on designing your electrical plan.
Recessed Can Lights – I started with lights, then went to plugs, so these were some of the first things I bought. They come in boxes of six. Here is an article about installing recessed lights.
Other Lights - It helps to know what other lights you are planning to install. For example, I installed square electrical boxes for my sconce lights but then bought sconces lights that have a round base. It was tricky selling my wife that that was “how it was supposed to be“.
But, if you’re doing that then I assume you pretty much know what you’re doing. I did some of mine but only on the sub-panel where I knew I could easily kill the power to the entire panel first.
Electrical Books – Hold on there speed racer. Do NOT start any electrical stuff (ANY!) until you’ve read a book or two on wiring (preferably two). Reading this blog does not, in any way, qualify you to start channeling your inner Ben Franklin. Here are two books that I personally read before installing my own electrical work. Complete Wiring (Stanley Complete) and Ultimate Guide: Wiring, 7th edition (Home Improvement)
What You Need to Install Your Electrical
This is pretty much everything you’ll need. You don’t have to buy all of this at once or even at the beginning. You can start with just wiring your plug circuits, for that you only need the wire, wire cutters, staples, boxes, a drill, spade bits, the hammer and the marker. Aaaahhhh ok, that is quite a bit I guess, but some of that stuff you already have I’m sure.
I probably did forget something, feel free to leave a comment if you think of it. I tried to setup most of these products in my Amazon Store if you want once place to get everything.
The Amazon prices are actually pretty good and if you have Amazon Prime you get free shipping. These are all affiliate links, proceeds go towards supporting this website.
Cheers – Jason