Wiring A Basement

Wiring a basementWelcome to the electrical phase, aka wiring a basement. Here you'll find articles on how to wire a basement from the viewpoint of total amateur.

Hey... I'm just being real with you. I'm not a pro. These are tips from my own experience when I wired my basement. Hopefully you can benefit from my perspective.

I did wire my own basement and had it completely reviewed and inspected (yes Mom, it passed !). The only work I did not do was install my own sub-panel. For that I hired Craig of Ashburn electric and he did an awesome job.  Thank you Craig!

Enjoy these posts. I hope they inspire and inform. But please, please do not let this be your own resource. I would strongly suggest reading 2-3 books on residential electrical wiring - here are the electrical books I read  (affl).

Intro to Wiring Your Basement - If you don't read anything else (but why wouldn't you???) read this post. This is a great starting point. There's a picture of a kitten and a kid on a bike with a square wheel. Ah-ha! I knew that kitten would seal the deal.

basement recessed lighting ideasLighting Design (Recessed Lights and Light Switches)
- Once you start designing your basement you'll quickly be asking yourself - How many recessed lights should I install? Where should I put light switches? Don't worry - I've got you covered. Read this.

Finished basement designDesign an Electrical Plan - You don't have to do this right away, but I would, at some point relatively early on, sketch out your entire plan. But don't get paralysis by analysis, you can add some things on the fly.Note: This post has a video that walks you through my own electrical plan.

Orange Permit to Finish a BasementPermits and Inspections- This post was written to cover all phases but if you're worried about permits or electrical inspections, give this one a once over.Don't worry, getting permits and inspections is not as bad you probably think.

basement sub-panel thumbBasement Sub-Panel - Do you need to install a sub-panel? How much will it cost? Could you/should you do it on your own. For this post I channeled my inner Steven Spielberg and created a video for you. Enjoy!

21 electrical wiring item checklist21 Item Checklist for Wiring Your Basement-  Here's a list of 21 things that you'll need.  From romex wire, to wire nuts.  I try to include a brief note on why you need each item as well.You can buy all of these at once if you want, most if not all are required.

LED light bulb features CostcoLED Recessed Lighting- LED lighting is the present and the future of lighting for your basement. Buying the right components can be confusing and expensive. I break it down for you in this post. Save yourself about $700.

housing for recessed lighting

Installing Recessed Lights - Need a great starter project to learn how to do your own electrical?  This post will walk you through the general steps of replacing a lame o' pull down light with a money recessed can light. Even if you're not ready to finish your basement, having more light is nice.

Single gang. Extra depth. Pro electrical box for new work.Blue Electrical Boxes - Yup, a whole post about those blue boxes. Perhaps you've seen them? There are quite a few options so read through this one to make sure you're getting the right kind.

electrical box extendersElectrical Box Extensions - The day after my drywall was installed I quickly realized that I had a big problem. It took me a bit digging to find a very elegant and inexpensive solution. Save yourself a huge headache and read this article.

how do you install a light switchInstalling a Light Switch - Seems pretty basic and for the most part it is.  Another great starter project.  In fact you may want to make this one your first one.

12-2 romex wire 50 feetWiring - 12 gauge, 15 gauge, three way wires, two way wires.  White, black, neutral, copper, the "travel" wire (WTF?)  AAaAaahhhhh !     It's enough to make your head spin.  I break down the whole scene and reveal a shocking secret about electrical inspections.
Do you live in Chicago?  Or Chicagoland, as they say. You may be required to use metal conduit when installing your electrical. Please check your local code. Here's a couple of articles on metal conduit installation. MOST areas, 90% or more, do not require metal conduit.  Some do though.

basement finishing jasonIs there a particular post that you'd like to see in this section?  I'm open to suggestions.  Just post a comment below.  Need a video explaining a tough concept?  I've got James Cameron and the film crew on standby  (my 7 yr old daughter with the iPhone).

Cheers - Jason

Looking for more?  Each week in the newsletter I tried to include a tip or design idea that can help with your basement project or home just improvement in general. Some weeks I skip it and play golf instead - sorry I'll make it up to you.

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Questions and Comments

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  1. Matthew says

    Thanks a lot for all you're doing here Jason! I just moved from Ashburn (and an already finished basement) to just across the border in West Virginia. Now it's DIY time. This site is exactly what somebody like me needed! I'm sure I'll have a lot of questions in the near future, especially about this electrical stuff. Thanks again!


  2. Matthew says

    Thanks a lot for all you're doing here Jason! I just moved from Ashburn (and an already finished basement) to just across the border in West Virginia. Now it's DIY time. This site is exactly what somebody like me needed! I'm sure I'll have a lot of questions in the near future, especially about this electrical stuff. Thanks again!


    I might have just posted this about three times...start writing a computer how-to manual next!

    • says

      Matthew - I actually lived in Charles Town for awhile, I'm guessing you're somewhere close to there. Thanks for commenting - good luck on finishing your basement, ping me with questions anytime. - Jason

  3. Russ Craig says

    Did you complete the installation of the outlets and switches, and test them, before you hung the drywall?
    Russ Craig

    • says

      Hello Russ - No, I was worried about that myself. I installed and tested 2 outlets and a switch just to make sure I knew what I was doing but rest I only wired. So before drywall the only thing installed was the blue box and the wiring. No outlet. -Jason

  4. Shawn says

    Jason , I'm just finishing a few more touch up before inspection. Your website is the best and it help me throughout this journey. How was the rough inspection and did the inspector ask questions. I did all the little details such as staple every 6", fire blocking and ect . Is there anything you could think of , just let me know . You are a guidance to us diyer.

    • says

      Thanks Shawn - Make sure the power is NOT on to the circuits. Clear away anything that might block their view of the receptacles. My guy didn't check every single one, he check one or two then just walked around and spot checked the rest visually. If you have an electrical plan drawn out, have that in hand and mention that you have it. He probably won't look at it but it shows that you're organized (not a huge deal if you don't have one though).

      Good luck! If something does happen to fail, don't take it personal, just ask any clarifying questions and tell him you'll fix it right away and reschedule a new inspection. If you pass right away, awesome, if it take one or two rounds - no big deal - just keep moving forward.


  5. Dale G says

    Am moving a basement office to a new room. Old office had 3 separate lines to the main power panel. Office has 3 computers, 3 printers and the usual other stuff relative to a computerized office that requires electricity. The new office has just one. The new room has already been finished (paneling, not wallboard) and the room already had 3 outlets when we moved in (all in poor locations) I'd like to add at least1, maybe 2, circuits and maybe 8-10 outlets. There is one wall on the new room that is not finished on the opposite, or north, side. The breaker panel is in a large room to the far south which is 32 feet long and also finished. The new room is 15' x 14'. I know there is a section in the long room, along a cold air return that is hollow as well as a furnace room that is, of course, unfinished. So I'm thinking that, hopefully, I can run the electric wiring from the panel, through the hollow area above the ceiling, through the ceiling area of the furnace room, through a hollow spot along a stairwell and then down the unfinished north side of the room I'm moving to. This is where I'd like to install 3-4 outlets and then make a left turn and install 2-4 more outlets. This wall is insulated and backs to the concrete wall. I'm thinking, can I position the outlet boxes where I want them and fish the wire through holes i drill in the wall studs? And can i do the same thing on the insulated and finished wall that backs up to the concrete? And, any comment you have on my whole plan/idea? What I'm trying to do is eliminate some or all of the power strip/surge units.

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