This article is from my roughing-in series for electricians.
In this electrician tutorial, you will learn how to cut in wires as an electrician.
The cutting-in process is when we strip the jacket to expose our wires, enter the wires into the electrical box, strip the single conductors, splice the wires, then tuck the wires in NEATLY to the back of the electrical box to prevent damage to our wires.
We are then allowed to call for electrical inspection, and if we pass, it then allows other trades (insulators and drywallers) to come in and seal up the walls. As electricians, we then transition into the finishing stage.
Cutting-in must be completed to call and pass electrical inspection. It then allows insulators and drywallers to now come and seal up the walls! (Walls are not allowed to be sealed if electricians have not passed inspection!)
What We Cover in this Article:
- What is Cutting-In (Roughing-In)
- Should You Strip the Wire Jacket Before Entering Wires Into an Electrical Box?
- What Box Tab to Use When Entering Wires Into an Electrical Box?
- Clean Up As You Work (Pro-Tip)
I want to first do a quick recap of what we’ve covered so far from our roughing-in series, in case you’ve missed it!
You were shown:
- How to Install an Electrical Box
- How to Drill Holes for Wires
- How to Pull Wires for Electricians
- Why You Need to Leave a Wire Service Loop
- How to Label and Staple Electrical Wires
I also shared many other important apprentice electrician tips, like using protection plates if you drilled too close to the edge of the stud.
Now, let’s talk about cutting in wires.
What is Cutting-In For Electricians (Rough-In)
In the electrical roughing-in stage, cutting-in is the last step.
The rough-in process starts with measuring box heights, then installing an electrical box, drilling holes for wires, pulling and labelling wires, and finally stapling wires to secure them.
There’s multiple steps to “cutting-in” in the rough-in stage:
- Stripping the Wire Jacket
- Entering the Wires into the Electrical Box
- Bonding the Wire Around the Box Bond Screw
- Stripping Single Conductors
- Splicing the Wires
- Tucking the Wires Neatly in the Electrical Box
The best way to cut-in is following all these steps. However, if the job is on a tight timeframe, you can stick the wires in the box and figure out splicing later, but this is VERY BAD PRACTICE.
Each of these steps is required to fully complete the electrical cutting-in process. I highly recommend following them in order for the best and fastest electrical rough-in.
Should You Strip the Wire Jacket Before Entering Wires Into an Electrical Box?
I personally like to remove the wire jacket BEFORE entering wires into the box. (More below)
Now, some people enter the wire jacket into the box with the wire jacket on, then remove the wire jacket inside the box.
This obviously works, but I find it very slow, and cumbersome.
The EASIEST WAY is to remove the wire jacket OUTSIDE of the box because the wire is free, and you can move the wire wherever you’d like. You also don’t have to bend over as long and look inside the box cutting the jacket (and hopefully not damage the wires.. accidents happen you know!).
With the wire jacket removed first, where you can easily see what you’re doing, and not have to bend over, you then simply push the wires into the box!
The time to complete the task is probably similar, but stripping the wire jacket BEFORE entering wires into the box gave a more comfortable workflow. (Try it out!)
What Box Tab to Use When Entering Wires Into an Electrical Box?
Bad electricians just stick wires in the box and don’t think about the next step.
You should ALWAYS be thinking about what slot or hole to enter a wire into the box EVERYTIME.
This for three reasons!:
- It’s all about making life easier
- It’s all about protecting the wire
- It’s all about making your box look clean!
Some electrical box types don’t matter as much, because you just enter the wire and you’re on your way.
However, some electrical boxes make it hard to bond the wire if you enter the wires in the wrong hole or slot!
So in short, over time, you will learn what’s easiest when entering wires into an electrical box, and just keep it in mind when you go back to splice the wires.
If you enter wires without thinking about organization, you’ll end up having crossing wires unnecessarily.
For example: If you have two switches on a double-gang electrical box, it’d be wisest to put the left switch’s wire in the left slot, and the right switch’s wire in the right slot! Then for power, you can run that in the middle, as both switches need power!
In the video I said a single-gang box doesn’t matter as much because there’s not as much room to work with, but you will see a tremendous difference for larger boxes like a triple-gang electrical box!
Clean Up As You Work (Pro-Tip)
Sometimes on a construction site, a mess just has to be made.
But if you can clean up as you work, it will always be faster!
The cutting-in process is EXTREMELY MESSY. If you leave behind the wire jacket and strippings from room to room on a jobsite, it makes electricians look extremely unprofessional.
The secret is bringing an empty cardboard box or garbage can as you work. You will have very little mess to clean up, and it doesn’t slow you down! (It actually speeds you up!!)
Placing a cardboard box at your feet while cutting-in can reduce clean-up time by 75%!!!
Wrapping Up: How to Cut-In Wires (and What is Cutting-In for Electricians)
So this article didn’t fully complete the cutting-in process. In our next video, we will then splice our wires, and tuck the wires in neatly to the back of the box.
View the roughing-in series to see the whole process!
The thing is, anyone can do these steps, which is why you see so many homeowner DIY electrical tutorials, which are sketchy!
But the difference to a real electrician is understanding WHY you’re doing these steps.. such as tucking the wires into the back of the box so a drywaller can’t nick your wire with their drywall cutting tool.
And if they do damage your wire, you can use your service loop to pull in extra wire.. you’ll be grateful you listened and left a service loop!
Thanks for reading.. I hope you’ve been enjoying my roughing-in series for electricians. As always, leave a comment if you have any electrical questions!
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