What is Roughing-In for Electricians

what-is-electrical-rough-in

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As an electrician, it’s very important to understand the different stages of electrical so that you as the apprentice electrician know what is coming next on the job!

In short, there’s there ground work stage, rough-in stage, and finishing stage. Within each of these stages, there are smaller stages like drilling holes and pulling wires in the electrical rough-in stage, for example!

Understanding the rough-in process as electricians is very important, as if you do it right in the roughing-in stage, it makes the electrical finishing stage way easier!

What is Electrical Rough-In Video

What We Cover in this Article:

  • What is Roughing-In for Electricians?
  • What Stages are there In Electrical Roughing-In?

What is Roughing-In for Electricians?

The Rough-In Electrical process is the SECOND STAGE of the electrical world.

The first stage is the ground work (which is working with the utility companies [who provides electrical power]). In the ground work, we are running plastic pipes in the ground from transformers to the home. Pipes are important in case the home ever wants to upgrade their service at a later date, you can upgrade the wire size!

The rough-in process is after the building’s foundation is poured with concrete, and the carpenters have framed the walls and put on the roof.

We electricians then come in and start the “rough-in” stage of the electrical job.

Electricians will screw electrical boxes onto the studs, drill holes, pull wire, staple the wire, and splice the wire in electrical boxes.

What Stages are there In Electrical Roughing-In?

Let’s break down the electrical rough-in meaning a bit further.

In each stage of the electrical process, there are little stages within each stage.. let’s cover the roughing-in stages.

Planning

The first stage of a successful electrical rough-in is to PLAN. This will save you time, minimize mistakes, save lots of money, and have fun because everyone is on the same page.

This planning involves looking at your electrical prints to figure out placement of electrical devices (lights, plugs, oven, etc), as well as how many layers of drywall or plywood will go on the wall (you may have to stick the box out further!)

During this time, you may need more information on certain pieces of equipment to figure out wire size. If the equipment is on the jobsite, you’d just look at the nameplate, but if it isn’t, you’ll need to look at equipment schedules, data sheets, and your panel schedule to compare the info!

People rush the rough-in process, and have to fix their silly mistakes.. planning literally takes 10 minutes!

Laying Out + Measuring Heights + Boxing

The next electrical roughing-in step is marking out your electrical devices on the studs.. do not skip this step!

With your electrical prints in one hand, and a sharpie or construction pencil in your other hand, start from the entrance of the home, and literally follow a single wall around the whole home and mark on the stud if a plug, switch, oven, fireplace, or any other electrical device goes there.

It’s wise to mark the heights, too, so someone can follow behind and install electrical boxes onto the studs. (Sometimes creating a “sparky stick”, aka a measuring stick, is useful so you don’t have to keep bringing out your tape measure).

If a plug is too close to a door, you will want to put on a “scab” which is an extra piece of wood to push the electrical box over a couple inches so it’s not so close to the door frame! (No more than 2 scabs!)

Note, when it comes to very important plugs and switches which need to be lined up and level, it’s best to use your tape measure, and measure to the SCREW HOLE.. this is especially important for your electrical kitchen layout!

Once you’ve marked the device symbols and heights on the studs, you then go around and place the electrical devices on the ground so the person who’s installing the boxes just needs to bring a drill and screws. The process goes REALLY FAST this way!

This will prevent you from missing any devices!

Drilling Holes + Pulling Wire & Labelling + Stapling

With planning, marking devices on studs, and installing electrical boxes, it’s time to pull the wire!

Wire is expensive, so your planning will have allowed you to catch any mistakes you’ve made in regards to boxing and layout.

At this point, you’ll want to plan out your circuits, which means what electrical devices will go on what circuits? You want to try and balance the electrical circuits so nothing gets overloaded.

Note, for commercial electricians, the engineer on our prints literally tells us what devices are on what circuits.. and it’s all calculated for us. Residential electricians will have to follow their code books in regards to “load balancing” (how much power a circuit can handle).

For example, if there’s 12 plugs and 2 circuits, you’d want to try and put 6 plugs on each circuit in the case of “general plugs” which means that electrician’s don’t know what the homeowner will do with the plugs.

It’s best to drill your holes level to make wire pulling easy (and look professional), and also think about how many wires can go into one hole.. but again, that’s why you plan!

Before pulling your wires, you should be labelling BOTH the wire itself, and the wire reel it’s attached to, so you know what wire is which when you go to cut them off.

Once the wires are pulled, you then staple the wire back to its destination, which is either the main electrical panel, or to an electrical box.

You then cut off a workable length of wire, and re-label it up a bit higher so that it doesn’t get stripped off, and so everyone knows what wire is what in that box. (Some people make notches with pliers, but this is a bad way to do it because only THAT PERSON knows the markings.. Labelling is the best way so anyone can follow your work).

In electrical, it’s always faster to do the same task over and over until it’s done, then move on. This means you have to carry less tools, can stay focused on one task at a time, and know you didn’t miss anything.

Cutting-In, Splicing, and Clean-Up

Once you’ve pulled all the wire from your electrical panel, and to each electrical device, it’s time to start “cutting-in” and splicing.

The cutting in process simply means stripping off the wire jacket and entering the wires into the box. It’s wisest to label the wire a bit higher on the wire jacket so aren’t relabeling the wire 3-4 times.. (Some people label at the very end of the wire, but it gets cut off! It’s smarter to label about 1-foot to 18-inches up!.. Pro-tips!)

MAKE SURE TO LEAVE A “WIRE SERVICE LOOP” WHICH MEANS TO LEAVE A LITTLE LOOP OF WIRE JACKET OUTSIDE OF THE BOX INCASE THE WIRES GET DAMAGED IN THE BOX BY DRYWALLERS! YOU CAN PULL THIS WIRE “JUST IN CASE!”.

The wire splicing process is when you use wire strippers to remove the wire insulation off a single wire to expose the copper. You then use electrician pliers to twist the wires together to form a tight braid. This is important so that the wires are not loose, which can cause arcing, and house fires! (Some people just twist on the wire nuts, hoping that makes a “good splice”, but this is sloppy work.. splice the wires properly!)

During this cutting in and splicing process, if you’re smart, you’ll bring around an empty box with you and drop the wire jacket and garbage in the box as you go along.

And finally, the electrician has to clean up their own woodchips that they created by drilling their holes. So you will walk around and sweep out woodchips from in-between studs so that the homeowner will get a clean install when the insulator and drywaller come to seal up the walls.


Overview of Electrical Rough-In Process

So I hope that helps you understand the roughing-in process for electricians.

It all starts with planning.. building a home is not cheap, and to minimize mistakes (which is money), you can avoid many of the little mistakes!

Here’s a quick overview of the electrical rough-in process:

  • Planning (Looking at electrical prints, marking out electrical device locations and heights, and getting questions answered about special equipment like wire size, how many wires needed, etc).
  • Installing Boxes (Installing light switch and plug boxes, and installing “scabs” where needed if the box is too close to the door frame!)
  • Drilling Holes + Pulling Wire (This involves knowing what’s on your circuit so you can pull your main home runs [from the panel to device], and then your branch circuitry [from device to device on the same circuit]. Labelling is incredibly important here).
  • Cutting-In + Splicing (You need to get the wires into the electrical boxes.. even if you don’t have time to splice.. because you won’t be able to access the wires once the drywallers seal up the wall. It’s best to get the wires into the box, splice them, and push the wires as far back into the box as possible so that they don’t get damaged).

I hope this helped you understand the rough-in process for electrical.

Once done the roughing-in stage, you will then call for electrical inspection. Insulators and Drywallers ARE NOT ALLOWED to work until electricians have passed the electrical inspection.

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