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Lots of Boxes

This week has generally been about boxes – lots of boxes.

I currently have 139 light switches planned for all three floors.  ?

Add to this the power receptacle boxes, and I will need to install over 200 electrical boxes in the dwelling. Many of the light switches are in 2, 3, or even 4 gang boxes,  cutting down on overall box count or it would be even worse.

I now have most of the boxes on the first and second floor mounted.  In several cases, it involved revising stud locations to place the box in the most ideal place (or just make room for the box).  A new wall was also needed at the kitchen entrance, just so that there was a logical place to install the switches.  This wall framed the kitchen better, so was a good edit.

There was also yet more required planning with the need to figure out locations of kitchen cabinets, counter height, equipment, etc., so that the box was at the right location.  Some work in this regard is still needed for bathroom wall sconces and the like, once we have chosen our desired fixture (lots of evening work is going into tasks like this).

In three locations, there just was not enough room for the planned boxes, as the walls were 2×4 construction and the boxes are 2-1/2″ deep, so there is no opportunity to place them back to back from one room to the other.  So some thought went into those areas on how to regroup the light switches, in a way that made sense, to fit the stud spaces available.

What I continue to understand with greater clarity, is that building your own custom home instills a lot more complexity in your decision making process, than if you were to build strictly for market.  We have the opportunity to make it perfect for us, and are taking the time to do so – lucky me 🙁

Laser Levelled
Laser Level used for alignment

For a profession looking installation, I am using a laser level to align the boxes. I will do the same when it comes time for drilling the horizontal cable runs.

The above setup was perfect for the electrical outlets.  Those with a keen eye will note this is higher than the standard ‘hammer’ height.  I am following the SAFERhome Standards that dictate the center of the power outlet is 18″ above the finished floor.  At first this seems high, but as someone with a bad back, I now appreciate the relief this extra few inches provides.

Perfect Aligment
Laser lined up with top or bottom device screw

The laser is set to align with the top or bottom device screw.  I made the mistake of aligning to the bottom of the box for the first 90 minutes before I realized my gaff.  I am using metal boxes for the power outlets, and generally using plastic boxes for the light switches.  The metal  boxes are more durable when plugging in chords and easier to wire, but the plastic ones will provide less interference to the radio antennas on all of the Z-Wave light dimmers.  Although the device screws are in the same location, the boxes sizes are not the same.  The fixture screws are on the outside of the metal box and inside of the plastic box.

What was a bit of a surprise was the metal boxes are now special order at the wholesalers. In the ever spiraling race to the bottom on cost, contractors have generally all switched to the slightly cheaper cost of plastic.  On my order, the cost difference was only $70.  I spend more than that on a casual meal out.

Fast Alignment
With the laser set in a central location, mounting many boxes to same height is a breeze

Again, the eagle eyes will notice the light switches are a bit low.  SAFERhome’s dictates 48″ to middle of light switch box.  The height seems ‘weird’ for a day or two, but then you quickly get used to it and then even see the beauty in its lines.  With the switches being lower, they are less in the site lines, freeing up the rooms site lines.

New Wall
Just finishing up the new divider wall at entrance to kitchen.
Needed a place to put all those light switches.

Some electricians may argue I am doing this backwards, as many run the cables first and then install the boxes.  I wanted the boxes all in place in their exact location so that I could optimize the cable routing in my mind.  This is assisted by marking each box with its circuit number (number of the circuit breaker serving it) and in the case of light switches, the switch number corresponding to a master list I have worked up in Excel.

In general, it has gone well so far.  I will clean up the few boxes remaining on the main floors and then start the extensive box collection in the basement this coming week.  I will then probably switch gears and work on the plumbing supply, while I await word for my main power distribution panel from Leviton. When it comes time for running the cables, I will try to get assistance, as it is much easier with two people, and I have a lot to run 🙂

As always, thanks for visiting.

“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have and should have.” —Louis E. Boone (born 1941) Author

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