How To Run Electrical Wire In Unfinished Basement?

how to run electrical wire in unfinished basement

You don’t have to finish construction in a basement to install electrical wiring. If you want to use the basement before it is complete or need access to a conventional power source to operate the power tools you will use to finish construction, you can wire the basement before it is finished.

How To Run Electrical Wire In Unfinished Basement?

1). Make a plan. How do you intend to wire the basement? Where do you want to run the wiring? If you know the answers to these questions, put your plan on paper so you can refer to it later on.

2). Cut holes in the walls to accommodate the electrical boxes. If you don’t have any solid walls in the areas that require electrical boxes, find any reliable surface that can hold the electrical box once you install it.

If you have a solid wall, use a saw to cut a hole that matches the shape and size of the electrical box. Don’t cut into existing infrastructure like plumbing pipes and electrical wires.

Where necessary, call a contractor. They can help you to identify safe locations for the electrical boxes.

3). Cut the conduits to match the length and size of the wires.

4). Mount the conduit along the pathways you identified. Use screws and straps to hold the conduit in place.

5). Install the electrical boxes. Run the wires to the electrical boxes. You can use some fish tape to pull the cable through the walls. If you have light fixtures in place, you can run the wires to them, using cable staples to attach the wires to the ceiling joists.

On the whole, if you know what you’re doing, this process won’t present much of a challenge.

Check this video to know more in detail!

Things To Consider Before Running Electrical Wire

1). Secure The Cables To The Lower Edges Of The Joists

If you want to run the wires along the basement walls (at angles with joists), 2005 NEC
ARTICLE 334 expects you to secure the cables to the lower edges of the joists.

You don’t have to protect larger lines when you attach them to the bottom of joists. That includes 6AWG (two or more conductors) and 8AWG (three or more conductors) cables.

But in most cases, cables running on the wall in an unfinished basement require a conduit. You can also run EMTs along the walls.

Conduits will protect the wires from damage. Though, if you don’t have a conduit, use a 2×4 scrap piece as a substitute. You can punch holes in the joists to run smaller cables.

2). You Don’t Have To Run Cables On The Ceiling In Conduit

You can run smaller lines through bored holes. If you consult a professional, they may encourage you to install fixtures in the joists on the ceiling.

3). Install The Subpanel In The Basement

You can either install a new subpanel in the basement or use an existing subpanel. An existing subpanel is fine if it has enough empty slots.

But it is easier to run wires from a new subpanel in the basement. If the subpanel is located in an inconvenient location outside the basement, it may take you hours to fish the wires through the walls to get to the subpanel.

How-to-finish-my-basement supports the idea of installing a subpanel in the basement because you can turn the power on and off without leaving the basement.

4). Make A Proper Plan

Make sure you know what you want to achieve before you proceed. The average basement requires sockets and lights in every room, including hallways and bathrooms. If you want the basement to act as a media room, you need sockets for all the equipment you want to install.

If you know the devices you want to accommodate, you can make a plan that accounts for all your needs. The last thing you want is to realize that you forgot to install a vital light fixture or outlet when the project is complete.

5). Use The Thicker Wire

You don’t have to use a specific gauge for the basement. The wire size will depend on the objectives you have in mind. Naturally, the thicker the wire, the better. 12AWG is a great starting point because it can handle heavy loads. It will run your freezers and washing machines.

Check your region’s electrical code and determine whether or not the authorities have prescribed a specific wire size for the basement.

6). Don’t Expose Cables

If your finished basement doesn’t have drywall, you should use a conduit. Unfinished basements expose cables to dangerous elements. A weatherproof conduit will defend against corrosion and damage.

7). Install Outlets At Standard Height

Like any other room in your house, you have to install the receptacles at 16 – 18 inches.

How many Wire Is Needed For A Basement?

Once you draw up a plan, it will show you the exact volume of wiring you need for your unfinished basement. It includes various factors, including the number of circuits you want to add to the basement, not to mention the sockets, light fixtures, and any other component you want to wire.

What Kind Of Wire Do You Use In A Basement?

You need a white 14/2 wire for the lights and their switches, a yellow 12/2 wire for the plugs, and a 14/3 wire that allows homeowners to switch the lights on and off from different locations.

14/2 and 12/2 cables have three wires (Hot, Neutral, and Ground) wrapped in a sheath. 12/2 cabling is the thickest of the two because it has a gauge of 12, which means that it can transmit more current safely. You can use it to operate heavier equipment.

Between the two cables, 12AWG is more reliable because it has a greater carrying capacity. But because it is so thick, the cable is more difficult to handle. It cannot twist as easily as 14AWG wire. Therefore, you are better off using 14AWG lines for light switches.

Can Wire Be Exposed In Basement?

You have to protect exposed wires because basements are susceptible to extreme temperatures and flooding. Don’t leave the wires exposed.

Can I Wire My Basement Myself?

You can legally wire the basement without professional assistance. But you should check your area’s regulations to determine whether or not you require a permit.

Does Electrical Wire In Basement Need To Be In Conduit?

You need conduits to enhance the lifespan of cables in an unfinished basement. You can also use it to protect from deadly shocks.

Unfinished Basement Electrical Code

  • The receptacles should be GFCI protected
  • The NEC expects homeowners to install at least one receptacle outlet in each basement.
  • If you want to run cables at angles with joists, you can secure them directly to the lower edges of the joists if the conductors are not smaller than two 6AWG or three 8AWG.
  • Use conduits to protect NM cables on walls
  • Use straps, ties, staples, and hangers to secure the cables without damaging them.

What Kind Of Electrical Box Do I Need For Basement?

You can use

1). Metal boxes

2). Plastic boxes

3). Double-gang boxes (Holds two electrical devices)

4). Round boxes (for light fixtures on the wall)

Most contractors tend to choose between metal and plastic electrical boxes. They each offer different attributes and benefits:

1). Plastic Box

According to David Gray, you use plastic boxes for non-metallic cables. You can’t use wires with metal sheathes because they have to bond with the metal box for grounding purposes.

Plastic electrical boxes are easier to use, especially for amateurs. But they can distort and crack if you expose them to significant stress and strain.

2). Metal Boxes

Metal boxes are stronger than their plastic counterparts. You don’t have to worry about breaking or melting them. They offer superior protection for electrical wires. But they are more challenging to use, especially for amateurs. They have sharp edges that can cut your hands if you forget to wear gloves.

Use metal boxes in basements with metal-sheathed cables.

Ultimately, you can use any electrical box that suits you, especially if you haven’t yet chosen the type of cable you will use. However, you have to take the hazards in your unfinished basement into account.

Unfinished basements are damp. You need a weatherproof box that can keep the moisture out. If you intend to proceed with construction after installing the electrical box, a metal box is better because it is less likely to crack or break.

Do All Outlets In A Basement Have To Be GFCI?

Basements expose outlets to moisture. You must also realize that basements are vulnerable to flooding. Thus, every outlet in an unfinished basement use GFCI protection.

Can I Add Outlets To Unfinished Basement?

Yes, you can add outlets. But you must give them GFCI protection.

Cost of Add Additional Outlets

Outlets cost roughly $3 (or $50 if you want a smart receptacle). Forbes expects you to pay as much as $250 for each outlet, especially if the outlet has GFCI protection. The cost is much higher for an unfinished basement if you haven’t wired the room.

How Many Circuits Do I Need For A Basement?

The basement’s electrical demands will determine the number of circuits. For instance, you need a dedicated circuit for heavy-duty appliances like microwaves and freezers. You also require a circuit for the lights and receptacles. If you have a bathroom, you can give the bathroom lights and receptacles individual circuits.

The more circuits, the better.

You don’t want to share circuits among various electrical components unnecessarily.


Add one or two circuit breakers to the basement. Also, I expect you to use 100 feet of 12-gauge Romex wire.

Some Safety Tips For Wiring Basement

  • Call a professional if you don’t know what you’re doing
  • Shut the power off before you proceed
  • Use GFCI outlets
  • Use weatherproof electrical boxes
  • Use a concrete sealer to keep the basement dry. Check the windows for leaks. Take every available step to keep moisture out.
  • Install proper lighting. Do not operate in dim lighting or darkness. Use battery-powered lights until you wire the light fixtures in the basement.
  • Install a circuit breaker lockout to prevent people from unknowingly switching the power on while you work.
  • Check the electrical code. Make sure your project adheres to the demands of the NEC and your local code.


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