Q: If I box in a Lally column in a finished basement, do I have to install an outlet there?

A: Harlan Madsen, an electrical contractor in Bloomington, Minn., responds: In living areas, the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires outlets on wall sections that are 24 inches or longer, so it would not be necessary to install an outlet on a column unless boxing it in created a wall space at least 24 inches long. But keep in mind that this distance can be measured around corners, and the perimeter of a 6-inch by 6-inch box measures 24 inches—which technically meets the NEC threshold for requiring an outlet. (A large-diameter round column could also meet that threshold, but we’ve never had to install an outlet in that situation).

Still, installing an outlet isn’t a bad idea. Because boxed columns often function as room dividers, we often install outlets on them, regardless of their size.