Flipping a light switch and plugging something into a receptacle are things we do every day without a second thought. Most of us can’t recall a time when electricity was not an integral part of our lives. But few people realize how much work goes into making sure that everything behind those devices—inside the walls—is installed properly to deliver electricity for our needs. In the industry, that part of wiring is called “roughing in.”
An Organized and Consistent Approach
Earning a living by wiring houses, as with every job done by a professional contractor, requires doing the job as efficiently and safely as possible. The rough-in methods that I describe in this article have been learned and honed over decades of experience.
One prerequisite for a successful rough-in is keeping all the work neat, organized, and consistent. Most of the homes that we wire are custom-built for clients who expect meticulous work—regardless of whether the work is visible. That level of neatness reflects on the general contractor as well as on my company as the electrical contractor.
More importantly, my organized approach to roughing in makes it easy to trace or follow any circuit. When we finish roughing in a house, I’m confident that any member of our crew can ascertain at a glance what any circuit is meant to supply or control, as well as the path that the wires followed to get there. With dozens of circuits and many thousands of feet of wire in each of the homes we work on, keeping everything organized to an almost obsessive level means that in the end everything will work as it should without a lot of time-consuming troubleshooting.
Consistency in our work as a group means that any crew member following another to wire a switch or receptacle will always know exactly what every conductor in a box is meant for. This consistent approach lets the crew work at the most efficient speed to complete the project.
Wiring a house—especially at rough-in—means pulling, stapling, twisting, and cutting the wires. In spite of that, the task of the electrician is to do all of those things in a way that creates minimal stress on the conductors—the actual metal that will be carrying the electricity. So I try to convey the mindset of “gentle wiring” to my crew.
The conductors in the cable that we use for most domestic wiring are made of copper, which is soft and malleable. While the flexibility of the material lets us easily fish the cable just about any place we want it, the soft, metal conductors are also subject to metal fatigue from continuous stress, such as sharp or repeated bends. Metal fatigue can result in scored or broken conductors, which in turn can cause short circuits, heat buildup, and in the worst cases, fire. Installing a safe electrical system is a huge responsibility that guides our work at rough-in and at every stage of wiring a house.
All photos by Roe Osborn