Alternative to Wall Socktets/Receptacles

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  #1  
Old 08-02-06, 09:43 AM
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Alternative to Wall Socktets/Receptacles

I am building a new house and I am focused on making it simple and well insulated.

My preference is to NOT use electrical boxes in the outside walls.

I know the NEC requires sockets on walls at specified distances.

I am aware that there are in floor sockets and wall mounted box/sockets available.

Does anyone have any suggestion on the best way to go? I am interested in whatever is code compliant and cheapest, regardless of looks.

I will be using in wall boxes for interior walls.
 
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  #2  
Old 08-02-06, 09:55 AM
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I think that you should talk to the local building inspector. Local codes vary so much that he/she is the person who can best answer this question for you.
 
  #3  
Old 08-02-06, 10:04 AM
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Unfortunately my local building inspector doesn't exist. Builders hire their own inspectors.

Aside from the code issues, is anybody familian with wall mounts or floor mounts?
 
  #4  
Old 08-02-06, 10:09 AM
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floor boxes?

I've seen houses with outlets in the floors. I've got one, but it is necessary since it's installed where the railing overlooks the front entrance (no wall, split-foyer). You'll have a lot of work ahead mounting a goodly number of floor outlets, which seems to me, to derive very little gain. Why not use plastic boxes in the wall with extra insulation and sealing?
 
  #5  
Old 08-02-06, 10:09 AM
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Are you SURE about this???

IMO it would be crazy to use floor boxes as oppoed to the few wall boxes in exterior walls. Especially if price is even a remote issue.

Use good boxes, seal all openings with foam, and seal around boxes when sheetrocking.
Or if looks are not an issue use Wiremold boxes.
 
  #6  
Old 08-02-06, 10:15 AM
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Well Volts, good question.

In terms of work, it's not much more work. With a round floor fixture, it's a matter of drilling a hole in the floor with a hole saw, tying in the 14/2 line, and then screw in place.

Wall mounts are tougher, because conduit is required.

The real problem is cost. I was hoping someone would write - "oh year, Company A makes floor boxes for 10 bucks each."

Anyway, the reason I want to avoid outside wall boxes are:

mostly 1. Bad for insulative value and creates air leaks.

2. Makes sheetrock work more difficult.
and

3. Complicates the wiring and requires drilling in wall studs.


In essence, wires and boxes in outside walls is a poor design that has been the norm since heating oil was 3 cents a gallon.

I plan to put polyurethane in my walls, and I don't want wires and holes and boxes making it less effective.

So I'm looking for an alternative.
 
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Old 08-02-06, 10:22 AM
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1) Not with 6" walls and when sealed.

2) Not if you have a clue about sheetrocking.

3) Completely untrue. It is no more, and IMO less, complicated than floor boxes. The installation of floor boxes alone, even bofore any wiring, is more complicated.
Drilling studs? So what?


IMO you are making more out of this than is worth it.
Then again, it's your house.
 
  #8  
Old 08-02-06, 10:35 AM
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Speedy :"Are you SURE about this???"

Which part?

"IMO it would be crazy to use floor boxes as oppoed to the few wall boxes in exterior walls."
Because of price?

"Or if looks are not an issue use Wiremold boxes."

I just did some searching on this, and it might work.
I envison a short cable channel coming out of the floor to the wiredmold box. The boxes look like they're 6-7 bucks each, a buck or two for the connector.

Does that sound right?

That's less than 10 an outlet - not bad. Figure 10 a floor, and I'm looking at 200 bucks.

Anyone see and issues with that configuration?
 
  #9  
Old 08-02-06, 10:46 AM
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Well Speedy, thank you for your input, and I am now looking into wiremold, which is likely how I'm going to go.

With regard to boxes not being places for air leaks and lowered R value, we can reasonably differ on that.

Thanks again.
 
  #10  
Old 08-02-06, 11:08 AM
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It's your house, so if cheap and easy looks good to you, I say go for it.
Down the road, when you decide to sell and move on, it may come back to haunt you as buyers turn away from what they perceive as a lack of quality workmanship.
Most modern homes have siding or brick exteriors, backed with Tyvek, backed with sheathing, backed with insulation, before the outlet box. Any air infiltration is minimal, and foam kits can be added for the obsessive.
 
  #11  
Old 08-02-06, 11:29 AM
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Well fortunately, I don't expect to ever sell the house, and I don't think that wall mounted boxes will be perceived to be lack of craftsmanship or quality. Odd, perhaps, but not lack of quality.

Cutting holes in the outside of the house for little reason, now that's lack of quality, in my opinion.

With regard to most houses today, most houses built today are garbage and more garbage. I listen to the fools who want to buy their 3500 sf McMansions with the brick and the Tyvek and the insulation.

But the bricks say and the Tyvek wasn't taped right, the insulation was jammed in around the boxes with no attention to detail, and the windows weren't flashed correctly.

The crew of "I don't give a ____" who did the work are long gone, and the .75 million dollar house is good looking crap, for a few years anyway.

I'm heating the whole house with a wood stove. A small wood stove that doesn't use much wood.

The whole "things nowadays are different and outlet boxes aren't air leak spots" looks really good on paper, but im my opinion the application isn't nearly as good.

I know that a wall that is continuous sheetrock then urethane then sheathing then air barrier then siding will be good.
 
  #12  
Old 08-02-06, 12:28 PM
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I know I'm coming late to this party, but have to interject a bit here. Some years back I built a passive solar home here in the Midwest. My architect was a fanatic about insulation and air infiltration - I listened to him. We built using 2x6 exterior walls, 1" foam board with all the joints taped, sill sealer, 6" fiberglas batts, poly vapor barrier, foam around all windows and doors, foam around all exterior wall outlet and switch boxes (yes, we had regular wall boxes). We insulated the foundation with 3" of foam and 10" fiberglas batts in the attic. The windows were "state of the art" for the time, and rated at R3.4 (Louisana Pacific "Heat Mirror") in a casement style for the better seal.

We had a wood burning fireplace, with ducting connecting the double wall firebox to the regular HVAC ducting (after some hi-temp sections), which was gross overkill for heating this 3000 sq.ft. two story home. Our design parameters for the home were based on 0 degrees outside, 0 solar gain, and inside temperature of 72 degrees. That requirement was met by our electric furnace (with two of the 3 5kw heating elements unplugged) - we could heat our house with a 5000 watt space heater (ducted throughout the house).

Now to your house. I understand your desire to eliminate any source of heat loss / air infiltration. Along with outlet boxes on exterior walls, I trust you are not also eliminating all windows (they are more costly and more difficult to seal than outlet boxes). What I (and maybe others here) are trying to tell you is that the problem with outlet boxes can be eliminated, and require less expense and effort than your proposed alternatives, without loss of efficiency. Even a 2x4 wall allows for 1" of foam behind an outlet box - at R7 per inch, that's better (and a smaller area) than any window.

You mentioned that you intend to polyurethane your exterior walls - I didn't see mention of any additional foam sheathing on the exterior of the wall. Giving the benefit of doubt and guessing a 2x6 exterior stud wall, with 1/2 inch plywood/osb sheathing, covered by 3/4 inch wood siding (and 1/2 inch sheet rock inside), your exterior walls at the studs are only good for about R7 (5 1/2 stud, 1/2 ply, 3/4 wood, 1/2 drywall). That is a stripe 1 1/2 inches wide by the height of your wall, every 16 inches! The space in between your studs is probably R35+, but it's not the whole wall.

(getting down off my soap box, and leaving the room quietly)
 
  #13  
Old 08-02-06, 12:31 PM
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floor outlets

[QUOTE=JoeBlooso]Well Volts, good question.

Wall mounts are tougher, because conduit is required.


What conduit?
 
  #14  
Old 08-02-06, 12:36 PM
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I thought the same thing.
I think he is referring to surface boxes and conduit. That is why I mentioned Wiremold.

Ubob makes some very good points. Especially about windows being a MUCH worse culprit of air leaks.

I hope Joe has plans for an air exchanger. Sealed houses are not always a good thing health wise.
 
  #15  
Old 08-02-06, 12:45 PM
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JoeBlooso, as someone who grew up in the real estate business, I must advise you of something.

Electrical outlet infiltration usually only accounts for about 1.5% of home energy loss.

Is 1.5% of your energy bill worth the time and materials to do this? I don't know.

The problem is in the resale value of your home with this type of setup. I have no idea where you live or what type of area it is. Depending on that, it will have a large impact on the selling price and quantity of buyers available.

Where I used to sell realty, I could not even sell your house with a setup like that.

Buyers want normal, in the wall outlets.

Again, if you are absolutely sure that you are never selling your house then just disregard my comments.
 
  #16  
Old 08-02-06, 05:51 PM
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I like to save money when I can, and am all ears for the lastest energy saving plans. But I am willing to intentionally have air leaks so that I don't have to pay the hospital for getting sick from re-breathing stagnant inside air.

Joe,

Could you tel us more about your house? You sound like one of those Mother Earth News sorts of guys that would go for an earthbermed house, no windows...the whole shebang. Do you have a family or do you live alone?
 
  #17  
Old 08-03-06, 06:43 AM
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Earth-bermed was what I was thinking about, too, but I guess it would depend on whether land had already been purchased, etc.

Joe, I can think of a couple of options, but nothing that would necessarily be cheap. Wiremold and other manufacturers make channels that are disguised as baseboard molding. You could do the whole house in that, for a uniform look, but the expense would be sginificant.

Another option would be to install a false wall to contain the elctrical on top of the actual wall. That would make your walls pretty thick, and cause a lot of extra work in terms of door/window sills, etc., but you'd get the unbroken barrier you're wanting. You could even fill the false wall with rigid foam for a little extra R-value.

My thinking is that since you're going to be doing a lot of the building yourself, the concerns about shoddy workmanship impacting R-value are not relevant. Spending a little extra effort could result in the best of both options - traditional wall boxes with a much better seal than the typical installation.
 
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Old 08-03-06, 07:08 AM
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A rather unique solution would be to construct a chase along the bottom of the wall so that it appears that the wall flares into the floor. It could have just enough space in it to house a horizontal mounted box angling upwards at a 45 degree angle. The power could run through the top wall plate to the bottom of the wall and enter the chase.

It would have a unique appearance to it and could be covered with a border paper or some other decorative design. And, not all that much of the outside wall is even visible after some housewives get through decorating.
 
  #19  
Old 08-03-06, 08:56 AM
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Never seal a house too tight...
Ever hear of sick house syndrom...
 
  #20  
Old 08-03-06, 09:00 AM
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After the sheetrock is fastened to the exterior studs, use 2 X 4's as fur-strips 1-5/8" in depth fastened to the studs and extending horizontally across the lenth of the exterior walls.

One 2 X4 F-S, the "Bottom" F-S is set on the floor and extends horozintally along the perimeter of the exterior wall.The "Top" F-S is set perfectly level with the top edge a height of 18" above that floor. The 18" height is arbitary.

You will fasten 4" square ( "1900") outlet-boxes to the studs, and then set on the outlet-boxes "rough-covers" of a depth that will result in the face of the rough-cover being flush with the face on the sheetrock that covers the wiring.
 
  #21  
Old 08-03-06, 09:06 AM
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Bozo and MD - YES! Sweet. Those are exactly the thoughts I like to read. I appreciate the suggestions very much, and I am going to consider them both.

People are writing alot about the "time and expense."

1. The expense looks right now to be less than 300 bucks, minus whatever standard boxes cost.
2. The time is probably less. Instead of routing wires through the wall cavities, footers, and so on, the wires pop out of the first floor on the inside of the living space footprint, and connect into a box that is mounted with 2 screws on the sheetrock into a stud.
Am I missing something?
Here is what I expect . . .

mount the Wiremold box on the stud with 2 screws - (1 minute)
drill hole in floor below box into space below (1 minute)
run 14/2 wire up to box and secure (1 minute)
cover wire run with snap over/on wire cover/chase run cover/whatever it's called. (1 minute).

4 minutes per box? 10 boxes per floor. 20 boxes. 80 minutes.

Anybody? Anybody?

Bueller?




For the person who grew up in Real Estate.
1. You have my sympathy. I have bought and sold a house 4 times now. I have found all but a few of the Real Estate folks to be Snakes and Prostitutes. I'd rather have my kids grow up in a local bar than around Realtors.
2. Thank you for the input. Saying you couldn't sell a house that had 2 wiremold boxes per bedroom and an equivalent amount in the living areas at about 1.3 inches thick with a 12" long, 1/2 inch wide cover running into the floor is a bit silly, don't you think? Of course you could sell it, if the price is right. There will, of course, be a subset of buyers who will not like them. Of course, if the house is furnished at the time of sale, you could easily make all of them not visible, and I don't think the selling Realtor would object to that technique!
Please.


I'd like to reiterate that I appreciate all of the input and the warnings - I have read all of the posts and considered each one. I understand the down side to this. . .

1. cost
2. time
3. appearance

I understand the up side to this

(I won't list them - several people disagree)

I do, by the way, read Mother Earth News. I don't subscribe. It's a decent magazine.

Yes I like to conserve.

And finally, frankly, if a buyer was looking at my house, which will be a wonderful house, and they don't want it because "the wall mounted boxes are ugly", then, again frankly, I'd be happy, because I wouldn't want to sell the house that I designed personally to such a clueless ninny.
 
  #22  
Old 08-03-06, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Ubob
You mentioned that you intend to polyurethane your exterior walls - I didn't see mention of any additional foam sheathing on the exterior of the wall. Giving the benefit of doubt and guessing a 2x6 exterior stud wall, with 1/2 inch plywood/osb sheathing, covered by 3/4 inch wood siding (and 1/2 inch sheet rock inside), your exterior walls at the studs are only good for about R7 (5 1/2 stud, 1/2 ply, 3/4 wood, 1/2 drywall). That is a stripe 1 1/2 inches wide by the height of your wall, every 16 inches! The space in between your studs is probably R35+, but it's not the whole wall.

(getting down off my soap box, and leaving the room quietly)
Even that can be eliminated by using 2x6 plates and 2x4 studs 16" OC staggered between the outside of the plate and the inside. Therefore, there is no place in the wall where there is a constant interruption of the insulation except at the plates.

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  #23  
Old 08-03-06, 09:22 AM
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Scott E

Good thought -I had never heard of that staggared approach.
 
  #24  
Old 08-03-06, 10:17 AM
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The staggered approach is also commonly used on interior walls to stop sound transmission from adjoining rooms. Works great to deaden some of the noise from a media room, etc.
 
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Old 08-03-06, 01:01 PM
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JoeBlooso,

In the end itís your house, your call, so I wonít get into the pros/cons of a super sealed house as theyíve mostly been mentioned here already. I will just give one bit of advice: get a (or more than one) good quality carbon monoxide detector with a numeric display (not one that just goes off when the CO reaches a dangerous level). Youíre using a wood burning stove to heat the house so there is always a danger if a vent gets clogged or something, especially as wood isnít the cleanest burning of fuels. Stale/stagnant air is one thing; air filled with an odorless, poisonous gas is another. Just my opinion.
 
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Old 08-03-06, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by mdtaylor
A rather unique solution would be to construct a chase along the bottom of the wall so that it appears that the wall flares into the floor. It could have just enough space in it to house a horizontal mounted box angling upwards at a 45 degree angle. The power could run through the top wall plate to the bottom of the wall and enter the chase.

It would have a unique appearance to it and could be covered with a border paper or some other decorative design. And, not all that much of the outside wall is even visible after some housewives get through decorating.
A mobile home that I own has such a chase...for new plumbing pipes. Good idea there.
 
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Old 08-03-06, 06:16 PM
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jwhite Never seal a house too tight...
Ever hear of sick house syndrom...
There is such thing as an air/air heat exchanger. It helps minimize the heat loss but brings in outside air so as to avoid sick house syndrome. When the homes started getting the super sealed treatment, you used to hear about them quite a bit.
 
  #28  
Old 08-03-06, 06:52 PM
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I've wired up a few of them. That's why I mentioned them in an earlier post.
Never did a house like the OP is proposing, but have done some high end homes that were super sealed and insulated. Most had mulitple geothermal units.
 
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Old 08-03-06, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Speedy Petey
I've wired up a few of them. That's why I mentioned them in an earlier post.
Never did a house like the OP is proposing, but have done some high end homes that were super sealed and insulated. Most had mulitple geothermal units.

uh..ya......I apparently missed that.

What petey said
 
  #30  
Old 08-04-06, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by JoeBlooso
Thank you for the input. Saying you couldn't sell a house that had 2 wiremold boxes per bedroom and an equivalent amount in the living areas at about 1.3 inches thick with a 12" long, 1/2 inch wide cover running into the floor is a bit silly, don't you think?
Not really, I said in MY sales area. I have no idea about the area in which you live. I simply stated that I couldn't sell it in the area I used to work.

Originally Posted by JoeBlooso
Of course you could sell it, if the price is right.
Exactly my point.......if you could sell it, you would take a hit on the price. People just don't like it when stuff doesn't look normal. If you live in a $70,000 house in a large city, then maybe it doesn't matter too much. If you live in a $250,000 house in the suburbs, then it makes a big difference.

Originally Posted by JoeBlooso
There will, of course, be a subset of buyers who will not like them. Of course, if the house is furnished at the time of sale, you could easily make all of them not visible, and I don't think the selling Realtor would object to that technique!
Please.
And you compare Real Estate folks to Snakes and Prostitutes?

No need to jump on me, Joe.......I'm just telling you things you obviously don't want to hear.
 
  #31  
Old 08-04-06, 02:31 PM
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XS6 - I didn't mean to jump on you, in particular, just on Real Estate Agents, as a group.

You wrote, "If you live in a $250,000 house in the suburbs, then it makes a big difference."

I'll say it again - I think this conclusion is silly.

Within the last 30 months I sold a house in a DC suburb for about 700k and I sold a house in a CT suburb for 350k.

For the house in DC, it could have had dead rat heads sticking out of the wall and it would have been purchased - the market was that hot.

In CT, a tougher sell, but still, to say "it can't be sold" is just a bit hysterical, don't you think?

If the house is worth 350 with normal sockets, do you really think that somebody wouldn't buy it for 330 with funky sockets?

Of course they would.
 
  #32  
Old 08-06-06, 06:18 PM
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I don't know of any specific products, but there is such a thing, I believe, as a baseboard raceway, you attach a metal channel to the wall, install the conductors and recepticles, and snap on a decorator cover.
 
  #33  
Old 08-07-06, 06:04 AM
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Scott e.: I was aware that you can stagger the studs. You can also split the sill and top plates as well - it is then effectively two walls. The point I was attempting to make was that most folks don't have as much insulation as they think they do, but also don't need as much as they think they do. If Joe were to build his home using conventional methods and materials, with a little extra care to seal things up, he would have a nice efficient house that would still appeal to the masses were he to eventually sell it. (His heating/cooling bills would testify to the efficiency of his house - no sales job explaining why things are different).

Joe - go ahead and build the house you want - I hope it works well for you, and saves you lots of money on heating and cooling - you will need it to make up for the $20K hit on your selling price (from your example).
 
  #34  
Old 08-08-06, 10:51 AM
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Baseboard Raceway

The raceway that might prove the solution for you is a two compartment surface metal raceway made by the Wiremold company. http://www.wiremold.com/www/commerci...?product_id=46 You begin the sheet rock at the top of the raceway so that the raceway is mounted directly to the surface of the plate and studs with only the vapor seal in between. After the sheet rock is installed a cap molding is fitted to the top of the raceway and it looks for all the world like it is a baseboard. It is 1&3/4 inches deep so it sticks out beyond 1/2" sheet rock by 1&1/4 inches. That is pretty deep but it can be recessed into the wall by half to 3/4 of an inch so that it matches one inch nominal baseboards. Many homes have their receptacles mounted in the baseboards so it does not look unusual. The mounting height is not acceptable under some building codes however.

An approach that will work almost as well, from the insulating standpoint, is to use the staggered studs that someone else suggested and use all 4" square by 1&1/2 inch deep boxes in the exterior walls. By using device rings you allow the drywall hanging crew to get a tight fit around the outlets and switches which when using the plastic four square boxes and rings can be made air tight by caulking. Be sure that any gaskets you apply to the device under the electrical plate are laboratory listed for use inside electrical boxes. Unlisted gaskets are a violation of the code. Listed gaskets are self extinguishing after a source of ignition heat is removed so that when the circuit's Over Current Protective Device (OCPD); i.e. the fuse or circuit breaker; opens the circuit after a fault any combustion the fault may have kindled in the gasketing material will go out on it's own. With five and one half thick wall spaces you have four full inches behind each box for insulation. By using staggered studs you will have no need for boring holes to run the cable. This approach is far more cost effective then surface metal raceway.

An intermediate approach is to use 500 series metal wiremold on the face of the studs and behind your regular baseboards prior to the installation of the sheet rock. The wiremold boxes will not stick out any further than the baseboard so they won't hold furniture off of the wall. Boxes that end up behind furniture will accept readily available right angle plugs with no problem.
 
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