Q's on running new wire in upstairs remodel


Old 04-27-07, 08:42 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 12
Q's on running new wire in upstairs remodel

Just signed up... Great forum! Got answers to questions I never knew I had, so thanks! Sorry in advance if this is a long post... I'll do my best to stay concise.

I'm in the middle of remodeling parts of my second floor. I've finished a few rooms already, and have been replacing all the old wiring as I go. My plans with the current project are:

# 1 - Run all the new wire up to the attic, then branch out from there.
# 2 - Add dedicated window AC circuits to 3 rooms
# 3 - Put upstairs bathroom on dedicated circuit
# 4 - Install new outlets in 2 bedrooms and hallway
# 5 - Install recessed lights in 3 bedrooms

BTW, Our house is a 1920's balloon construction with some scary electrical issues that I've been "un-doing" in order to make sense of and formulate my plan. I'm getting pretty good at electrical work. , and I will say for others, that a lot of my confidence comes from getting permits for it... which a lot of folks don't want to do. For me, it simply gives me the piece of mind to know that If I did something wrong, I'll know about it. Also, anyone doing any work on an older home like mine... The best thing I ever did, was draw the floorplan in every room in the house, and map and mark out EVERY outlet, switch, fan, appliance, light etc... outside and in. It's the ONLY way I was able to make sense of the craziness I fond behind my walls. Go get a couple of cheap walkie-talkies... sit your wife in front of the main panel with a people magazine handy, and have her switch every breaker on and off till you know on which circuit each item resides.

Anyway, Since I have one room gutted already, and because that room has a direct run down to the basement, behind the new 200A panel, I'm thinking it's the best place to run all my lines. My issue is that it just sounds like too much to run in one place.

The run includes:
2 - 14-3 romex. one for each of 2 bedrooms being updated (one circuit for lighting, and one for outlets. Each room will receive 4 recessed lights and approx 4-5 outlets).

1 - 14-3 romex. one circuit Controlling 4-5 recessed hallway lights, and the other controlling an attic fan and simple light fixture

3 - 12-2 romex. One for each room using dedicated window AC units

1 - 14-2 romex left as extra (not connected).

This is already long... I apologize.

Like I said, I have a direct run, right from the panel, up to the attic. All nice and clear. Once I get up to the gutted room, I have a window that occupies the bay in which these wires are run, so at some point I'll have to cross over to an adjacent bay. I can stop the run for one of the 12-2 lines here, as it can go directly to the outlet, rather than continue up to the attic. Same thing with one of th 14-3 lines, as I can have it split at one outlet box to feed the lighting, then continue to the rest of the outlets. that leaves (2) 14-3's (2) 12-2's and (1) 14-2 continuing up to a large gangbox.

I could spread the run out a bit, by running a few wires in a bay that's about 5 feet away... but that creates a more messy run to the panel once it hits the basement. It also means that at some point, THOSE wires will be crossed at 90 degrees by the outlet run (not sure if that's a big deal or not). After seeing what's been hiding behind these walls, I'm OBSESSED with keeping the wiring as neat and clean as possible... to the point that I'm probably over-thinking. Any hep would be greatly appreciated! Can I just run it all up one bay, securing with stack-its (which I'm not sure you can use on 3-wire) and drilling 2 separate holes in each stud to pass the wires... Am I over engineering by using so many runs? Should I spread it out and not worry about crossing?

Any insite helps!
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Old 04-27-07, 08:54 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
You are absolutely right to be as net as possible. I particularly like your floor plan. It is absolutely imperative that you know exactly what breaker controls everything.

One comment before going any further. I disagree with your use of 14 gage wire, meaning 15 amp circuits, for bedrooms. I would make ALL my receptacle circuits 20 am,p circuits. You will some day appreciate the 33 percent more power they provide. However, 15 amp circuits are legal.

However, where you may be making a big mistake is by using multi-wire circuits. Multi-wire circuits have their own complexities and cautions, which is bad enough. You are compounding the issue by using them for bedrooms. Bedrooms require AFCI protection. This means AFCI breakers. For multi-wire circuits you will need 240 volt AFCI breakers. These are very expensive, and may not be available for your panel.

You have not indicated anything for a bathroom. Remember that bathrooms need 20 amp circuit.

Do not run more than two or three wires together. Since the walls are open, you must staple the wires to the studs. this will limit what you can run through a stud bay. Use multiple bays as needed. Do not worry about crossing at right angles. This is not an issue for normal electrical runs.

Do be careful and keep any low voltage wires (cable, telephone, Ethernet) away from the electrical wires. You won't like the picture or the sound if they get too close.
Old 04-27-07, 09:20 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 12
Hey, thanks for the speedy reply.

Just so I'm clear, when you're talking about a 20 amp circuit, you mean 20A breaker + 12g wire + 20A outlets... As opposed to 15A circuit which means 15A breaker, 14 (or 12g) wire + 15A outlets correct?

In the one of the rooms I did originally, I ran all 12g wire, but only 2 circuits. One dedicated for the window, and another for all outlets and 4 recessed lights.
The inspector gave me a compliment on doing well, but also said that he thought the 12g was overkill. Again, I tend to over-engineer. I can see your point about maybe wanting a bit more power in the future, so my feeling is that if you're starting from scratch... might as well do the most you can while it's easy to do.

As for multi-wire circuit... Maybe I am mistaken, but what I THOUGHT was that technically 3 wire could control 2 SEPARATE circuits... meaning, the ground is common and attached to the bus-bar, but the power comes through separate breakers. Is this not the case? I have no problem running separate 2 wire for everything... just thought I could save myself the additional runs by combining. If I WERE to run separate feeds, should I go back to the way I did the other room... i.e. run lights and outlets on the same circuit?

BTW... The bathroom will be on a dedicated 20A circuit.

Thanks again!
Old 04-27-07, 09:31 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
In the US a 20 amp circuit means 12 gage wire, but it can have 15 amp or 20 amp receptacles. You don't typically use 20 amp receptacles unless they are absolutely needed, and this generally means a dedicated circuit.

I recommend 20 amp circuits for receptacles because things like vacuum cleaners, irons, and hair dryers use lots of power. Things like computers (or more specifically their peripherals) need lots of power too. There is nothing worse than turning on the vacuum cleaner and tripping the breaker.

Using 12-3 or 14-3 for two circuits means that the ground wire and the neutral wire are shared between the circuits. This is perfectly legal and perfectly safe, if done properly. You can even (except in certain situations) use separate circuit breakers. Care must be taken to make sure that the circuit breakers attach to opposite legs of the incoming incoming 240 volt service or you have an unsafe condition and a fire hazard. You cannot, however, use separate breakers if you need an AFCI or a GFCI circuit breaker. With either of these breakers you MUST use a 240 volt breaker.

If you do not understand the preceding paragraph or do not fully understand what a multi-wire circuit is or how to safely use or wire one, then do not use one. They are safe when properly installed, but when improperly installed they may not be safe and may cause a fire.
Old 04-27-07, 09:50 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 12
Okay... I go that second paragraph up until the the separate breaker part. I guess it goes against what I originally thought. I'll go back through some of my books and read up on it, just cuz now I'm curious.

In the meantime... I have NO PROBLEM with keeping it simple and using 2 wire throughout. But one question still remains about the number of circuits I need. Can I (safely and legally) use one circuit for the lights and outlets in one room (not including the dedicated AC of course), or am I on track with the original thought of keeping them seperate, only in this case, using all 2 wire. Again, my goal being to only pull what I need.

Old 04-27-07, 10:29 AM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 362
"One comment before going any further. I disagree with your use of 14 gage wire, meaning 15 amp circuits, for bedrooms. I would make ALL my receptacle circuits 20 am,p circuits. You will some day appreciate the 33 percent more power they provide. However, 15 amp circuits are legal."

racraft - That is a great idea and I have never thought along those lines.
Old 04-27-07, 10:36 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973

AFCI and GFCI circuit breakers require that the neutral wire be connected to the circuit breaker. The circuit breaker needs to examine the neutral current to help discern when to trip. If you use separate breakers, you would need two separate neutrals.
Old 05-01-07, 12:05 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Ontario Canada
Posts: 1,767
I'd run separate 12/2 for each bedroom/hallway circuit. Reason being, single pole AFCIs are cheaper, I suppose.

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