5 questions to ask about outdoor wiring

July 28, 2015

Embarking on an outdoor wiring project? It pays to plan ahead. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you start digging and wiring.

5 questions to ask about outdoor wiring

1. What do the local codes say?

  • You (or your contractor, if you've hired one) need to be absolutely sure that your plans mesh with those allowed by local building and electrical codes.
  • Consult your town's building inspector, too, about any special restrictions or requirements in your area.
  • Obtain all necessary permits.

2. How do I run power from the inside to the outside?

  • There are several options: You can tap into an existing general-purpose lighting circuit, as long as it's not already operating near capacity. A convenient way to do this is to have a cable run through an exterior wall from an existing interior receptacle to a new outdoor GFCI receptacle.
  • If you're planning extensive outdoor wiring, consider having a new circuit run from the service panel (if there's room) to new outdoor receptacles and fixtures.
  • Finally, the simplest alternative is a low-voltage outdoor lighting system. It's flexible, safe and relatively inexpensive, and since it doesn't involve extensive rewiring or deep digging, it's easy to install.
  • Options one and two are best left to a licensed electrical contractor.

3. Where'd I put that circuit?

  • It's easy to forget where an outdoor electrical cable is buried, until it's rediscovered by a spade or a tiller. Map out an efficient route for the new outdoor circuit, and keep a record of it.
  • Waterproof UF (underground feeder) cable can be buried directly in the ground in a trench that's at least 61 centimetres (24 inches ) deep. The trench can be shallower if the wiring runs through plastic (PVC) conduit 46 centimetres (18 inches) deep or rigid metal conduit 15 centimetres (6 inches) deep.
  • Low-voltage wiring can be laid on the ground and covered with mulch, but it's best to get it out of the way by burying it in a shallow trench.

4. Am I going to hit a utility line?

  • Before having a trench dug for underground wiring, check with your local utilities to make sure you won't hit a utility line.
  • Look up your "call before you dig" number for information on all buried utility lines in a given area and to get your underground utilities marked.

5. Are the neighbours going to hate me?

  • When planning outdoor lighting, take into account glare and its possible effects on your neighbours and passersby.
  • Use weatherproof bulbs in your outdoor light fixtures — they resist shattering in severe weather better than regular bulbs. And if you're tired of climbing up a ladder to change a hard-to-reach outdoor floodlight bulb, replace it the next time with a long-life outdoor bulb.
  • Energy-saving (and long-life) compact fluorescent bulbs can be used outdoors, as long as the fixture is sheltered from the elements by your porch, for example, or by an enclosed light fixture.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
Close menu