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Wiring Basement Light Fixtures

By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How to Avoid Mistakes when Installing Basement Electrical Wiring for Lighting and Outlets: Wiring from a Junction Box, Installing The Right Wire Size, Problems with Light Fixture Wiring.

Guide to Wiring Basement Lighting Circuits

Electrical Question: I have wired my basement that is so that all lights operate from one switch.

  • I ran 12-2 Type-NM Cable which replaced old wiring that was 14 AWG.
  • The breaker is 20 amp which was installed by the previous owner.
  • There is 14-3 cable that comes from the breaker box into a junction box.
  • I have ran the wiring from the switch and from the rest of the lights into this junction box where three cables come into this box.
  • After wiring the lamp holder back into place, I flip the breaker back on.
  • The lights come on but the switch does not operate the lights and the lights just stay on. I have tried many different combinations, some that caused a short!.
  • I have capped off the red wire that comes from the breaker box but maybe I shouldn’t?
  • I am out of ideas and need some help. I am very interested in becoming an electrician apprentice, but this road block has zapped some of my enthusiasm because this seemed like a simple project.

Can you help?
Thank you.

This electrical wiring question came from: Jeff, from Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Additional Comments: It is nice to have a place to come to for answers.

Thank you for creating this resource.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Jeff.

Installing Basement Electrical Wiring

basement electric wiring

Application: Electrical Wiring for a Basement
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best installed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.
Tools Required: Electricians Pouch of Hand Tools for Rough-In Wiring, Electric Drill and Auger Bits,  Extension Cords, and a Ladder as needed.
Estimated Time: Depends on the extent of the basement wiring project and available access to the project area.
Precaution: Any existing wiring in the immediate area that may interfere with the new wiring should be identified, turned OFF and Tagged.
Notice: Installing additional electrical wiring in the basement should always be done according to local and national electrical codes with a permit and be inspected.

How to Avoid Mistakes when Installing Basement Electrical Wiring

  • Wiring from a Junction Box
    • As described in this question, there is a 14/3 cable that comes from the panel to a junction box for this circuit and that it is on a 20 amp circuit breaker and this is incorrect.
    • The circuit should be 15 amp, not 20.
    • Because the existing circuit wiring is #14 gauge then the remainder of the circuit wiring should all be #14 gauge.
  • Installing The Right Wire Size
    • There is no benefit from increasing the circuit wire size.
    • In fact #12 AWG wire is harder to work with especially when installing switches that are rated for 15 amps.
  • Problems with Light Fixture Wiring
    • The size of the circuit wiring has nothing to do with your electrical problem.
    • The problem is most likely a problem with the wiring connections.
    • Double check all wiring connections and splices.

NOTE: It is nice to hear that you are interested in becoming an electrician, and as with anything else you have to apply yourself to learning the principles of electricity and fundamental methods of electrical circuit wiring and most of all the National Electrical Code.

More about Wiring a Basement

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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all projects.

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