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Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

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  • Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

    My house plan calls for installing the electrical outlets horizontally in the 7 1/4" baseboard. Looks like it would be a nice effect.
    How would you accompish this from both the gang box perspective (to meet code) and from the trim installation perspective.


  • #2
    Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

    I would use old work boxes and install the boxes in the baseboards rather than in the stud wall.


    • #3
      Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

      Ditto on the metal workboxes. Make a jig for the installation hole so that you can drill holes for the metal studs and bumps on the box. Cut out the main box shape with a jigsaw. Then either chisel the tab mortise or router it.

      Make sure the workbox hole has enough height to clear the sole plate framing and does not line up on a stud. I was on one job where my co-worker mistakenly centered the box hole on the wires sticking out from under the drywall not realizing that the wires were stapled to the edge of a stud right underneath. Better electricians would have put the last staple on the romex at the center of a stud bay on a sole plate. He had 8 pieces of 7" poplar base cut out for about 15 boxes and none of them could be used. He cut out the drywall to test fit the box into the wall through the base.... and spent the rest of the day fixing his mess.


      • #4
        Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

        Perhaps I should clarify a few things.

        Cut your base to length and fit it as you normally would including any miter or cope cuts. Once the piece is ready you must locate the wires that will feed into the receptacle box. Rather than using plastic or metal boxes that are attached to the stud, you will be using old style metal workboxes that mount to the baseboard trim. If your electrician is not available to supply the sample box you can pick one up at the local electrical supply house or hardware store. (You only really need one) It would be a good idea to verify the application with your electrician anyway. The electrical wire will be in one of many configurations. It is good to ask the drywall crew to leave the wire in the wall with a mark on the center of the stud bay that contains it. Better yet, mark the subfloor with crayon or pencil before the drywall is hung. If the wire is tucked out under the drywall sheet or poked through a hole, you may need to push it back into the wall to get the base fitted to the wall.

        Next you will need to chop a bigger hole in the drywall for the wire and box. It is critical, as I mentioned in the last post, to make sure that a stud will not block the workbox path. Once you have made sure the box path into the wall is clear, you can place the base back into it’s position and mark the outlet centers. You can install the receptacle in either horizontal or vertical position if the base is tall enough. Don’t forget the coverage of shoe molding or carpet if you with to have the outlet centered vertically on the base. You should now have a crosshair + mark centered over the outlet location.

        Notice that the workbox is a basic rectangle with several irregular bumps on its perimeter. These can be grounding screws, rivets, steel studs and other junk that only the electrician cares about. Different manufactures’ boxes will be slightly different. As I noted before, make sure your electrician will be using the same brand/model. There will also be two folded tabs with screw slots for attaching the box. The base molding will not only need to be cut for the rectangular box, but also for the irregular bits as well. You cannot simply cut the rectangular hole large enough to fit the bumps because the resulting gaps will show when the receptacle cover is put in place. If you mess this up anyway, there are always those “goof plates” that are sold in sizes slightly larger than standard so that you can hide such irregularities…. But nobody who reads this forum would ever do that, right?

        Make a template for the bumps. Select twist drill bits with a diameter slightly larger than the width of the objects on the box. On a small scrap of plywood trace the bottom of the workbox and bisect it’s outline with a similar crosshair + mark. Drill pilot drill pilot holes along the pencil line that will guide the bits into the work piece at the location of the bumps. Once you have the template you can start making the first cut.

        Center the workbox bottom on the pencil + for the first piece of molding and trace the outline. Center the template to line up the + marks and drill through the pilot holes and the base molding. Remove the template and cut out the rectangle with a jigsaw. Your blade should follow the pencil line and bisect the drilled holes. You may wish to have a large pilot in the template as a starter hole for the jigsaw blade. The workbox should now fit snug in the base up to its attachment flanges. Push the box in firmly and trace the tabs onto the molding. Remove the box and chisel out the tab area as you would for a hinge gain. The receptacle cover will not fit flush if the box is proud of the wood surface.

        Return the base molding to its position on the wall. If there is still drywall blocking the path of the box, trace the outline through the base and chop it out with a drywall saw. Test fit the workbox through the base and drywall. If all is well, you can remove the box and pull the wire through the opening. Nail the base up and move on to the next outlet. Installing the boxes is the electrician’s job. Just make sure the poor guy doesn’t have to pull out a chisel to make his receptacle fit.

        Now if you think that sounded difficult, imagine having the boxes already installed in the wall. You would have to line up your cuts exactly over the box for everything to work out. Also the workbox gives you the ability to shift the location (stud bay and wire length limitations) of the outlet to coincide with your trim layout. Ex. On a wall with raised paneling, the outlet looks better centered underneath the panels rather than randomly spaced along the base IMHO. Note that the wires must extend at least 3 inches from the box at your chosen location. The key to success with this application is planning on the part of the builder/designer, not to mention good communications.

        I don’t recall ever seeing any gang boxes mounted in baseboard. I’ve seen duplex receptacles; phone/internet/cable, central vacuum, etc installed in single plates or grouped single plates spaced a few inches apart. The main code issue that would be violated by not using workboxes is:
        NEC 314.20
        Boxes in walls or ceilings constructed of combustible material, such as wood, shall be flush with or extend beyond the finish surface.

        This is to prevent conductors from passing through exposed wood edge between the box and the mounted receptacle. One spark could light the trim on fire. There are of course box extensions that can be screwed onto the unit to make it flush.

        Also keep in mind NEC 314.21
        Damaged or incomplete plaster, drywall or plasterboard surfaces must be repaired so that no gap or open space greater than 1/8 in. (3mm) surrounds the box or fitting.

        I believe this would apply to any wall surface; in this case it is your base trim.

        Final Note: I am not an electrician and don’t advise anybody to attempt this if they are not comfortable with basic wiring.

        The link below shows a picture of a workbox (bottom row second from left)

        metal boxes


        • #5
          Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

          Now that's the kind of LONG message I really enjoy seeing on this site. Thanks for taking the time to help a fellow carpenter--and you taught me a lot about something I knew nothing about. We don't see too many installations like that in S. CA.. When we have outlets in the base, the electricians mount boxes elevated on blocks above the sole plate and we cut out the base just like the sheet-rock guys cut out the drywall.


          • #6
            Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

            We do it like Gary does. The electrician sets the box at a given height. We cut the hole in the base the size of the box. The electrician sets the recepticle on the face of the base using a longer 8/32 screw to catch the box. That's it.

            Ed. Williams


            • #7
              Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

              I just did one (No. California) where the electrician left several Romex tails sticking out of the walls where we had cabinets going on the walls (6" base running around the rooms and under the cabinet kicks) and we used his plastic boxes to use as templates for cutting his box holes. When he saw what he had done, he said that he should have left us the metal boxes as templates, but he would make his plastic boxes work somehow when he trimmed out. Jeff's suggestion of the "work boxes" is well taken, and I'll be sure to get one from the electrician next time around.


              • #8
                Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

                Unfortunately that method would not pass inspections in several of the towns I work in. My local inspectors have a habit of carrying a GFCI circuit tester with them on the final inspection to test the outlets for correct wiring and also to pop the circuits in all the bathrooms and kitchens etc. They like to wiggle the tester in the outlet to see if it has a lot of play. Long screws with recessed boxes = loose outlets and a failed inspection. The last time this happened to me was on a home office remodel where the customer did not want to hear the children in the playroom next-door while he was working. We insulated the wall and installed double 5/8" drywall for extra sound reduction. I remember telling the electricians to mount all the boxes extra far off the stud edge to make up the difference and of course they did not heed my advice. Needless to say we failed that inspection and it took a long time to get the CO and final payment. Loose receptacles move when you insert plugs causing the live wires to come in contact with the box or wall edge.... or so they say blah blah...

                This is in a very affluent part of lower Fairfield County Connecticut where the Building Department has a HUGE budget and the inspectors are highly trained and ruthless.


                • #9
                  Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

                  Oh, while we’re on the subject of workboxes. Here is another neat trick I learned for kitchen tile back splash outlets.


                  Kitchen remodel or new installation.
                  Division between upper and lower cabinets gets tiled.
                  Picky customer selects fancy tiles with a horizontal deco that falls ¾ of the way up the back splash right near the standard outlet height.
                  Electrician’s helper sets the receptacle boxes during rough install by measuring off the subfloor with a tape measure.
                  Cabinet installer levels the cabinets with shims because the floor was all lumpy due to (insert reason)
                  By the time the changes have translated through the flooring, cabinets, and counters, the poor tile guy cannot make the outlets fall in a perfect line with the tile pattern.
                  When the electrician does his final install, the tiny wiggle room available in a duplex outlet is not enough to correct the error.
                  The first thing the customer notices is that we ruined her vision of the perfect kitchen. (I’ve actually had customers tell me this) The outlet cover on the right of the sink lips the deco tile ¼” while the one to the left of the sink falls ¼” short and the outlet over there…. Etc etc.
                  You may think this sounds crazy but I’m sure there must be somebody out there who has been through a similar situation. (There’s got to be crazy customers in other parts of the country) So you may be thinking the obvious solution is to use a laser transit type level to mark the studs during rough in. Well, we tried that twice and it still got messed up somehow. The final solution is as follows.

                  Have the electrician run his wires to the locations but leave them buried in the wall. Fill the backsplash area with Durock or plywood instead of drywall. Let the tile guy cut the backer for metal workboxes so they exactly coincide with his tile layout and just fit the rectangular portion of the box. With plywood you can screw the boxes on directly though it’s not the best backer for tile. With Durock you can use Madison clips. These are little metal wings that hook onto the box and the inside of the Durock. They prevent the box from being pulled out of the wall when you yank the cords out. The workbox tabs keep the box from being forced in when you plug in the cords. All in all it’s a neat way of mounting electrical boxes when you otherwise have nothing to attach to.

                  P.S. I don’t know the technical name for a “Madison Clip”. That’s the slang term that all the East Coast electricians use for these things.


                  • #10
                    Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

                    For base board box installation I'd have the electrician hold the box out as far as possible, then use box extentions--find out what your inspectors accept--and longer screws. If you cut the hole tight, the receptical won't jiggle. In my municipality the Inspectors want to so the make up in the boxes and won't accept buried wire. They'll let you poke the wire out for under cab. flourecents; anything else has to have a box before drywall. Acually they did pass one undercab installation that we used to solve the problem of plugs breaking up the line of the kitchen full ht. back slash. We used a plug strip installed under cab. between the back slash and the undercab.flourecent. It worked but make sure you hold the strip off the wall enough to allow for transformer plugs--they can get pretty fat. It made the client happy but imagine all those appliance cords dangling down and breaking up her kitchen tile detail!


                    • #11
                      Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard


                      I've fought the kitchen backsplash issue for years. What I do now is to always have the sheetrocker come back for minor repairs and adjustments after the house is primed and the cabinets are set, and I line up the outlets adjusting them for the tile layout. Holes in the sheetrock are not a problem since everything is being covered up by the mud bed and tile.


                      • #12
                        Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

                        In most of Dallas, romex is allowed. In the Highland Park (rich folks) area, everything has to be in pipe. For a tile or marble backslpash, undercounter lights, microwave, etc., the electrician usually leaves a BX whip sticking out of the wall as close to where it should go as possible. Cut out a little rock and move it where you want big deal. Sometimes, if the move is small enough, we don't even patch the rock. Just tape over it and go.



                        • #13
                          Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

                          We use, when we can, what we call remodeler boxes. This is a plastic box with long adjustable tabs. The wires are put in approximate location needed. Then at layout we "fish" them out, cut the hole, and install this retrofit box. The tabs lock on to sheetrock, wood, etc. up to about 1" thickness. Or we screw it to a stud through the side of the box when possible. In our area this is the method of choice for kitchen backsplash layouts. I've haven't heard the phrase "madison"clip but I'm sure it's the same item.
                          I agree with your customer that layout is very important.They care very litle about function when form is what they are buying, especially in kitchens. All your screws are installed slot vertical correct ?.


                          • #14
                            Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

                            Last project eletricians set all boxes with a lazor and were very accurate .the depth problem kept them hopping to keep up with us as the wall surface material thickness would turn out differt then expected .in several places the metal boxes were abandoned for the remodelers box,very handy.we also cut our base to the box just like the drywallers. location ,napa valley calif.take all the time you like but it better be right.


                            • #15
                              Re: Electrical Outlets in Baseboard

                              Ha, ha Mike, I've never known anyone else to turn all screw slots to match and I don't most times but I think of it when it's highly visible! (you think vertical is better than horizontal?)

                              I also use the remodel boxes with the turn-out tab that operates with the screw on the front of the box. Lowes sells them. I've seen other kinds of remodel box systems most of which would work in this siutation.