I'm refinishing my basement (1952 CMU masonry duplex) and need help figuring out how to frame around the electrical box that was replaced before the we put up the insulation. Unfortunately, the panel's location is in the corner of the living space. So far I've gotten my 2 layers of 1" XPS up and working on framing my walls by stick-building. Given how the panel was mounted by the electrician who replaced it (i.e. on plywood), we are planning to have it recessed behind an access door. I'm concerned about the best way to frame around it to maintain the required lateral working space. Once I frame the other wall and account for drywall, the panel would be on the far left side of the working space which would extend to about half-way between the two studs visible on right. One thing I'm not clear about is how to interpret the working space requirements.

My plan was to add a stud at the edge of the insulation and frame around the 2x4s, though not sure how to work around those wires.

Before people ask, the XPS is cut to the edges of the plywood the panel is mounted on and is taped along the edges.

Appreciate the suggestions in advance! enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • Do you really need a full 2x4 frame wall in that area? Nov 13, 2018 at 3:03
  • It is not load bearing, so I could get away with just about anything that would pass inspection. The sole board is already in place and are 2x4s. Did you have something in mind?
    – mlhermer
    Nov 13, 2018 at 4:04
  • 1
    I was thinking 2x2 or 2x3 because what you're after is really furring, not a freestanding wall, no? Nov 13, 2018 at 4:18
  • The wall is way more sturdy than it needs to be (I'll edit the post to include another shot of the area). I'm pretty locked into the 2x4 framing since the sole plate is in as is the entire 20 foot section of wall to the right. Were you thinking about some creative framing in the corner until I start working on the perpendicular wall. My major concern is the below flush mount and how big of an access panel I would need to make.
    – mlhermer
    Nov 13, 2018 at 4:41
  • I take it this panel is the main panel for your unit, or is there a main breaker somewhere else? Nov 13, 2018 at 4:48

4 Answers 4


Looking at that photo you would need 30 inches measured from the left side of the panel to the right. Your cover door would need to be hinged on the left side of the panel (if allowed) my current area allows decorative covers but a label has to tell what is behind the panel and it can not be locked. With the cover door able to open 90 degrees I would not expect it to get flagged.

  • Thanks! I have 30” to the righ for sure. I’m pretty sure decorative panels are allowed (based upon some Redfin snooping and what we had previously...though I would t make too many judgements from what used to be there.
    – mlhermer
    Nov 14, 2018 at 22:25

Aside from the electrical concerns, whoever installed your plumbing pipe and cut notches in the bottoms of all the floor joists, SERIOUSLY weakened the floor system. Sure, you can cut all sorts of holes into the web of the joist, but DON'T cut the bottom chord. If those joists were 10" or a foot deep, they probably don't have the strength of a 2x6 now. I wouldn't hire the electrician OR the plumber that worked on your house.

Sorry to be so negative, but things like this amaze me.

  • 1
    Sadly that was how the house was built back in the early 50’s. The notches range from 4-8’ from the end of 2x12 joists. When I was working on this project, I did look up the code since I was worried about that. I can’t remember exactly what I determined, but it must have met requirements since I didn’t take corrective action. I’m still not happy about it, but there isn’t much to do now. I also had the inspections come out several times and nobody flagged the concern.
    – mlhermer
    Oct 5, 2020 at 10:09

Convert the panel to flushmount. It's the only way to be sure.

Since the clear working space called for by NEC 110.26(A) starts at the front of the equipment, as specified in NEC 110.26(A)(1):

(1) Depth of Working Space. The depth of the working space in the direction of live parts shall not be less than that specified in Table 110.26(A)(1) unless the requirements of 110.26(A)(1)(a), (A)(1)(b), or (A)(1)(c) are met. Distances shall be measured from the exposed live parts or from the enclosure or opening if the live parts are enclosed.

and thinning the wall down in the area of the panel is not an option, the only remaining option is to remount the loadcenter as a flush-mounted unit.

This requires unmounting the loadcenter from the backerboard, replacing the backerboard with insulation and re-doing the flashing tape there, framing around where the loadcenter will go using a 2x3 for the "back" stud and a 2x4 for the "front" stud in a 2-stud corner configuration on the left and an odd sized bay with a standard 2x4 stud on the right due to the loadcenter requiring a specific sized bay, and then remounting the loadcenter cabinet to the studs left and right so that it will be flush with the drywall. You'll need to pull the old cable staples and replace them with fasteners suitable for attaching the cables to foamboard, by the way.

  • 1
    I suppose two questions. 1)How do people pass inspection with all of those funky framed cabinet like designs? I see so many of them where the panel is below the drywall surface, though with more working space to the left/right 2)I'm not sure I have enough cable length to get the panel off the board and still be able to work around the panel let alone support the panel while working. Suggestions? I've been thinking about maybe reducing the wall thickness around the panel so that the cover can be "flush mounted"
    – mlhermer
    Nov 25, 2018 at 18:42
  • @mlhermer 1) framed cabinet designs tend to be treated as an extension of the loadcenter cabinet (enclosure) it seems (Eaton makes decorator covers for their CH line of panels, even) 2) simply make the support high enough that it raises the panel some from its mounted position -- that should put some slack in the cables and let you slide stuff in and out from behind the panel as a result. Nov 25, 2018 at 18:49
  • hmmm....my intention was to frame it like a cabinet with an access panel.... Unfortunately it looks like they used ramsets to secure the backerboard, which would make that really difficult. (My CMU wall really responds poorly to removing things like that).
    – mlhermer
    Nov 25, 2018 at 19:05
  • @mlhermer you can leave the backerboard in place -- the prime reason to remove it is because it's a thermal/barrier leak where it's at, but if it isn't going to budge, it isn't going to budge. Nov 25, 2018 at 19:07
  • ThreePhaseEel - I had the inspector come out. He had no concerns with framing and panel placement. He said that they consider the panel door that will cover the panel to be decretive.
    – mlhermer
    Jan 10, 2019 at 4:05

Best thing is to not try to make a panel access at all.

Make a closet around the panel with a full door.

Much less hacky than trying to invent some finished panel access.

Good luck!

  • Then you'd need to enclose the entire clear working area in that closet.... Feb 3, 2019 at 0:11

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