My basement has old electrical wiring, looks like it was a replacement for some even older knob and tube (which they largely left in place of course). While they did wire up lighting somewhat, though far from optimal, they did nearly no outlets. They also did no proper light switching, so it's a sea of pull chain lamp holders, excluding a couple thoughtlessly placed light switches that control just one lamp holder. There is one duplex receptacle and a dryer receptacle, that is it.

The basement walls are a mix of faced and unfaced concrete (possibly some cinder) blocks. They added a crawlspace, which was thankfully enclosed. The basement is not dry as it should be, so it has a running dehumidifier, and looks like a prior owner extended the house envelope into the basement. Like most everything done, that also was shoddy DIY.

I want to correct the entire basement electrical, get proper outlets for usage, the basement has a second room which I've been using for a workshop. As of now I'm only able to use my portable tools though, since only near the dryer is there that one badly overloaded duplex receptacle. There is also the main electrical panel, with a second small load center next to it, on the same wall as the clothes washer and dryer. The two panels, and the receptacles, are mounted on plywood. I'm assuming the plywood is just screwed directly to the wall.

I believe the DIY house envelope extension, and the dehumidifier, were attempts to control the moisture/corrosion problem in the basement. I do plan on doing that properly, sealing crawl space vents, replacing any badly corroded galvanized ductwork. My ceiling is just exposed joists (on 16), and at least they didn't break codes on stapling Romex.

What is the best practice way to run electrical lines from the exposed joist ceiling to place electrical receptacles and proper light switches on block walls? Always on plywood first? Anything under the plywood to deal with potential wood rot? How should the wall lines be protected? I'm having the whole thing re-wired, so what is the proper way to do it? Romex in something like a conduit? How would that be attached to the block wall?

  • 1
    The one thing I can say for sure is not Romex in something like a conduit. You either do conduit (more work to install but has some advantages including providing physical protection to the wires) with individual wires, or you use Romex without conduit (and protect it properly where required by code). Jan 7, 2020 at 19:26
  • @manassehkatz-ReinstateMonica, please write an answer as if it was a house you were working on similar to my situation. (and/or your own house, if you'd do extra if it was yours). You seem to know what your talking about, I appreciate your advice. Jan 7, 2020 at 19:31
  • I (mostly) know what I'm talking about. But that's because I stick to what I know! In this case, there are a lot of details that I don't know - e.g., the protection rules (I know vaguely from reading Harper & EdBeal and other people's answers), how many receptacles you need (6' in finished areas but I have no idea in basements), etc. You really want the experts on this one so you don't do stuff and have to replace it later. To get good detailed help from the experts, add to your question: details of your existing breaker panels and pictures if you can; any anticipated special loads... Jan 7, 2020 at 21:04
  • what kind of HVAC (that affects overall electric issues), etc. Jan 7, 2020 at 21:05
  • Can you post photos of the existing breaker panels? That will give us a good start on figuring out what the scope of work involved here is... Jan 8, 2020 at 2:33

1 Answer 1


Having lived in Dayton in the 80’s and having a basement, I had a similar experience 1 switch for a light over the washer dryer and 1 120v duplex and a single 240v for the dryer. I used Romex for the wiring with EMT down the walls to the boxes that were anchored to the walls with a strap close to the top and box. since I had the receptacles at 4’ this met code. I used tapcons or that type of concrete screw for the straps and boxes. I pulled the main panel loose from the masonry wall and anchored a 3/4” plywood behind the panel with screws holding panel to the plywood. I had planed to finish the basement so I had receptacles placed on the walls (at 6’ intervals not 12 as code allows) today unfinished basements require GFCI with the 2017 code (I haven’t checked the 2020 code) but Ohio has had a similar adoption of the code to my current state so the 17 code will probably be enforce until May and 2020 code enforcement in November. As far as wet damp location, other than bathrooms I have never been questioned using Romex inside a building envelope or in the living spaces. You can check with your local inspectors, I had no problems back when I rewired my entire cape cod as it was wired with white as the hot! Yikes ! And finished the basement. The inspector liked the panel mounted on the plywood and verified that I did not use wood plugs. Other than that I really don’t remember him checking anything other than polarity and ground. I did create 4 lighting zones , my man cave & bar area, the washer& furnace, the bathroom area and the stairway lights that also lit the area to the panel no more pull strings. When I added the internal walls I tapped the receptacle circuits for the new walls and added 3way switches at the entry to the 3 areas that were originally a single switch at the bottom of the stairs the stairwell was always 3 way I added the lights to the panel to that circuit. This is what I did back then GFCI was not required but today since it will be unfinished you will need GFCI protection by an outlet or breaker for the receptacles, I don’t know if Ohio has an exemption for dedicated washing machines like Oregon has but knowing how often GFCI protection fails on motor loads if you have the option to have a dedicated non GFCI I would recommend it.

  • This sounds exactly like my situation, just wanted to know about mounting the outlet on the block wall portion. The couple outlets I have now appear to be mounted on plywood like an electrical panel. Was that a preference? Also, did you run only the one romex in the EMT to the outlet, and split at the ceiling with a junction box for the next outlet? Or did you run one romex down, and one back up? Aug 18, 2020 at 19:53
  • I ran the Romex at the ceiling on rat runs no conduit in ceiling put boxes at edge of wall locations and came down with emt on the walls to boxes. There was enough height for a suspended ceiling in that house so even though the boxes were concieled by ceiling tiles since it was removable it was ok same code today if that helps.
    – Ed Beal
    Aug 18, 2020 at 20:56
  • Did you run back up to get to the next outlet box? As in, were two romex cables in the EMT? Aug 19, 2020 at 1:01
  • I used switch legs at the switches with only 1 cable in each pipe at the door and 1 run down to receptacles.
    – Ed Beal
    Aug 19, 2020 at 13:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.