Recently I have built a new desk in my office, made of pine and plywood. It is a build in, that is, it is permanently attached to the wall, etc. and can't be moved. I felt that it would be useful to mount some receptacles on the top of the desk so I didn't have to go digging around underneath of it when I want to plug something in.

My plan is to get a 15 amp. utility cord (plug on one side, open wires on the other) and use a (metal) junction box to connect it to two outlet receptacles on either end of the desk. Each outlet will of course be inside of its own metal handy box and the outlets will be mounted horizontally (i.e. like a normal wall outlet so stuff can't fall into them). I also plan on using flexible metal conduit to protect my wiring from the junction box to the outlets. All of the receptacles, boxes, etc. will be under the desk and run through the supports so that they don't hang down and are otherwise inaccessible / out of the way. The desk will then be powered by plugging said wiring into a normal wall outlet.

I've done some small electrical projects around the house and I know the basics of safety, like only splicing in junction boxes, using clamps, etc. where the wires enter the box, etc. but I have never done anything with conduit before.

For this project, would it be OK to use the usual 12/2 Romex in the conduit or should I seek something else out. If I use romex does it need to stay in its yellow sheathing? Does wiring my desk like this sound like an insane idea / fire hazard? Any advice or info would be appreciated.

Also, I live in Richmond, VA for the purposes of any regional codes that may apply.

  • You're overkilling the problem. Remember that a power strip works just fine without heavy metal and romex and so on. If your concern is elegance, there are nice prepackaged pop-up outlet units which drop into a cutout in the desk, available for not much more than the cost of a power strip. (My solution was to just bolt a normal power strip to the side of my desk -- and daisy-chain another one to it when I needed more space for wallwart power supplies. Not elegant, but effective, provides lots of outlets, and cheap.) – keshlam Jun 30 '14 at 22:10
  • That's of course an option, but that doesn't really answer the question. Even if it is overkill, is it a valid way to do it? – A.R. Jun 30 '14 at 22:20
  • Sure it's valid, if by that you mean "will it work". You're just building your own power strip and embedding it in the table. Assuming you do the wiring properly, install appropriate strain relief, and make sure the wire can't be damaged by any hardware it passes near, you should be fine. You'll probably be spending more money than necessary, and certainly more effort. But if you're OK with that, go for it! – keshlam Jun 30 '14 at 22:25
  • Yeah, I actually have all of the materials left over from a previous job, so the expense is for boxes, and that has been about $5 so far. :) – A.R. Jun 30 '14 at 22:46
  • I don't think that code is likely to apply to your custom desk. However, I would recommend reading the sections that define the number of wires/amount of free space limits for a conduit of a given size, and following them as a best practice. – Rozwel Jul 1 '14 at 21:57

If you're working with leftover materials, you can surely pull 12/2 nonmetallic sheathed cable through conduit. You'll want to avoid lots of bends and long runs, as it will make pulling the cable more difficult.

If you're up for buying some wire, you might find it easier to pull single conductors through the conduit. Stranded wire is often easier to pull through conduit, though you might find it more difficult to terminate at devices. You could pick up a 25' roll of #12 THHN stranded copper, for about $8.00. You'll want 3, one black (ungrounded "hot"), one white (grounded "neutral"), and one green (grounding).

Since you're using a 15 ampere cord to supply power, you can use 14 gauge wiring instead of 12. If you're buying new wire, this could save you some money. If you're using materials you already have on hand, there's no problem using larger gauge wire than what's required.

Installing UL listed power strips is a safer bet. If you know what you're doing, there's nothing wrong with a custom solution.


My home office desk is not fixed so I wanted to be able to move it. I have two of these which plug into a heavy duty UPS.

They are mounted side-by-side but offset so that a wall wart plugged into one doesn't block adjacent outlets.

  • Yeah, I've seen stuff like that, but I figured with all custom furniture, I should have all custom outlets, etc. – A.R. Jun 30 '14 at 21:58

You don't put outlets in a desk. In no way would I ever want that and I am probably your target audience with the big built in. Get a couple of nice industrial looking metal power strips. Mount 2-3 in key locations, run them through the back of desk and to and outlet. I should be able to unplug them but it is fine if it is a PITA.

I eat breakfast on my home desk, spill things all the time, that is my area to be a pig... I don't want to have to worry about spilling something on it.

  • @Johnny - what would be the benefit of adding outlets? I normally don't advise people to do things with no pay off. – DMoore Jul 1 '14 at 6:27
  • Like I said in the question, the outlets will be mounted in such a way that liquids, etc. can't be spilled into them. – A.R. Jul 1 '14 at 11:34
  • @A.R. - if you do do this and I wouldn't, but your house, your desk... then you need to use GFCI outlets. – DMoore Jul 1 '14 at 16:27
  • @DMoore, WHY would he need to use GFI receptacles? – Speedy Petey Jul 1 '14 at 20:45
  • @SpeedyPetey - why wouldn't it be treated just like any other table/island in your house that you would put an outlet in? I am saying that I would for sure. Ask Tester if it is code or not. – DMoore Jul 1 '14 at 22:42

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