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I am finishing a basement. It is wide open with no rooms, just a structural cinder block/I-beam wall. I am adding a home office to one corner.

This is a bit long, but I want to be sure to include all of the relevant information and avoid back-and-forth in the comments.


Disclaimer

I have been reading up on the relevant building codes for my jurisdiction and seeking advice from friends who are tradesmen. I have also completed similar projects before with success, and feel comfortable around electrical wires and know all the safety rules. Before I finish up (i.e. drywall and hide everything) I will have a licensed electrician inspect my work (but I want to minimize or eliminate re-work). I am located in the United States in a state that adapts the NEC every three years as-is. I just want to get all the obvious stuff out of the way.


Assumptions

While I do know people in the trades, I would like to solicit additional feedback from the community on my proposed electrical plan for the remodel. Specifically, I have the following goals and assumptions:

  1. Minimize circuit breaker tripping. While the basement has dedicated lines for the usual (washer, 30A/240V dryer, furnace), basements often include additional "big" items: beer fridge, exercise equipment, power tools. I cannot guarantee what the next homeowner will plug in, but I can mitigate risks.

  2. In the event of a breaker tripping, do not turn the lights off.

  3. I hear conflicting reports (even on this SE site) about how many receptacles are allowed on a single circuit. Every breaker and circuit in this house is and will be 120V/20A with 12 gauge Romex: I hear ten receptacles is a reasonable (or required) limit, and I intend to stick to this.

  4. No circuit in the area being remodeled is anywhere close to water. The only area near water is the utility area in a separate part of the basement and that is nowhere close to the part I am working on. GFCI should not be an issue.

  5. The room I am creating is not a bedroom. It fails to meet code requirements for such (no egress window or closet). It will be a den or home office.

  6. When a junction or other electrical box is used, assume I will be using a deep, large-sized box that allows additional circuits and wires per the NEC. If I have to replace a box, I will do so. Go big or go home.

  7. I want to make future maintenance easy, and future modifications unnecessary.


Current Situation

Great, the common gripes are out of the way, here is the current situation:

The basement is divided into three sections. One quarter is the utility area with the basement appliances (furnace, water heater, laundry, load center). Not being touched except for the load center to run new circuits.

One quarter is a partially finished (ceiling drywall, cinder block walls) and will not be touched unless I am required to do so.

One half is the area I am remodeling. It currently has a drywall ceiling and cinder block walls. I have removed the drywall ceiling where I am building the new room and will eventually remove and replace all of the drywall to ensure a consistent appearance (also, I need to cut into it to rewire things in the meantime before I rip it all down (I have boxes and stuff I don't want drywall dust on so this must be done in stages)).

Aside from the utility quarter, the other 3/4 of the basement are currently on a single circuit: lights, outlets, everything. This concerns me, and my question is about improving this situation.


My plan, feedback requested

The existing basement circuit will be spliced into a lighting fixture and go immediately to the other quarter of the basement not being remodeled. The half being remodeled will be all new circuits. However, my wife demands requests no junction boxes with blanks on them where a splice could be made according to the NEC.

The new room measures approximately 12x12 feet, or roughly 48 feet perimeter not including the door (32", so figure approximately three feet rough-in). I plan on having a dedicated circuit for this room with nine receptacles: two on each wall, with an extra on the wall with a door. It is offset to one side, so an outlet is required near the door on each side, plus an extra on the long side. Being a home office, I want lots of plugs to avoid extension cords and needless power strips. This goes above and beyond what the NEC requires, and I am fine with that.

Lighting on this half of the basement is currently tied into the outlets, but I plan on wiring in a separate "lights-only" circuit to feed three lights (one in the new room, two in the big open space). This should avoid the situation where the beer fridge kicks on at the same time people are exercising and another person is using the table saw, and the breaker trips, leaving everyone in the dark. I sure hope the person operating the saw is not "using" the beer fridge... Inside each lighting box, there is 12/2 providing power. 12/3 goes to the switch: black goes to the switch, red comes from the switch. This avoids repurposing the neutral, since it would have to be marked with electrical tape and that can grow brittle with age. Neutral will be capped at each end since it is unused on a switch leg. Yes, this is unnecessary, but it helps avoid confusion.

While not part of the current plans, the remainder of the half of the basement will have two or three separate circuits feeding the outlet receptacles. The wall perimeter is approximately 80 feet, making that many circuits overkill: again, I want to err on the side of caution, given that basements often have high-amperage appliances such as power tools and exercise equipment.

To avoid head-scratching and confusion later on, I want to label all of the outlets:

  1. Each outlet box will have a sticker with the circuit number from one of those books used to label circuits.

  2. Each outlet box will have a number marked in Sharpie identifying that outlet. Between the circuit and outlet number, the combination is unique.

  3. Each Romex jacket will have a label indicating the outlet number to which it goes, making it easy to figure out which outlets are wired in series even with the drywall hiding the Romex.

Example: an outlet has a "20" sticker and "1" marked in Sharpie. This is circuit 20, the first outlet. One Romex jacket has "LC" or "IN" indicating that is "in" from the "load center" and the other has "2" meaning it goes to outlet 2. Taking the cover off outlet 2, we see the same "20" sticker and the Romex has "1" and "3" making it easy to determine where each one goes.


My Question

Does this design sound good?

Is it up to code (NEC 2014)?

Is there anything I can improve on?

If you had to come in ten years later and make changes, is there anything you wish I would have done differently, before the drywall covers everything up?

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Here are my notes:

GFCI protection is required for all receptacles in unfinished basements (210.8(A)(5)).

Any habitable room in a basement may require an emergency escape route (see this answer for more detail), so check with the local building department. Note that "emergency escape", is slightly different than "egress" even though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

So the catch-22 here is. If you call it habitable space, you don't need GFCI protection, but you need an emergency escape route. If you call it an unfinished basement, you need GFCI, but not an emergency escape route.

As of NEC 2011 (I think), a grounded (neutral) is required at switch locations (404.2(C)). So only cap the neutral at the switch, and connect it at the junction.

The labeling is helpful if you are doing work in the future, but may not be helpful to another person that doesn't understand your labeling system.

  • Basements always require emergency egress unless they are only used for mechanical equipment and are less than 200 sf, which it doesn't sound like this is. So it doesn't really matter if it's considered "habitable" or not. – Hank Dec 13 '15 at 16:44
  • @HenryJackson That's true. However, since the home was likely built before the requirement, it should be grandfathered in. That is, until habitable space is added, at which point it has to be brought up to current codes. – Tester101 Dec 13 '15 at 16:49
  • Technically you probably don't need a permit to add a few receptacles in the basement. But if you have a fire, and a couple folks are burned up in the basement, you might have some splaining to do. – Tester101 Dec 13 '15 at 16:52
  • @HenryJackson You're right though, if you pull a permit for this job, emergency escape will likely be required. – Tester101 Dec 13 '15 at 16:56

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