So I've started finishing my basement. First thing is to put LED recessed lights in. I'm going to string 4-6 LEDs together......problem is the ceiling is fixed and I don't feel like tearing the whole thing down to do the wire. My basement is made up of two sections....both 13x30. So picture two giant rectangular rooms side by side, separated by a cinder block wall. One side has a finished ceiling, one does not. So basically I have to somehow string the wire from the one side, to the unfinished side, go a coupe, feet, and head back to where the next light will be.

I can't crawl from one side to the other and grab the wiring. What's the best way? Get one of those fish poles from Lowes?

  • I thought is was illegal to go fishing by using an electrical wire. – Michael Karas Mar 5 '16 at 3:24
  • @Michael, it depends on where you live. Check your local codes. – Mazura Mar 5 '16 at 4:04
  • Will all the lights be in line with each other? That is, are you running a row straight down the middle of the room? If so, you might save on wire, if you use a flexible drill bit. – Tester101 Mar 5 '16 at 4:12
  • @Tester101 - I thought about using a flexible bit, but how do you use it and be sure it's anywhere close to where it needs to be after the first joist or two, if you can't see it. Not logistically, I mean too close to the side of the joist. – Mazura Mar 5 '16 at 4:50
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    @Mazura The bit wants to go straight. With a little guidance, it will go where you want it. A bit of practice is also helpful. Next time you have a job where the framing is open, use the flexible bit to get the hang of it. – Tester101 Mar 5 '16 at 5:54

If the joists are going the right way, yes get some poles. If they're not, you're cutting open the ceiling anyway.

I live where you have to use EMT conduit so I would ultimately get more use out of a flexible fish tape, and I could make it hop down a ceiling cavity well enough for this purpose, but if you live in plastic land you might get more use out of a set of poles and find them to be ideal.

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    Fish tape would not work well without conduit to guide it. I like the glow in the dark fish rods / poles. The faint green glow can really help you find it in a 16" wide area – Ed Beal Mar 5 '16 at 3:39
  • @EdBeal - That's why I tried to make a point that i could, with minimal fuss, fish my tape with a leader on it down a cavity, but he should get some poles. (or my nylon fish tape would work OK too) – Mazura Mar 5 '16 at 3:46

I'm not exactly clear on what the site looks like, or what your plan is. I'm picturing something like this

enter image description here

Where purple are joists, yellow are the proposed lights, and black is the walls.

In this situation, I see three options.

Fish the cable

The first option is to fish the cable in from the unfinished side, similar to this.

enter image description here

With this approach, you're wasting a bunch of wire (which isn't cheap).

Junction and fish

This option involves installing junction boxes in the unfinished side, then feeding the lights from the junctions like this.

enter image description here

This method saves some wire. Though it leaves junction boxes in the unfinished side, that must remain accessible. Which could be a problem if you ever want to finish that side.

Flexible drill bit

The last option is to buy a flexible drill bit and positioning tool, and go in a straight line. The holes you cut in the ceiling for the new lights, should give you enough room to get the flex bit into position. Once all the holes are bored, fish a single cable straight through. Leave a loop of cable at each fixture, to give you enough cable to hook up the light.

enter image description here


For conduit, fish tape is choice. But for residential remodeling, PEX is so much better! I've used 3/4" and 1/2" PEX pipe many times as fish tape for electrical remodeling (1/2" is usually preferable). I prefer PEX to fish tape because you can move PEX side to side in the wall void; the stiffness allows you to push PEX more quickly; it doesn't get hung up as easily as fish tape; it's easier to feel an obstruction than fish tape; plus, you don't have to roll it back up; and it's way cheaper than a roll of fish tape or a special pole. To use PEX, just put the cable inside the end of the pipe (a few inches) and then tape it (it's much faster than attaching wire to fish tape). Also you can cut PEX to length. For example, an 8' section of pipe will also act kind of like a measuring stick (you'll know when the pipe is at the top of the wall).

  • Wait. Are you saying to use Pex water pipe as a fishing tape alternative? Sweet. – Harper May 17 '16 at 21:58
  • Basically, as a semi-flexible fish pole...it seems pretty interesting to me as well. – ThreePhaseEel May 18 '16 at 0:50
  • Yes, I learned about this in 2003 when I was working on remodeling a few apartment complexes. The rooms were all identical and 75% of the electrical work was done with drywall already installed. There were about a dozen electricians all fishing, all day. PEX really made short work of it though. – Ben Welborn May 18 '16 at 12:32

Since you have an unfinished side, fishing/feeding out to the finished side's new or re-used holes is all you need to do & no damage anywhere to the finished ceiling. The most desired execution would be to do lights in both rooms & even activate them all on 1 switch.

Otherwise, you just need a junction box. Preferably in the middle or further of the unfinished ceiling's span (i.e. 7' from cinder block wall) for possible future light replication on this side. Therefore, wires to the finished side don't have to be "lengthened".

You'd run/fish individual feed lines out of the junction box to each of the finished side's newly hole sawed fixture or light-box holes. The only other thing you'd have to drill is the cinder block from the unfinished side. If there's no insulation above the ceiling you may be able to just feed the lines themselves out to the holes.

In the future the junction box would be removed & each new light box on the unfinished side would become a combination of a pass-through daisy chain junction box for the finished side's lights & the daisy chain of the new unfinished side's lights.

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