Common Challenges of Running Electrical Wire Through Concrete Walls

Wiring a new construction site before the walls are fully put into place is a piece of cake.  But, what about those times when you have to run electrical wire through existing concrete walls?  “Unfortunately, there will come a time when anyone involved in electrical work will at some point be faced with the challenge of running electrical wire through a brick wall or something of similar material,” states Tom Wallek, CEO of SetItFast.com. “So, knowing how to do so correctly can mean all the difference between successfully completing a project and having to call in a brick mason to repair damages you may be responsible for creating.”  

Fishing electrical wiring through existing walls and floors is challenging enough, but when you also throw in the fact that concrete or brick walls, especially, can be easily damaged, the task at hand can seem a bit stressful.  “Fortunately, with some careful planning, a few special tools and the right techniques, running these wires can be done successfully and with ease,” explains Wallek. “Our products were designed with that specific goal in mind. We wanted to make it easy for electricians and other skilled workers to get their job done.”

Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need to do in order to overcome the most common challenges of running electrical wire through solid walls:

The Drill Bit

The best way to feed wire through a solid wall is to feed it through a PVC conduit that will also line the hole that you drill.  Don’t just try to blindly run your wires through a hole in the wall without something to protect them and the rest of your home.  To properly feed the wires, you’ll need to first install the proper size core drill bit into your hand-held core drill.  You’ll want to use a drill bit that’s sized slightly larger than the outside diameter of the PVC pipe that you’ll use to sleeve the wires.  Of course, the size of conduit that will be needed is dependent upon the number and size of the electrical wires you’ll be running through the wall (that are in line with the National Electrical Code).       

Drilling Safety

As you plug your core drill and protected extension cord in to begin work, make sure that you put on safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying pieces of concrete.  You’re going to need to hold your drill perpendicular to the concrete wall as you begin drilling.  But, whatever you do, do not try to force the drill.  All it takes is an applied steady pressure, and the drill will do the rest of the work.  Remember, drills are powerful tools that can easily get away from you if you’re not ready or fully aware of how they operate.  So, when using the drill, make sure you have a firm, two-handed grip on the tool at all times.   

Measure the Wall Thickness

Once you finish drilling through the concrete, the next step is to accurately measure the wall’s thickness.  To do this, place your tape measure through the hole for your reading, but remember to add two inches to the measurement to allow enough free PVC conduit to connect with the necessary fittings you’ll need to complete the installation later.  Then, mark your pipe accordingly. 

Carefully Cut the PVC

Before you cut the PVC conduit to the length of your measurements, opt to do so with a proper PVC cutter.  Sure, you could use a regular old hacksaw, but only a PVC cutter will assure that the cut you make will be square, which is important to the overall installation.  If you don’t use the proper tool, and make your cut at an angle, which happens with other tools, your pipe won’t mate properly with the other PVC fittings that you may need later.  Also, once cut, be sure to use the reamer on the cutter to remove any rough edges from the PVC.  If you forget to do this, these rough spots could potentially damage the insulation of your electrical wires and cause them to short out once electricity runs through them.  

Finish & Caulk

Once all wires have been sleeved through the PVC conduit, you’ll need to fill the gap around the pipe where it passes through the concrete wall with a silicon caulking compound.  This way your home stays nicely insulated. 

The biggest challenge in running electrical wire through concrete walls isn’t so much the task itself, it’s simply going into it uninformed and ill-prepared.  So, don’t make that mistake.  Take the necessary time to prepare all of your tools, make the right measurements and carefully take your time so that you don’t cause damage to the existing structure or your wires.   

 

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