Putting electrical outlets in stone/masonry walls

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*Deeper boxes will help with pushing the wires back in. On jobs where I use all #12 I sometimes use stranded wires for the pigtails. That makes it very easy to push the devices into the box, but I have rolls of stranded on my truck already. It may not be worth your while to buy some stranded unless you get a good deal on short rolls at Home Depot.
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RogerT wrote:

Here are two photos I took that show the terracotta blocks:
http://i52.tinypic.com/29mnbk4.jpg
http://i55.tinypic.com/ygw9s.jpg
The first photo shows the dividing wall between the two properties. The blocks in the center are for a dual chimney -- one for each of the two properties. One either side of the chimney are the blocks for the actual dividing wall. The chimney originally had framing just around that part. Then a later owner must have framed out a wider section from the front wall of the property (on the right) back past the chimney. So, on the sides, you can see the old wallpaper before the newer framing covered it up. Where the wallpaper is, it is just rough coat and finish coat plaster directly over the block (like the rest of the exterior walls), then wallpaper on top of the plaster. On the right is one of the cast iron radiators that is under the front window.
The second photo is uptairs in another part of the house. It shows what used to be another no-longer-used chimney chase -- which is also on the dividing wall between the two properties. I knocked out the chimney way on my side, and the only point of this picture is to show how the terracotta blocks are hollow by showing some of the broken off blocks.
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">> John Grabowski wrote:

*Thanks for the pictures Roger. The terracotta blocks are just the way I remember them. Good luck with the project and keep a photo documentary so you can post for all of us when you are finished.
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RBM wrote:

I think I'll be okay with doing the short chases to the outlets without compromising the integrity of the masonry. Almost all of the wiring will be done in the open ceilings with only short runs up to wall outlets. If necessary, I could probably even do that by running conduit up to each outlet and then mortaring in the open chases around the conduit for more structural support. In the kitchen where there will be countertop outlets, all of those walls will already be framed out.

I hadn't thought about the possibility that I may be required to insulate the exterior walls now that the place is gutted. But, since you're the second person to mention that, it is something I will have to look into. I had actually been considering doing that anyway. My thinking was to frame out all of the exterior walls and insulate them. Although that would mean more work and more in materials, it would certain be a plus to have the walls insulated, and that would also provide the wiring access for outlets, switches, etc. The house is getting all new replacement windows -- possibly full-frame replacement windows -- which will also help in terms of preventing heat loss. One added problem with framing out the exterior walls is that the house has hot water cast iron radiator heat, and the radiators are, of course, on the exterior walls -- mostly under windows. So, if I frame out those walls, I will need to move all of the radiators in about 4+ inches. That means plumbing work, but since all of the other walls and ceilings are now open, access to all of the radiator plumbing is easy.
However, I posted this question about how to wire and mount the outlets in masonry walls in case I end up not framing out all of the masonry walls.
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Your ancient heating system sounds like it could be retrofitted now that you have opened everything up... What are the current zones configured as ? Replumbing your system so that each convector is on its own zone using Pex and some zone manifolds will allow you save energy and have more comfortable tenants...
Since you would be taking apart all the convectors to replumb them and establish a new thermostatically controlled zone for each room, it wouldn't be that much trouble to adjust the cavities they are installed in a few inches...
Better to do this work now while everything is opened up because it will add thousands more to the bill when your system eventually fails... Improving the controls for your heating system combined with the new replacement windows will result in even more energy savings compared with heating ALL of the upstairs or downstairs until the thermostat in the hallway is satisfied... Going the extra mile and adding insulation to the walls as well couldn't hurt...
~~ Evan
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Evan wrote:

Interesting thought. Thanks. I hadn't thought about creating zoned heating. This is a 3-story house which is presently all on one single zone..
Are you suggesting doing all new pex plumbing to the cast iron radiators, using a home run system to each individual radiator (or at least to each room/zone, and a thermostat for each radiator or room/zone)? Or, maybe I could just create 3 or 4 zones -- one for the third floor, one for the second floor, and one or two for the first floor (the first floor has a separate heated porch area with French doors to the house, so maybe that would be on a separate zone from the rest of the first floor).
If I remember correctly, the type of pex that is used for cast iron radiators is Pex-Aluminum-Pex (Pex-Al-Pex).
I have seen (on TV) thermostat controls that go on individual cast iron radiators, and I guess a similar device with a wall-mounted thermostat that controls the valve may exist.
Once I get started doing these types of projects, I do have a tendancy to say, "Well, since we're already doing X, now would be the best to to go ahead and also do Y. So, your suggestion fits right into my usual way of thinking.
Now that all of the walls and ceiling are open, I'll have to give some real thought to all of the possible heating and cooling options. I do have a couple of HVAC people that I trust who I can get to look at the house and give me their suggestions and the pros and cons for each option.
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Zoned heating is more efficient, you don't have to heat the rooms you aren't using -- in a home where the thermostats are located in a hallway the heating plant has to work hard to get that area warm enough to satisfy the thermostat while dealing with the heat losses in each room...
If you wanted to keep your cast iron radiators, yes... A new homerun loop to each radiator/convector location is the best idea... All fittings and connections are kept in visible areas that way -- I have seen people use Pex as if it were normal pipe using numerous fittings and burying those fittings in walls... While that is allowable, using Pex in that manner totally disregards the reason why Pex was designed, to provide unbroken loops for in-floor heating, so using it with fittings along a run totally ignores the way it was designed to be used... You are correct in your remembering the special type of Pex which must be used if you have any ferrous metals in your piping system...
There may be other heating options available to you since you have gutted your home at this point, it is just a matter of expense... You could look at underfloor radiant heating at this point... You could look at a mini-ducted forced air system which uses air handler units and can both heat and cool (which would reduce the number of electrical circuits you would need to provide in anticipation of tenants using window units)...
Whatever option you decide on, just make sure you go that little extra effort to make things up in a workmanlike manner, things will be easier to maintain in the future... If you decide to go with a ducted system, go the extra mile and properly seal all the connections and fittings -- I think most people would be shocked at how "leaky" their heating/cooling ducts are in a typical house, the tighter and better insulated any ducts are, the less money you are spending on conditioning the air in areas of your home where you won't be enjoying it like inside an unfinished basement and inside the cavities of your walls...
Don't cheap out -- insulate EVERYTHING now that the walls are open... If you use mineral wool insulation you will not only add the insulating value you were looking for but also additional fire protection and sound deadening... This is useful in interior walls as well as any walls which may be shared with the other unit on the common wall...
~~ Evan
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