Howdy all. I'm looking to add electrical outlets to my bathrooms, where
there currently are none. There is existing wiring for the light
switches, so I'm wondering if I can add the outlets using the same
wiring, but in a way so that the outlets are not controlled by the
switch. I have an idea of how I need to do this, but need to make sure
I have all bases covered since I've never done electrical work like this
on my own. Any and all pointers would be appreciated. Thanks!
Yes, you should be able to do this (if the original builder wired to
code). However, in order to do this safely and effectively you'll need
a basic understanding of electrical wiring - which at the moment you
lack. Go to Home Despot or Lowes and pick up a book on residential
electrical wiring. Read and comprehend it. Then, if you still have
questions post 'em here.
I actually do have a basic understanding of electrical wiring, though it
may well be too basic (yup... have a book and have read it, but has been
awhile). I am lacking in knowledge of codes though, and since sooner or
later I'll be selling the house, it'd be best to be sure this job is
done to code. Sooo... I think I'll follow my better judgement and hire
a pro to be sure it's done right. Thanks to all for the input!
You have gotten alot of advice, some of which is even correct!
However, adding circuits to existing walls can be a real bitch. You might
be able to do it in 2 hours, or it might take 20 depending upon what you
run into. If you can get a reasonably price electrician... Experience goes
a lot way. (of course, the only way to get experience is doing things you
have never done before.)
when i redid my house, i figure half the time spent went towards about 10%
of the outlets. spent an entire day on an outdoor porch light because of a
did the other 90% of the outlets, the panel, everything else in the other
Physically, it depends on how the existing lights are wired, whether you
to branch off from the light fixture or from the switch.
In most jusrisdictions, you're required to have a 20A GFCI-protected
circut feeding the outlets in the bathroom, which circut is allowed
to also feed the lights in that bathroom, but nothing else, (except
for similar outlets/lights in another bathroom).
If you're trying to meet code, therefore, you will probably have
to run a complete new 20A circut from your service panel,
since the circut driving the lights in your bathroom is probably
neither confined to bathrooms, nor 20A.
Actually, as I recall the currect NEC requires that the GFCI-protected
branch circuit be used ONLY for the outlet(s); lighting connections are
not allowed. But your advice about running a new 20A circuit still
holds true if meeting current code is a requirement. OTOH, if the
existing wiring includes a neutral, hot, and ground the OP could simply
add a GFCI-protected outlet to the existing circuitry. Not to current
code perhaps, but safe enough.
If so, that's a change since the 1999 NEC. I don't try to keep
totally up to date, since i'm only allowed to work on my own
house, anyway. and *MY* rules include
(1) that the general lighting circut(s) only runs lights.
Otherwise, when you blow a circut
with your power-drill, you're stumbling around in the dark
trying to find your way out of the room to fix it, and
(2) that there are convenience outlets from at least two
circuts in every room.
OK - had to go look it up to see if this was an NEC or our local
jurisdiction's rule. Answer: some of both.
NEC 210.11(C)(3) - Branch Circuits Required - Dwelling Units - Bathroom
Branch Circuits - In addition to the number of branch circuits required
by other parts of this section, at least one 20A branch circuit shall be
provided to supply bathroom receptacle outlet(s). Such circuits shall
have no other outlets.
Exception: Where the 20A circuit supplies a single bathroom, outlets for
the other equipment within the same bathroom shall be permitted to be
supplied in accordance with 210.23(A)(1) and (2).
(Our jurisdiction won't permit the exception).
I'd use one of those combo light switches/outlets that look like this:
I don't think that you have to put in a 20A circuit or a GFCI. Your
house doesn't have to meet current code unless you are doing a major
overhaul in your bathroom, in which case running a new 20A circuit
would be the thing to do if you already ripped out the walls, etc to
do something else.
That's for new construction. A new outlet added to an existing bath
needs to be GFCI protected (whether it's gonna get inspected or not),
but he should be able to tap off of any available branch circuit to get
the power. (the lighting circuit is not necessarily a good one to use
because you don't want to be in the dark if you trip the breaker with a
If it's not too hard to run a new dedicated circuit (like new
construction might require), of course that's the best way to do it.
I disagree Bob. A new outlet where none ever existed is, to me, new
construction and has to conform to the codes in place at the time it is done.
Why your distinction, that it must be GFCI protected? The current code requires
both GFCI protection AND a dedicated 20a circuit. Yet you confirm one is
necessary and the other isn't. They're both in the code.
Now, if there already was an outlet, and he were replacing it because it was
damaged or not the right color, I'd say it was a repair or maintainence thing,
and he could just re-install the same device only new.
The device linked:
is also available in a GFCI version.
The GFCI is needed for safety. The dedicated 20A circuit is for
convenience and has little if anything to do with safety, and I assumed
he's not gonna get a permit and inspection for this. Maybe a bad
assumption on my part.
Got outlets in room(s) on the other side of BR walls? Easy to go from
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Generally no. Lighting is often 15 amp and outlets on a separate 20
amp circuit. There are some specific NEC guidelines about where bath
outlets may be installed. Also, outlets must have GFCI protection in
a bathroom. I recommend hiring a licensed electrician.
I went ahead and did have a licensed electrician out this morning. That
turned out to be a little bit of a fiasco, and a bit of a ripoff. He
said they price strictly by "the book" (so you "know" you won't get
screwed) and if I agree to the price, they'll do it right away. So I
show him the bathrooms, explain where I want the outlets but emphasized
that I'm not sure what's behind the wall (chimney for oil heating system
runs up through there). I suggested that he could be sure by popping
out the light switch outlet (around the corner, by the door) and probing
some. He says it'd be ok. When he gets started, cuts out a hole, and
finds that there's a 4x4 beam at the corner of the wall, and no gap
between that and the chimney (he wanted to get to wiring for light
switch, and expected to just pass it through behind the wall). So he
hasta put in a dummy cover, then put outlet next to light switch (not
optimal location, but no real choice for the upstairs bathroom so I went
with it). So he gets that done, then throws me a bone and replaces the
light switches (and grounds them) at no charge. And the fee "by the
book", which I'm sure is calculated based on doing far more work than
what he actually did... $300. For about an hour. Grrrr..... and he
apparently wired it the same way I had figured on doing myself (nothing
special, just used existing wiring leading to light switch). I had
figured up to $400 for the 2 bathrooms, but assumed a LOT more wiring
work would be needed after reading feedback here. Oh shit oh well. I
won't do THAT again (pay someone a flat fee "by the book"... that is).
You got screwed. He charged you for running a new dedicated circuit
("by the book"), and instead he tapped into the lighting circuit. He
also didn't put the outlet where you wanted it, and he didn't patch the
hole he made in the wall.
I'd get him back out there to do the job right at no additional charge.
Getting anyone out here to do anything has been a royal pain in the rear
(took me months just to find a roofer that would do what I needed and
wanted done), and I seriously doubt he's about to "do it right" now that
he's been paid. I sure as heck don't want this guy back in my house
again, that's for sure. I'll be writing a letter to the company and to
the Better Business Bureau, and chalk this up to lesson learned
otherwise. If I want something done right, I gotta do it myself, it
I want that book!
I understand the 'book rate' notion for mechanics. It's a known
job with limited parameters.
And you don't want to reward the stupid and punish the efficient and
skilled by paying one guy 2 hrs to change oil and an punish another guy
who can do it in 10 minutes.
But I didn't know electricians did this.
Different skills levels charge different amounts. Apprentice-girl might
take 1 hr, but only charge X/hr where a master electrician might get it
done in 20 minutes, but can charge 3X/hr.
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