I need to run a wire from a switch on the wall up the wall and across
the ceiling to a new overhead light. (Note that unfortunately, the
joists run perpendicular to the direction that I need to traverse the ceiling)
Doing so presents the following two problems for me:
1. How do I make the right angle turn through the top plate and into
the ceiling joist bay?
2. How do I go through the joists as I traverse the ceiling from the
wall edge to the center light location?
Note I don't have the option of using an unfinished attic or basement
to help me. I am trying to avoid ripping up more plaster than I need to.
I plan on buying a long flexible 1/2" bit which I believe should at
least help me with #2, though I'm a bit short on the details of where
I drill the entry and exit holes and how I achieve the right bend and
angle to go through the middle of the joist.
However, I am a lot more stumped about how I make the right angle
transition from the wall bay into the ceiling joist bay.
Could anybody give me some detailed pointers and/or point me to any
online videos? (I tried googling but found only general suggestions
such as using a flex bit)
You may as well just cut an access strip 8-12" wide from the light
location to the wall to start and be done with it. It'll be simpler to
repair that uniform area w/ a couple of joints than having to patch a
zillion smaller holes. Once you've gotten access, getting around the
corner will be relatively simple.
Alternatively, use a surface-mount track or embed a track raceway just
below the depth of the surface and finish over it. If it's metal
raceway it'll be ok to hide it.
Alternative two if there's any access to alternate wall and around,
sometimes one can go the long way 'round lengthwise w/ the joists and
find another way that there is access to get to the switch wall location
rather than the direct route. That, of course, depends on the layout
details not observable from here.
Removing the access strip will be a PITA since the wall is
plaster/stucco over metal lathe (the wall is in a garage). Also, I
probably only need to bridge 2 or 3 joists so I was thinking that with
a flex bit I should only need a couple of holes.
The challenge that I worry about though is at the corner between wall
and celing since the joists are parallel to the wall so presumably
there is a joist sitting on top of the top plate.
I read somewhere that you can "notch" out a small area of the top
plate bridging the wall with the ceiling and run the wire across it. I
presume that you would need to cover the notch with a metal plate to
be safe (and code conformant).
Is this the best way or is there some way to drill a "diagonal" hole
I would prefer to avoid conduit or track.
The only other walls are exterior (it is a garage) which creates other
issues (e.g., insulation) plus it is truly a long way around.
Well the issue is more getting power to the light which I would need
to do regardless. The switch is already there by the source of power.
I just need to get power to the center of the ceiling to replace an
old wall mounted sconce which is in the way and dangerous since it
always gets hit by all the stuff moving in and out of the garage.
I think you have to think outside of the box.
Can you go down and then up some where else like where it will be easier to
run parallel to the joints?
There's nothing saying you have to take the direct route.
True. But the garage is on slab (so no good down). Also the other 3
walls are exterior walls so even harder to get around.
Up is hard because there is living space above and no attic.
Not saying it is impossible, but probably harder than the direct route
which is only about 5 feet up and 5 feet across the ceiling.
But in my case, the main part of the house (150 years old) has a
basement (with brick columns - pre-Lolly days). The kitchen "wing"
which is 200+ years old is built over a crawl space and the adjoining
garage which is part of the same "wing" but obviously was
"retrofitted" in is just an (old) concrete slab with no crawl space
My buddy & I just did a very similar job recently; can lights.
The attic was accessible but not really; blown-in insulation & roof
line that gave less than a foot clearance. We tried for about 1/2 hr
to "fish / poke" the romex from ceiling box over to a closet access
hole in the ceiling with no luck.
I suggested (as did dpb to you) an access strip. My partner didnt
want the mess or repair. I offered an 5" access hole 1/2 way from the
ceiling box to the wall. We had the wire fished in less than 5 minutes
after cutting the hole (can light hole saw). Simple repair and no
Depending on the distance I would suggested the "strip method" or a
couple access holes (just avoid the joists)
If only the wall is that stucco stuff then an access hole at the top
of the wall & a strip on the ceiling (drywall?)
A diamond blade on a skilsaw or angle grinder will make short work of
the plaster, stucco, metal lathe. Use a helper with a shop vac or
duct tape the hose to the tool to get the dust.
Cut the access.....you'll be glad you did.
Yes I agree. The question for me is just how to minimize. The ceiling
also appears to be a similar plaster & wire lathe which is a PITA.
But my question is really more about how to get around the top plate
and joist at the wall/ceiling junction.
The only solution I have seen so far is to "notch" the top-plate (and
perhaps a tiny bit of the joist resting on the top plate) which then
get covered with a metal plate before plastering over.
I just want to make sure that this is the best/easiest/safest way for
doing what I am trying to do (assuming that I want the wire to be
concealed within the wall & ceiling cavities).
Again, I'm sure that with removing enough material, I could do
anything. I'm just trying to learn the tricks-of-the-trade so that I
don't do any unnecessary demolition or do anything
Testing, testing, one, two, three. Hello, can you hear me?
What about a wireless switch? If you have access above the light
location, you probably don't need to cut any holes in the ceiling
(other than the ceiling outlet) or wall.
W/O actually seeing to tell if there's a trick to be used for a specific
situation, the answer is what you've already been told--make enough
access for the job--it's simpler and will look "more professional" in
the end to have the two seams patched than a whole bunch of 'em--and
you're going to have to drill all the joists anyway to get thru 'em
unless you do go under.
As for the corner, it's take your pick -- you can drill an access hole
large enough to fish from the switch location to catch the fish from the
ceiling and pull it through or notch -- it's your call as to what you
think is simpler. There really isn't a whole lot to choose; imo
drilling the holes is generally easier than trying to cut a notch but
that's me; others like the other.
Excessively worrying about avoiding demolition is the sign of the
inexperienced/diy'er--the pro just goes ahead and does what's needed w/o
the agonizing and finishes the job at hand because he knows how to do
the finish. The diy'er isn't comfortable w/ the plaster work or
whatever so tries to figure out ways that he thinks can avoid something
but rarely is that as successful as just biting the bullet.
imo, $0.02, etc., etc., ...
This is what I wanted to know.
I didn't want to go around notching or drilling only to find out a few
days later that I violated a key code item or created structural
You are partly right - but I am pretty experienced at least relative
to my peers though maybe not relative to all the experts here.
However, I do like to learn and do things right -- and I hate when I
do something impulsively only to find out a little later that there
was an easier/better way to do it -- or even worse to find out that my
solution is unsafe or won't last requiring rework.
I believe in measuring several times before cutting... because I have
been burned many times when I rush to cut first...
Well, you still _could_, but nobody here can see the actual construction
you have to tell. :)
In general, you can drill a hole near the center of a structural element
within code for wiring as long as the diameter is "small" wrt to the
element itself. There's actually some guidelines iirc but I don't know
them otomh and again they'll be general for things like joists, etc.
A notch at the lower edge of an unsupported beam/joist is structurally
more damaging than the hole in the middle because it leads to stress
concentration points at the point the longitudinal fibers of the beam
are cut. Generally, as long as it's relatively small, that'll not be an
issue; there's normally far more than enough material in the structure
that the amount removed to clear a piece of romex will not be missed.
But, of course, there's always that one-in-a-million strange situation
that could be the killer...it isn't at all likely, but nobody can say
uncategorically that your modification is ok w/o seeing it.
That said, again, it's not something likely and I'm not trying to raise
concern, simply stating that since nobody in a.h.r can see your
situation all can do is provide a general guide. If you were to see
something you think is questionable, then you need to get hands-on local
I've experienced this exact phenomenon. A few days ago, i realized i
had a bad cast iron sewer stack in the lower level of a two story house.
A year ago i would have sweated about how to access this pipe and
repair the plaster wall that was covered with paneling. Two days ago i
merely grabbed my claw bar and 3 pound hammer and took the entire wall
down to studs. A few sheets of sheetrock and it'll be like new in a few
days. And the cast iron sewer stack is repaired (with pvc and fernco's)
already. As a bonus, i'll also have two new outlets in properly mounted
boxes in this wall. <G>
Amen on that! I used to fiddy f... around worrying about doing to
much damage / demo.
More but "thoughtful" demo (like back to a corner, an entire wall, mid-
stud, etc) is easier & faster to get the new work done AND restore
the entire system to working order than "selective" / piecemeal demo
Thats why for a bathroom or a kitchen (unless some cool vintage stuff
is being saved) its better to go all the way to studs (well, at least
on the plumbing & electrical walls) .
Sorry I didn;t address "how to get around the corner" of the top
plates & the joist at the wall (or at the plate)........ missed it.
I would drill up through the double top plate with ~7/8 bit & then a
intersecting hole at the center line of the joist.
Both of these holes are a snap to drill if you use the strip method of
a pieced of romex can be poked / fished this way...install a nail
plate on the both top plates & you;re done.
*Those long flexible bits are very nice, but I rarely use them. There are
usually obstacles such as wiring, water pipes and duct that the bit can
damage by drilling blindly. What I do is make an access hole in the center
between joists and drill each one with a regular ship auger bit. I cut the
holes at a 45 degree angle and am able to put the pieces back. For plaster
and lathe I think that you might be better off using a carbide hole saw or
an angle grinder. Before you cut anything you should consider how you will
patch the holes.
My first choice to run a wire up from a switch into the ceiling is to make a
long narrow hole on the wall below the ceiling so my drill with bit will fit
in the space. Then I drill up at an angle towards where I want my wire to
go. Another option is to notch the top plate lay the wire in and put a
steel nail plate over the wire. I prefer the first method because it is
easier to patch when I cut the drywall at a 45 degree angle and I can
sometimes avoid cutting into the ceiling if other factors are good.
If you are trying to cut through a lathe, a Victor cutting torch and
#2 tip would work better. A shade 8 shield for the eyes is good, as
well as leather gloves and apron.
OTOH, if the OP is working with expanded metal lath and plaster, then
carbide blades are the ticket. <G>
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