Mark Your Electrical Runs Well

Written by Andrew Morrison

electrical lines marked on a straw bale wallWhen installing your electrical wires in the bale walls, be sure to take the time to mark them out clearly, post installation, with spray paint. This allows you to photograph exactly where the wires run. Picture yourself 10 years down the road wanting to cut a new doorway into an exterior wall and not remembering how your wires were run.

Perhaps that’s an extreme example, but I do indeed recommend that you mark your lines nonetheless as you will be happy to have such an accurate map one day, no matter what your long term plans for the walls are. After all, once covered in plaster, there is no way to know where those electrical wires are and a stud finder with electrical sensor may not help you much either due to the density of the walls.

Chances are it will pick up on the electrical signal just fine, but why take chances when $5 of spray paint and 15 minutes of your time can make certain you know where things are.

I was also asked recently if ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements are difficult to accomplish with straw bale wall electrical systems because so many people like to lay their wire on top of the first course of bales, which may not meet ADA requirements. Within the requirements, the electrical plugs need to be between 18″ and 48″ from finished floor. The same is true for switches.

In the system I build with, this would be no problem as I use 4×4 toe ups and 14″ tall bales. If you think you will not be able to meet the requirements with your bales, then simply install the wires after the walls have been raised and use a chainsaw to cut channels for the wires. This is how I prefer to install my electrical anyway, so no big deal for me!

Okay, back to the marking of your wires. I suggest you mark the runs ahead of time, before you wire, as well as after the walls are wired. The before hand mark up allows you to see where things will run in relation to niche, truth windows, and other wall details. I personally would not want to see an electrical wire run through a truth window, and I imagine the inspector would not allow it anyway!

Once the wires are cut in and the walls are prepared for plaster, go over them one last time with some bright spray paint and take a series of pictures. I like to take them from a distance so I can reference their location in the room to something I will still be able to see, post plastering.

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2 Responses

  1. I saw an interesting method for running electrical and other wiring. Once the walls are up, take a wide flat grinder brush to carve out the bales and then put about a 2 inch piece of electrical conduit. If you do have a blank memory moment the plastic will still protect your wiring.

  2. Hi Butch. Conduit is certainly an option; however, the plastic is not rated for protection of wires against punctures form nails and screws. If you were to use metal conduit, you would be safe from such punctures.

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