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Basic Electrical Boxes

device box Electrical boxes wiring boxes

If you are going to do any electrical wiring, you will be installing basic electrical boxes. The basic electrical box is where you will do all of your wire splicing and connections to all electrical devices. Electrical boxes come in several different configurations and can accommodate any type of wiring. For instance in wooden construction you will use a box for loomex or romex house wiring. If you are building with steel studs, you will be using electrical boxes for bx armored cable.

In most places it is allowed for the homeowner to do their own electrical wiring. You will need to have a permit as required by your local Electrical Authority, and you will likely be subject to local inspection. You will also likely need to hire an Electrician to tie your new circuits into your electrical panel.

Electrical boxes basically come in 4 different types and can be made of metal or plastic. The first type of electrical box that you will need is 3 inches X 2 inches in size and is used to mount all of your outlets, and switches. These boxes are easy to mount and are built to fit in walls that are to be covered in drywall. 


These boxes can also be ganged together to mount several switches in places like bathrooms, entry ways and kitchens.

The second most common basic electrical box is the Octagon box. This box is used in the ceiling or on a wall where there is going to be a light fixture mounted. These boxes are also easy to mount and also can be made of metal or plastic. These boxes are 4 inches in diameter and mount to the building framing.


Most electrical boxes are made to be mounted so that they are recessed in a wall, but the 3rd type of electrical box has rounded edges and is used for any application that requires you to mount an electrical box on the surface of a wall, for instance on a basement wall. This basic electrical box can also be used to make a 2 outlet extension cord.


The 4th type of basic electrical box is the 4 inch X 4 inch box. This box is designed to be flush mounted inside the wall or can also be mounted on the surface of the wall. This is the box that you would use when you are providing an outlet for a range or an electrical dryer.


There is also a box that is used to add any outlet or switch to a finished wall. This box is installed by cutting a hole in the wall where you want the new device and then the box clips securely into the wall. The biggest challenge of using this box is getting a wire to the box to supply the new outlet or power the new switch.  

The basic way to wire a house, basement, workshop or any other structure is to mount an electrical box of the appropriate type at every location that need a device. You would mount an octagon box at every location you want a light fixture, you would mount a 2 X 3 box everywhere you want an outlet and you would mount a single gang or multi gang box everywhere you want a switch.

This method of wiring allows you to visualize where all of the devices are to be located and makes it easy to see if you have missed anything. It is really annoying to have to open up a freshly paneled wall to wire a forgotten outlet.

Then all you have to do is run a wire from each box back to the electrical panel. Electricians usually start at the panel and run a wire to the furthest switch or outlet. Then they daisy chain the wiring to all of the devices all the way back to the panel. Keeping in mind that each circuit can only be wired to a maximum number of devices.

When you are running the wiring you also need to keep in mind that you will want to run 2 wire cables to most outlets, switches and lights. But you will want to run 3 wire cables between locations with 2 way switches, like at the top and bottom of stairways, and to any split outlets like in the kitchen.


You will also need to run bigger wire to locations that will have a range or a dryer or any other location that needs to have 220 volts.