Electricity: Surface Wiring


Surface Wiring

If you can’t run cable behind walls and ceilings, an easy alter native is to install surface wiring in which wires travel through metal or plastic channels or raceways attached to walls and ceilings. With a one-piece metal raceway, you still have to fish wires through the raceway. Two-piece metal or plastic raceways have snap-on covers that eliminate the need for fishing wires. Check local codes before starting this project.

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Components aren’t interchangeable among brands. These are the general steps:

  • Select an existing receptacle with excess capacity to power the circuit extension.
  • Plan and mark the raceway path and box locations.
  • Determine the amount of raceway needed and the number and type of boxes and fittings needed.
  • Turn off the power. Remove existing receptacle from its box. Screw the base of outlet extension box to the existing wall box.
  • Cut raceways to length using a hacksaw and install bases of all new boxes. Attach one-piece channels with clips or fasten bases of two-piece channels.
  • Install wiring in raceway.
  • Wire and mount all new devices and fixtures.
  • Rewire and mount existing receptacle in outlet extension box.
  • Install channel, elbow and connection covers as necessary.

Outlet Starter Box

Select an existing receptacle with excess capacity to power the surface wiring circuit extension. Turn off power to that circuit. Remove existing outlet and install the starter box mounting bracket. Install raceway, bushings, wire and surface-mount starter box. Make final wiring connections, then install outlet and cover plate.

Outlet Starter Box

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Are you looking for home electrical items -- such as switches and fuse boxes -- or parts and accessories for ones you already have? Try our dedicated electrical supply pages here:






Brand Name Manufacturers
(Grounding screw, Base plate, From switch, Fixture Box)

Light Fixture Detail

Install base plate, then run raceway and wiring from switch to fixture. Install fixture box. Make final wiring connections, including connection to grounding screw, then install fixture. (Grounding screw, Base plate, From switch, Fixture Box)

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Recommended Reading

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Recommended Products



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Want to learn more about home electricity? Visit our home electricity library.

If you need home electricity supplies, browse through the products on these pages:


Smart Shopping: Remote Switching

There are a variety of ways to control or operate lights without adding in-wall or surface wiring. Here are two options:

(1) Wireless electronic devices control lights and appliances for convenience, security, safety or energy savings. Plug a lamp or appliance into a receiver module and then into a receptacle outlet. The battery- operated wall switch module can then be mounted at a convenient location.

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(2) Motion-activated wall switches that use motion- activated passive infrared (FIR) technology provide cost-effective lighting control and help conserve energy. FIR units turn on lights automatically when people enter or leave a space and turn off after a preset time delay.

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Last modified: Saturday, 2007-11-03 1:17 PST