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by • August 14, 2014 • Housewrap & Waterproofing, LED & Electrical & LightingComments (9)27731

Rookie Builder Mistakes Part 1 Electrical

Have you ever lost a project because you were too “expensive”?  I sure have!  Last year I gave a “ballpark” estimate to a client & architect based on a schematic design and the clients couldn’t image why the cost to build the house with my company was “x” amount higher than another builder.  Aren’t the plans and specs the same?  How could there be such a difference in price between builders?  Well, you know the ending… I lost the project.

But, I had a chance to drive by that other builder’s work a few weeks ago and I’m getting a pretty clear picture of why they were less expensive.  So, I’m going to do a few blog posts that I’ll call “Rookie Builder Mistakes”.  Let’s start with this house I visited (not one of my houses)

Rookie Builder Inc

Looks like a pretty average American house to me, right?  Well, let’s look closer.

DSC_0285 DSC_0277

Notice the mistake?  The siding was installed and painted before the trades did their rough-ins.  The Electrician had to cut his box into the siding!  How can that possibly be water-tight?  It’s certainly not air tight as you can see from the daylight streaming in from the back of this box.  They eventually went on to install fiberglass batts in this cavity and I guarantee this house is leaking air through this electrical box.  And, this is Austin so the air coming in is hot & humid.  That moist air will likely find a cold condensing spot on the back of the drywall to deposit and mold will grow.

So, first lesson… Don’t put on your cladding until all the trades HVAC, Plumbing, & Electrical have finished their rough-in’s.  

So, what should we do beyond that?  First, I don’t like the typical bubble covers that are required by code to provide a weather tight seal over these standard outlet boxes.  These bubble covers rely on a caulk joint at the cladding to remain water/air tight and caulk will always fail eventually.  This is what Rookie Builder is going to use over that Blue standard box in the photo above.

Bubble Cover Exterior Outlet

 

I much prefer the Arlington In-Box!  They run about $20 compared to the standard bubble so it’s DOUBLE the cost, but how many exterior outlets do you have on a typical house?  Maybe 3-4?  This is a cheap upgrade but so worth it.

IMG_0519I order mine online and hand them to the electrician on the day of his rough-in start.  
IMG_1669

 

Here’s one installed, and the photo below is what it looks like inside the wall.  They do stick inside the building by about 2″.   (I’m using closed cell foam on this house to get an air seal from the box to the wires.)

DSC_3094

Next it’s time to flash them with the correct flashing tape.  I’m using Cosella Dorkin here so this is their flashing tape.  Now I can either caulk the box to the stucco or Not.  I typically don’t caulk them.

_MG_1886

IMG_0612

These work perfectly with stucco, or really any cladding because of the depth of the box.

_MG_3213And here’s the finished look on this nearly completed house.  Flush, unobtrusive, nice!

Make friends with your Clients & Architects and surprise them with this easy upgrade!  And… be sure to sequence your trades correctly.   What’s the black AC line-set you ask on the left?  Well, come back soon for part 2 of Rookie Builder Mistakes.

Best,

Matt Risinger
– Risinger Homes in Austin, TX

Visit my Blog at www.MattRisinger.com

Risinger Homes is a custom builder and whole house remodeling contractor that specializes in Architect driven and fine craftsmanship work. We utilize an in-house carpentry staff and the latest building science research to build dramatically more efficient, healthy and durable homes.
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  • William

    Nice job with the builders sign!

    I too like these boxes for the clean look they offer. Plus they offer them for all types of exterior finishes. Its too bad this builder didn’t at least use the retrofit lap siding version. That would not have solved the problem of proper flashing but it would at least look better. I want the bubble (cover) to burst already!

    • William, Thanks for commenting. I thought the sign was funny too! Good point about the retro box, but I still would be concerned that siding isn’t 100% water tight and you could see air or water infiltration at the WRB layer behind the siding. That’s why I advocate all trades finishing before moving onto cladding. Best, Matt

  • Chris

    Thanks for the information; it is very helpful. How do you handle wall penetrations when dealing thicker exterior walls? For instance, what if you had exterior insulation as well as a brick or stone veneer?

    • Ben Chase

      Arlington makes ones specifically for brick veneer in their In-Box series. It’s significantly deeper than the one shown here.

      I was interested in their products by this post when I first saw it the other day, so I looked up Arlington Industries’ catalog to check for brick veneer In-Boxes specifically; brick veneer is 90% of the construction in my area. They have more high-end electrical wiring components than you can shake a stick at. Unique conduit connectors, outlets, chain-able multi-gang boxes, adjustable depth new work boxes, old work boxes that can screw to studs rather than grip the drywall. All sorts of awesome products. I’m definitely going to start using some of them.

      http://www.aifittings.com/catalog/inbox/low-profile-in-box-for-new-brick-construction/

  • Andrew Taylor

    So are you roughing-in your HVAC system before your roof decking is installed? No builder I ever worked for would allow that, and I don’t think I’d do it on my own house, either.

    Or are you having your cornice guys put up the soffit and fascia, then having the roof decked, then mechanicals finished, then having the cornice guy come back to install the siding? That sounds expensive.

    The way I’ve always done it is to have cornice installed, plumbing roughed-in (so the roofer can finish in one trip and not have to come back to put on boots etc.), then decking, then electric and HVAC can happen inside (under cover of roof decking) while priming is happening outside, before the roof goes on (so no paint on the finished roof). Electricians and plumbers who can’t cut a hole nicely to fit their boxes can pay the cornice guy to come back and replace the damaged siding. Usually only happens once.

  • Chris Petrillose

    What type of electrical boxes do you prefer for exterior lights?

  • Tauran

    same question about exterior lights, Do you use a light block made of wood and then side up to it, or take a standard nail in electrical box and flash it in to the WRB?

  • simi Gupta

    I feel satisfied after finding this one.switch manufacturer

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