Let’s start right away with a lyrical and technical digression so that what will be discussed further in the article is clear. So: electrical wiring in residential premises is of two types – hidden (internal) and open (exposed, if you like).
Hidden wiring is when you can’t see the wires. They are walled up in wall cable ducts, hidden under a layer of plaster or behind plasterboard panels. All we see in this case are sockets, switches, luminaire holders, and maybe junction box covers under the ceiling.
Open wiring is when everything is visible, or almost everything. In this case, the wires are routed over walls, ceilings, or floors. They can be hidden in special cable channels and pipes, or they can be simply attached to the surface. It is about such open wiring that we will talk.
Pros and cons of exposed wiring
Pros of exposed wiring:
- The first and main plus of exposed wiring in an apartment is the speed of its installation. For example, you can mount open wiring in a one-room apartment with your own hands, without much experience, in a couple of days. A professional hired electrician can handle it in five to six hours.
- The second pros – for open wiring, you do not need to groove the walls, make channels in them for laying wires and sockets for sockets, switches, and branch boxes, and then, after installation, re-plaster, paint or wallpaper the walls.
- The third pros is that open wiring is always available. You can repair the damaged area at any time or add some new elements to the wiring without making significant efforts. For example, lead another branch to a new luminaire, install a new additional one, or move an old outlet to a different place. With hidden wiring, such a number will not work: you will have to hammer the walls.
But exposed wiring has its drawbacks:
- The first minus is that open wiring is always in sight, and it does not look harmonious in all interiors. Unless you are doing the interior in country, retro, techno, or steampunk style. In this case, open wiring can be a highlight.
- The second disadvantage is that you need to clearly take into account the technical standards of the room in which you make open wiring. For example, in a bathroom, kitchen, and other rooms with high humidity, even for hidden wiring, you need to use additional wire protection and install devices (switches, sockets) with a protection class of at least IP-44, and for open ones – at least IP-68. And they don’t always look pretty and attractive.
Requirements for exposed wiring in the apartment
So, you still decided that bothering your neighbors with a puncher and hammering walls is a bad idea, and you chose the option with exposed wiring. Ok, then look, but rather write down the requirements for its installation in a notebook.
First of all, draw a diagram of the location of all the wiring lines. Typically, wires and cable ducts are oriented either vertically or horizontally with respect to walls, floor, and ceiling. All other directions are prohibited by safety regulations.
On the diagram, indicate in detail and clearly, all the places where you plan to put sockets, switches, junction boxes, and other electrical appliances. Calculate the number of outlets and fixtures you need. For information on how to correctly arrange sockets and other electrical appliances in an apartment, read the previous materials.
When drawing up a plan, keep in mind that the wiring lines should be located at a distance of 15 – 20 cm from corners, windows, and door openings. Old standards recommend placing sockets at a height of 60 cm from the floor, and switches above 150 cm. The modern standard is for a switch 60 cm, for an outlet – 20 cm from floor level.
And here is the list of recommendations for laying exposed wiring, which follow from the rules for the installation and installation of electrical installations in residential and public buildings. If you are interested, you can find this entire serious technical document here, and we will voice only some of the points that relate to exposed wiring from it:
- Do not lay exposed wiring cables near heat emitters – batteries, heating elements. Wire insulation and plastic cable ducts will eventually deteriorate from heat.
- Do not run the wiring line under pipes where condensation can accumulate. For example, in the bathroom, kitchen, or toilet, condensation on pipes with cold water is a frequent occurrence. Do you remember: water is the first enemy of electricity. Even a simple corrugated pipe or leaky cable duct may not be enough.
- The cable, which is laid in wet areas, must have additional protection. Double or even triple insulation will be just right.
- Do not connect wires inside ducts and pipes just like that. This should only be done in junction boxes.
- Place junction boxes where they can be easily reached in case of emergency. Use sealed boxes in wet areas. And in general, remember about the protection class, and put only waterproof electrical appliances in wet rooms.
- Do not expose wires unnecessarily. The insulation on the wire must be intact along its entire length, from the box to the outlet, switch, or other boxes.
- If you make open wiring without pipes and cable channels, then use special plastic brackets, matched to the diameter of the conductor, to fasten the wires and cables. These staples are available at any hardware store in the electrical department. The distance between the staples should not be too great, otherwise, your wires will sag under their own weight.
- Place the brackets on either side of the wire. Retaining brackets are required near the points of connection to sockets and switches. If the power cable is laid horizontally, place the brackets no more than 40 cm apart, and for a vertical cable, no less than one meter.
- For thin wires, the distance between the brackets decreases: horizontally – every 25 cm, vertically – after 40 – 45 cm. The distance from the last bracket to the outlet or switch should not exceed 10 cm. Better yet, put the last bracket directly in front of them.
- Do not bend the wires unnecessarily. Try to make all turns and bends of the line with the help of junction boxes. If it does not work out, see that the minimum bending radius of the wire is at least 3 – 5 cm.
- If the wiring does cross a non-electrical conduit, try to move them at least 3 – 5 cm apart from each other. At the intersection, drive the cable into additional protection, for example, into a piece of plastic pipe.
- To route the wiring through the wall, brick a piece of pipe into the wall and push the cable through it.
How to choose a cable for exposed wiring
The cable for exposed wiring in the apartment should be selected based on the electrical load. For simple lighting and household electrical appliances, a simple two- or three-core cable with copper or aluminum wires, with a cross section of 2.5 mm 2, is quite enough. Powerful kitchen appliances and electric stoves are recommended to be connected to separate cables with wires with a cross section of at least 4 – 6 mm 2. The wiring branch for such powerful equipment should be separate, and connected to a separate 25A automatic fuse in the switchboard. We have already talked in more detail about the electrical stuffing of the kitchen and about the choice of electrical appliances for the bathroom in previous materials.
If you are faced with a choice of which wire to use for outdoor wiring, take a copper one:
- It is more ductile than aluminum, which means it is less likely to break during installation.
- Copper is more resistant to corrosion, copper wires oxidize more slowly.
- Copper wires will last longer than aluminum wires.
- Copper wire withstands a greater load compared to aluminum at the same cross-section.
The best, in our opinion, is a cable made of twisted copper wires. Each core of such a wire consists of thin copper wires twisted into a kind of cable. It has excellent flexibility, comparable to a conventional cord, and bends well. Some brands of such twisted wire are downright designed for outdoor wiring in a retro style.
Open wiring in the interior
There are several ways to organize outdoor wiring in an apartment. You can use one method for the entire apartment, or you can combine it using different options in different rooms.
Exposed wiring in cable duct
A cable duct, or as it is also called, a cable runner, is a long plastic box with a lid that is attached to a wall or ceiling. All wiring is located inside it. Its width can be different, with several compartments for different groups of wires. On the market or in construction markets, you can buy cable channels for every taste: white, gray, dark, or light wood.
The cable duct is usually terminated with a socket, switch, luminaire, or junction box. In order to change the direction of the wire, special additional fittings are used: exposed and internal corners, adapters, plugs.
For classic interiors, you can use wide plastic skirting boards with cable channels. In this case, the sockets are placed at the level of the plinth or slightly higher. The wires to the lamps are hidden behind the skirting boards.
Exposed wiring in pipes
The second way to organize exposed wiring is to lay the wires in special electrical pipes. Pipes can simultaneously be protection for wires and cables, and an element of decor.
For example, in a loft or in a Scandinavian interior, this type of exposed wiring will look very cool.
Another place where outdoor wiring must be done in pipes is the bathroom. Due to the high humidity, you will have to close the beautiful wires in sealed pipes and use waterproof sockets, switches, and junction boxes.
Outdoor wiring with open wire
A fashionable way to organize exposed wiring in an apartment is to perform it in a retro style. Nowadays there are a lot of shops that sell all the necessary electrical appliances and accessories for retro wiring. There you can buy vintage outlets, junction boxes, switches, fabric-insulated wires and small porcelain insulators to attach to walls.
Such outdoor retro wiring will fit very organically into apartments with country, Provence, or shabby chic interiors.
Instead of a conclusion
As you can see, exposed wiring is not only a simple and quick way to organize electricity in an apartment but also an opportunity to update the design with little effort. The power of style lies in the details.