Electrical Rough-In: How to Save Time and Money with the Right Tools
When it comes time to hit the electrical rough-in phase of a construction project, new tools and products are making the job faster and more cost-efficient. Thanks to their breadth of electrical tools and deep knowledge of the electrical trade, we reached out to Milwaukee Tool to talk about some specific products that can really increase your productivity.
Electrical Rough-In: Not-So-Roughing it in a (Mostly) Cordless World
Step 1: Crank Up the Tunes!
What better way to get your energy flowing for the job of getting energy flowing than with music? I’m talking high-quality music, not that old jobsite radio that distorts as soon as you get to half volume.
I like to start with Skillet, POD, or similar rock bands. What’s your go-to high-energy band? Let us know in the comments!
Step 2: Install Temp Lighting
While OSHA doesn’t have a regulation that you rock the job site with a radio, they do require temporary lighting.
1926.56(a) ” Construction area, ramps, runways, corridors, offices, shops, and storage areas shall be lighted not less than the minimum illumination intensities listed in Table D-3 while any work is in progress.”
The process of installing temp lighting to kickoff your electrical rough-in is pretty straight-forward: Prefab -> Installation -> Maintenance -> Removal
When you go with a temp lighting solution like the Milwaukee Radius 130W (there’s also a 70W version), you gain significant time savings. This LED model also draws much less power than its 400W halogen equivalent.
These temporary LED lights come almost ready to go right out of the box. If you’re using 120V AC outlets, Milwaukee Radius temp lights are prewired with a 3′ cord and don’t need anything else. If you’re hardwiring them in, accessing the connections is extremely simple when running MC or Romex.
Once you wire and inspect these lights, they stack to make transportation easier. They also have a high-impact polycarbonate lens that’s much more likely to make it to and from the job undamaged.
The same can’t be said for competing lights. Similar halogen models often require assembly and additional materials to install. They’re prone to bulb breaks as well. Even some LED options need an additional junction box to terminate. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find any with a stackable design.
Hanging your temp lighting is one of the more physically demanding parts of the process. You have to lift each light overhead, hang it, and finish wiring it into your power source.
The Radius lights have a reasonably compact size and light weight, making them less fatiguing to lift. They’re easy to hang on a wide range of points thanks to a built-in hanging cable. A lock hasp even lets you use a padlock to secure the lights if theft is a concern.
When you start the wiring in process, the Radius accepts 120–277V without any rewiring. Because LED uses less power for the amount of output you get, you’ll need fewer circuits for your full suite of temp lighting.
After you hang your temp lights, you need to identify any issues, troubleshoot them, and make repairs throughout the course of the project. That includes any wiring issues, broken or blown bulbs, and more.
The solid construction and LED reliability of Radius temp lights make them maintenance-free options once they’re correctly installed.
When you’re ready to take the temp lights out, the process is just as straightforward. For Milwaukee temp lights, just disconnect the wiring, remove any padlocks if you used them, release the cable, and stack them up for transport.
Step 3: Boxing and Panels
The blueprints let you know the layout of your boxes and panels. Once you install them according to the plans, conduit runs into them. This sets up the various pathways the wires take from the box to outlets and equipment to which they’re delivering power.
You’ll need a good drill and impact driver for the box and panel installs. Milwaukee’s Gen 3 M18 Fuel combo includes their 2806 hammer drill and 2857 impact driver. Both have One-Key to help you inventory and track the tools as well as customize their controls.
These tools are also incredibly compact, especially when compared to similar tools from other manufacturer’s high-end offerings. That makes them even better to use around the sometimes tight areas you’re drilling and driving.
Step 4: Predrilling
Before you start your conduit runs, you need to plan a pathway. You’re going to run into obstacles and when those obstacles are studs, you drill a hole through it. Once you have the path sorted out, predrilling holes for it comes next.
The professional tool of choice here is a Hole Hawg—a muscular right angle drill purpose-built for drilling larger holes over and over again. Milwaukee’s Hole Hawg line is so synonymous with this type of drill, that most people just call all of them Hole Hawgs the same way they call all reciprocating saws Sawzalls.
Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel Hole Hawg is our cordless go-to option for this kind of drilling. It’s a relatively light and compact right angle drill that still packs plenty of muscle for the size hole you drill on an electrical rough-in. If you find you need even more power for one reason or another, you can take things to another level with the M18 Fuel Super Hawg.
Step 5: Prefabricating and Building the Pipe Rack
It’s very common to install pipe racks to elevate groups of conduit That’s a process that normally happens on a lift. From an elevated position, you need to install anchors and threaded rod into the ceiling for the Unistrut that makes up the bottom of each rack.
It requires you to drill a hole into the concrete for the anchor. You also need to cut the threaded rod and Unistrut sections to size. Prefabrication gives you the benefit of making serial cuts of the same length at ground level for each area that requires a pipe rack. Like most jobs, good prep makes the actual install go faster.
Cordless tools are an obvious advantage over managing cords that you have to adjust with every new hole. Not only that, but you have the challenge of dust extraction to keep the silica dust out of your eyes and lungs.
Here are some completely cordless options for each stage:
- Anchor hole drilling: Milwaukee 2715 M18 Fuel 1-1/8″ SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer and 2715-DE Hammervac onboard dust extractor
- Threaded rod cutting: Milwaukee 2872 M18 Brushless Threaded Rod Cutter
- Unistrut Cutting: Milwaukee 2429 M12 Sub-Compact Band Saw or 2782 M18 Fuel Metal Cutting Circular Saw
Step 6: Running Conduit
Bending conduit well is a point of pride for electricians. Since each bend is a custom job, you need to do it accurately and quickly to keep the project on schedule. A great bending job is a work of art that is almost disappointing when you have to cover it up.
Start with a quality bender like Milwaukee’s iron (1/2″ – 1″ EMT) or aluminum (1/2″ or 3/4″ EMT) conduit benders to work your way through the install.
For the knockouts, Milwaukee’s 2676-23 M18 Force Logic 10-ton knockout kit covers 1/2″ to 4″ holes with Exact Fit punches. It has the capacity to punch up to 6″ holes for larger projects. The M18 Force Logic 6-ton knockout is a lighter weight option when 4″ capacity is all you need. The 2677-23 kit also has 1/2″ to 4″ punches to give you the same range as the 10-ton kit.
That’s what the electrical rough-in process looks like with some help from innovations in LED lighting and cordless tools. These don’t cover every single tool you’ll need to for the job, but we provided a good mix of ones that are improvements over traditional models.
Have any tips, tricks, or tools that make your rough-ins easier? Tell us about them in the comments below!
Tools to Make Your Next Electrical Rough-In Easier
Ready to pick up a few of the tools we recommend? We’ve included links to pick them up from Acme Tools.
- 2950-20 M18 Packout Radio+Charger: Coming soon!
- 2156-AC Radius 130W Temporary Site Light: $249
- 2996-22 M18 Fuel Hammer Drill/Impact Driver Combo Kit w/One-Key: $449
- 2806-22 M18 Fuel Hammer Drill w/One-Key: $349
- 2857-22 M18 Fuel Impact Driver w/One-Key: $349
- 2707-22 M18 Fuel Hole Hawg: $549
- 2715-DE M18 Fuel 1-1/8″ SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer w/2715-DE M18 HammerVac Dedicated Dust Extractor: $699
- 2872-21 M18 Brushless Threaded Rod Cutter: $399
- 2429-21XC M12 Sub-Compact Band Saw: $219
- 2782-22 M18 Fuel Metal Cutting Circular Saw: $419
- 2676-23 M18 Force Logic 10 Ton Knockout Tool: $1799
- 2677-23 M18 Force Logic 6 Ton Knockout Tool: $1300
- Iron Conduit Benders
- Aluminum Conduit Benders