Q&A / 

Wiring Recessed Lights

Wiring Recessed Lights TIPS

  • National Electric Code changes every three years
  • What is code compliant now may become a violation in the future
  • Secure romex wiring to wood framing
  • Get FREE Bids below from local electricians about code questions
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Bob lives in Saint Peters Missouri and asked a not-so-easy question about wiring recessed lights.

Here's what he sent to me:

"I'm installing seven recessed lights in my living room and they're IC rated. My attic is full of blown in insulation.

Do I have to go up in the attic to secure the wiring to the joist with staples, do I have to drill holes in the joists or can I go over the tops of the joist with the romex wiring?

I would appreciate it very much for any feedback or resources you might have thanks for your response."

National Electric Code Changes

Bob, here's the issue answering electrical code questions like this. The National Electric Code is a moving target.

It's always best to consult with a professional electrician in these matters. People like you die each day from electrical fires because of wiring installed hoping it was right.

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Here's why it's tough for me to give great advice. The code officials CHANGE THE CODE every three years. I may give advice here that's relevant right now, it's December of 2016, and in a few years it will be INVALID because of a change in the code.

Staple Romex To Wood Framing

To answer your question Bob, I can tell you that it's important to staple the romex cable to wood members. That's very explicit in the code.

In fact, you have to secure it within so many inches of where it enters the fixture or the electric box where the cable terminates. I believe it used to be 6 inches, but who knows now as it could be 4 inches!

Drill Holes Through Wood May Be Better

What's more, I know it's been accepted to drill holes in joists and run cable through them. The holes need to be sized so the cable can move freely in the hole, but you don't want it too big!

Hole Position Critical - Nail Puncture Danger

The placement of the hole is critical. You need to stay at least 2 inches from the top or bottom of the joist if possible. You don't want a fastener driven into the wood to get to the cable and cause a dead short or arcing in the cable / wires.

Think Ahead For Attics

In years past, it's been perfectly fine to lay cable on top of the joists. That's all fun and games until such time in the future as someone decides they want to put flooring down in the attic space!

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