An Outlet for the Basement Landing

Ex Nihilo

Sometimes you don't know you need something until you need something.  Okay, that was my meager attempt to have a Yogi Berra moment.  Nonetheless it's true, and suddenly there arose a need for there to be an outlet in the landing of the basement stairs.  

Why this became a thing

There's really a couple reasons putting an outlet in the landing made good sense.  We had one of those old hand-held vacuums for years, but we stored it in the cabinets on the back porch.  The problem is, I think the temperature extremes between summer and winter wore on the battery and it really didn't hold a charge very long and the power was almost non-existent.

The other thing was the new carpet on the stairwell.  Since 1997 the stairs at 173 were just hardwood with no carpeting, but with Linus getting older, carpet was installed, in part to help keep the pooch safe.  But a combination of carpet and the pooch made a good handheld vacuum cleaner a necessity!  And why lookie here - Linus in the process of mixing hair and carpet!

We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles. - Thomas Edison


In considering a place to charge the vacuum, and having ruled out the back porch, the basement landing seemed to be the best place.  There was only one drawback - there was no outlet in that area.  Of course, if there had been an outlet, there would be no need for this post!  While the landing isn't big, it's very utilitarian and seems the perfect milieu.  This black bag contains the new vacuum... 

Before we move on I want to point something out for posterity.  See the square just above the onions?  That used to be the door to the "laundry shoot" that dropped clothes into the laundry room.  After the basement remodel, it was no longer in use, but I thought leaving the door there would be a nice touch of history for 173.  Anyway, the next placement consideration was where in the landing?  It wasn't really so much where as how.  Because I had no idea how the wall in the landing was constructed, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to install the outlet in the wall or mount it on the wall.  Initially I thought mounting on the wall was going to be the choice but then I thought - why not simply go in the basement and figure out where the wire could run and what the inside of the walls looked like - if that was possible.  

Turns out it was! Here's a look from inside the storage space under the stairs:

It was pretty exciting really.  The construction of the landing was so different than I ever thought it would be and there was plenty of space to put the outlet box inside the wall.

Time to get started

With all the thinking and planning done, there was nothing left to do but get started.  Before I started cutting though, I drilled a hole in the area I decided to put the box.  I just wanted to be sure there was sufficient space and there's be nothing in the way.  

Then I used a piece of clothes hanger to see how much depth I would have...

Then I bent the end just a bit to make sure there was space all the way around...

And just for fun, because sometimes I just have to laugh at myself, I have a small collection of clothes hanger wire that I saved from a couple old discarded hangers.  Ridiculous I know!

Cutting in

All the measuring done, it was time to cut.  This is always a little nerve racking for me, afraid I'll mess something up beyond repair.  But that was a fleeting thought, this is the basement landing after all!  So I marked out the position and, using my oscillating saw.  Now, when I say this it really has nothing to do with the brand, keep this in mind when I say - I LOVE my oscillating saw, what did we ever do before them?

After cutting the hole, there were a couple surprises.  The thickness of the wainscoting was a full 3/4"!  I had no idea!  The other surprise was the wire already existing behind the glad I didn't cut into it. For a moment I considered tapping into that wire to power the outlet, but I wasn't 100% certain what that wire went to, so back to the original plan.

Running the wire

Then it was just the simple matter of running the wire to the nearest junction box.  I went with 12/2 Romex just because I always want to make things harder on myself (14/2 would have been quite sufficient!).  However, this was such a short run that the stiffer 12/2 wire made pushing the line under some sheetrock along a joist much simpler.  

I actually had a good idea with this run too.  For the first time, I ran a new line and didn't install it into the circuit breaker box!  Instead, I opted to run to a junction box and tap in there.  It turned out a junction box I installed when I ran two lines from the third floor was right in the path to the circuit breakers, which saved me maybe 15 feet or so of wire.  It doesn't break the bank, but wire ain't cheap these days!  Once I connected the wires in the junction box, I labeled the cover.  The wiring at 173 was never labeled before, so I learned that, whenever I had the chance, make it clear where wires ran.

Some electricity Know-How's I've found useful
173 has no affiliation with these sites - they're just good and useful sites.
∙ How to use a multimeter - Popular Mechanics
∙ How to install a light switch - Popular Mechanics
∙ Install an electric outlet - Family Handyman
∙ How to rewire a lamp - This Old House
∙ Replace an old  2 prong outlet with a 3 prong outlet - This Old House
You might also like:
The 10 most common National Electric Code violations by DIYers - Family Handyman

The Finishing touches

Wrapping up was a piece of cake.  I used an "old work" outlet box, which is a box with metal brackets at the top and bottom of the box that get screwed to the wall surface.

Feeding the wire through the clamping connector which I attached to the back of the box, and hooking up the outlet itself before affixing the whole assembly to the wall made it all so much easier than replacing an existing outlet in some cases.  Then, using one of the metal covers left over from the dining room redux - the job was done!

After a little cleanup and putting everything back in its place, it was like the outlet had always been there!  Now there's a convenient spot for charging those utilitarian things like USB powered flashlights, vacuum cleaners and the like.  

Stay safe out there!
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