Welcome back to Farbulous Creations! I’m Ron, and this video is the third video in the series as I work to convert our standard two garage into my dream shop.
In my last video, we dug a trench and hired an electrician to run wiring to a new subpanel out here in our detached garage. Now while that work was a bit over my head and experience level, running the individual circuits inside the garage was not. I’ve tapped into a breaker panel before and added additional outlets to the end of pre-existing circuits before – so wiring the contents of a panel from scratch seemed like a good opportunity to practice that skill set and save some money on my shop conversion.
Before we start, I’ll throw out the typical “YouTuber doing electrical work” disclaimers that I am not an electrician, and any attempt you make at doing a similar project is done at your own risk. While I was confident enough to do this myself, you may not be, and that’s totally okay. I also consulted my local city ordinances and the NEC handbook to make sure I was doing things to code – I recommend you do the same. On that same note, if you are the homeowner of your residence, it’s possible that you may not be required to pull a permit for your work, which was the case for me, but I chose to pull one anyway. Having a formal inspection was a nice reassurance that my work was up to code by someone who knows what they’re doing, and it didn’t cost much. With that out of the way, let’s hop on in!
Before doing any wiring, I needed to plan what circuits I needed to run, based on my planned usage of the space. So let’s consult my planning document I made in the first video in this shop series!
As anyone with a shop can attest, one thing you never want to experience is a shortage of outlets, or, an outlet too far away from where you need one. I extended that ideology to never want to trip a breaker by having too many amps drawn on a single circuit at a time. In a living room wiring scenario, you can get by having every outlet in the room on a single 20 amp circuit because the individual devices plugged into those outlets – even devices like big screen televisions – draw such little power. But shop tools draw lots of power, all at once, and often in bursts as they kick on and off. And while it’s unlikely the bandsaw and miter saw are ever going to be used at the same time, at least with me working alone in there, I figured I would never regret over-doing the wiring, while I definitely could regret under-doing it, if I ever had a friend working in there with me.
So I went hog-wild on the circuits for outlets, giving each wall its own 20 amp circuit consisting of 8 outlets. The East wall got even more special treatment, as that’s where a lot of my specialty devices will live. My future dust collection, my air compressor, and my future laser cutter will all go against this wall, so in addition to the standard 20 amp circuit for that wall, I also ran solo circuits for each of those things. On the ceiling, I added a circuit for two cord reels to give me easy access to power when working away from the walls (such as my workbench) without needing to dig an extension cord out. I also ran a separate circuit above where I plan to have my table saw, where I can add a future drop via flexible metal conduit. I used a double breaker so that when I do the drop it’ll be wired for 240V, as I plan to get a 3 horse power SawStop, but I can always swap in a single breaker temporarily to change it to 120V to use with my existing 120V saw if that purchase doesn’t happen for awhile. Finally, the garage door opener and sprinkler control system for our yard also got their own circuit, to keep those important circuits siloed and hopefully never at risk of being tripped.
For lighting, I originally planned to do light boxes on the ceiling for each of the ten 4 foot shop lights that I planned to install, but after doing some research on affordability and quality, I landed on some FEIT Electric LED shop lights from Costco that plug into an outlet and then can daisy chain to one another. So instead of installing and wiring 10 ceiling boxes, I added two additional switched outlets to the ceiling, all sharing a single 15 amp circuit. One switch will control the bank of 8 lights furthest away from the garage door, and the second switch will control the bank of 2 lights closest to the garage door. The reason I wanted those two lights on their own switch is so that I can turn them off when I’m working with the garage door open, which fully blocks them. No point wasting some of their 50,000 hour rated life, right?
So with a plan for all the wiring complete, as well as my plans for insulation and wall and ceiling coverings (which we’ll cover in the next video), I placed a massive order from Home Depot for everything I would need to get my work done in there. This order got delivered November of 2019, and I had the naive idea that I would get a lot of the work done over the winter, despite the garage not being insulated or heated yet. Spoiler, that didn’t really happen, despite my best intentions.
I bought a propane-powered construction-style heater to temporarily use over the winter, that, in it’s defense, did work pretty well, but unfortunately it took about half an hour to preheat the uninsulated freezing garage to a reasonable 55 degrees or so. Not wanting to leave it running constantly while working, out of paranoia of carbon monoxide buildup, I would turn it off occasionally. Doing this, the heat faded away in as little as 20-30 minutes – not exactly a ton of time to do much work. Especially since I found that I was the furthest thing from “fast” while doing the electrical work in here, as I basically had a self-created obstacle course to work around.
Because of this non-optimal winter setup, I only got one or two circuits ran over the winter. It was just too much of a hassle to get it warm in there if I only had an hour to work on it here or there. So the garage sat otherwise cold and abandoned for the rest of the winter, with the stack of supplies taking up a ton of floorspace and taunting me when I’d come in there to record intros for the videos I did release over the winter months.
With spring in the air and staying home a new norm, I started the electrical work back up and chipped away at it slowly over the course of the late spring and summer. It probably would have been completed faster, but the hubby and I also decided to take advantage of the stay-at-home nature of 2020 to become doggy-dads to a golden retriever puppy at the beginning of April. I’ll use this opportunity to introduce you to Winnie, my future shop assistant in training. She’s mellowed out a lot now at around 7 months, but she required our near-constant attention the first few months to make sure she didn’t destroy our furniture, have accidents, or develop any bad habits.
I alluded to it earlier, but one of the hardest parts of getting my electrical work done was the challenge of working with limited floor space and constantly needing to find ways to work around things. The biggest of which, ironically, was the supplies ordered for the shop finishing itself – the plywood and the insulation took up so much room and it was constantly in my way, forcing me to get creative with my ladder placement. If I could do this all over again, I’d wait and order the supplies for each step of the project as I needed them, rather than all at once. That means for the electrical, I would purchase just the romex, outlets and breakers; for the insulation, I’d purchase just the insulation, possibly walls separately from ceiling, and once that was done, I’d purchase the plywood for my wall coverings, ensuring these things didn’t impede my ability to work efficiently.
One thing made particularly difficult by the obstacle course was removing the fireproofing sheetrock on our neighbor’s side of the garage in order to do the electrical and insulation. The builders of our house put this up to slow the spread of fire from our garage to our neighbors garage – a mere 2-3 feet away – should there be fire. But it needed to come down temporarily for my work, involving me maneuvering these heavy 4×8 sheets of sheetrock through my obstacle course and then clearing a space for them to go on top of the plywood – which itself had become a work surface of sorts. That was a little less than fun, but I managed.
I talked a lot about the plan for the wiring in the beginning of this video, as I realized it would be difficult to get a real sense of what I was doing from single close-up wiring shots, but we can still go over a bit of that too. One of the tools I splurged on for this project was a laser line level to help get outlets perfectly aligned on each wall. It’ll come more in handy for hanging plywood, but I used it here too. I also found a right-angle attachment for my drill super handy to drill the holes for romex in the double top plate of the walls with a spade bit; holding the drill away from the wall was a lot easier to control and saved my knuckles from bashing into the wall when the spade bit would catch.
So work progressed little by little, slowly getting all the circuits ran, climbing atop and over things as necessary to do what I needed to do. Lots of podcasts and the first few Harry Potter audiobooks kept me company as I pulled countless feet of romex to and from the subpanel.
Since this was the first time I wired a panel from scratch, I did my best to be super tidy with my wiring, making all my wires bend at right angles for a nice and neat appearance that a future electrician or the next homeowners hopefully appreciates some day. The electrical inspection didn’t have any bonus points for a tidy panel, but it made me feel proud of my work nonetheless.
With all the circuits ran, I printed some fancy labels for the inside cover of the panel and scheduled the inspection with the city inspector to come look at things and sign off on my work. The inspection was mostly unceremonious but that I think was largely because I was super diligent the whole time I worked to make sure I was doing everything to or above code – such as having every chain of outlets start its run with a GFCI and using Tamper Resistant outlets as the NEC handbook now requires. Plus being super tidy in your work is a good sign to the electrical inspector that he’s not going to find anything unexpected.
You may notice on my labels and in the fact that I got a little over-ambitious in punching out the tabs on the panel cover, but one of the things to come on the panel is a ductless mini split that I’ll be having installed soon. WIth the insulation and plywood going up as this video is being edited, climate controlling the space is the next logistical step after those tasks are complete. I’ll be contracting a local heating and cooling company to install that unit, which I may cover in a separate video, or with the insulation and wall coverings video.
Getting all the remaining required work done before this coming winter shouldn’t be a problem. Then with the space properly insulated and heated, I’ll have all winter to do finishing touches and start building some shop furniture, such as a miter saw station and workbenches. I’ll also be able to start looking at buying some of the bigger tools I’ve had my eye on for awhile, like my very own laser cutter.
So with that, let’s end this video here. In my next video on the shop buildout, we’ll cover insulation and wall-coverings, which as you can see, is already well underway! So stay tuned for that, and until next time, cheers!