ICF Electrical Boxes and Conduit
Last Post 14 Jul 2007 06:48 PM by walltech. 35 Replies.
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WayToGoUser is Offline
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27 Jun 2007 07:08 PM
Hi, New to the forum. 
The electrician and myself are in the process of installing all electrical plastilock boxes with schedule 40 pvc.
How good are the  Plastilock Electrical boxes for ICF electrical process?
What is the pros and cons of using this system?

New to ICF construction in NM.
groundupUser is Offline
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27 Jun 2007 07:21 PM
i just used them in my ICF project, i havent pulled any wire through them yet but it seems like it will be real easy and you dont have to cut up all your walls later on, it takes a little longer to istall the boxes and conduit but i think it will save you time later.
Raider BillUser is Offline
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27 Jun 2007 07:51 PM
Are you running the PVC instead of romex? Why if you don't mind me asking. Codes? cost?
walltechUser is Offline
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27 Jun 2007 09:47 PM
As an ICF supplier we would never recommend this procedure and I have to wonder who is helping you!
I would suggest to all other diy's that are reading this not to go this route, as it is time consuming and not
cost effective. It is much easier to wire an ICF with the proper tools: hot knife(supplied by your ICF supplier)
and a electric chainsaw (45.00 from H-depot or Lowe's)along with the proper screw on carlon boxes after the
concrete pour. 99% of all residential ICF projects are cut into the foam after the pour with romex.

Dave
groundupUser is Offline
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28 Jun 2007 09:11 AM
well if you decide not to do it, at least do a few where you will have any low voltage (cable,satalite,phone) with all the new technologys coming out it might be wise. i have a dozen or so left over let me know ill let you have them cheap.
WayToGoUser is Offline
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28 Jun 2007 09:54 AM
This box with conduit setup will make it easier for future upgrades of wiring. I'm planning on installing low voltage and AC voltage thru out this home using these boxes.

I didn't like the idea of losing the insulated value of the ICF by cutting thru the foam. There is also cost associated with cutting thru the foam and losing the insulated value of the foam by cutting or burning thru.
fjohnsonUser is Offline
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28 Jun 2007 04:00 PM
you won't lose much if any insulation value of the icf because it's pretty easy and doesn't cost much to use expanding foam to fill in the wiring channels.. virtually no loss.. and night and day faster than running conduit... granted, an update will require cutting the finish wall, sheetrock or what ever, but if planned well, an update should be a long, long way into the future.. and by then, the spouse may want a new paint or texture anyway..  Hey, I hear we're not so far off from wireless electricity anyway.. that'll be my next update, I hope.
WayToGoUser is Offline
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28 Jun 2007 05:18 PM
I've heard of the electricity from air awhile back. Leaves one wondering about the side effects to the atmoshere and environment. I hope it doesn't turn out like the 100 mpg car.

Any other pros and cons of using this system.
eco-hammerUser is Offline
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29 Jun 2007 12:40 AM
My Friends Dad just built an ICF home in Kauai, he used a post and beam style mineral based block, I'm not sure of the brand. Anyway, after he grooved out all his electrical chases and ran his romex, the building inspector made him cover all the chases with nail plates.
dmaceldUser is Offline
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29 Jun 2007 05:57 PM
I had an interesting conversation this morning with the developer of the Plastilock box. He claims to construct over 300 ICF homes a year and uses the box in every one. At the risk of stirring up debate, he is of the opinion that anyone who slams the Plastilock boxes has never used them. He also told me he uses primarily 1/2" conduit as that is more than adequate, by code, for all the runs. He does use 3/4" for phone, cable, etc runs because some of those cables are larger & stiffer.

Here's what I have pretty much concluded, not having constructed my house yet. I plan to use the Plastilock boxes with the following understandings. Material cost for wire, particularly adding in the cost of conduit, will be greater, maybe as much as 2x per foot. The only boxes that are really easy to use, and for sure cheaper than Plastilock, are 18 cu in plastic boxes from the likes of Carlon. When you start getting into adjustable boxes, etc. in Carlon, the price climbs dramatically and Plastilock boxes are competitive. Steel boxes also don't come cheap either. 18 cu in plastic boxes are the only low price boxes I find that are not more than 3" deep. Most are 3 1/4" deep. With 2 1/2" foam and 1/2" drywall you only have 3" to play with. 2, 3, and 4 gang boxes that are multiples of the 18 cu in box are not on the shelf at Lowes & HD. I haven't checked to see if they exist at electrical supply houses. The Plasticlock boxes are available up to 3 gang. Wires enter all the regular boxes at the top and bottom back corners, which means you have to route horizontal run cables in curves to get them in the right orientation. Probably not a big deal, but you can't just run a straight groove directly from the side of one box to the next for horizontal runs. Anchoring regular boxes isn't going to be an instantaneous event either. If you glue them in you'll have to hold them in until the glue or foam sets, especially if the wires are already run into the box. If the wires aren't in the box when you anchor the box then you can probably glue and walk off. But then try to tell me it won't be a b**** to snake wires into them later though.

Now, another consideration. Here is the NEC requirement for protecting romex in grooves.

"Where installed in grooves, to be covered by wallboard, siding, paneling, carpeting, or similar finish, wiring methods shall be protected by 0.0625-inch-thick steel plate, sleeve, or equivalent, a listed steel plate or by not less than 11/4-inch free space for the full length of the groove in which the cable or raceway is installed."

This means you need to cut the groove for romex at least 1 3/4" deep, and then the wire has to lay absolutely flat in it. You ever tried to make romex lay flat? It ain't easy, I can guarantee, especially if you just pull it off the coil without unrolling. So you cut you groove all the way to the concrete. You probably will have to put some sort of anchor in the groove to keep the wire down tight. Depending on your local inspector, you will probably have to have him look at it before you cover it with foam. If it isn't all more than 1 1/4" below the foam surface, you'll have to put a protective plate over it. That's why the fellow in Hawaii had to put steel over his wires, he probably didn't get it to lay more than 1 1/4" below the foam surface. An electrician told me yesterday, around here anyway, inspectors basically don't like DIYers and so make them toe the line to the code. They'll let licensed electricians slide by with a few things. (like maybe depth of the wire in a groove?) Not right, but that's life.

Now tell me all that's faster than pulling wire through conduit.

You can use Smurf tubing to connect the Plastilock boxes but it needs to tied more securely to the block webs, and I'm told it's cheaper than conduit but I'm not sure of that. The developer guy said the main reason he uses PVC conduit is because, like in 6" block, the conduit hugs the back side of the forms and doesn't interfered with the concrete pour.

I plan to use Plastilock boxes because they are made for the job. Makes more sense to me than force fitting a convential construction technique to a different system.


Even a retired engineer can build a house successfully w/ GBT help!
fjohnsonUser is Offline
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29 Jun 2007 09:17 PM
I agree.. you're going to be doing it the hard way. It's so easy to cut the foam the full 2 1/2 or 2 3/4" deep for the wire.. it's also easy to attach the boxes to the nailers.. and you can flip the boxes to attach to a nailer on the left or the right which gives you leway on where the outlet or switch box goes...or fasten to the concrete if you have one that you have to move 1" one way or the other (I didn't have any switch or outlet that critical)...why would you want to cut the foam at such a minimum of 1 3/4". I just set a clamp on the end of the chain saw bar to a depth of 2 1/2" and went around the room... cut the rest with a sheetrock saw... vwalla.. done! Where I needed to I made a second groove (thicker cables, kitchen wiring). Used pieces of left over foam to wedge the wires back into the groove every few feet or more... let the inspector see what was being done and then foamed over it. BTW... I'm a DIY.. and the inspector was good to work but I did let him know before hand just how I planned on dealing with the icf and the electrical.. and made sure it was going to pass his inspection.

It may not be faster than pulling wire through conduit... but it's a lot faster than running conduit and then pulling wire through it. And yes.. I've run conduit before...

[quote] "This means you need to cut the groove for romex at least 1 3/4" deep, and then the wire has to lay absolutely flat in it. You ever tried to make romex lay flat? It ain't easy, I can guarantee, especially if you just pull it off the coil without unrolling. So you cut you groove all the way to the concrete. You probably will have to put some sort of anchor in the groove to keep the wire down tight. Depending on your local inspector, you will probably have to have him look at it before you cover it with foam. If it isn't all more than 1 1/4" below the foam surface, you'll have to put a protective plate over it. That's why the fellow in Hawaii had to put steel over his wires, he probably didn't get it to lay more than 1 1/4" below the foam surface. An electrician told me yesterday, around here anyway, inspectors basically don't like DIYers and so make them toe the line to the code. They'll let licensed electricians slide by with a few things. (like maybe depth of the wire in a groove?) Not right, but that's life.

Now tell me all that's faster than pulling wire through conduit."
[/quote]
VinmeisterUser is Offline
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30 Jun 2007 02:10 PM
Last week I installed metal boxes in an icf wall with pvc conduit. It was a TF system wall with 4 inch outside and 2 1/1 inside with a 9 1/2 concrete thickness. I cut the box openings and ran the conduit into the back of the boxes. Standard 1 1/2 deep, tied the conduit and cross braced the boxes to maintain the surface level. Concrete is curing and I see no problems as of yet. Not only that If I wanted to add or expand the system I could strip the sheetrock in the future and add conduit or romex in the future in the thickness of the foam. A 1/2 raised plate will finish off the boxes before sheetrock and I'll be good to go. To enter the loop I will collar the box directll under the electrical panel and pipe down ito it as I will have to frame out around the panel anyway. This will allow me to enter the loop in either dirction as I installed 3/4 pipe.
RobertsonUser is Offline
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02 Jul 2007 12:49 AM
Posted By walltech on 06/29/2007 8:15 PM
Hey, just do it the hard way! Ans next time don't ask!

Dave
It's pretty funny when someone offers their opinion, and after they make their godly pronouncements, they expect the thread to end, or better yet, a string of thank-you's and compliments on the opinion-makers genius.

dmaceldUser is Offline
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02 Jul 2007 01:36 AM

Posted By Robertson on 07/02/2007 12:49 AM
Posted By walltech on 06/29/2007 8:15 PM
Hey, just do it the hard way! Ans next time don't ask!

Dave
It's pretty funny when someone offers their opinion, and after they make their godly pronouncements, they expect the thread to end, or better yet, a string of thank-you's and compliments on the opinion-makers genius.

Or, sometimes we are all equally hard headed and set in our opinions that we know it's hopeless to try to change the other's mind! :-)

Or, maybe we're still pondering the value of the fiercely offered opposing opinion.

But in any case, what specific boxes do you guys use, especially for multiple gang? Every box I see on the Carlon web site and Lowes & HD shelf, except for the single gang plastic 18 cu in box with the attached nailer, is either too deep to fit in the 2 1/2" of foam plus 1/2" of wall board, or is so shallow that putting in a motion detector switch, or dimmer, or GFCI outlet, along with the 3 or 4 sets of 12 ga wires is an exercise in frustration in trying to compress everything into the box.


Do inspectors accept the foam overlay in the groove as meeting the code requirement for fastening a romex within 8" of a single gang plastic box, or do you only use boxes with cable clamps?


Even a retired engineer can build a house successfully w/ GBT help!
WayToGoUser is Offline
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02 Jul 2007 11:46 AM
Plastilock has the adapter for mounting Raco Metal Boxes (either for single, double or triple gang metal boxes) or the single or double or triple in plastic for the ICF wall system.

The plastilock boxes are approxiamately 3 inches deep.
walltechUser is Offline
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02 Jul 2007 08:15 PM
Robertson, there's a difference between offering and being asked. Offering is when you speak up via a conversation, being asked is when someone post and ask the opinions of those who follow this site. As you can see you have posted 19 times and I suspect you have interest in Plastilock. The bottom line is we don't have time to sugar coat all questions so sometimes we have to give our blunt decision. If you where to research this subject on this site you would find the same opinion. We as professionals do not want conduit in the wall when its not necessary, nor are we electricians and want to wait for one to show up to do layout. It's not practical to wire residential ICF this way as posted at the top. Simple as that!
mac mcguireUser is Offline
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05 Jul 2007 11:15 AM
Congradulations on doing the research about the Plastilock system. This system is the absolute best there is, and the only time it takes longer to install is maybe the first time. Cutting and patching in the foam is not a quality way to wire a house, but the only thing some, not most, of the icf builders care about is speed. The conduit system, 1/2 or 3/4, is by far, very far, the best way to go. If the electrician can't see this, or doesn't know how to install conduit in a timely fashion, find one who can. It's not hard to install, and in fact will save you tremendous time at the later stages of the project.
DallasBillUser is Offline
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05 Jul 2007 02:37 PM
Posted By dmaceld on 07/02/2007 1:36 AM


Do inspectors accept the foam overlay in the groove as meeting the code requirement for fastening a romex within 8" of a single gang plastic box, or do you only use boxes with cable clamps?







I'm a homeowner.  In our Amvic house, the electricians simply routed the romex thru the ripped out channel, then up-behind-a-tie-down again in an upside down V, before they ran it into each box.

Like this, using a long wall as an example:    

_______________________^ ______________________^____Box_________________________^__________________^___Box

etc. etc.

The romex was held securely for inspection. They did this along the entire runs of walls.  It then did not require any foam spritzes at all.  The friction-fit kept it snug, and running it up/down behind a tie as a  ___^___  every so often gave it extra "security."

By the way, it was the first ICF house they ever did... and I thought it was quite ingenious!
jperiodUser is Offline
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05 Jul 2007 10:32 PM
I have a couple of questions about using these plasic lock boxes and conduit. Does having 1/2" conduit in the concrete wall compromise in anyway the structural integrity of the wall? Does the conduit interfere with the proper placement of the concrete in the  blocks?

Thanks

JW
DallasBillUser is Offline
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05 Jul 2007 10:51 PM

The things I find most amusing about their site, as a homeowner, are two things:

  • Higher Profits for ICF Contractors - as a homeowner, this is not my mission
  • More Benefits for ICF Homeowners - as a homeowner, I see none

    They spend a lot of pages at their site telling how great it is for structured wiring.  Well, I'm not about to run structured wiring the same way I run electrical.  I run structured wiring after all my interior stick is up, and from wiring closet to points in a fan-out config, the shortest route possible.  Do you know how much 1/2 in conduit it would take to run 3 coax, and 3 cat-6 the conduit way -- all around the perimeter of my ICF walls!?  And the cost to me?  OUTRAGEOUS!  Plus, there is NO WAY I want my electrical anywhere near my structured wiring due to interference.

    As a home audio-video nut/expert, that's about all I can say.

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