Running Outdoor Cable

Intro

Some building departments require metal or plastic conduit for all underground wiring, but most codes call for conduit only where the wiring is exposed or in a shallow trench. (Condensation can moisten wiring in watertight conduit. UF cable offers the only protection against water damage.)

Before you dig, have utilities mark underground lines. In the United States, call 811 to be connected to your local One Call center.

A square-bladed spade handles short runs. If you need to dig more than 50 feet of trench, rent a powered trench digger.

Check local building codes. Some allow a shallower trench if the cable or conduit is covered with a 2X6 pressure-treated plank.

Checklist

Time
Once power is brought outside, about 8 to 12 hours to dig trenches, run 60 feet of cable, and install several lights

Tools
Shovel, posthole digger, hammer, drill, fish tape, pliers, garden hose or sledgehammer

Skills
Laying out and digging trenches, fishing cable through conduit

Prep
Install a receptacle or LB fitting, bringing power to the outside, and check that the new service does not overload the circuit. Call the utility company to mark lines.

Materials
Conduit and fittings, conduit clamps, stakes, string line

Step 1

After the utilities have marked the location of any underground lines, plan a route that stays several feet away from them. Use string lines and stakes to indicate the path for the underground cable.

Step 2

Cut the sod carefully with a square-bladed shovel so you can replace it later. Dig a trench deep enough to satisfy local codes. If you encounter a large root or rock, consider running the cable under it.

Step 3

Run metal conduit under the sidewalk and attach a protective bushing to each end. Push the UF cable through the conduit.

Step 4

Unroll the cable carefully to avoid kinks. Have a helper feed it through the conduit as you thread it through the trenches all the way to the power source.

Step 5

When running cable to a lamppost, be sure to set the post so its access hole faces the trench. Carefully push the cable into the access hole and up the body of the post.


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