How to build a rocket workshop (part 6: the electrocution)

It’s taken a while to provide an update on the workshop because… this step was a significant amount of work.

I enlisted some serious help from my friend Darrin, who has a background in electrical engineering, prior experience doing electrical installations, and an immense collection of power tools and equipment.

Copper wire, in red, white, black, and green
copper wire

The short version is this: we ran some electrical wiring from the house’s main electrical panel to the shed, burying it underground, and put a new panel inside the shed. From there, we installed a bunch of junction boxes with outlets, two light switches, and even an exterior light (just for fun), all connected to the shed’s panel. It’s done, and the shed has indoor and outdoor lights, and a ton of working outlets (soon to be put to good use).

The long version, if you care to read it, is below.

First, a few preliminary thoughts (from someone who has no background in electrical work) and the basics.

Conceptually, this project required a couple of steps:

  • adding a few new circuit breakers to the house’s main electrical panel;
  • running copper wires inside conduit along the outside of the house and then underground;
  • digging a trench;
  • installing a smaller sub-panel inside the shed, and adding circuit breakers to it;
  • connecting the wire/ conduit to the sub-panel inside the shed;
  • installing copper wire inside conduit, inside the shed;
  • installing metal junction boxes and electrical outlets in various places; and
  • adding an outside light fixture and wiring it up.

Here’s a list of the major supplies we used:

  • roughly 80 feet of pvc conduit (1 inch diameter), connecting house main electrical panel to shed’s sub-panel; along with a few 90 degree “elbows”;
  • roughly 20 feet of metal conduit;
  • roughly 20 feet of metal clad (“MC”) cable;
  • plastic and metal straps to secure the conduit to the house wall or shed wall;
  • metal junction boxes;
  • electrical panel for the shed;
  • circuit breakers for main house panel;
  • copper wire (black, white, red, and green), to connect everything inside shed as well as connecting shed to main house panel;
  • outlets or “receptacles” for the junction boxes (3 GFCI outlets, plus other regular outlets);
  • wall plates;
  • two copper grounding rods (each 8 ft in length) and acorn nuts;
  • roughly 20 feet of bare copper wire to connect both grounding rods to shed’s panel; and
  • external light fixture and mounting hardware,

I am very possibly forgetting a few things. As I mentioned above, this was a big project.

It also required a lot of different tools, some of which I didn’t know existed. We used basic tools like drills and circular saws, screwdrivers and mallets, measuring tape and a level, etc., of course. There were also giant drills with giant drill bits to punch huge holes through concrete or cinderblock; and a giant hammer attachment for this drill to drive an 8 foot long metal rod straight down into very rocky soil. We also used tools to cut (and to bend) metal conduit, and to cut (and bend) PVC conduit. As with every part of this project, I have to give full credit to Darrin. My role was participatory at best.

I’m going to create a completely separate post for the outside work – i.e., digging the trench and laying the conduit running from the house. But below are some pictures of the work inside the shed. First, the electrical panel, light switch, and conduit during the installation:

Inside shed front wall - electrical panel, conduit, and light switch
inside the shed – electrical panel, conduit, and light switch

And after completion:

electrical panel inside shed
completed panel

Likewise, here’s a bit of a closer view of the panel and light switch, during and after the install:

Close-up view of electrical panel and box for future light switches
close-up view of panel and box for future light switches
electrical panel and light switch - closer view
panel and light switch complete

The side wall now has 4 junction boxes with outlets (2 above the bench and 2 below), with a 5th box on the ceiling for light fixtures. Below are pictures of the side wall during and after this work was completed.

View of side wall inside shed, with more conduit and junction boxes for future outlets
more conduit and junction boxes for future outlets
view of side wall in shed, with metal conduit and new outlets
conduit, outlets installed
corner view between side and front wall, with ceiling outlet for light fixture
corner with ceiling outlet for light fixture
new outlet, in metal box with metal conduit
new outlet

As mentioned above, I’ll create at least one separate post about the work done outside – digging the trench, and connecting the shed to the house panel with conduit – and probably several separate articles. What I learned about the local electrical code and its many requirements, for example, could easily fill volumes (though it would likely interest nobody). In any event, this post is long enough as it is, and I’ll wrap it up for now. Stay tuned!

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