Remodeling Kitchens: Electrical Fixtures
After the main work like mechanical rough-ins and drywall, there's still a lot of finishing-type jobs left to do. Here's a breakdown of the steps remaining in the project:
Applying paint and/or wall coverings are also finishing elements in kitchen remodel, but we offer far more details on those topics than we could include here in our section on Paint, Stain & Wallcovering.
Installing Standard Receptacles
Electrical devices are generally installed after the drywall finishing and priming so they don't get covered with compound or paint. But people often put them in earlier to furnish working power to the kitchen area.
CAUTION! Make sure the power's off to any circuits you plan to work on. Double-check circuits with a voltage tester before touching wires.
To wire a receptacle properly, first cut the cable's sheathing back about 8". Strip the sheathing back on the ends of the wires about a 1/2" and use a pliers to bend those ends and the end of the bare copper grounding wire into a "C"-shape.
Hook the end of the black (power) wire to the upper brass terminal (holding the receptacle with the grounding plugs pointing down) and tighten the screw.
Attach the white (neutral) wire to the silver screw and the grounding wire to the grounding screw (usually painted green). Then fold the extra wire into the back of the box and screw the receptacle in to the holes at the top and bottom of the box.
To continue a circuit in series from one receptacle to the next, first attach appropriately colored pigtails (4-6" lengths of wire) to the brass, silver and grounding terminals.
Strip the wires coming from the power source and those going to the next receptacle, then twist the ends of the like-colored wires together with a pliers and screw a wire connector over each trio to finish the connections. Fold the wires into the back of the box and screw the receptacle in place.
NOTE: There are specific receptacles made for 15-amp and for 20-amp circuits, so be sure to use the right ones. 20-amp receptacles have a horizontal mark on one slot to identify them.
Installing GFCI Receptacles
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacles are usually required by code for any receptacles near a source of water, like the kitchen sink, for the extra protection against electrical shocks.
They're easily identified by the red "Test" and black "Reset" buttons in the center of the receptacle.
To connect a GFCI receptacle, screw the wires into the terminals marked "Line" on the back of the unit, black to the "Hot" terminal and white to the "White" terminal. The grounding wire attaches to the green grounding screw.
You can run additional receptacles in series off the GFCI receptacle, which gives all of them GFCI protection. The wires to those receptacles should be attached to the terminals labeled "Load."
If you only want one receptacle in a series to have GFCI protection, attach the properly-colored pigtails to the terminals on the GFCI receptacle and connect those to the like-colored wires coming from the power source and going to the next receptacle. That way power runs continuously to the next receptacle from the source.
Switches are different than receptacles because only "hot" wires go to the terminals—one from the power source and one going to the fixture. No white neutral wires go to the switch.
Connect the white wire coming from the source to the white wire going to the fixture. Screw a bare pigtail to the grounding screw on the switch and connect that to the other grounding wires. Fold all the wires into the back of the box and screw the switch into the box.
NOTE: Make sure the "ON" switch points up as you install the switch. It's easy to accidentally put it in upside down.
On a 3-way switch (two switches controlling the same fixture), things can get really complicated, but the easiest way to wire the switches is to run the 14-2 cable from the source to the first switch, run 14-3 wire from there to the second switch and finally run 14-2 wire from the second switch up to the fixture.
Then using special 3-way, three-terminal switches, connect the black wire from the source to the common terminal on the switch at the first switch box.
Connect the black and red wires leading to the second switch to the remaining 2 terminals. At the second box, connect the black wire going to the fixture on the common terminal and screw on the black and red wires from the first switch to the remaining two terminals.
Installing light fixtures is fairly simple, but if you're like us, you'll quickly learn that it's nice to have an extra pair of hands to help hold the fixtures while you're connecting the wires.
Installation will vary among the different fixture styles and manufacturers, but basically you screw a mounting plate into the electrical box, connect the proper wires from the switch to the fixture leads (including proper grounding) and mount the fixture to the plate as directed by the manufacturer (either with mounting screws in the plate or a threaded stud screwed up into it).
At this stage, you've hopefully connected any recessed light fixtures because the connections are usually above the unit in the framing—and difficult to reach once the drywall's in place. But the lights generally come with trim kits you install at this point to dress up the visible parts of the light.
Service Panel Connections
It is possible to connect any new circuits you've run to the electrical service panel yourself. But the job involves significant safety and code issues. And unless you're totally comfortable with terms like feeder cable, bus bar and double-pole breaker—all of which are beyond the scope of this section—we recommend consulting a licensed electrician to help power up your new kitchen.