How to Install Underground Electrical Wiring
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How to Install Underground Electrical Wiring

Apr 29, 2023

It's not uncommon to want to run 120V electrical wiring underground. You may want to send power to your shed, workshop, or garage. Another common use is running power to a lamp post or an electric gate motor. In either case, you should be aware of a few underground wiring requirements in order to meet most current building codes. We show you how to install underground electrical wiring from one location to another.

The first question we always get asked is "How deep do we bury the wiring or cable?" That's a great question. And the answer is that it depends on what wire you use and whether you run it within a conduit or not. Since most people ask the question so that they can meet a particular desire for maximum burial depth, let's start there. Breaking it down by how deep you bury the underground electrical wiring when you install it, we have the following options:

24-inches Deep Burial Depth

18-inches Deep Burial Depth

12-inches Deep Burial Depth

6-inches Deep Burial Depth

If you ever want to use rigid metal conduit or even EMT in place of PVC, you can. Typically, we use gray 3/4-inch PVC for a single line. In addition, while the required burial depths listed above should be generally accurate—check local building codes first. You want to be absolutely certain you’re in compliance before you get started. We typically prefer using PVC conduit when running power to a remote location underground. That gives you a lot more protection over direct burial cable in the long run.

In the end, just understand your options and take the safest or simplest route depending on your situation. If you can get away without conduit and the wiring is in an area that isn't liable to get in the way of future digging, then direct-burial cable might be best. If you’re running through the middle of your yard, a PVC or metal conduit might seem the better choice—even if it's overkill.

We don't provide a ton of steps to installing underground electrical wiring. Installing the wiring or conduit takes a lot of work—but not a lot of detailed instructions.

Don't forget to plan ahead and call before you dig. You don't want to hit any buried water lines, electrical lines, sewage drains, or anything else. In most municipalities, they will check your property within a day or two for free and when you call. Marking out critical lines with flags before you start really saves you a lot of hassle and headaches. Don't skip this step!

We’ve dug a lot of trenches using shovels. Don't do it if you value your time. If you have someone you desperately want to torture, or you’re only going several feet, then using a trenching shovel works just fine. If, however, you need to go a good amount of distance with your buried electrical cable, we recommend renting a trencher.

You can rent a 24-inch trencher in most places for less than $200 a day. You can even pay less if you only need it for a few hours. It saves you countless hours and hassle, so if you can afford it, grab one at your local tool rental store.

Using the trencher, plan your course and dig the trench where you plan to run your direct-burial cable or PVC pipe.

Cut your egress and ingress holes from the starting point (for example, your electrical panel) to the end of your run.

It helps to use what's known as a PVC conduit outlet body (LB).

These make it easy to feed wire into a building (either the source or the destination garage or shop). You just remove the plate using the two screws and feed the wire as needed without having to worry about making a sharp right-angle turn at the point of entry.

Pro Tip: Use a heat gun to bend PVC conduit if you need to make a bend to get up against the house, garage, or workshop with your pipe.

Many times you can simply push your cable through minimal runs of PVC conduit. If needed, you can use a metal fish tape or even vacuum a pull line through the pipe and use that to pull the wires through a long run.

After pulling your wire, make your connections to the electrical panel and finish your conduit fittings. That includes securing the plates on your PVC conduit outlet bodies. Test your run, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

Nothing beats getting much-needed power to a shed or garage. Attack this type of project with gusto and reap the benefits. As always, consult or use a licensed electrician if things seem to be beyond your level of expertise.

24-inches Deep Burial Depth 18-inches Deep Burial Depth 12-inches Deep Burial Depth 6-inches Deep Burial Depth Pro Tip: