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View Full Version : Tips for hiding wires in exsisting hardscapes


slimart01
01-15-2010, 11:52 AM
Anyone care to share some of their tips and tricks for hiding wire in mortared joints, retaining walls, in concrete pads (such as driveways), etc.?

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-15-2010, 12:24 PM
Mortared Joints : all depends on the conditions. We have chipped out the mortar, sleeved the wire in shrink tube (need to protect against the lime in the mortar) and re-mortared the joints. This is very time consuming and expensive. Alternately you can sometimes use copper pipe, flexible or rigid, to create a 'conduit' to hide the wire. Just be sure to discreetly label the 'conduit' as such.

Retaining walls: if you cannot be there to pre-wire the walls during construction, then you might just drill right through to the 'back' and excavate for feed wires and connections.

Concrete pads: Watch your local codes and inspectors here. I have seen others use the expansion joints in concrete pads to run LV wires through. It doesn't really meet the Installation Standards though, and it can pose a damage and maintenance issue over time. Those cracks are there to allow for the expansion and movement of the pad. Putting wire in them could result in damage to the jacket, shorts, scrapes, cuts, etc. Best is to route the wire runs around the pad, or go under with a pneumatic bullet and sleeve. Of course you can always sell another transformer on the 'other side' of the pad to power up the lighting over there. :)

slimart01
01-15-2010, 12:27 PM
Thanks James, how about installing a well light in the concrete itself? How would you go about that?

David Gretzmier
01-15-2010, 12:55 PM
Some of this has been discussed before, mostly along the driveway and sidewalk route. It pretty much is an over/under argument. I try to go under small sidewalks and paths, using a 42" long and either 1 inch or 1 1/4" diameter circus tent stake and corresponding size pvc sleeve. That gives you the option of 3-5 wires pulled.

The "over" option on sidewalks and drives is take an expansion joint and remove, or cut into side of 2 x 4 board or widen an existing chamfer joint made by the concrete contractor. a diamond blade on any number of tools can do this for you with a number of passes. for a single or double wire run, a 4 inch angle grinder with a tuck point wheel can make a groove about 1 and 1/2 inch deep, and I have managed to stack 3 12 guage wires on top of each other and then fill the gap with gray concrete crack filler. sand topping mix is way cheaper and more attractive, but many folks say the lime in that product is caustic and will eat insulation and wire over time. I no longer use it because of that, but I have some wires run in cracks using that product that have over a decade in the field and are fine. For larger wire runs or quicker time, I have used my dewalt circular saw with two diamond blades stacked and do multiple passes for up to 4 wires, and any more than 4 I have to go to a rental 14" diamond blade, stihl cut off saw.

The invisable dog fence folks have been using the over method on sidewalks and drives for over 30 years, and although it is only a single 12 guage wire, The local guy here has been doing it for 21 years and has had no issues other than lawn guys who use blades to edge and they cut through the wire, even though he goes down 3-4 inches into the concrete. It should ne noted however, that here in arkansas we are not nearly prone to frost heaves that can move concrete pads once you get further north. james has a valid point there, I just have never experienced it here in the south.

I have drilled though 12 inch thick retaining walls with a 3/4 inch SDS bit and huge 1 inch SDS drill, and dug from behind, and I have went around the wall as well using an extra 50-80 feet of wire and higher taps. timewise it depends on the soil, length of wall and it is a site judgement call.

I've never used copper pipe as a conduit, I have used grey pvc and galvanized metal conduit with a bender to run across areas if needs be. I have also used the plastic trim that electricians use to run high voltage wires inside on the outside of a home using low voltage cable, and then painted the trim to match the surrounding area.

I've routed out wood using my router table or table saw for the back of wood trim on deck railings, under porch railings, etc.

This job requires you to develop a knowledge of wire hiding tools and techniques that change like the wind. every year it seems I have been presented with a number of challenges, and if you want the job, you need to figure it out. If you are not a problem solver type person, this career is not right for you.

emby
01-15-2010, 01:59 PM
Thanks James, how about installing a well light in the concrete itself? How would you go about that?

Slim--I asked this very question in the spring as I had to install five of these in a new construction project. What worked for me was a 6" sono tube cut to 16" depth. Before the gravel was placed I installed 1" PVC conduit system connecting the five lights and then from the last well light we tapped into a drain line to allow water or moisture to escape. When installing the conduit we ran it so that it just entered at the bottom of each sono tube so that after the concrete was poured you could pull the wire in. Ensure that you tape off the ends of the conduit or pre pull your wire before the concrete is poured. After the concrete is poured fill the sono tube up with pea gravel and set your depth accordingly to your well light. Worked great for me and many thanks to the professionals that gave thier advice. Hope this helps.

Ken

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
01-15-2010, 10:15 PM
Thanks James, how about installing a well light in the concrete itself? How would you go about that?

All depends on if this is new construction or a retrofit. If new, then a method such as Ken describes will work. Or, you can find some lines of well lights that have pour sleeves available. (Hunza, BK, Nightscaping, to name a few) The pour sleeves work very well and are specifically designed for the task.

If you need to install well lights into existing concrete pads, well there will be some challenges.

1: Is the concrete steel re-inforced? If so a standard core drill will not do much good as the steel will eat the carbide teeth in the bit.
2: Will the lights be positioned fairly close to the edge of the pad? If not your chance of shooting a conduit accurately to the fixture position from the edge of the pad is significantly reduced.

It can be done, but I would be looking for other ways to light the scene. Sometimes it is best to keep things as simple as possible.

Mayor_tx
01-25-2010, 09:52 AM
I've used this guy several times and it works great.

http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1xr5/R-100662390/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

you can find it at lowes or home depot. It's made for running wires inside your home, but it works great for getting under most sidewalks that don't have a sleeve.

They cost around $30-$40

trailboss
01-25-2010, 11:56 AM
I've used this guy several times and it works great.

http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1xr5/R-100662390/h_d2/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

you can find it at lowes or home depot. It's made for running wires inside your home, but it works great for getting under most sidewalks that don't have a sleeve.

They cost around $30-$40

Mayor, we use the same bit - man those things are handy. Cool thing is that most of the time you dont have to dig a trench the width of the walk like you do using a water jet. I think we have made it under some walks - start to finish - in under a couple of minutes. Good Tip!

Steve

Mayor_tx
01-25-2010, 02:08 PM
Thanks. Make sure you guys get the 72" bit and not the shorter ones. A couple other things to use. Once you have drilled through the other side, pull back a nylon pull string (jet line). I've been able to pull several 12/2 wires in the hole that bit makes.

Also, make sure you line up that bit perfectly horizontal when you start. Just a few degrees down equals several inches if not feet below ground once you come out on the other side.

Now if they just had one long enough to go completely under a driveway...

JK!

trailboss
01-25-2010, 02:16 PM
Yeah, we sometimes use a pull string and other times just unchuck the bit from the drill, tape our wire(s) onto the bit and pull em through.
JK, you going to the AOLP conference down there this week?

Lite4
01-25-2010, 02:19 PM
Ha, our soil and rock would eat that bit up in 2 seconds flat. You guys must have much sandier soil than I do. I still have to drive sleeves under.

trailboss
01-25-2010, 02:27 PM
I know the bit really isnt meant for it - but I have put my drill in hammer mode and broke right through some pretty rocky stuff. About the only time we have a problem is when its solid cocrete or rebar.

Mayor_tx
01-25-2010, 02:33 PM
I'd like to attend the conference, but it's pretty expensive for me. The place is only 30 minutes from my house too.

I wouln't say we have sandy soils down here. There is quite a lot of rock, especially on these homes in the hills. You should give it a try Tim. Hell, if it doesn't work, you know Home Depot will take it back!

My brother "witches" with two metal flags and can find conduits 75% of the time. Have you guys ever seen or tried that? It's kinda creepy, but I've been amazed time after time when he locates it on the first try.

Lite4
01-25-2010, 07:58 PM
I'd like to attend the conference, but it's pretty expensive for me. The place is only 30 minutes from my house too.

I wouln't say we have sandy soils down here. There is quite a lot of rock, especially on these homes in the hills. You should give it a try Tim. Hell, if it doesn't work, you know Home Depot will take it back!

My brother "witches" with two metal flags and can find conduits 75% of the time. Have you guys ever seen or tried that? It's kinda creepy, but I've been amazed time after time when he locates it on the first try.

That is true, you probably do have some rockier soil in the highlands. I may just give it a try. I hate having to dig back a deep trench for the sidewalk sleever I use.

I had a business partner about 12 years back when I was doing landscaping. He had 2 pieces of copper rod he would use to find water pipes and conduit. It was creepy, it worked every time. My bugers are not magnetic enough to work or something cause it sure doesn't work for me.

RLI Electric
01-25-2010, 08:50 PM
I picked up a 6' spike from an irrigation supply place and use that for going under sidewalks. You have to do a trench on one side but you are under in about 2 minutes. At the pointed end it has a hole for attaching a pull string or the wire and pull it on back. Simple tool and great investment.

Lite4
01-26-2010, 11:16 AM
I picked up a 6' spike from an irrigation supply place and use that for going under sidewalks. You have to do a trench on one side but you are under in about 2 minutes. At the pointed end it has a hole for attaching a pull string or the wire and pull it on back. Simple tool and great investment.

Yeah, I have one of those too. I put a 1" conduit over it and leave the sleeve in the ground.