Return of The Great Coat Closet Remodel Project

“So whatever happened with that coat closet that you were remodeling?”, someone who knows me might ask. Well, it’s still not done. So, what’s the hold up? The electrical. I want to install new overhead pot lights (on a switch of course), three new outlets, and also put the existing wall light with a pull chain on switch.

Here is the issue though. The wall between the closet and the living room is very shallow. The two-by-fours in that wall are actually placed sideways, which means the wall is only two inches deep. Therefore, standard electrical work boxes will not fit in the wall cavity. That means that all electrical along that wall must be surface mounted, as the existing light fixture is. Since that is the wall by the door, it is the sensible place to mount the new switches. As you can see, there are a few issues with this space of wall:

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Additionally, there are an enormous number of studs and joists in the closet for such a tiny space. Because of this, the existing electrical line from the power which feeds the light fixture has been run with armored cable (AC) on the exterior of the wall, rather than with NM (Romex) inside the wall. The power enters through the kitchen wall, and is mounted with brackets across the top of the door and down the wall to the fixture.

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This is a sensible solution considering the configuration of the closet. However, I have never worked with AC before and I am not sure what to expect from it. My initial thought was to get rid of it – to place a junction box where the AC enters the closet and then run NM everywhere. But given all the studs and joists and door frames that I would have to go through, that’s just not going to work.

So, I have been considering my options for the past few months. Occasionally, I will go in the closet and look around, hoping for inspiration. So far none has come to me.

I have finally determined the best solution will be to run AC at least all the way to the switches. I can place a junction box where the power enters the closet, with an AC line continuing to the switches, and an new NM line for the outlets. I can probably even reuse the existing AC that this there, since I think there will be enough length to do the job. If not, Home Depot sells inexpensive AC “whips” in 8-12 foot lengths that even have the connectors already attached at each end.

The problem lies with the switches. I need the power to feed both the switches and also continue unhindered to a run of NM that exits the closet and feeds the living room circuit. And therein lies the stumbling block. Since the line into the closet also feeds the living room, I can’t just disassemble it and figure it out later. The existing NM line exits the fixture box and crosses through a sideways stud into the area of the wall which I have already completed, where it powers an outlet in the living room as well as the living room circuit.

closet wiring nail plate

I thought I might run new, longer NM from the outlet box to the switches, but since that area is already finished, I obviously can’t do that. I am not sure if the existing NM with reach to where I want to install the switch box. I could leave the AC running into the fixture box, and install a downstream switch for the fixture, but since I would need the white line to carry the switched power back to the fixture, I would lose the white to the switch for the overhead lights. Which is why I have, so far, done nothing.

However, I have set myself a goal to finish the closet before Thanksgiving. I would like to have Thanksgiving dinner in the dining without the closet door, door trim, and bits of drywall leaning up against everything.

So this morning, I settled down on the sofa with a sketchpad, a cup of coffee, and some more recent photos of the closet to try to draw up a workable electrical plan for the closet. I hope to have a solution by the end of the day. I feel extra-motivated to get the outlet boxes installed this weekend, so that I can install the remaining insulation along the outside wall of the house. And since I am finally feeling better, I actually have the energy to do it!

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