You may have moved into an older home or where an amateur electrician tried to save money and time by simply running bare sheaths of wire from the breaker box to various locations in the home.
The wire sheaths inside the walls, although they may be exposed to penetration by screws or nails by homeowners hanging pictures, are relatively much safer than those running across walls and ceilings in the basement.
You can protect these exposed wires by covering them with flexible conduit.
What is flexible conduit?
Unlike regular EMT (Electrical Metallic Tubing) conduit, which is rigid metal tubing through which wiring is directed between locations, flexible conduit is bendable to allow greater flexibility around obstructions without the need for connection of directional fittings.
Because it is metallic, flexible conduit offers the same protection from cuts and punctures to exposed wiring.
What will you need to cover exposed wiring in your home with flexible conduit?
A roll of flexible conduit
Flexible conduit is sold in rolls of various lengths and diameters. You will only need 1/2 inch diameter conduit to cover a single three wire sheath. The length required will vary according to the length of exposed wire and whether you choose to cover only the wiring outside of the walls and ceilings or the entire length of the line.
In either case, buy more length than you believe you will need. The conduit is flexible, but you can't stretch it to make it longer if you come up short.
Although you don't need fittings to change the direction of your conduit, you do need fittings to connect the ends to your breaker box and outlets. You will need 1/2 inch connectors to connect 1/2" flexible conduit.
You will need these to fasten the conduit to walls and ceilings along the same path as the exposed wiring.
Screwdriver for connectors
Hacksaw for cutting conduit to length
Disconnecting the wire sheath from the breaker box
If you decide to simply cover the exposed wiring from the breaker box to the point where the wall or ceiling is penetrated, you will need to turn off the main breakers to access the breaker box.
The main breakers may be located at the top of the breaker panel, or they may be in a separate location, even outside the home. When the mains are turned off, you will remove the cover off the breaker box.
You can then locate the circuit breaker to which the offending wire sheath is connected. Pull the breaker (outer edge first) from its slot inside the box and disconnect the black wire connected to the single screw terminal.
You will then disconnect the white and green (or copper) wires from the screw terminals on the white grounding bars inside the breaker box. You can then pull the wire sheath through the hole in the side of the breaker box.
Installing the conduit
Remove the wire clips or staples that are securing the wire sheath along the ceiling or walls, then you can stretch out the wiring to make it as straight as possible.Unroll the conduit and straighten it as much you you can, then feed the wire sheath into the conduit, moving the conduit closer to opening in the wall or ceiling until it reaches the penetration point.
You will then cut the conduit at the length that is approximately 6 inches beyond the end of the wire sheath at the breaker box. The extra length of conduit will be pushed through the wall or ceiling penetration to completely cover all exposed wiring.
You must then install a conduit clip as close to the penetration point as possible without bending the conduit to an acute angle. This will help to keep the conduit inside the penetration. You will then install a series of clips to hold the conduit in place along its length.
Reconnecting the wiring
You will begin by twisting a conduit connector into the hole in the side of the breaker box, then pulling the wire sheath through the connector and connecting the conduit.
Reconnect the white and green or copper wires to the grounding bars and the black wire to the breaker, then push the breaker into its slot, inside edge first, until it clicks into place.
Restore the box cover, turn on the main breakers and the individual breaker, and you're finished.
Installing conduit along the entire length of the line
If you decide to install the conduit through walls and ceilings to the outlet, you will need to be inventive and have a high level of patience. Running wiring inside finished walls and ceilings is difficult enough. Conduit is less flexible and is wider than wiring.
This may be a job for a professional electrician like Morris Electric Contracting & Service, Inc., who has the equipment and experience to deal with these issues.