So often, basements are dark and dank places, ill-suited for any sort of niceties of life. One way to change that is by installing some decent lighting. Now, electrical building codes will vary from one municipality to another, so these ideas are strictly an overall outline of how to do it.
First, ask yourself if you’re qualified to do electrical work. If not, hire an electrician; people get hurt and even killed fiddling with high voltage power lines! Once you’ve made that determination, check on the size of your home’s electrical service. If you have an older home, you may not have a lot of amperage to play with; you don’t want to overload your fuse box. If necessary, you may need to upgrade your service to accommodate the new fixtures.
Next, locate all of the available electrical lines running through or near your basement. Ideally, you want to tie into what’s known as the “homerun”, the main line running through your house from the fuse box. The reason for this is that the line is capable of carrying the heaviest power load.
Once you locate the lines you want to tie into, determine which circuit they’re connected to. Many professional electricians work on power lines without turning off the circuit – do not try this if you’re not a professional!
From your building department, you can learn which type – which gauge – of electrical wire to use. The last thing you want to do is install the wrong wiring and have to replace it later. Another key point to consider is this: grounding. If you have an older home, your outlets may have only two prongs, which means they are not grounded, and the wiring may not have a ground line.
But, most modern appliances have three prongs. This means either using adapters, or replacing all of your outlets with new ones. In some cases, some building codes require you to also replace the old wiring, and this can significantly boost the cost of the work. If you’re lucky, you can just go with the grounded outlets, which are available in any hardware store, and are easy to install.
In terms of lighting, you’ll need to consider your ceiling. Very often, basements do not have well finished ceilings – as they are essentially the floor of the ground floor – and you may be dealing with rough beams and joists. So, you may have to finish the ceiling. A hanging ceiling is an inexpensive means of doing so, and thus allows you to put in recessed lighting.
This can be key because if your basement has a low ceiling, any sort of hanging light fixtures could get bonked by any tall members of the family. Also, a switch for the main light at each door of the basement is best. That way, no matter which way people come in and out, they can turn the light on and off.