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Running new charger cable from consumer unit without spoiling decor

Generator

Member
Oct 10, 2019
253
442
London
I cant be the only person with this issue, and I suspect that a great many members here suffer the same symptoms. The problem is that neither my meter cupboard or consumer unit are anywhere near where I park my car.

I have a 3 storey townhouse, located in a less salubrious part of East London that’s more usually on fire and whose recent claim to fame is how its residents enjoy giving Extinction Rebellion types a damn good hiding for making them late for work . The meter cupboard is at the front of the house, the consumer unit is on the ground floor in the middle of the house, and the parking area / driveway is at the rear, behind the back garden. Not being made of money means that it’s a terraced property so there’s no option of going through a side wall. Thus, the cable to the EV charger has to go through the house with all the mess, disruption and aggro that causes.


Between the Consumer Unit and my goal of Tesla home charging is a partition wall to another cupboard, a supporting wall, my lounge, the exterior wall, my wife’s flower beds, and finally the rear garden wall with a pedestrian gate that leads to my drive, a run of about 15m. Naturally, this being a relatively modern build, the floor is a cast concrete slab and all the joists in the ceiling run the wrong way making the option of running the cable through void between the ceiling and the floor above a tad difficult The floor above is tiled, so I'd need to go through the ceiling to do it. As my wife recently paid a kings ransom for new wall paper, paint, lights, and a hardwood floor in the lounge, major works affecting said items would probably result in significant dust, debris, disruption and ultimately divorce.


What to do then? Well, I could go up, passing the cable through the 1st floor storage cupboards, up through the airing cupboard and into the loft before bringing it back down the rear of the house from the eves. Sadly it would end up being a 40+m cable run and since there’s no where to foot a ladder (due to the aforementioned flower beds) it would need scaffold or a cherry picker to clip the cable to the wall. Possible, but getting on for very expensive and an awful lot of grief. It occurred to me that the skirting board in the lounge that runs from the supporting wall adjacent to the cupboard to the exterior wall by the garden could possibly hide a cable, if a sufficient gap could be made behind it. It could be done without damaging the floor or the wallpaper, and I could do that bit of the work myself, potentially saving a few £‘s. But if the electrician installing my EV charger is going to sign it off it needs to be legal, which means it has to comply with “the regs”, more properly known as BS 7671:2018 Requirements for Electrical Installations - IET Wiring Regulations 18th edition.

So, I asked a few sparks what they they thought;
Some didn’t know, promised they'd get back to me, and vanished into the ether. Some sucked their teeth and quietly totted up a quote that would enable them to fly their extended family first class for next years holiday, and others simply quoted the prescribed zones from the wiring regs, said "no way", told me it would be “lethal” to do it that way while making similarly pricey plans to winter in the Caribbean if I gave him the job to sort it.

The solution? Never take anyone’s word for it. Read the book...

In particular, I read the section on Prescribed Zones.
522.6.202.jpg


These are the areas that you are allowed to conceal cables in your walls, in the hope that the average homeowner has some inkling of where they might be so he can avoid hammering a nail through them to hang a picture of his mother from. The zones are simple, and the one of most use to me and suggested by one electrician is the zone covering the strip of wall extending 150mm down from the ceiling. “You can hide your cable in a lovely bit of coving” said the bright spark, clearly missing the subtle hint contained in my wife’s earlier statement; “I hate coving”.

Sadly the 150mm band up from the floor is not a prescribed zone, which is why the mere suggestion of my putting cables there was met with the sort of reaction I might expect if I’d just suggested installing an electric fence in the kids bedroom.

However a more considered read of the regs, and the point in (iii) above gave me the get out of jail free card I needed, It shows that my idea is in fact quite legal;
522.6.204.jpg


I just can’t slap a bit of twin & earth in there and hope the fixing nails miss it. I have to ensure the cable has mechanical protection as per 522.6.204 (iv), or has a metallic covering that cause the supply to disconnect if someone drives a nail or screw through it (i). Ironically this is exactly the protection afforded by the very same BS5467 or BS6724 Steel Wire Armoured cable that's used for EV chargers anyway...

I reconfirmed the idea with some electrically minded colleagues of mine who are a little more up to date than I am with my faded 16th edition certificate c1993. Verdict? Yes, that’s just fine...

To work then? Not just yet. Hiding the cable ‘behind’ the skirting board is going to work, avoid damage to wallpapered surfaces and new floors, but it will be messy. I will need a 20mm deep channel in the full length of the wall, which will result in bits of plaster all over the place, lots of dust and debris, and if not divorce then at least a night on the sofa.

So, What if I could hide the cable, or cables ‘in’ the skirting board?

A quick google, and within about 20 minutes I had the answer on order. A company in the Midlands could cut me a new skirting board, profiled and sized to exactly match the boards I already have, primed and painted in a finish far superior to anything I can manage, with the addition of a rebate cut into the back 40mm high and 19mm deep. Bingo, this job just went from a certified pain in the backside to an afternoons minor bit of drilling.
skirting.JPG




A week after ordering my new skirting board arrived, primed, painted and packaged so that it could survive just about anything, and complete with a can of touch up paint, So one afternoon I removed the existing skirtings, drilled holes through to the cupboard and the outside world, pulled the cables in from outside to the consumer unit, and installed my new skirting board. A quick hoover and a bit of a mop up and the place was spick and span by the time my wife got home.


There’s now two 3-core SWA cables ready for connection., one for general light and power purposes, and the other a 10mm2 cable for the charger unit. It might be overkill in terms of number of cores and sizing, but it does mean it’s future proof and I don't need to do it again.


In another stroke of luck, I also managed to drive a 4ft earth post into ground filled with the debris and hardcore of 250 years of industrial use on only the 34th or 35th attempt. The flower bed looks like Swiss cheese as a result though, so a night on the sofa may only have been delayed rather than entirely avoided...

If it sounds like this might be useful to you, i bought the matching piece of skirting from www.skirting4u.co.uk
 

adsheff

Member
Sep 9, 2019
246
215
UK
I had to run a cable through the house from front to back. Managed to run a bit of it under the stairs, which are usually hollow in a modern house. Then I ran it on top of the skirting board - using 'D-Line' trunking. If fitted carefully it just looks like it's part of the skirting board. Very please with the results. Picture attached.
NB, this has 10mm twin and earth in it, so it can't go round corners inside the D-Line, but in a straight line looks great.
 

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pgkevet

Active Member
Jul 1, 2019
1,154
1,007
mid wales
Many moons ago I designed my clinic to have easy additions and rewirings.. At that time it was possible to buy conduit architrave and skirting and some smart conduit at waist height - all with 3-channels to separate power, phone and data. It still looks modern and fancy some 28yrs later but so it should at £25/meter at the time.
 
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arg

Supporting Member
Aug 22, 2012
1,797
1,756
Cambridge, UK
matching piece of skirting from www.skirting4u.co.uk

This is a great find! I know of various skirting trunking systems that can be used, but they are mostly a bit industrial and won't match existing skirting.

Steel Wire Armoured cable that's used for EV chargers anyway...

SWA is obviously a good choice, but in point of fact many (most?) domestic EV charging installs don't use it, preferring to save a few pennies going for NYY-J which looks similar but isn't armoured.

Not relevant for your job, I just mention it in case other people look at their install and think they've got armoured when they haven't.

It might be overkill in terms of number of cores and sizing,

The 10mm² is mild overkill but does give genuine futureproofing and may eventually pay for itself through lower losses.

3-core SWA on the other hand is a pet peeve of mine, as it's almost never what you want except in very large sizes - 2-core being right for most single phase applications, 4-core for three-phase or two single-phase circuits.
 

Generator

Member
Oct 10, 2019
253
442
London
NYY-J isn’t a favourite of mine. It looks like SWA, costs the same as SWA, but lacks the protection. The lack of metallic outer covering means it can’t be used in skirting board this in this way. And it will need additional mechanical protection at various points along the run in the garden.

As for 3 core SWA, ordinarily I’d agree with you, but in this case there was very compelling reason for its use. It was free. ;)
 

arg

Supporting Member
Aug 22, 2012
1,797
1,756
Cambridge, UK
NYY-J isn’t a favourite of mine. It looks like SWA, costs the same as SWA, but lacks the protection. The lack of metallic outer covering means it can’t be used in skirting board this in this way. And it will need additional mechanical protection at various points along the run in the garden.

Absolutely agreed - I only mentioned it because a lot of installs use it and some people think they have SWA when they don't. As you say the cost saving is trivial; possibly the installers just can't be bothered with making off the armour.

As for 3 core SWA, ordinarily I’d agree with you, but in this case there was very compelling reason for its use. It was free. ;)

Fair enough!
 
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Generator

Member
Oct 10, 2019
253
442
London
One suggestion for the next time - raise the channel in the skirting a few cm above floor level. Helps conduit stay high & dry if plumbing mishap covers the floor with water.

The cable is rated for direct burial in the ground, so water there isn’t going to worry it. The “conduit” though is the MDF Skirting board, it’s always going to be touching the floor so if there’s a plumbing mishap it’s going to get wet regardless of where the channel is cut. Whether it survives such immersion is a question of luck, but I have a feeling that a few £’s worth of skirting board might be the least of my concerns if such a mishap occurs!
 

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