Can you run exposed NM-cable (Romex) in a garage?
Thursday, February 13, 2020
Exposed NM, NMC and NMS cable are allowed to be run in “one- and two-family dwellings, their attached or detached garages, and their storage buildings” by the National Electrical Code (NEC 334.10 and 334.15). It must “closely follow the surface of the building finish or of running boards” per NEC 334.15(A), and “closely follow the surface” means well secured flush to the wall. But the catch is that the code also specifies at 334.12(B) that “cable shall be protected from physical damage where necessary” and lists several types of conduit that are approved for protection.
Unfortunately, the NEC does not define what areas are “where necessary." Many building inspectors define it was any surface mounted cable below 7’-0” above the floor, but it is subject to different interpretations. We call out unprotected NM-cable below seven feet pretty often in older homes. The photo above is a classic example of how not do it: below 7”-0” and poorly secured.
In garages with exposed wood studs, cable is considered protected when run through bored holes between the studs, but not acceptacle when run along the front face of the studs.
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