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In housing construction, what is the definition of a rough-in?

Rough In means to bring in the various lines (Plumbing pipes, duct work, electrical
conduit) to the space, but not make the final connections. For plumbing, this would be
the pipes in the walls and floors that lead to the sinks, bath, toilets, etc, but not actually
hooking up those fixtures.

The reason this is meaningful term is because there is a back and forth between the
various trades. For example, the carpenter needs to put up the framing to create the
basic structure of the house and to support the utilities. Next the utilities need to be
roughed in. Then the walls, floors and ceilings can be enclosed and finished off, then
the plumber can return and install the fixtures. So it is a jigsaw puzzle and no one can
completely finish all of their work in advance of what the other trades are doing.

Roughing in is also a good stopping point for work. For example, sometimes people add
a wing to their home, and they have enough money to finish the first room, but for the
space above, they leave it simply roughed in until they have the money available,
perhaps several years later.

What does rough in means?

In the home building, the term "rough-in" refers to the stage of construction after the
basic framing is completed and the mechanical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC
installations are completed but before walls and ceilings are closed up with wallboard.
This is the point at which work is reviewed by the building inspector. The absence of
wall and floor coverings allows for easier modification if the rough-in does not pass
inspection or if the homeowner makes a change order to alter the project.

Types of Rough-In

For inspection purposes, each type of machine has its own definition of the rough-in:

 Electrical: A rough-in here means that all electrical cables have been pulled
through studs and other framing members and are inserted into wall and ceiling
boxes. But the light switches, outlets, lights, and other devices are not attached—
inspection of that aspect of the work occurs during the final inspection.

 Plumbing: The rough-in here means that all water supply and drain pipes have
been run through bored holes in the studs and other framing members and that
all pipe connections have been made. But no sinks, faucets, or other fixtures and
end elements are yet installed at this phase.
How the Rough-In Fits In the Permitting Process

Roughing-in should be completed before the first visit from a building, electrical, or
plumbing inspector. These inspections fit into the typical workflow like this:

1. Wall, floor, and ceiling systems are built and left open. No drywall is installed yet.

2. The electrician comes in and runs an electrical wire from the service panel to
various endpoints, such as outlet receptacles and light switches. Within each
box, the wire is left bare-ended and unattached.

3. Around the same time, the plumber comes in and runs supply and drain pipes
through studs and under floors to kitchen and bathroom sinks, showers,
bathtubs, laundry rooms, etc.

4. Inspectors make the first visit and approve or fail the work.

5. Drywall installers come in to hang and finish the drywall.

6. Electrician, plumber, and other tradespeople return and install the end-point
devices, such as outlets, lights, and light switches for the electrician, and sinks,
showers, and bathtubs for the plumber.

7. Inspectors make a second visit.

8. The building permit is approved ("finaled") or not. If the permit is not approved
based on problems with the installation, the work must be corrected. The
inspectors will return until work is completed to their satisfaction.

Expectations for the Rough-In

Building trade professionals all approach the rough-in with the expectation that the
installation is final, not a work-in-progress. The same should be true for any homeowner
performing his or her own remodeling work. The rough-in should be your best effort,
work done exactly to specification. However, if an inspector should order a modification,
or if a homeowner client demands a change, the fact that the work remains accessible
will make it easier for those changes to be made.
Circuit Testers

You need to have a voltage tester of some type for electrical work, and one that you
trust is working properly! This can be anything from a $2 neon voltage check, to a
$2000 digital multi-meter, or anything in between. The important thing is to ensure that
it is working so you can verify that you have the power off on any circuit you may be
working with. Check it on a known live source before trusting it to determine if your
circuit is dead

A basic set of screwdrivers should include the 3 main types of screwdriver heads.

1. The Standard blade tip

2. The Phillips tip
3. The recessed square shank or Robertson tip

You need at least two sizes of each, but a full set would include:

1. Standard blade
a) 3/16″ Cabinet Tip 4″shaft
b) 3/16″ Cabinet Tip 6″shaft
c) 1/4″ Keystone Tip 4″shaft
d) 5/16″ Keystone Tip 6″shaft
2. Phillips Tip
a) #1 Phillips Tip 4″shaft
b) #2 Phillips Tip 4″shaft
c) #3 Phillips Tip 6″shaft
3. Square Recess Tip (Robertson)
a) #0 yellow 4″shaft
b) #1 green 4″shaft
c) #2 red 4″shaft
d) #3 black 4″shaft

The square recess screwdriver system is used extensively in Canada, but not so much
in the U.S.A. In the opinion of anyone who has used them, they are a superior system
to the Phillips tip, but for reasons that involve some patent dispute or disagreement,
they are not common in the States. They work on most combination head receptacles,
switches, and panel screws.

Cordless Screwdriver/Drill
If you are going to take on any project beyond the most basic of jobs, such as, for
example, changing out an individual receptacle or switch, you should have a good
cordless drill and driver tool, along with a complete set of screwdriver bits and drill
bits. This will save you a lot of time and when used properly, a power driver can be
used in place of a screwdriver for most jobs.

I recommend purchasing a driver and drill instead of a basic cordless screwdriver as the
quality is usually better, and one tool will perform both functions. Get the best quality
you can afford, and make sure it has a 1/2″drive, and that is has sufficient power to drill
a 1″ hole using an auger bit.

If you will be using it a lot as a screwdriver, then give some consideration to the weight
and size when selecting the tool.

Electric Drill

For larger projects, with a lot of drilling required (wood studs, etc.), then an electric drill
is more practical. A 1/2″ medium duty drill is a minimum for driving a wood auger bit.


You will need to have a good knife, and I prefer a standard utility knife for stripping the
PVC jacket from Romex, stripping large gauge wire, and for many other jobs as well.

Wire Strippers

Have a good quality wire stripper. I prefer a T-Stripper with a wire cutter, light-duty plier
nose, and holes for bending termination loops on wires for most home electrical
work. A combination crimper, cutter, stripper, bolt cutter and more, like those found in
automotive electrical repair kits can be very handy as well, but the multi-purpose aspect
means that the wire stripping function is compromised.
A mechanical wire stripper does a really good job, especially for commercial or
industrial applications, but is not really necessary for the novice DIYér.

Lineman’s Plier

A lineman’s plier, or a bull nose plier with a wire cutter, and at least 8″or 9″ handles is
also an essential part of the electrical tool list. We use these for cutting, bending,
twisting wires, etc.

Standard, Long-Nosed Pliers

Also known as needle-nosed pliers. These tools are also very handy to have as a part
of your electrical tool kit. They should have wire cutting knives as well.

Diagonal Pliers

Also known as side-cutters. A standard duty diagonal plier should also be a part of your

Have a good quality, 16oz. claw hammer. You will need this for driving staples, nails,

Nut Drivers

A good set of nut drivers is not essential, but come in very handy for certain jobs where
a wrench or a socket set isn’t practical.

Tape Measure

Have a good quality, locking tape measure and a 25’length, 1″ blade is maybe over-kill,
but will come in handy for other projects around the home.


A 6″ plastic torpedo level is essential for levelling outlet boxes, cover plates, wall
fixtures, etc. A plastic level is less likely to leave marks.

Always check to make sure the level is indeed “level”. Before purchasing, check on a
flat surface and note the position of the bubble, even if not quite at center. Then flip the
level end for end in the exact same location and see if the bubble is in the same
spot. You would be surprised how many you will find that don’t pass this
test. Especially in the lower quality price range.

Crescent wrench

Have one or two sizes of crescent wrenches in your kit.

Pump Pliers

Very handy, and essential if you are working with conduit, such as EMT, flexible
conduit, or teck cable.

Pipe Wrench

Essential if working with conduit, especially rigid or EMT conduit.

Electrical Tape

Every electrical tool kit should have at least a roll of black electrical tape, and having a
few colours like red and blue helps as well for identifying wires, etc.

Duct Tape

Every tool kit, electrical or otherwise, must have the universal repair tool that is a roll of
duct tape!
A Tool Pouch

Not essential, but unless you have big baggy pockets, this is a very handy thing to have,
especially if you will be working off ladders, or your work area is spread out. This can
save you a lot of trips by having the essential tools strapped onto your body.

Tool Box or Chest

You need something, even if it’s just a big pail, to keep everything together, and to have
a place to put all your tools away. It’s nice to have a good tool box with many
compartments to help you keep organized.

Ladders and Step Stools

They won’t fit in your toolbox, but you will need the appropriate size for the height you
will be working at.
Notebook or Notepad

Great idea to have a notepad in your toolbox to make diagrams, to take notes or
reminders of how things were before disconnecting them, etc.

Pen, Pencil, Felt Pens, etc.

For obvious reasons.


No matter how careful you are, accidents happen. Just do all you can to protect
yourself and to minimize the potential for injury. Have a first aid kit handy, just in case!

Keyhole saw

Great for cutting out openings for outlet boxes in drywall, panelboard, etc.


Critical if working with EMT conduit, flex, etc. If cutting a lot of metal, then an electric
reciprocating saw will save you time.

Power Saw or Skill Saw

For cutting studs, blocking and reinforcing boxes, etc.

Wood Chisel

Many uses when working with wood construction.

Conduit Bender
If working with conduit, you will need a hickey bender or any bending tool designed for
the conduit you are working with.

Fish Tape, and/or Fishing Tools

A fish tape is very handy, and essential if working with conduit. A fish tape or fishing
tools are required if you are installing electrical in existing walls or ceilings and are
trying to minimize the damage you may cause by cutting as few access holes as


For when you need some extra light for dark places, or when the power is off while
working on existing systems.

I have given you a list of many electrical tools and equipment here that you may need;
some are absolutely essential, and some that will not be required or are just nice to
have, depending on the complexity of the job at hand. There are many more electrical
tools available, and lots of gadgets that are designed to make the job easier. Some
work well, some not.

I will be adding more articles taking a closer look at some of the electrical tools and
equipment listed here in the near future. Plus, watch for my upcoming video where I
“showcase” my personal toolbox and its contents.

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