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Can You Use Romex in Attic? (All You Need to Know)

We have grown heavily dependent on electrical components and appliances in our daily lives so much that we cannot imagine a day without electricity. However, despite the benefits electricity enables us to enjoy – it is much more dangerous if not handled carefully. 

Detailed below is the relevant information about using Romex and handling it safely.

Can you use Romex in the attic?

Running Romex in the attic is very common among most modern homes but there are specific code provisions for attics that have ladder access to it. Special protection is needed for the Romex within 6 feet off the attic scuttle hole. But for inaccessible attics, the code provisions are less strict.

Romex is the commercial name for a type of electrical cable which consists of multiple individual cables covered inside a non-metallic insulating sheath. Romex is commonly used for wiring in residential apartments for lighting and other electric outlet circuits. 

Romex is categorized by National Electrical Code (NEC) and is also commonly known as NM cable or non-metallic sheathed cable.

The preference for Romex wiring in many residential apartments is simply because it is better and safer than the old Knob and Tube wirings. 

Romex has a ground wire in them which makes them safer from risks due to the short circuits and it also has a heat and fire resistant sheath which can withstand high temperatures.

But despite their benefits, they are vulnerable to certain things which could turn the Romex wiring dangerous. One such threat is rodents which might gnaw off the insulated sheathing to expose the live wire. 

Another threat is the sheathing getting punctured by any sharp objects in contact. 

Regardless, Romex can be used in attics with no access to the attic. But if you do have an attic scuttle and permanent ladder access to the attic – the NEC regulations state that the wiring should be at least 6 feet away from the scuttle hole and be protected.

Three reasons why you can run Romex in the attic

Wiring can be a complicated and messy process and most people want to keep the unsightly mess tucked away in their attic. But is it safe and okay to run Romex in the attic? Find out below:

Not exposed to people:

Electrical wires should be placed in locations that are away from the populace. If the cable is interacted with by humans too much, the insulated sheathing could slowly get damaged and ruptured.

Running Romex in the attic minimizes the chance of human interaction with the wires and so the sheathing remains intact for a long time.

Better wiring organization:

Organizing electrical wiring should meet two criteria: Placing the wire in such a manner that all the outlets are wired with the minimum length of wire used and not making the wiring too visible to others.

Running Romex in the attic provides sufficient room for better organization of the wire as well as staying away from the sights of other people.

Less likely to cause harm:

Running Romex in the attic would reduce the chances of people coming in contact with the wires. Thus, even if the insulating sheath has been ruptured and live wire exposed – it would pose no immediate threat to anyone.

But if your attic happens to be accessible, there is still a chance of someone getting hurt. This is why there are specific code provisions by the NEC to keep the wiring 6 feet away from the scuttle hole of an accessible attic.

How should Romex be supported in an attic? Does Romex need to be stapled in the attic?

To support the Romex in place, you can staple the cable at intervals with a minimum distance of 6 feet from the perimeter of the scuttle hole. Other ways of supporting Romex are boring it through joists or using guard strips. 

Whatever support you use – in all cases, Romex should be supported at least every 48 inches. If your attic doesn’t have ladder access, you just need to keep Romex 6 feet away from the scuttle hole.

But with ladder access, the Romex must be supported the same way but within 7ft of the floor. Whatever the case may be, the Romex has to be placed in such a way that a 1.25-inch nail coming from outside the attic space is not in contact with the cable. 

You can also choose to combine different support methods such as boring though joists as well as stapling.

Does electrical Romex wire in the attic need to be in conduit?

Conduits are non-metallic insulating tubing that is used to protect electrical cables and are commonly used in places where cables are exposed in human proximity such as cables on the walls of a residential house.

But apart from that, if you run Romex in the attic, they do not need conduits and can be kept exposed. However, you should cross-check with your local electrical laws to see if conduits are required in your area. 

Although it is not necessary, you can enclose the Romex in conduit if you want to ensure additional protection.

In fact, if you choose to put the Romex wire in conduit – you will not only protect it from physical damage but also ensure that it won’t be harmed by rodents. This is why the NEC recommends using conduits to protect Romex wires in the attic.

How to run Romex in the attic?

Installing wiring in the attic could be a lengthy and complicated process, but if done correctly – the installation will be completed just fine. Follow the steps below to properly run Romex in your attic:

Drilling hole in joists:

First, you need to drill holes in the center of the studs or joists to allow the Romex to pass through and make sure all the holes are aligned in a perfectly straight line. 

Besides that, make sure the holes are far away from electrical/junction boxes to provide enough room to staple the cable near the box.

Unroll the cables and run them:

Make sure you unroll the cables before running them through the holes so that it does not twist and buckle. 

Directly pulling the cable off the roll into the hole will definitely cause twists – which is why you should unroll at least 10 to 20 feet at a time and then tug it through the holes altogether.

Staple the cable to the joists:

Once the cables are in place, staple the cables within 8 inches of plastic boxes and 12 inches for metal boxes. When the cable runs parallel to studs, joists, or rafters – press the Romex to keep it flat and straight, and then staple the cable every 48 inches or 4 feet.

Finishing touches:

If there are multiple cables running through the joists, you can use stackers to neatly organize all the cables and also prevent the cables from overheating by letting some air pass between them. 

In addition, code provision requires you to place nail plates when the cable is within one and a quarter inches of the joist’s edge. 

How to splice Romex in the attic?

Splicing Romex is quite an easy task if you proceed with caution and perform each step accordingly. The first thing you have to do is turn off the power of the Romex you want to splice with. 

Next, you need to make sure both the wires are of the same type and gage and then pry off any staples holding the cable.

Afterward, take a junction box and screw it to an appropriate location where both wires can easily reach. Then place a conduit connector over the junction’s holes and pass the wires through them

Finally, cut off the Romex sheath and use a wire stripper to strip one inch off the individual wires. And lastly, connect the corresponding wires to each other using a push connector and screw the lid of the junction box when done.

What kind of wire should I use in my attic?

Wiring in the attic is mostly done by Romex if they are allowed in your area. But within the Romex, there are different gages of wires that you should consider before getting them.

12 gage Romex cable:

Using the correct gage cable is important to make sure that the guge of the Romex corresponds with the ampere rating of the circuitry. 20 amp circuit requires 12 gage Romex cables.

14 gage Romex cable:

Whereas a 12 gage wire would not work with a 15 amp circuit. Instead, a 14 gage Romex cable has to be used.

Final Thoughts

Most modern homes have Romex running in the attic, however, there are special code restrictions for attics with ladder access. The Romex within 6 feet of the attic scuttle hole requires special protection. The code provisions for inaccessible attics though are less strict.