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Masonry cinder block switch boxes

22899 Views 17 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  frenchelectrican
Situation is: Architect is building his own house. He is wanting to use cinder blocks for some interior walls. Both sides of the CMU will be the finished surface. He wants all his wiring to be inside the walls and all the switches, receptacles, and lights to be flush mounted in the block wall. Does anyone make a box that can be mounted securely in a cinder block. There will be multi gang switches and receptacles in these walls. I am still not clear as to how I am going to wire this. Also, the cmu walls will be sitting on a poured concrete floor with a basement below. Any help will be greatly appreciated.
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I HATE architects! :censored:
I did a job for an architect a long time ago, recessed lights for custom designed book shelves, the cabinet maker told him the shelves were not sturdy enough. The architect berated the cabinet man, the shelves BROKE when loaded with books. I still get a laugh out of that today 30 years later.

When we did schools the boxes were 1900 (4 square) with extension rings, EMT and mortared in.
Ditto what Brian John said, I've also used a deep masonary box that works well. They make them either solid or gangable.
Masonry boxes are the only way to go. DO NOT attempt to use regular gem boxes.
Masonry boxes have the device ears inside the box, as opposed to outside like gems.
But, regardless of what box I use, what is the best way to cut nice square holes in a cinder block? Especially 3 or 4 gangs which cross the web of the block. The arch. suggested fabricating blocks out of wood, treated 2x6 ends with plywood sides. These would take the place of the cinder block wherever switches or receptacles would go. We could cut regular metal cut-in boxes into the plywood. He would then have stainless steel switch/ rec. covers, the size of a cinder block, cut with a water jet to cover the plywood. My thinking is, it looks good on paper. Not sure how well it will work in the real world. Keep in mind, this is about a 7000 sq. ft. home with lots of specialty lighting. Such as, a wood deck (sitting area) suspended by cables from the ceiling which will have totally exposed lighting on the bottom side to light the kitchen. There will be lots and lots of switches. The more I stress about this job, the more I really don't want to do it. I have a very small company and really don't want to lose the rest of my "regular" GC's because I am tied up all summer + on this job. The only upside is that it would be all T&M.
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OMG I would RUN away from this goon!!!

Is he serious??? Yeah, I want SS switch plates the size of a cinder block!

Why the hell do architects have to OVER do EVERYTHING!
IMO, the arch is trying to build something along the lines of a Frank Lloyd Wright home. Everything in this house is different. He actually wants the majority of his light to come from the floor. The poured concrete floor. He saw a hotel in NY that has some kind of lighting that comes from the floor and reflects off of a overhang built into the wall. The basic design of the house is, 2 nearly identical 2 story structures connected by an atrium. The atrium is to resemble an alley in a big city. Which is where the CMU walls come in. The lighting is to resemble street lighting, and so on. I swear I am not making this up. I wish I were. The original plan had all of his walls being poured concrete with no exposed wiring and the concrete being the finished face of the wall. We axed that plan pretty quick.
My thinking is, it looks good on paper. Not sure how well it will work in the real world.
What more needs to be said? :rolleyes:

I'm not sure this job is for a "very small" company. A bigger company would better be able to spread out to keep the regular customers happy.
I have a friend that operates a small company 2-3 men, he specializes in these off beat custom homes. Takes patience and a lot of thinking, but he gets the BIG bucks and has a waiting list, because of his good reputation.

As for cutting the blocks that's the mason's job, but a angle grinder with a masonary blad or a wet saw (charging him for the purchase) works fine with practice.
Sounds like serious T&M work. These goofy customers frustrate many electricians, but I look at it another way. If the work is going to be T&M, we're making the same money if we're spinning our wheels with some goofy customer request as we are if we're doing more traditional, hard-core wiring. Whatever they want to pay for!

I'd charge T&M plus rates for difficult customers.
I will say. If I were in wiremeup's position, or my own position right now, I would NOT take this job. T&M or not.
If I were able to base my whole scope of work on this type of job, and I do to a certain extent, then I would take all this work I could get.
I am good at this type of thing but if it would interfere with several other jobs and customers I would look closely at how it would negatively affect my company.
This is what I base these jobs on.
I am good at this type of thing but if it would interfere with several other jobs and customers I would look closely at how it would negatively affect my company..
I handle that by pulling off this type of work to do more 'normal' work in between. I almost never arrive on a longer-term job to be dedicated to that job day after day, or even for 8 hours in the same day. I still mix in all the regular work with the longer term work. I find most of these goofy jobs have a great amount of "downtime" waiting for decisions to be made, waiting on other trades (because they're dealing with the same owner), and so fourth. It would be very rare to find me on the same job for more than two days in a row. That's how I juggle...
but if it would interfere with several other jobs and customers
With a small company that is always an important question. I can make good money doing this but it delays other projets and regular service, upsetting regular long term customers. Which in the long run may cost you any money you may have made. I friend once told me you do 80-90% of your work for 10-20% of your customers, keep those 10-20% happy. If you can balance the extra PIA jobs with these regular customers than go for it.
There are several issues I see with this job, some have already been touched upon.

The number one problem I see is, there is an ARCHITECT!!!
The work he wants is very technical and has no real specifics.
Your inexperience may lead you to nonpayment and nothing but headaches.
The work in the block walls takes a full time "brickee", who can read detailed prints and stay with the mason...good luck with changes.
There is usually much in the fact of changes, as there are no specifics to start with.
This job is spelled ONEBIGHEADACHE.

Good luck if you take it. My advice is let some other sucker take the job.
Oh Mon Dieu !!! Architect humm,, Me ?? :eek: ?? really in fact ya better be ready for crazy battle with it.

I been thru with one allready my reply was alot of :censored: { that went both engish and french verison in a mile a min or more :whistling2: }

After that i got wise never get involed with it again unless it have good common sense with bleuprint not goofy stuff at all

Merci , Marc
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