The two light locations were centered between the nearest two toof rafters at the 1/4 points of the ridge rafter.
My Little Giant X-Treme ladder arrived and I began running the conduit & installing the boxes. I put the two exterior junction boxes for the light fixtures at approximately the 1/4 points along the underside of the ridge rafter. I say approximately, because I found the actual 1/4 point and then adjusted the location so the boxes were each centered between the closest two roof rafters. I added some pressure treated blocking to increase the width of the ridge rafter from 1 1/2” to 4 1/2” (3.75-11 cm) in the two locations where the boxes would go. The weatherproof boxes I used were the more attractive of the two types of exterior boxes. One type of exterior box is very clean looking with smooth surfaces on each side. The screw in plugs to seal off unused holes finish out flush with the surface of the box. The other type of box is also weatherproof but really aren’t very clean looking. I guess this second style of box is intended for installations where the box is somehow outside, but not visible. This was one of the reasons I was glad I did the work for myself, because I could select all of the fittings. Once the two boxes were installed, I ran the first piece of LFMT between the two light fixture boxes. This was an easy run: Straight with two small 3/4” (2 cm) offsets to get the conduit from the center of the box to the surface of the ridge beam. With hard EMT conduit this would have involved two bends with the conduit bender at each end of the conduit. With the LFMT I just had to allow for a little extra length to accommodate the bends in the conduit. The LFMT uses plastic gasketed connectors at the box. They screw into the box and the LFMT slips over a slide on friction fitting for the LFMT. Once I measured and cut the piece it was quick work to connect the conduit to the two boxes and clamp it in place.
The first run from the light fixture to the gable end rafter was straight and then curved to get up into the hidden space at the top & in between the two gable end rafters.
The next step was to run the LFMT down to my switch location on one of the rear posts. This was where the ease of use of the flexible LFMT vs. the hard EMT really stood out. First of all EMT comes in discrete lengths of pipe, whereas I had a 50’ (15.25 m) roll of the LFMT. I would have had to try to measure and prebend the pieces where the ridge beam met the rafters and again where the rafters met the lower beams and post at the corner. It is possible I would have had to have done these pieces as two pieces. This might have been due to my lack of skill doing funky bends or the condition making it impossible to pass a single piece through where the change of direction occurred. I might have needed to make two pieces and join them in the middle. Joining two pieces of conduit in an area that is minimally accessible would not have been fun. This also points out that I would have had several other intermediate joints to deal with using hard EMT. This is because the length of the run at the rafters was longer than the EMT pipe sections. Also it might have proved to be impossible to get one piece of pipe into the space where it was running. EMT would have worked equally well if the hard conduit was run during the construction. Running the LFMT was a breeze. I started feeding the pipe down into the ridge beam/roof rafter intersection. Rather than bore a hole in the vertical post at this point I simply wrapped around it. I did the same thing where the roof rafters came down around the corner post. Rather than trying to bore several large holes in tight quarters, I bent the LFMT so it went into the corner at the horizontal 2x6 beams and offset it onto the corner posts. I never would have wanted to try running it this way with hard pipe. With LFMT it was quite easy. Of the time I spent making this run from the first light to the switch, I think I spent more of the time moving the ladder and setting up in 3 different locations, than I spent positioning the LFMT.
The run from the low end of the gable end rafter down the corner post to the switch.
The next step was to run the wiring. I was a bit worried about the long run from the first lamp down to the switch due to bends involved. To make a run like this you use a tool called a fish tape. It is essentially a flat piece of wire coiled onto a spool. Similar in concept to a 50 or 100’ (15.25-30.5) m) tape measure where you manually reel the tape back in when you are done. The fish tape is pushed through the conduit until it reaches the other end. Once it reaches the other end you either attach the actual wires to it, or if space is tight you attach a pull string to it. Then you reel the fish tape back in which pulls the wires or the pull string through the conduit. If quarters are tight or you have more extreme bands you use a pull string in lieu of the wires. When you have the pull string back out at the other end of the run you tie the wires to it and pull the string back through the conduit. The first run I tried was the short straight run between the two lights. This run was about 5’ (1.5 m) with two 3/4” (2 cm) offsets required at the boxes. I didn’t bother with a pull string, I simply attached the 3 wires to the fish tape and pushed the wires through. This went quickly and easily and made me think I would try skipping the pull string for the long run.
The sun was starting to go down as I attempted the long run from the first light down to the switch. The fish tape and the 3 wires pushed easily into the straight run of conduit from the junction box over to the gable end rafters. When I got to the sweeping bend where the ridge beam met the rafter the fish got stuck. A couple push-pulls on the fish tape and I was past that point. I fed in quite a bit of fish tape and then it hung up again. This would be the sweeping bend in the conduit where the rafter met the post. Several push-pulls and I cleared that point. All that was left now were two offsets from the beam to the post and then to get the conduit centered on the post. I felt resistance rather quickly but got past this point fairly easily. First offset cleared I thought. Then resistance again, this would be the second offset to center the conduit onto the 4x4 post. I was able to get past this point to and I began feeding more fish tape into the LFMT. Then the fish stopped hard, very hard. This felt different and as I looked down at the switch box I didn’t see any wires coming out. I was confused at this point. Perhaps I had miscounted and one of the places I thought I was at a bend was just a place where the tape hung up in a straight run for some reason. It was now getting dark and I couldn’t see the feet marks on the fish tape-black fish tape with etched marks. Black on black in low light...I decided it would wait until morning.
When I went inside I plotted my strategy for the next morning. First I would look at the marks on the fish tape to see how much fish tape was in the conduit. Then I would measure the length of the actual conduit run. This would help me judge where in the run I was hung up. I also rigged up a piece of hard wire and put a hook on one end. I was pretty sure I was hung up somewhere in the vertical run along the post, perhaps at the final offset into the switch box. I would run this wire up into the LFMT and try to snag the wire and fish and pull it the rest of the way out. If this failed I would pull the wires and fish back though and try the run with a pull string. I was a bit frustrated because I felt I was so close. When morning came I went outside bright and early at 6:00. This gave me 3 hours before it was time to start my “day job”. I climbed up on the ladder and measured the conduit run: 15’ (4.5 m) approximately. When I looked on the fish tape, I still couldn’t see the marks. After grabbing a flashlight I found the nearest mark and it was 16’ (5 m). This was strange. I should have been there at this point. I climbed down the ladder and to my dismay and delight I found that the fish tape & wires had indeed made it through. They were "hiding" in the back of the deep box at such an angle that I couldn't see them up on the ladder. The resistance I felt was the fish tape bottoming out on the bottom of the junction box.
A The last step for this phase of the work was to install a combination outlet and switch in the damp location gasketed box with a flip up cover.
The last step was to detach the wires from the end of the fish tape at the switch end of the run and pull the fish tape back through the conduit, free from the wires. When I got the fish tape out of the conduit I cut the three wires about one foot (30 cm) long at the junction box end of the run. I then tied them off so they couldn't accidentally be pulled through the junction box and back into the conduit where I couldn't reach them. I then installed the switch on the post and this phase of the work was complete. I now had to get some light fixtures and hang them. This will be covered in PART 2 of this blog.
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