Can Romex Be Exposed In The Garage?

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf
Romex was among the most common type of residential electrical wires, and you’ll commonly find them in garages. It is not safe to leave Romex exposed in your garage because it can pose major safety risks, including a fire hazard. Whether it be the safety measures or proper protocol, let’s take a look at how you can safely run Romex through studs in your garage and cover them up.

Electrical wiring is not only for the main areas of the house anymore. Modern homes may see electrical wiring throughout the property, running into sheds, garages, and even patios or decks. It only makes sense with the prevalence of flat-screen televisions as they can be placed just about anywhere with a simple electrical connection.

Romex is a type of conductor that has non-metal sheathing. Under no circumstances should you leave it exposed. They should be run through studs, on top of joists or trusses, and secured every six feet or so as well as within 12 inches of any fixtures. This is according to most electrical standards.

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What is Romex?

Romex is the name of a specific type of electrical conductor. This conductor has a non-metallic sheathing that is generally found in branch wiring residential jobs. It is also categorized as an underground feeder by the National Electrical Code.

Non-metallic sheathed conductors have at least two, if not more, insulated conductors that reside within the non-metallic sheath. The coating is flame-resistant, non-conducting, and moisture resistant. This allows them to be used in cooler, damper areas like a basement.

NEC Regulations on Romex

The National Electrical Code has a few regulations that apply specifically to Romex conductors. The first is that they aren’t allowed in any residential construction that is larger than 3 stories and they aren’t allowed in commercial construction at all.

NEC regulations dictate that Romex has to be secured, clamped, and protected to junction boxes, device boxes, and fixtures. Also, any support devices that could potentially damage the cables – think overdriven staples or bent nails – aren’t allowed.

These types of cables should be secured within 12 inches of panels and junction boxes that they’re attached to and shouldn’t have more than 4.5 feet between secured areas. This is because the cables can sag and are far more vulnerable to potential damage.

Lastly, Romex conductors are intended to be permanent wiring for residential structures. They are definitely not meant to be used as a substitute for extension cords or appliance wiring.

Advantages of Using Romex (NM) Wiring

Do-it-yourselfers turn to Romex and other non-metallic wiring for their do-it-yourself projects. While there are other effective alternatives to use depending on the setting and scenario, Romex has become a go-to option for self-starters. Here are just a few of the reasons why they make Romex their choice.

Romex is Lighter

Ease of use and handling is important, especially when it comes to wiring. The stiffer and tougher a wiring is to handle, the more skill and work that goes into the entire endeavor. Non-metallic sheathed wiring is generally a lot lighter than metallic sheathed wiring. This makes it far easier to handle, something that is important for relatively inexperienced do-it-yourself types taking on an unfamiliar project.

Romex is Easier to Handle

One of the biggest problems that can plague wiring of any kind is handling it. Wiring comes spooled, which can lead to difficulties straightening and unspooling depending on the type of wiring involved.

Romex is very easy to unspool and straightens out without much of an issue. This is because the PVC sheathing is pliable, allowing for greater flexibility. It also means that you’re likely to avoid some of the kinking that can plague electrical wiring, damaging it and rendering it ineffective.

Romex is Easier to Pull

The smooth sheathing of Romex wiring makes it far easier to pull through the holes in studs. Other types of wiring can jam up or become stuck, leading to not only frustration but damaging of the wire as well. For amateurs taking on a job for the first time, all the little things can really make things difference one way or the other.

Romex is specifically created to be easier to pull. A special coating is added to make the non-metallic sheathing a bit more slippery, allowing for easier passage through those holes.

Romex is Easier to Cut and Rip

Some of the thicker wiring out there can be a bit difficult to cut effectively. To cut non-metallic sheathed cable like Romex, all you need is a set of side-cutting pliers. You can probably even get away with using a wire snipper to trim down the smaller gauges of Romex wiring. This can be important in the middle of a job.

Not only is Romex easier to cut, but it is also easier to rip on the fly. This is because the sheathing is made of plastic, not metal. A ripping tool might make the job a bit easier, but you should be able to cut it using a utility knife and simply rip it by hand. Ripping the wire at a moments notice means less need to stop to find the appropriate tool for the job.

Easier to Attach

One of the biggest advantages of Romex non-metallic sheathed wire is that it is much easier to attach to framing members. All that you need to properly attach Romex is some lightweight plastic cable staples. That helps to save time and money that would be otherwise spent securing the wiring.

Downsides of Romex

The only real downside of Romex is that it can only be used in certain situations and there are areas of the property where they can’t be used at all. Additionally, they cannot be used for commercial projects, either.

Non-metallic sheathed cable can’t be used outdoors unless it is the aforementioned UF-type cable. UF cable is rated to be used for direct burial underground. Non-metallic sheathed wiring is also not usable when the wiring is exposed along the foundation walls face. Electrical codes will call for specific conduit installations in this instance.

Can Romex Touch Insulation?

For garages where insulation has been installed to provide greater temperature regulation, there may be questions about whether the Romex wiring can touch the insulation. The answer is that, yes, it can touch the insulation and you don’t need to turn the power off.

Keep in mind, however, that if the sheathing is damaged and the insulation is, too, you probably should stay away from letting them touch.

How Long Does Romex Last?

Romex’s durability and longevity are one of its calling cards. Romex installed today is estimated to be able to last for at least 400 years. Electricians can install Romex and expect several generations after to have no need for replacing it. Even on the low end of the spectrum, Romex can last for well over 100 years.

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Romex is a Brand

Typical non-metallic sheathed wiring is referred to as Romex much the same as tissues are referred to as Kleenex. Romex is simply the most closely associated brand for this type of non-metallic sheathed wiring.

It is the most widely used type of non-metallic sheathed wiring in the industry, used by most electricians as well as most consumers. So, when you refer to non-metallic sheathed wiring as Romex wiring, you are simply calling it by the brand name and not the actual type of wiring that it is.

In a fun little note, the name comes from Rom Cable Corp. from Rome, New York. They have since filed for bankruptcy and the factory was largely demolished a decade ago.

Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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