RESIDENTIAL MATERIALS Apprentice Electricians Should Know

If you’re about to get into the residential electrical career path, there are some materials you should become accustomed to. The better you understand what we work with the easier you’ll know the jargon we use, and what we’re talking about.

Romex (NM Cable)

electrical type nm wire Romex

Romex is a brand name that is widely used to describe Type NM cable used in most residential wiring applications. It can be several different colors, usually denoting it’s conductor size inside the sheathing. 12AWG conductors have a yellow outer sheath, whereas 14AWG are white and 10AWG are orange.

Wire Staples

electrical wire staples

There are many different variations and sizes of wire staples on the market. Some have a plastic protector on the top, some are 5/8″ wide, others are 1 1/2″ wide. Each has a listing for what its use is for, as well as how many conductors can be installed under a single staple.

Nail-on Outlet Box

electrical nail on boxes

Nail-on boxes are used to mount wiring devices such as switches and receptacles. We bring cables into the boxes and wire them to the devices. These boxes are used in new construction environments where the walls are open, and no drywall is hung yet. The standard sizes for these boxes are 1-gang, 2-gang, 3-gang, and 4-gang.

Pop-in Outlet Box

electrical pop in boxes

Pop-in boxes are similar to nail-on boxes however pop-ins are used when there is already drywall hung and we just need to add a device to an already finished wall. The standard sizes for these boxes are 1-gang, 2-gang, 3-gang, and 4-gang.

Round Nail-on box

round nail on electrical box

Round nail-on boxes are used in new construction environments to mount light fixtures to. These are nailed to wooden studs then wired to from switches in most cases.

Round Pop-in Box

electrical round pop-in outlet boxes

Round pop-ins are used when there is drywall up on the walls and lights are to be installed without access to any of the wood framing. The blue one on the left is a 3″ round box and the black one on the right is a 4″ version.


electrical pancake outlet box

Pancakes are used to hang lights, just like a round nail-on box, however, sometimes the layout of lighting ends up with a light right where a ceiling trust or wall stud is. Using a standard deep box won’t work because there is wood in the way, so these pancakes allow us to screw something right t other wood and still bring wires into and hang a light fixture from.

Fan-Rated Pancake (Fancake)

electrical fancake - fan rated pancake

Fan-rated pancakes are used for similar reasons as the pancake mentioned above, however, these “fancakes” are heavier duty and rated to hang a ceiling fan from. Ceiling fans move quite a bit if they’re not securely supported, plus they’re heavier, so standard pancake ears may bend over time and cause the fan to fall out of the ceiling. Using a fan-rated pancake is essential when suspending ceiling fans when there’s a ceiling truss in the way.

Fan Brace

electrical fan brace

Fan braces are the most commonly used method of hanging ceiling fans and heavy chandeliers. They have heavier ratings and metal threading so a bolt will hold on to the metal, rather than non-threaded holes like a plastic box has. Due to the increased weight of some fans and chandeliers, the machine screws or bolts may slip out if the fixture is too heavy. Fan braces are secured side-to-side within a ceiling chase.

Bar Hanger

electrical light outlet bar hanger

A bar hanger is a lighter version of a fan brace, so rather than it being rated to hang a fan from it is rated for hanging light fixtures up to a certain weight. The weight limit may differ with brands, as will the volume of the inside of the box. These are used a lot in walls to hang sconces from as well.

Duplex Receptacle

electrical duplex receptacle

Single Receptacle

electrical single receptacle

GFCI Receptacle

electrical GFCI receptacle

Single-pole Switch

electrical single pole switch

Three-way Switch

electrical three way switch

Circuit Breaker

electrical circuit breaker

AFCI Breaker

electrical AFCI CAFCI circuit breaker

Carflex (Flexible Nonmetallic Conduit)

electrical carflex - flexible nonmetallic conduit

Carflex Connector

electrical carflex connectors

AC Disconnect

electrical AC disconnect

Bell Box

electrical bell box

In-use Cover

electrical in-use cover - bubble cover

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