How to Wire an Outdoor Shed - Part 1

Wood shed nestled into the landscape around it
What You'll Need
1-inch electrical conduit
1-inch conduit couplers
1-inch male conduit connectors
1-inch conduit elbows
Trench digger
Underground UF cable, #4 or #6
Electrical lubricant
Wire strippers
Junction boxes
Electrician’s drill
Wire cutters
Romex wire, 6-gauge, 12-gauge, 14-gauge
Romex staples
Plastic outlet boxes
GFCI outlets
Outlet covers
Electrical breakers

An outdoor shed can be a great addition to any property. It can serve as a workshop, a place to relax, a gardening center, somewhere to indulge your hobby, or a hideaway. Your outdoor shed can be tiny or offer ample space for your needs. Having built the shed, you need to run electricity to it in order to make full use of it. That’s a big task, but certainly not an impossible one, although you do need experience in working with electricity.

Step 1 - Prepare

The first thing you need to establish is just how much power you need in your outdoor shed. What will you be running in there? Will it be a workshop with tools? Will it be a recording studio? Or will you just be running the lights and perhaps a heater? This all affects what you run to the shed.

Generally you should put in a subpanel, as this will allow you to run numerous items. Depending on the distance to the shed you could experience a voltage drop. If the shed isn’t near the house, plan on using a larger gauge wire, up to a #6-2. you need to calculate the amperage of the items you’re likely to use in the outdoor shed and increase it by 50 percent. This will be the load for your subpanel.

Step 2 - Code

building permit paperwork

Before you do anything, you need to check the local building codes regarding electricity to your outdoor shed. The best, most secure way to run electricity from your house to the shed is underground. This means you’ll need to dig a trench and run the wire, protected in a conduit, along it.

Determine the best route through the yard. You want to go from a place closest to the service panel in your house to the shed. Mark the lines across the ground with fluorescent spray paint across the yard. Next, call the utility companies. They will check where you’re planning to dig and inform you if there are any cables or pipes where you plan to make your trench.

Step 3 - Dig

a trench dug in a yard

If there are no problems, you’re ready to dig your trench. It doesn’t need to be very wide, only enough to take the conduit. It should be about 24 inches deep. You can dig it by hand, which will be a lengthy process, or you can rent a trench digger, which will speed everything up. Use your shovel to keep the sides straight. Measure the depth as you will need to be below the frost line. In most places, 24 inches will be an adequate depth. If you have any doubts, consult with your local building inspector.