Allen Gallant's Choices

OUTLET BOXES: PLASTIC OR METAL?
When given a choice between installing outlet boxes made of blue PVC or those made of steel, Allen Gallant chooses plastic. "People say metal is so durable. But so is plastic—it'll be around forever—and it's about 70 percent cheaper." Plastic boxes also save installation time because there's no need to ground each one, as must be done with metal. (Local code has the last word, however; in some communities, plastic boxes are forbidden.) Gallant does use metal boxes for one application: light fixtures. He learned that rule the hard way, when a heavy alabaster fixture broke loose from a plastic box and smashed to pieces on the floor. "Never again," he says.

GOING BEYOND CODE
Allen Gallant's extras

  • Receptacles: Massachusetts requires electrical outlets every 12 feet; Gallant puts one every 8 feet. "Not a big deal on the budget, but it's a lot more convenient."
  • Security lights: For added safety, Gallant mounts exterior floodlights controlled by a switch in the master bedroom.
  • Light fixtures: Gallant always hard-wires at least one light fixture to a switch. If the switch just controls the receptacle that a lamp is plugged into, "sooner or later someone turns off the lamp, and then the switch won't work," he says. "It's a pain.
  • Outdoor receptacles: The code mandates two (with GFCI); Gallant installs at least three, in front and in back.


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