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Wiring An Outdoor Pavilion

March 23, 2022
Timber frame pavilion with a with outdoor entertainment area

Wiring an outdoor pavilion or structure can be challenging and we are often asked how it can be done. Timber frame pavilion owners like to enjoy their pavilions after dark, some wanting ceiling fans or other fixtures. Equally important, electrical outlets are also appreciated. The challenge in providing electrical service in an open structure is one of safely hiding the wiring. Over the years we have developed several effective techniques to meet this challenge.

Our wiring goals are:
  • providing safe wiring techniques
  • to meet our client's wiring requests
  • making the electrician's task straightforward and efficient
  • to make the wiring disappear
How we do it

Our first step is placing on paper all of the fixtures our client wants. We offer placement suggestions that avoid wooden joints and that enhance lighting effects. With our client's approval, we determine the best routes and techniques to use for wiring an outdoor pavilion. Our shop drawings include channels or chases for wiring and pockets for electrical boxes for lighting, fans, switches, and outlets. These channels are created on the top of roof timbers in which wiring is run once the timber frame is raised and before the roof decking is installed. Ceiling boxes for lights and fans are inset flush into the bottom side of timbers and installed by us to make the electrician's job straightforward.

Timber frame bent construction drawings showing the electrical chases called out on them.
challEnges we face

Timber frame posts present their own challenges. For instance, posts that sit against a conventional wall are useful for wiring that does not show in the completed structure. Often, however, all faces of all posts are visible which requires us to be more creative.

We have invented the use of a two-step channel for wiring an outdoor pavilion. The first channel is deeper and narrower than the second and will contain the wiring. The second channel is wider and more shallow and is cut directly over the first. Once the timber frame is raised the electrician runs the wiring in the deeper channel. With the wiring in place, the local contractor installs a fillet strip provided by us of the same material as the timber frame over the deeper channel with wiring inside. Typically the fillet strip, which sits flush with the surface of the post is screwed in place so that it could be removed later should additional wiring be desired.

As the accompanying photographs show, once the timber frame is complete, the wiring is invisible. While we can not claim that it's magic, we do hope the result is magical.

Photographs of before and after an electrical chase is done on a timber frame post.
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