How to Pull Electrical Wire or Cable Through Conduit

Pulling electrical wire and cable through conduit is a common task for electricians and DIYers. Properly running wires through conduit ensures the safety and longevity of electrical systems. This guide will walk through the entire process step-by-step.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Pulling wire and cable through conduit requires:

  • Conduit – EMT, PVC, or other type depending on application. Match conduit size to wire size.
  • Wire or cable – THHN, UF, NM, etc. Match wire size to conduit size.
  • Conduit fittings – Couplings, connectors, elbows, boxes, etc.
  • Fish tape – Steel or fiberglass type to push through conduit.
  • Wire pull lubricant – Reduces friction for easier pulling.
  • Gloves – Protect hands from sharp edges and fish tape.
  • Safety glasses – Prevent eye injuries.
  • Additional tools – Hack saw to cut conduit, wire strippers, volt meter, etc.

Make sure all materials are approved for electrical use and rated for the environment. Check local building codes for any special requirements before starting.

Plan the Wiring Run

Mapping out the wiring run is crucial for a smooth installation. Consider the following:

  • Where will the conduit run start and end? Mark the endpoint locations.
  • What is the total length of the run? Include all vertical and horizontal distances.
  • How many bends will be needed? 90° elbows? 45° offsets?
  • Will any straight conduit sections need to be joined together?
  • What fittings will be required – junction boxes, couplings, connectors, etc.?
  • Are there any obstacles like beams, pipes, or walls in the path?

Having a planned route will prevent getting stuck mid-pull. Also avoid excessive bends which make pulling difficult.

Install Conduit Supports

Conduit must be securely mounted throughout the run. Different methods are used depending on the location:

Walls and Ceilings

  • Use conduit straps or one-hole clamps anchored into wall studs or ceiling joists with screws.
  • Space straps every 4-5 feet maximum horizontally, and up to 10 feet vertically.
  • Use metal conduit straps for EMT or rigid conduit. Use plastic straps for PVC.

Exposed Runs

  • Use conduit hangers suspended from the ceiling or structure above.
  • Space hangers 4-5 feet apart horizontally, and up to 10 feet vertically.
  • Use metal conduit clamps or beam clamps as required.

Proper conduit support spacing maintains safety and appearance.

Cut and Assemble Conduit

With supports installed, cut and assemble conduit sections:

  • Measure distances and cut conduit to required lengths with a hacksaw.
  • For threaded rigid metal conduit, thread and ream ends.
  • Dry fit connections to verify fit before permanent assembly.
  • Use couplings or connectors to join straight sections.
  • Use elbows and offsets for bends.
  • Use junction boxes where multiple conduit runs connect.
  • Use locknuts and bushings to connect conduit to boxes.
  • Make sure conduit joints are square and oriented correctly.

Periodically check that conduit alignment matches the planned route. Avoid kinks which can damage wire insulation.

Mount Boxes and Endpoints

Mount any junction boxes, outlet boxes, panels, or equipment at the start and end of the run:

  • Position boxes and endpoints exactly where needed.
  • Anchor securely to structure or wall framing.
  • Conduit should enter straight into the enclosure without angles or bends.
  • Leave 6-8 inches of extra conduit past entry point.
  • Use locknuts to secure conduit to enclosure.
  • Install bushings on conduit ends to protect wires.

Accurate box placement guarantees a straight pathway for pulling.

Run Fish Tape Through Conduit

Fish tape (also called draw wire) is essential for pulling wire and cable through conduit:

  • Use steel fish tape for metal conduit. Use fiberglass type for PVC plastic conduit.
  • Insert fish tape into conduit entrance and push gently until it exits the far end.
  • If tape binds, rotate gently until it passes. Lubricant can also help.
  • Avoid force which can deform conduit causing future problems.
  • Leave 24-36 extra inches of fish tape hanging out both ends.

Take it slow and steady when navigating fish tape around conduit bends.

Pull Test Wires First

Before pulling actual cable, use scrap wires to test the run:

  • Tie string to one end and electrical tape to the other end of test wires.
  • Attach tape end to fish tape exiting near endpoint box.
  • Go back to start box and slowly pull fish tape to draw wires through.
  • Stop if wires get stuck. Check for snags before retesting.
  • If test wires pass, actual wires should too.

Test wires identify any obstructions before possibly damaging real wires.

Lubricate Conduit

Lubricant is highly recommended for any significant wire pull:

  • Use specialty wire pulling lube or similar lubricating gel/spray.
  • Apply lube generously to fish tape and wires before pulling.
  • Reapply frequently, especially when feeling increased tension.
  • Lubricant reduces friction allowing wires to glide through conduit.

Don’t risk wire insulation damage – lubricate conduit thoroughly.

Stage and Organize Wires

Get wires ready for a smooth pull:

  • Lay out wires neatly to prevent tangling or knotting up.
  • Tape ends with electrical or duct tape for easier handling.
  • Position wires on ground or table beside conduit entrance.
  • Have someone help feed wires to prevent snags.
  • For multiple wires, tape together in bundles if possible.

Proper wire staging prevents unnecessary hangups when pulling.

Attach Wires to Fish Tape

Connecting the wires securely to the fish tape is extremely important:

  • Pick the end of the fish tape that’s entering the conduit where wires are staged.
  • Use strong electrical tape to firmly bind taped wire ends to fish tape.
  • Test connection by gently pulling fish tape to ensure wires follow.
  • For metal fish tape, wrapping wires around may damage insulation. Use tape instead.

A failed connection mid-pull risks losing wires deep inside finished conduit – take time to tape wires carefully.

Pull Wires Gradually

When ready, pull wires slowly and steadily:

  • Position someone at the endpoint to guide wires exiting conduit.
  • Pull fish tape avoiding quick jerking motions. Walk down run if needed.
  • Stop if wires get stuck. Cut tape, resolve issue, then re-tape to fish tape.
  • Keep wires coming out straight from conduit without binding.
  • Apply additional lubricant if pull tension increases.

Rushing can over-tension and damage wires. Be patient for a smooth wire pull.

Detach Wires and Remove Fish Tape

After wires are fully pulled:

  • Carefully cut tape at endpoint to detach wires from fish tape.
  • Slowly pull out fish tape back through conduit to store for later use.
  • Mark wires with tape indicating start and end terminals for easy identification.

Don’t leave fish tape inside finished conduit where it may rattle or obstruct wires.

Connect Wires Properly at Both Ends

Finish wiring connections properly at both ends:

  • Allow 12-24 extra inches of slack inside boxes for connections.
  • Strip wire sheathing using wire strippers to expose clean copper.
  • Connect wires to proper breakers, outlets, switches, equipment, etc.
  • Use wire nuts or terminal blocks to join wire ends securely.
  • Allow no exposed copper outside of connections.

Proper wire terminations maintain electrical safety and neatness.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting

Despite best efforts, issues can still arise pulling wires through conduit:

Wires Won’t Feed Into Conduit

  • Check wire staging is straight without tangling or knots.
  • Reduce number of wires by pulling in smaller bundles.
  • Ensure conduit entrance is smooth without sharp lips cutting insulation.
  • Try feeding by hand instead of pulling fish tape.

Wires Get Stuck Mid-Pull

  • Stop pulling immediately to avoid damage.
  • Determine location – measure wires fed vs. remaining length.
  • Check for kinks or obstructions at that point.
  • Cut wires at box, re-lube conduit, and re-pull.

Wires Over-Tension and Burn Fish Tape Hole

  • Lubricate adequately, re-lube throughout long pulls.
  • Take pauses to reduce friction if needed.
  • Switch to metal fish tape if burning occurs.
  • Consider upsizing conduit if multiple large wires.

Fish Tape Won’t Navigate Bends

  • Ensure sweeping bends without kinking conduit.
  • Rotate tape slowly to maneuver past elbows.
  • Try fiberglass fish tape which is more flexible.
  • Watch for tape twisting versus wire – unwind occasionally.

Tips for Easier Wire Pulling

Follow these tips to make pulling wire through conduit easier:

  • Use quality lubricant designed for wire pulling.
  • Ensure conduit is properly joined and supported.
  • Label wires clearly at both ends for identification.
  • Seal around conduit fittings to prevent lubricant dripping.
  • Use separate neutral and ground wires instead of shared.
  • Pull in new fish tape when reusing conduit for future wiring.
  • Have a helper feed wires steadily from the start point.
  • Take breaks to rest hands during difficult long pulls.
  • Work slowly with patience – rushing risks wire damage.
  • Check local codes for any special wiring requirements.

With smart planning and careful technique, pulling wires through conduit can be done efficiently. Taking precautions will ensure a smooth wire pull with positive results.

Safety Tips

Follow these important safety practices when pulling wires:

  • Wear safety glasses and gloves to protect from sharp edges.
  • Make sure power is disconnected at panel before starting.
  • Use fiberglass fish tape for metal conduit when power is live.
  • Avoid using excessive force which can deform conduit.
  • Do not pull wires with vehicles or machines. Operate by hand.
  • Keep work area clear of tripping hazards from wires.
  • Use proper ladder safety when mounting conduit overhead.
  • Verify connections are tight and no copper is exposed.
  • Take time to do job right – rushing leads to accidents.

Thinking through all aspects of safety will prevent electrical hazards and injuries.


Pulling wire and cable through conduit is a frequent task faced by electricians. By using quality materials, thoughtful planning, proper techniques, safety measures, and some patience, wires can be pulled through cleanly and efficiently. Understanding the complete process step-by-step allows conduit wiring projects to be completed right the first time. Follow the guidance in this article to gain confidence for pulling all the needed wires on the job.