Electrical – What size wire should I use for the yard shed, and how deep should I bury it


I'm planning to build a shed next spring, and want to make sure my thoughts on power are correct.

The shed is about 100' from the house, with another 20' inside the house to get to a subpanel. All I plan on having out there is some LED lights and a couple 120v outlets for convenience. The heaviest load I can foresee would be a leaf blower or maybe an electric lawn mower, if I ever get one.

Coming out of the house I'd go underground for about 15' to get under 2 gates, then I'd bring it up and run it on the backside of a fence, to save myself trenching the whole way.

With 8 AWG THHN wire I'm calculating a 2.62% voltage drop (down to 116.86) on a 20-amp load. Is this right, and sufficient? And I would need 3 conductors (black, white, green), correct?

How deep does my conduit need to be for the trenched sections? I'm planning 1" PVC conduit, is this good for both buried and aboveground sections? Any reason to go with a trench the whole way?

Any other tips? Thanks!

Best Answer

One trench the whole way will be easier to pull cable through. You could make it direct, one straight line, or closer to it than otherwise.

Fences can get blown over, run into, replaced for service, or removed for aesthetic reasons, which will become more of a pain to deal with if you run conduit along the fence. Also its less pleasurable to look at conduit than to not.

Your municipality or county should be able to tell you your local minimum depth for buried cable. It depends on your jurisdiction if you're asking about code as I assume.

I would recommend oversizing the conduit significantly to make pulling easier and allow for easy upgrades in the future. 2" can't be that much more than 1". It will be more durable and it could save a lot of work later on.

You can save costs on grounding by using bare wire, or using metal conduit as your grounding conductor. But I would not bury metal conduit to avoid dealing with corrosion. Even a bare ground conductor inside a plastic conduit is going to fare worse than a sheathed over time.

Paint a white line where you plan to excavate and call your utility locating service out to mark obstacles. The white line or shape will keep them from needing to mark unnecessary things in far off parts of your yard.

excavation marking

Rent a trencher and make the work easy on yourself.


Bury conduit larger than you need, because excavation sucks.

Dig depth is often 2foot minimum for nonmetallic, 6 inch minimum for metallic, but ask your codes department what they will approve.

For wire gaguge, use a calculator like http://wiresizecalculator.net/.


By my estimate you would want 6awg, but maybe the direct patch can cut down distance and let you use smaller.