What Does "Rough In" Mean?

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"Rough In" Means

As applied to home building and remodeling, to rough in means to lay out the basic lines without making the final connections. Walls are still open and the drywall is not yet installed.

The absence of wall and floor coverings allows for easier modification if the rough in does not pass inspection or if the homeowner makes a change order to alter the project.


  • Electrical: A rough-in job would mean to pull all of the electrical cables through the studs and into the boxes. But light switches, outlets, lights, and other devices would not be attached.
  • Plumbing: With plumbing, roughing-in would mean to bore holes through the studs for the pipes and install and connect pipes to each other. But no fixtures or any end elements would be attached yet.

How It Fits In the Permitting Process

Roughing in is done before the  first visit from a building, electrical, or plumbing inspector. Typical workflow might be:

  1. Wall, floor, and ceiling systems are built and left open. No drywall is installed yet.
  2. Electrician comes in and runs electrical wire from the service panel to various end points, such as outlet receptacles and light switches. Within each box, wire is left bare-ended and unattached.
  3. Around the same time, the plumber comes in and runs supply and drain pipes through studs and under floors to kitchen and bathroom sinks, showers, bathtubs, laundry rooms, etc.  
  4. Inspectors make the first visit and approve or fail the work.
  5. Drywall installers come in and hang and finish the drywall.
  1. Electrician, plumber, and other tradesmen return and install the end-point devices, such as outlets, lights, and light switches (electrician) and sink, shower, bathtub (plumber).
  2. Inspectors make a second visit.
  3. The building permit may be approved ("finaled") or not. If not, inspectors will return until work is completed to their satisfaction.

    Changes Are Acceptable But Not Expected

    A building rough-in is not like an artist's or writer's creative rough layout or draft, both of which imply that changes are expected.

    With building rough-ins, it is assumed that all of the work is done to specification and that no changes will be made.

    However, in the event that an inspector should order a modification, the work is accessible enough for those changes to be made.