Most do-it-yourself (DIY) home owners can perform home electrical wiring with a few basic tools and a DIY electrical guide book available at most home improvement outlets. Many people are afraid of doing their own electrical work, but I’d rather do electrical repairs than plumbing repairs. If you mess-up an electrical repair you don’t have electricity all over the floor. Simply by taking the precaution to make sure that the electricity is turned off at the breaker panel, you can safely perform most electrical work in your own home.
Before you perform any electrical repairs, you should familiarize yourself with basic home electrical wiring procedures and building codes. Most electricians will follow the same procedures and wire routing, so if you know a standard electrical circuit layout, it may save you a lot of aggravation when you are trying to trace a circuit and find a problem. Knowing the Uniform Building Code (UBC) will ensure that any work you do is up to current code requirements. If you have any questions concerning the building code, you can usually call your local building department (anonymously) and get a lot of information from the building inspectors.
Most localities will allow the home owner to make repairs without permits, but if you are adding circuits or upgrading your service, they may require a permit and inspect the work to make sure that it’s up to code, though you can usually perform the work yourself on your own home. The building department will also tell you if the work you plan to have done requires a licensed electrician to perform or oversee the work.
Before you perform your own home electrical wiring you should know the code for placement of outlets (no more than 12’ apart on walls), where Ground-fault Interrupt (GFI) outlets are required (within 6’ of a water source), the gauge of wire required for the amperage demand of each circuit, and other basic code requirements. The electrical codes have been developed and modified over the years to ensure maximum safety in today’s houses. When at all practical, you may want to bring any old wiring in your house up to modern codes when you are repairing or adding home electrical wiring.
You should be aware of the different products available to make your home electrical wiring jobs easier. Old work electrical boxes allow you to replace or add outlets or switches without having to tear out walls to install the box.
A word of caution: If you are adding an outlet or 3-way switch ALWAYS make the new connection in an electrical box. It is against code and very unsafe to just cut a wire and splice in wire to a new outlet. Most electrical fires start at junction points, and electrical boxes are designed to limit oxygen flow and therefore, fires.
With a little common sense and knowledge of basic home electrical wiring, you can confidently perform most electrical repairs or additions in your home. The life you save may be your own.