Small Electrical Repairs, Maintenance and Installations
Please read this before visiting the articles posted below...
Throughout my 35+ years doing home repairs, I have learned much about electricity and electrical repairs. Most electrical work around the home is fairly easy in a technical sense. Bend a wire, tighten a screw, wrap a little electrical tape, etc. Oops... don't forget to turn off the power! You don't need to be a brain surgeon to do any of this.
Give credit where credit is due... a licensed electrician has expertise way beyond a typical homeowner's. He is a master at determining the wiring needs of a particular home or business. He makes sure all wiring and fixtures comply with applicable electrical codes. His job, in short, is to provide your home with adequate power in the safest way possible.
However, a patient home handyman with common sense, good tool skills, and a comprehensive book on electrical repair can do many electrical repairs safely and efficiently.
It is important to be aware of your local laws regarding electrical repairs.
In many towns, there are limitations on the work an unlicensed person may do... even the homeowner! There are also distinctions made between what an unlicensed homeowner can do and what an unlicensed tradesman can do. For example, a homeowner (with the proper permits) may be allowed to wire an addition to his or her home. If she wanted to hire someone to do the work, though, she might be required to hire a licensed electrician for this work.
There are also distinctions made within types of electrical work. Appliance installation, for example, is often not considered restricted electrical work if the original wiring and connection was made by a licensed electrician.
Local codes exist because of and are often based on local concerns.
Densely populated areas, such as large cities, tend to have electrical codes severely limiting homeowner electrical work because errors can endanger hundreds or thousands of people! Rural codes are often less stringent, allowing more owner flexibility and involvement in the work. Local environmental conditions such as the possibility of earthquakes, tornados or hurricanes, the level of the water table, amount of rainfall and general humidity, soil conditions, and the types of building materials available also influence the local electrical code.
Of all the repairs that you may do around your home, the most potentially devastating mistakes are in faulty electrical wiring!
Countless house fires are caused by poor wiring techniques, substandard materials, faulty extension cords, or defective electrical appliances. The trouble and the trap lies in the apparent simplicity of electrical work. Small mistakes can cause quick and severe consequences. Poor wiring techniques can cause shock hazards that may not be evident till the accident happens.
I am often asked "What is the most dangerous type of electrical repair?" My answer is simple...
Electrical work is most dangerous when the prior work was done by an amateur!!
Quality electrical work depends on consistency and uniformity. That is why there is an electrical code, so everyone is clear on the correct and incorrect way to perform an electrical repair or installation! If every home was wired according to a random standard, how could anyone without x-ray vision figure out how to troubleshoot a circuit?
I am not going to discourage you from learning and increasing your skills. I wouldn't have a snowflake's chance in hell of doing it, anyway. But I am not stepping lightly on this issue, either. You should know by now that I am a strong advocate of independence and self-reliance. But if one person burnt his home down because he thought that he could do that electrical repair, and was not sufficiently knowledgeable to do the job right... well, that is not what I had in mind when I started this project. I have seen some electrical wiring horrors in my travels, and most were done by homeowners who thought that doing electrical work was no more worthy of care than sweeping the garage!
So finally, enough lecturing. JUST THIS RULE:
NO ONE WHO HAS READ THIS PAGE MUST EVER CUT A CORNER WHEN IT COMES TO ELECTRICAL REPAIR. PERIOD!!
There are no exceptions allowed here. Always meet or, preferably exceed, any code standards for the type of work you are doing. Educate yourself... read, get advise from your local building inspector, or hire a licensed electrician if you are not totally clear as to what you need to do. But please... PLEASE don't put your life and your family's at risk to save a few bucks. It's just not worth it! Thank you.