Residential Electrical Projects: When DIY Does Not Apply
Many of today’s homeowners have embraced the DIY (do-it-yourself) concept for home repairs and renovations. For many residential projects, this makes perfect sense. Enthusiastic DIYers are tackling labor-intensive jobs such as new flooring, painting, paneling, drywalling, or adding decks and porches to increase the value of the house. But when it comes to electrical projects, the wisest DIYers call for a certified electrician.
The DIY projects mentioned above are certainly great ways to minimize labor costs and maximize the return on your investment in new materials. There may be building code requirements for some of these jobs, but conditions can be fulfilled lawfully by anyone with the competence to comply with the local building code and pass inspection. (We are planning on getting permits and inspections, right? More on that later.)
There are, however, specialized trades in residential construction for which the DIY method is strongly discouraged. Plumbing is one, and electrical is another. Substandard work in these fields can lead to ongoing health and safety hazards. Work in these trades may violate local building codes if it is done by an unqualified homeowner or tradesman.
No Job Is Too Small: Call A Certified Electrician
Many homeowners won’t hesitate to call for a professional plumber when the plunger fails to solve the problem, or when they’re adding a new bathroom. They lack the specialized plumbing tools and skills, and would rather avoid the unpleasantness of many plumbing projects. Better to let the pro handle it.
With electrical projects, though, this isn’t always the case. Electrical work is nice and clean after all, and many electrical jobs can appear to be deceptively simple, easily tackled with pliers and a screwdriver. This misconception can lead to unsafe repairs or overloaded circuits when outlets, wiring, or lighting fixtures are added to an existing system.
Neglecting the proper use of junction boxes can lead to overheating in overly extended wiring runs. Potential short circuits and faulty groundings are fire and shock hazards which may not be apparent until after the damage is done, perhaps months or years later.
Changing a light bulb yourself is fine. But changing a light fixture? Anytime wiring into your household power is required a certified electrician should be called.
No job is too small when it comes to household electrical safety.
Electrical Work & Building Codes
Electrical codes, permits, and inspections are in place to ensure household safety. Electrical regulations vary from state to state and even by localities within some states. Some electrical repairs are exempt from the code, and others require permits and thorough inspections. To complicate matters further, your municipality can add more stringent restrictions to the state’s electrical code.
This means that even if you’ve hired a competent handyman to handle your electrical repairs, you could still be in violation of the building code. The homeowner or handyman may have done everything right and still fail to be in compliance.
Alabama, for example, requires that electrical contractors and journeyman electricians must demonstrate a minimum of 4 years experience, the necessary qualifications, training, and technical knowledge to install electrical wiring, apparatus or equipment, light, heat, or power before they can even be considered for state certification.
Electrical Code Violations & Insurance
The biggest advantage of hiring a certified electrical contractor for any repair or renovation is that certified electricians keep up to speed with local building codes from state to state and town to town.
The Popular Mechanics article “7 Building Code Violations You Should Definitely Avoid: DIYers Beware” points out that hiring a professional contractor, obtaining the proper permits, and having the job certified by a qualified inspector is a process which ensures the utmost safety for your household. This especially applies to electrical work, which could become a costly obstacle when the house is up for sale in the future, and substandard work needs to be corrected before the sale can go through.
The homeowner who thought he could dodge the “bureaucratic red tape” and save a few bucks by working through an electrical repair or installation without a permit could be headed for disaster. In a fire, if subcode electrical work is determined to be the cause, the insurance company may refuse to cover the loss. Add to that the potential hazard of improperly safeguarded circuits and shocked homeowners could find themselves lamenting…
“I Should Have Called a Certified Electrician!”
Justin & Amanda’s Sad Story
Justin and Amanda are ecstatic. They’ve received an offer on the townhouse they just put up for sale in a booming real estate market, which is much higher than their asking price. The new interior paint job, which they accomplished themselves on the advice of their realtor, seems to have done the trick. Justin’s fondness for lime green has been covered by two fresh new coats of neutral beige. The buyer loves it, and she’s made her generous offer on the spot to secure the sale.
Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm, the energetic couple painted over all the electrical outlets, which is a violation of their local building code. The home inspector advises Justin and Amanda that all the outlets will have to be replaced. The buyer is eager to close and move in.
Amanda’s father gets wind of the situation and has good news for them. He’s got a case of electrical outlets left over from 1975 when he converted his garage to a wood shop. The helpful jack-of-all-trades shows the relieved couple how easy it is to replace the outlets, and within a weekend the problem seems to be solved. Easy-peasy, right? Wrong!
Despite all their hard work, Justin and Amanda fail inspection again. It seems they have neglected to install ground fault outlets in the bathrooms and the kitchen where they are required, and several of the replacement outlets are old two-pronged types with no receptacle for the third ground wire. Also, they can’t show that the work was done by a certified electrician as required in their state.
The buyer loses confidence in the overall integrity of the townhouse’s electrical system and withdraws her generous offer. Justin and Amanda miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the relatively minimal cost of what would be a quick and simple repair job by a certified electrical contractor.
Certified Residential Electrical Services at Home Town Electric
Today’s modern household electrical systems provide power for a growing number of devices. Computers, chargers, printers, routers, and HDTVs are often found throughout multiple rooms in the house. Add to these dishwashers, refrigerators, microwave ovens, and a host of countertop appliances. As families grow, power consumption grows with them. Electrical systems in the household may need to be upgraded to keep up with demands and optimize safety.
If you’re experiencing electrical problems in your home, such as frequent tripping of circuit breakers, outlets or lights which aren’t working reliably, or unusually high electric bills, the certified electricians at Hometown Electric Inc. can diagnose electrical problems and advise you on the best solutions.
We offer the full range of residential electrical repair and certified new installation services, so don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a thorough electrical inspection today.