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DIY home wiring, bad idea?

To save money on a major remodeling job, I am considering doing as much of the work myself (with my more knowledgeable in-laws) including electrical work. Are there classes or good guides to get the "basics" of residential wiring and planning? I am a licensed (PE) electrical engineer, so I have a very good understanding of power and can find some things in the NEC handbook. However, my practical experience is limited to installing a ceiling fan and reconnecting a shed after moving it. It seems straight forward enough to add a couple circuits if the panel is already sized large enough, but I have a healthy enough fear of electricity to know that electrician > engineer when it comes to this.
[I live near Albany, NY]

Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?

Some electrical work requires a license, in most cities.

My advise to you: find a licensed electrician who will be willing to let you do some of the labor. Of course you will have to work under his supervision and do everything in such a way that won't require any corrections. There are such contractors, you just have to find them.

Corrections = more money.

Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?

I agree with dj1, after all it is less costly than having your insurance company refuse to pay if there is damage caused by an electrical fire.


Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?
dj1 wrote:

Some electrical work requires a license, in most cities.

My advise to you: find a licensed electrician who will be willing to let you do some of the labor. Of course you will have to work under his supervision and do everything in such a way that won't require any corrections. There are such contractors, you just have to find them.

Corrections = more money.

Very true, I even advertise if a HO would like to do some "sweat equity" I enjoy having company on a job.

Since the HO is a EE he certainly has a leg-up in this regard. But, depending on his chosen field, he probably isn't familiar with every aspect of the Codes and local ammendments, since they change every three years.

And, it would not be a wise investment of his time to try and study the building Codes, unless he plans to use them often.

A. Spruce
Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?

I agree with my fellow posters, however, I do think you could manage a good portion of the work yourself, then let the electrician handle installing devices, bundling, and main panel connections. If you are going to do this, then I HIGHLY recommend you get the book called Wiring Simplified. It is updated every few years to accommodate the latest codes. While the book is a general purpose tome, and doesn't get into specifics of code and local requirements, it is excellent at explaining circuit geometry and how things should be wired. I've kept a current copy in my tool pouch ever since I entered the trades 25 years ago.

Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?

+1 for the suggestion to get the book Wiring Simplified.

Circuit theory isn't all that difficult, and since you're an EE it should be easy. Where most DIYers get into trouble is when it comes to "safe and workman-like installation."

Probably the two most prevalent problems that inspectors find in homeowner-installed wiring is lack of proper materials and poor installation of junction boxes (too many wires, lack of a cover, lack of strain relief, or lack of a box). Third is improper grounding. Get these right and you're most of the way there.

Make your installation well-thought-out, neat, and tidy. Straight wires impress inspectors. Make sure wires are sufficiently protected from damage. Remember, the NEC is all about human life-safety and fire prevention.

Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?

We put an addition on in 2012. I checked with a few electricians only to find them priced out of what I wanted to pay. I decided to to the work myself, in CT this is allowed if it is single family and owner occupied. I agree the book is a good starting point. Remember to put GFCI's where code requires, carefully plan for box fill to meet code, consider low voltage, TV and computer wiring, keep lighting and outlet circuits separate and finally do not do something you are not comfortable with.

I did use a plumber for the waste side of the laundry and bathroom. This was an area I did not feel like a mistake could be made and a new tap into the septic was required. I did the grunt work, fetching tools, cutting pipe, etc. and some tool repair for him while he calculated the proper pitch, parts needed and assembled them. With his gauge and some test plugs I did the pressure test.

Our contractor did everything outside with wallboard paint ready. With the exception of the plumbing I did everything else.

The job has been done two years now and no issues have come up.

John freeman
Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?

There is a lot you can do yourself such as installing boxes and the romex (wire). The unknown is how knowledgeable your in-laws are. There are some simple code requirements involved in running the wire such as centering the holes and keeping the wire 1¼" from the edge of the stud. There are also requirements for the placement of receptacle boxes and if you install more than one switch on a lighting circuit it gets a little complicated. If you do an internet search there are some good videos explaining how to wire your home.

It might be a good investment to bring out a knowledgeable electrical contractor or the city inspector to go over the rules. Once you understand what you need to do you can save a lot of money on labor but it's a good idea to have the job inspected no matter what.

Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?

Ask your local code inspector whether there must be a Licensed Electrician involved. Some areas here will allow DIY and some won't. So long as it is inspected and signed off as approved (keep that documentation) they your insurance should still cover things, but look into that too as some may have specific exclusions written in concerning plumbing and electrical work.


Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?

Nothing will prepare you more unless you have actual experience doing the work in the past. If you haven't ever worked on housing running wires, pulling them through joists, putting the wire in the box even needs to be done correct then I would really suggest hiring someone to get it done, or working under a master electrician which could save you the money. You can read all the books and gain the knowledge which will help, but....

I am not a certified electrician but come from the carpentry/framing/remodeling side of the industry and I have done my share of electrical work in the past. I can't tell you how many times I have ripped through a wall to find loose wires just sitting there, taped wires in no junction box, outlet and switches hooked up poorly and even newer jobs where the quality of work was just poor.

Wires need to be properly fastened to the studs so you don't pull them through the box and pull other wires, you need to determine circuit loads and not exceeding 80% continuous load and determine if you need a 15A or 20A breaker for that circuit, you need to know your home service is running 100A or 200A....

If you plan DIY, I would make sure you are working under guidance of someone that REALLY knows what their doing. Also you could call around to see if you could act as a laborer to help a licensed electrician in an attempt to save some money.

Re: DIY home wiring, bad idea?

I'm also an EE and wiring some of my home. I left the panel and inspected stuff for real electricians (sooooo many codes in kitchens and bathrooms) but by doing simple stuff myself like the outlets in other rooms I'm saving like $1500 per room. And it's kinda fun... once I figure out how to snake the cable. That part sucks. A lot.


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