The Most Common Electrical Code Violations DIYers Make

Are you tempted to use some of that extra government cash on DIY projects you’ve been putting off? It’s probably a good idea, but before you tackle any jobs that require electrical work, be sure you understand your local building and electrical codes. They change over time, so you may not know what you think you know. And getting them wrong could result in expensive re-dos, property damage, and risks to your family’s safety.

Here are some things that DIYers often overlook or get wrong.

Wiring Switches Without a Neutral Wire
All switch locations need a neutral wire. Even when they’re off, electronic switches have a small amount of current flowing through them. Thus, they need a neutral wire to function properly and safely.

Improper Splicing
Splicing electrical wires must be done inside a junction box. Exceptions are made for temporary use such as troubleshooting; otherwise install a junction box and use wire nuts to make the splice. And be sure to replace the cover plate.

Overcrowding an Access Hole
Running too many wires through an access hole in a junction or switch box can cause damage to the wires’ insulation resulting in short circuits and fires. Generally, a 7/8-inch hole is designed to accommodate three wires. If you need to run more, use the extra knockouts on the box. If you’re using threaded connectors, tighten the clamps to keep the wires together, otherwise use a rubber or plastic grommet to protect the wires from the sharp edges of the knockout and give the wires some “wiggle room.”

Installing the Wrong Circuit Breaker
There are three basic types of circuit breakers, each designed for a specific purpose and current load and codes specify which to use where.

Standard breakers have given way to safer options in most uses today. Standard breakers are only used now for large appliances on separate circuits such as stoves and dryers. They protect against overloads and major shorts, but not against shocks from faulty appliances.

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breakers protect against shocks in places where people are likely to be using tools and appliances such as kitchens and bathrooms. They’re required on those circuits as well as outdoors, in garages, basements, and crawl spaces, sump pumps, any area subject to moisture, and any outlet within 6 feet of a sink.

GFCI breakers can be installed in the service panel to protect entire circuits or on outlets in specific locations. Either place, they must be easily accessible to test or reset.

Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) prevent fires in living areas where appliance cords are prone to be pinched, crimped, or chewed. The National Electrical Code (NEC) now requires AFCI protection in all living areas, hallways, and closets. They have electronics that can detect an arcing condition (like in a frayed lamp cord), which may not be detected by a standard circuit or GFCI breaker. Like GFCIs, AFCIs can be installed in either the panel or on outlets and receptacles. They look and function similarly to GFCI breakers. Some breakers offer combined GFCI and AFCI protection.

Improper Covers on an Outdoor Receptacles
All outdoor receptacles need GFCI protection and shelter from the elements. Flat covers only provide protection when the receptacle isn’t in use. They’re permitted in sheltered areas of patios and decks, but when they’re exposed to the weather or other water sources during use, codes require “in use” or “bubble” covers. Those have covers that snap closed around cords that are plugged into the outlet. Plus, the national electric code requires that all 15- and 20-amp receptacles be rated as weather-resistant and tamper-resistant when installed in both wet and damp locations. 

Not Using Tamper-Resistant Receptacles
Speaking of receptacles, codes require tamper-resistant receptacles for all home locations, indoors and out. They’re cheap and come in all colors and styles, so keep your children safe when you add or change receptacles. Look for the code TR on the receptacle.

Need Help? Call a Pro
These are only some of the code violations we see in DIY electrical work. The codes are there to protect lives and property and overlooking them can be both expensive and tragic. So why risk trouble when help is only a call or click away?

Remodeling, renovations, and additions need top-notch electrical work, and Allstar Electrical Services delivers the quality results you expect and deserve. We work hand-in-hand with you and your contractors to ensure your new project is done right, on budget and on schedule.

We’ve served the Front Range for over 20 years, are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List, and are proud to be a Home Advisor Preferred Contractor.

Whatever your electrical needs, call Allstar Electrical at (303) 399-7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.