Home renovations usually comes with a need to update a house’s wiring. Older houses may have wiring that dates back to an older standard. Even in new homes, rewiring may be necessary. Wear and tear on wires can lead to distribution problems such as flickering lights or shorting outlets. Unfortunately, many people who attempt DIY rewiring make some costly mistakes. Here, we’ll take a look at the most common ones to avoid.
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1. Loose Outlets and Switches
If you have finished renovating and realize you have a loose outlet, you may want to address the issue immediately. Loose outlets or switches mean that something is not quite right with your rewiring. Not only do these unsecured outlets look bad, but they can also be a fire hazard. The National Fire Prevention Authority (NFPA) notes that electrical malfunctions are the second largest cause of house fires in the US.
The danger in loose switches and outlets isn’t just with the looks. Over time, the terminal connections may overheat, leading to arcing – a severe fire hazard. To fix this problem is relatively simple. When you’re doing your renovations, get some spacers from the hardware store to ensure that your outlets are adequately supported.
2. Wires Cut Too Short
Everyone has heard the adage, “Measure twice, cut once.” This also applies to wiring. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately apparent that measurements shouldn’t be exact for those new to house wiring. Longtime electricians would advise to leave between three and six inches of slack in a wire when measuring a cutting distance. Those extra inches will come in handy for stripping and ensuring the connection isn’t pulled too taut.
If you cut your wires too short, you could always splice on another wire to make up the difference. However, splices themselves may introduce other problems. The best option is to ensure that you add a few extra inches to your wires to make up for that difference.
3. Installing an Outlet Without a Ground Wire
You’re likely to see three-prong plugs in almost any building you visit. Most times, we take them for granted. Yet, few non-specialists realize that the third prong serves an essential purpose. Best Life mentions that the third prong in a three-prong outlet is designed to safely carry away excess electricity so that you don’t get a nasty shock. Two-slot receptacles have quickly become outdated in favor of the three-prong option.
Sadly, their safety record relies on the installer ensuring that the ground wire is connected. Without this connection, those three-slot outlets are no safer than their two-prong counterparts. An electrical tester will tell you whether your outlet is grounded or not. If you realize that you failed to ground the outlet, you can follow some DIY instructions about upgrading a two-prong outlet with a grounded three-prong alternative.
4. Connecting Wires Outside of the Ground Box
Junction boxes are a vital part of any house electrical system. They serve to protect wires from damage and contain sparks in the case of a surge. You should always try to make connections inside your junction box. Installing a junction box may add an additional step to installing a light switch or an outlet, but it’s a step worth taking.
These boxes serve as containment points and typically serve to keep the most vulnerable parts of an electrical installation safe. Most jurisdictions in the US require junction boxes as part of the electrical code. If you forgot to install a junction box, you can quickly get one from a hardware store and remake your connections to fall within the box.
5. Overcrowding Electrical Boxes
While not installing a junction box is terrible, overfilling a single one with too many wires is just as awful. Junction boxes are inexpensive. You might be tempted to use a single box to handle multiple circuit connections, but this is not a good idea in practice. Junction boxes come in different sizes. Plastic junction boxes usually have their capacity stamped on the housing. Steel ones may require some calculations to figure out how many connections it can take safely.
To figure out this number, you start by counting all the items in the box. This count includes hot, neutral, and ground wires as well as cable clamps. If you’re using a 14-gauge wire, multiply the total by 2.25 for the volume required. If you’re using a 12-gauge wire, multiply by 2 to get your required volume. You can calculate the box’s volume by measuring the box’s length, width, and height and multiplying those dimensions.
6. Not Protecting Cables
Wires within a home’s framing should never be left unprotected. Protecting these wires is a simple matter; however, that may not always require professional help to fix. A DIYer can efficiently run a wooden plank alongside the wire to ensure that it doesn’t become pinched or broken within the house’s framing. A safer and more reliable method is running a conduit to hold the wires. These conduits are also helpful within the home itself. For example, wires running along a wall can be placed in conduits to ensure their safety.
Not An Impossible Task
Home renovations usually lead to learning skills you never thought you would need or get to use. Electrical wiring isn’t complex, but it can be dangerous. If you have any doubts about your ability, you may want to consult a professional electrician. Even after you finish doing your own wiring, asking a professional to check your work is a good, safe practice.
Bobby Lynn is the Owner of LiveWire Electrical, a fully licensed and insured residential and commercial electrical company serving Charlotte, NC and surrounding areas. Bobby has been in the electrical industry for over 20 years and has a vast knowledge of all things electrical. Learn more about LiveWire’s specialty lighting installation services here.