Many homeowners like to go the do-it-yourself (DIY) route when it comes to smaller projects around their homes. When you’re not a professionally trained electrician, it’s easy to overlook little mistakes, and with electricity, little mistakes can be dangerous, even deadly. We’ve listed five of the most common home DIY electrical mistakes and how to safely avoid them.
Making Connections Outside Electrical Boxes
You always want to avoid connecting wires outside of electrical boxes. Junction boxes protect the connections from accidental damage and help contain sparks and heat from a loose connection or short circuit. Where connections aren’t contained in an electrical box, install a box, and then reconnect the wires inside it.
Cutting Wires Too Short
A common DIY electrical mistake involves cutting electrical wires too short. When wires are cut too short, they make connections difficult, and poor connections can be quite dangerous. Leave the wires long enough to protrude at least three inches from the electrical box. If you run into short wires, there’s an easy fix. Simply add six-inch extensions onto the existing wires. You can find wire connectors that are easy to install at hardware stores and home centers.
Leaving Plastic-Sheathed Cable Unprotected
It’s easy to damage plastic-sheathed cable that’s left exposed between framing members. For that reason, the National Electrical Code requires cable to be protected in these areas. Cable is especially vulnerable when it’s run over or under wall or ceiling framing.
Protect exposed plastic-sheathed cable by nailing or screwing a 1-1/2-inch thick board alongside the cable. You don’t have to staple the cable to the board. If you’re running wire along a wall, use metal conduit.
Poor Support for Outlets and Switches
Loose switches or outlets can look bad, and worse yet, they’re dangerous. Loosely connected outlets can move around, causing the wires to loosen from the terminals. Loose wires can then arc and overheat, creating a potential fire hazard.
Loose outlets can be fixed by shimmying under the screws to create a tight connection to the box. Special spacers can be found at home centers and hardware stores. Other options include small washers or a coil of wire wrapped around the screw. While you’re back there, be sure to add some insulation.
Installing a Three-Slot receptacle without a Ground Wire
If you have two-slot outlets, it’s tempting to replace them with three-slot outlets so you can plug in three-prong plugs. But don’t do this unless you’re sure there’s a ground wire available. Use a tester to see if your outlet is grounded. A series of lights indicates whether the outlet is wired correctly or what fault exists. These testers are readily available at home centers and hardware stores.
If you discover a three-slot outlet in an ungrounded box, the easiest fix is to simply replace it with a two-slot outlet. If you have a dead outlet, you can try to to trouble-shoot it, or call Mister Sparky! Remember, if you ever feel unsure during a DIY electrical project, the professionals at Mister Sparky will be there to assist you!
Mister Sparky Electrician NWA, America’s On-Time Electrician in Bella Vista, Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale and Fayetteville services the Northwest Arkansas area with a team of licensed electricians. In addition to flickering lights, some of the electrician services provided by the company include electrical outlet/switch repair, ceiling fan installation, lighting installation, electrical wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections.