Can You Legally Do Your Own Electrical Work?

Electrical repairs and remodels are expensive because electricians themselves are expensive.  Can a homeowner legally do his or her own electrical work and get a permit?

Answer

Yes, as a non-electrician, you can do most of the same work that an electrician would do and receive a permit for that work.

Because

In most places, homeowners who are owner-occupants can do their own electrical work.  This saves money and it saves from getting caught up in an endless backlog at times when electricians are in high demand.

But you will need to work under an electrical permit.  Your jurisdiction, whether city, county, state, or other, wants to know what you are doing, and the permit process allows them oversight.  In some places, you first need to take a homeowner’s electrical exam; in other places, you can begin the work as soon as you pull the permit.

Electrical Permits for Owner-Occupants

Locate Permitting Agency:  Electrical permitting might happen at any level, whether it be city, county, or state.  Even within one state, permitting might happen on different levels.  For example, in my state, most permitting is done at the state level.  But my city is an exception:  they do their own permits.

Pay the Money and Pull the Permit:  Your first contact with the jurisdiction might be as simple as initiating the permit online and paying the fee by credit card, a process nicknamed pulling the permit.   Permit costs scale according to how much work you are doing, usually from $50 to $150.  You will immediately be given the go-ahead to begin work.

Perform the Work:  Do your electrical work, keeping it exactly within the confines of the permit.

Call For Rough-In and Prepare:  Go online or call your jurisdiction to set up an appointment for the rough-in inspection.  An inspector will come by your house and you must be there to receive him or her.  Clear all obstructions from the area, so that the inspector can see the work.  Provide adequate light that is independent of any circuits you are dealing with in the inspection.

Rough-In Inspection:  Leave all wires uncovered by insulation or drywall.  Leave off all devices (outlets, heaters, lights, etc.).  The inspector wants to see the wire running through the walls or floors.  The inspector may require that you make certain changes to your work prior to the final inspection.

Make Changes and/or Cover Up:  If the inspector requires changes, make them and call for a new inspection.  If, instead, you pass, you are now allowed to cover the walls or floors with drywall.  Wire in the devices.  Do not mud the walls yet or begin painting, in the unlikely event that you need to open up the walls again.  This should not happen, though, as this was the purpose of the rough-in inspection.

Call For Final Inspection:  Go online or make a call to set up the final inspection.

Final Inspection:  Inspector will check devices and, if you pass, will “final out” your permit.

How Homeowners Can Pass Inspection

Inspectors Are Not Always Non-Biased:  Inspectors may have conflicting views on owner-occupants who do their own work.  Some hate the idea of this and will put up obstacles.  Others want to be helpful, understanding that it is a rare breed of homeowner who actually pulls electrical permits.  Both exist.

Inspection, Not Education:  Don’t expect a lesson in how to be an amateur electrician.  While the inspector may volunteer a tip or two, this isn’t about giving advice on wiring your home.

It’s About the Code:  Electrical code is your friend, at least in terms of passing your inspection.

Limited Time:  Inspectors’ time is limited.  Your house is just one worksite in many that they will visit that day.

Diplomacy:  Qualified electricians may have enough experience to challenge inspectors, but most homeowners do not.  If you believe you are in the right, bring it up as diplomatically as possible.

Qualifiers

Localities:  The most important qualifier is whether or not your own area allows owner-occupants to do their own electrical work.

Other Homes:  Generally, you are allowed only to work on your own home.

If You Hire Out:  The person doing the repairs needs to be an electrician.

New Construction:   Often this is limited to remodel work, not new-construction.

Voices

This Old House

“Most municipalities allow you to do your own electrical work, though you’re never allowed to wire someone else’s home.”

Ask Jon Eakes

“…almost all work performed in new construction must be undertaken by licensed plumbers and licensed electricians.”

 

 

 

 

How to Install Wire in Closed Wall

Is there an easy way to install electrical wire in a closed wall?

I think that once you accept the fact that there will be some cutting and drilling and drywall dust ahead of you, you’ll be okay. But it’s no walk in the park.

There are a number of ways to extend electrical wire along a wall. You can install PVC or metal conduit on the outside of the wall and feed the wire through the conduit. But you won’t be working with friendly ol’ Romex wire. You’ll be dealing with THHN (Thermoplastic High Heat-resistant Nylon) coated wire, which are separate strands of wire. THHN isn’t really all that hard to work with, but it’s unique if you’re accustomed to dealing with Romex.

So, both the conduit method and the in-wall method have major pros and cons. Here, we’re dealing just with retroactively installing electric wire in a closed wall. By “closed,” we mean a wall that already has drywall installed.

1. Find the Studs in the Wall

Find Studs in the Wall

I rarely use an electronic stud-finder anymore, preferring a magnetic type of stud finder. This stud finder uses super-strong rare earth magnets to find the nails or screws holding the drywall to the studs.

Find studs on either side. They will be most likely 16 inches apart.

2. Mark a Square for Cutting

Mark a Square Between Studs

Here I am using a box top to mark out a square for cutting. The square needs to be big enough for you to fit your cordless drill into. Other than that, any shape or size is fine.

3. Cut Out Hole with Reciprocating Saw

Cut Out Square with Reciprocating Saw

Cut out the square with the reciprocating saw. Here, I am cutting out a door hinged on the left side. I have cut only three size of the square, leaving the left side uncut. You’ll see why I did this later.

4. Use Screwdrivers to Get a Grip on Drywall “Door”

How to Pull Out Drywall Door

Another type of “door” you can cut is hinged on the bottom. Again, whatever works best for you.

Neatness doesn’t really matter, since you’ll be drywalling over your cuts.

5.  Snap Drywall “Door” Down

Drywall Door Hinges Downward

With the “hinge on the bottom” version, I simply swing the “door” down until I snap the drywall off.  But be careful not to rip the paper hinge; leave this intact.

6.  Option:  The Hinge on the Side Version

Drywall Door Hinged on the Side

Or, you can hinge the “door” to the side.  Whatever works.  This “snap” was a lot cleaner than the one in the previous step, for some reason or another.

7.   Drill Hole in Stud

Drill Hole in Stud

Drill a hole for your Romex wire with a 1/2″ or 3/4″ spade bit.

8.  Push Wire Through Stud

Push Wire Through Hole in Stud

Slide the wire through the hole in the stud.