Wiring a home can seem daunting, but with proper precautions and some key tips from professionals, you can update or install new wiring safely. Follow these guidelines to avoid electrical fires or shocks when working on your home's electrical system.

Research Permit Requirements

Before starting any electrical project, be sure you understand your local permit requirements. Many jurisdictions require homeowners to obtain permits for electrical work beyond basic repairs or replacing existing fixtures like lights or outlets.

Pulling permits ensures your work will be inspected for safety. Trying to bypass permits can risk fines, insurance issues if a problem arises, and even complete rework if the wiring violates code.

Key Permit Triggers

Permits are often needed for:

Check with your local building department to understand permit rules in your area. Securing permits upfront is far easier than undoing improper work later!

Turn Off Power at the Breaker Box

Before touching any wires, the power must be completely disconnected to avoid shocks.

At the main breaker box,:

Trying to work on wires while they are live risks severe injury or death by electrocution. Always fully disconnect the power first.

Wear Protective Gear

Even with the power off, Electrical work requires specialized protective equipment to stay safe. Wearing proper clothing and safety tools should be part of your preparation routine before wiring work to reduce risks.

Recommended Protective Gear:

Use Extreme Caution with Aluminum Wiring

While copper wiring is generally recommended for safety and performance, some older homes used aluminum wiring which requires extra precautions.

Aluminum wiring risks:

If your home has aluminum wiring, exercise extreme care:

Leaving old aluminum wiring untouched risks dangerous electrical failures. Address it properly when doing wiring projects.

Install GFCI Outlets Near Water Sources

Any outlets located near water sources like kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms require special GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets for protection.

GFCI outlets have built-in circuit breakers that quickly cut power if abnormal current flows are detected, helping prevent shocks. GFCI protection should be installed:

Upgrading to GFCI outlets is an easy precaution providing valuable protection from electrocution risks near water.

Use the Proper Wire Gauge and Types

Selecting the appropriate wire gauge (thickness) and insulation material is critical for safety and efficient power flow.

Never use undersized wire unable to handle the electric load - this can cause hazardous overheating and fires. Consult an electrician if unsure what gauge your specific wiring project requires.

Label All Circuit Breakers

With the power turned off, take time to properly label each circuit breaker in the service panel before working on any wiring. Breakers should clearly indicate which rooms or outlets they control.

This allows quickly shutting off specific circuits later for repairs, and ensures you can deactivate the correct breaker if a problem arises during wiring work. Breaker labels are a basic safety essential.

Inspect the Service Entry Mast

For whole home rewiring projects, take the opportunity to examine the service entry mast where power lines enter from the utility pole.

Look for any:

Address any issues found to avoid future hazards. A professional electrician can often replace an old mast quickly during rewiring.

Secure All Electrical Boxes

Before running any new wire, ensure existing and new electrical boxes are securely anchored.

Check for:

Reinforce any problem boxes with additional mounting supports or replace them entirely as needed. Secure boxes prevent wires from pulling loose during use.

Run Wires Properly Through Studs

When running wiring through studs, be mindful of:

Protect wires with metal plates if drilling near the edge of a stud to prevent nails from hitting them. Safe wire routing protects against shorts and shock hazards.

Connect Switches and Outlets Properly

Improperly wired connections at switches, outlets and junction boxes can lead to fires or malfunctioning circuits.

To confirm safe connections:

Take the extra time to make reliable, long-lasting connections that won't fail over time.

Keep Wires Neat and Organized

While working, group wires together and tie off neatly. Don't let loose wires lay randomly in boxes or the attic/basement.

Benefits of neat wiring:

Proper wire management is about both aesthetics and safety. Take pride in your work.

Have an Electrician Inspect the Work

Once the new wiring is complete, call a licensed electrician to:

Professional inspection gives peace of mind that your DIY electrical work is safe and ready for use. Don't skip this important final step before turning the power back on.

Wiring a home without experience carries risks, but taking precautions like obtaining permits, using safety gear, killing all power, and hiring an electrician to inspect allows you to upgrade electrical safely. Follow these tips to avoid burning your house down!