With summer on its way and spring in full swing, it’s common for homeowners to take this time to revamp their space. From major home renovations to simple spring cleaning, getting your home ready for summer celebrations and gatherings often includes DIY (“do it yourself”) projects. For those taking on DIY electrical projects, here are some common electrical mistakes you should avoid when renovating.
Cutting Wires Too Short
Wires cut too short cause difficult and dangerous connections. For wires to be long enough, they must protrude at least 3 to 6 inches from the box. To avoid this dangerous mistake, start with longer wires and trim off unnecessary lengths later. If you’ve already cut your wires too short, add a six-inch extension to the existing wires.
Making Connections Outside Electrical Boxes
Always avoid connecting wires outside electrical boxes, also called junction boxes. These inexpensive boxes protect your electrical connections from accidental damage and help contain sparks and heat from a loose connection or short circuit. You should install a box and reconnect the wires inside it for connections that aren’t contained in an electrical box.
Installing a Three-Slot Receptacle without a Ground Wire
If you’re looking to replace your two-slot outlets with three-slot outlets, make sure to use a tester to see if your outlet is grounded.
Poor Support for Outlets and Switches
Not only are loose switches and outlets visually unappealing, but they’re also dangerous. Since loosely connected outlets can move around, they can cause the wires to loosen from the terminals. Loose wires can then arc and overheat, creating a potential fire hazard. To fix this problem, try shimmying under the screws to create a tight connection to the box and place special spacers to fill the gap.
Leaving Plastic-Sheath Cable Unprotected
It’s easy to damage plastic-sheathed cable that’s left exposed between framing members. That’s why the national electrical code requires cable protection in these areas. Cable is especially vulnerable when run over or under wall or ceiling framing. To protect the exposed plastic-sheathed cable, try nailing or screwing a 1-1/2-inch thick board alongside the cable. Use a metal conduit if you’re running wire along a wall.
Overfilling Electrical Boxes
When too many wires are forced into an electrical box, dangerous overheating, short-circuiting and fire can occur. For this reason, the National Electrical Code specifies minimum box sizes to reduce this risk.
Installing Electrical Outlets Close to Water
Since water is a powerful conductor that electricity can travel through, sockets and switches must be at least 30cm from water sources like sinks and hoses. Ensuring this will prevent electricity from passing through you to the ground.
Using Different Wire Gages
To prevent overloading, it’s essential to use the same wire gauge throughout a circuit. To do this, simply evaluate the size of the wire in a circuit and use the same gauge for new wiring.
Recessing Boxes Behind the Wall Surface
If your wall surface is made of combustible materials, it’s crucial that your electrical boxes are not pushed into the wall. Boxes recessed behind flammable materials like wood present a fire hazard because the wood is left exposed to potential heat and sparks. To resolve this issue, install a metal or plastic box extension. If you use a metal box extension on a plastic box, use a grounding clip and a short piece of wire to connect the metal extension to the ground wire in the box.
Reversing Hot and Neutral Wires
Connecting the black hot wire to the neutral terminal of an outlet creates the potential for a lethal shock. Instead, always connect the white wire to the neutral terminal of outlets and light fixtures. The neutral terminal is always marked and is usually identified by a silver or light-colored screw. Then, connect the hot wire to the other terminal. If a green or bare copper wire exists, that’s the ground. Connect the ground to the green grounding screw or to a ground wire or grounded box.
Do any of these mistakes look familiar in your home or building? Call the experts! At Cajun Electric, we’re here to keep your electrical systems safe, efficient and visually appealing to fit your design needs. Through quality craftsmanship, our professionals perform a wide variety of residential and commercial electrical services, including specialty lighting.
From routine maintenance work and installations to lighting layout and design, Cajun Electric has the expertise and industry knowledge to make your spring and summer lighting projects a success!