Worried About Electrocution While Performing Home Repairs? What Can You DIY Safely And When Do You Need A Professional?

Posted on: 25 April 2016

If you're a first-time homeowner, you're likely excited about finally having the ability to customize your home and make it your own. In many cases, this can mean replacing builder-grade light fixtures with ceiling fans or dimming lights, upgrading appliances, or even moving or adding outlets in certain rooms. In other situations, you may first need to perform some minor electrical repairs before you can get started on more aesthetic renovations. While performing home improvement and repair projects can provide you with a sense of satisfaction and save you money, you may be concerned about your ability to hook up lights, appliances, and outlets without shocking or burning yourself. Read on to learn more about some repairs and upgrades you should be able to safely perform yourself, as well as those in which you may want to hire an electrician.

What electrical repairs and upgrades can be easily performed by the DIY homeowner? 

There are a few projects that are simple and safe enough even for those with little to no experience with home repairs. 

Changing a light fixture or adding a ceiling fan

One of the easiest and most satisfying changes you can make is switching out plain or unappealing light fixtures for a useful ceiling fan or light that better fits your decor. Your first step whenever you plan to be fiddling with wires is to cut off the power to the fixture (or the entire room) through your breaker box. Then use a screwdriver to remove the light fixture from the ceiling and expose the junction box. Unscrew or untwist the wires attaching your light fixture to the ceiling and remove the fixture. 

Next, you'll want to attach the wires for your new light fixture or ceiling fan to the wires hanging from your junction box. Your light fixture or fan may come with instructions on which wires to attach to the ones in your ceiling, but if not, a good rule of thumb is to place like colors with like -- black with black, white with white, and green with green. 

When switching from a light fixture to a ceiling fan, it's important to make sure that the ceiling structure can support this heavier fan. If the light fixture is in the middle of the room and a stud finder doesn't reveal that it's attached to a solid beam, you may want to consult your architect or a contractor before installation to prevent this fan from crashing down onto you. 

Replacing a light switch

If your flat light switch feels warm to the touch, you may be dealing with a short in the wire within the switch. While this is a simple fix, if left alone, it could eventually lead to an electrical fire. After shutting off power to the switch, remove the switch plate with a screwdriver and unscrew or untwist the wires holding the switch in place, being careful to look for any bare spots that may require further repair. To install the new switch, you'll simply need to twist the wires from your new switch to those coming from inside your wall, again matching like colors with like. For a bit of extra security, you may opt to wrap these wires with black electrical tape to prevent future shortages. 

What projects can require an electrician's help?

Although some homeowners have had luck installing electrified outdoor lighting themselves, this process can usually benefit from the advice and experience of an electrician. Indoor lighting and electrical outlets are relatively self-contained and don't require much protection from the outside elements. Installing outdoor lights can mean burying cable (deep enough to avoid electrocution or damage to your lights if you run over the cable trench with your lawn mower) and waterproofing all the necessary connections, making it a fairly substantial job for even those experienced in electrical installation.

For more information and tips of whether you should need help, contact an electrical contractor in your area.