TIPS & TRICKS

Signs your electrical might not be up to code

Faulty electrical work is not only annoying – like when a light is flickering or a breaker shuts off – but it can be a warning sign of dangers behind the walls that could lead to a house fire.

Without looking at your wiring behind the wall or ceilings, it can be hard to spot a potential problem, but the good news is there are a few telltale signs your wiring might not be up to code.

Disclaimer: Electrical code largely stems from the widely adopted National Electric Code used in all 50 states in the US, but there are also local and state regulations that might govern the electrical work you take on as a DIYer so make sure to do your research before taking on any electrical projects.

Here are a few signs of faulty wiring to keep an eye out for when doing electrical work:

Too few GFCI or AFCI outlets

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) outlets protect you from potentially dangerous electrical flows and shut off if triggered to prevent fires or electric shock.

GFCIs are commonly found where electrical circuits could come in contact with water like in kitchens, bathrooms and laundries while AFCIs are used more broadly in living rooms, dining rooms, family rooms, hallways and bedrooms and work by sensing an arc in the circuit that could cause danger (like an animal chewing through them, for example).

Another protection device required by code is tamper-resistant receptacles which are designed to stop objects being inserted into an outlet.

Missing neutral wiring

Neutral wiring in switches carries currents back to the power source and regulates the voltage, so they’re very important in a home’s electrical safety. Most homes built after about the 1980s were built to include neutral wiring but older homes might be more questionable.

You’ll be able to tell if you have a neutral wire by opening a switch box in your home, if you know how to do that safely, and see a white wire coming out of the gang box.

Another protection device required by code is tamper-resistant receptacles which are designed to stop objects being inserted into an outlet.

Circuit breakers frequently trip

Circuit breakers that frequently trip could indicate the home’s wiring isn’t sufficient to meet the electrical demand. It’s best to have an electrician assess your electrical panel to make sure everything is up to code and your breakers are at a high enough AMP level to support everything they’re powering.

Your home was built before 1980's

The older the home, the less likely it’s up to electrical code. Older homes may have aluminum wiring instead of copper wiring, or knob and tube wiring which was common around the 1950s.

The National Electrical Code is updated every few years, so if you’re starting to work on a home that’s older than 30 years old, it might be a good idea to have an electrician take a look at the breaker box to be sure.

Spliced wires without a junction box

Anywhere wires are spliced along a circuit, there needs to be an enclosure like a junction box to keep up with code and prevent hazards. A junction box is simply an electrical box that houses the connection of multiple cables and is secured to the studs or structure inside the walls or ceilings. Adding a junction box is a fairly easy DIY, but check local code to make sure it’s okay to complete the task without a licensed electrician in your area.

If any of these issues are present in your home while working on an electrical project, it’s a good idea to contact a licensed electrician to make sure it’s taken care of and everything is not only running smoothly, but is safe.

For DIYers getting started on electrical projects, our light fixture kit is a great place to start and make a big impact to your space!

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