Electrical Advice

Shocking Advice For DIY Electricians

Planning to do your own ‘home office’ electrical improvements to avoid overloading existing sockets while working at home during a pandemic? If the virus doesn’t get you, UK Government Electrical Safety Regulations just might.

While attempting your own DIY electrical work yourself may seem like a good idea, most of the time it’s not that simple. For example, do you know what kind of electrical work you’re allowed to do yourself unless you’re a qualified electrician, to avoid falling foul of the regulations?

Every year, hundreds of fires destroy homes because of faulty wiring, overloaded sockets and circuits, and poorly maintained appliances, despite warnings from the experts. In fact some experts have suggested that to qualify for home insurance it should be compulsory for houses to be inspected on a regular basis to minimise the risk of fire and electric shocks. Having said that, there’s no harm in performing some initial checks before you call in an electrician.

Here are some tips to help keep you safe

Check the electrical appliances in your kitchen and bathroom are located well way from any potential water leaks. For example, dishwashers are often plugged in just beneath the kitchen sink so a leak can easily dribble down the wall into the socket and cause a fire or a short circuit. These plugs should have a circuit breaker to immediately shut them down to prevent electrocution in the event of a leak.

Check all power sockets, light switches and plugs for sign of discolouration especially black or brown marks which could be signs of previous sparks or heat. If you check with your hand and feel any heat at all, it’s a problem that needs immediate attention. Unplug everything that is connected and call a professional electrician immediately.

Avoid using long extension leads where you don’t have enough power points to prevent overloading the circuitry. Extension cords should only be used for temporary purposes, so if you are using them it indicates you are in need of more power points in the room. If you ARE using extension leads to lamps or appliances remember they need ventilation and should not be run under carpets or behind baseboards where they can overheat and cause fires.

Check all power sockets, light switches and plugs for sign of discolouration especially black or brown marks which could be signs of previous sparks or heat. If you check with your hand and feel any heat at all, it’s a problem that needs immediate attention. Unplug everything that is connected and call a professional electrician immediately.

Check outside electrical sockets and switches to ensure they are rated for outdoor use and are protected from the weather. These simple checks should be enough to get you started and give you an idea of whether you need to have electrician do a complete check.

Still tempted to do some DIY electrical work?

In addition to Regulations, there are a myriad of dangers you need to be aware of, before you start performing your own electrical repair & maintenance, along with your responsibilities to any other person entering the house who could be injured as a result or poor electrical work.

In the UK, Part P of HM Government Building Regulations, covers Electrical Safety as it relates to the design & installation of electrical installations in dwellings. This includes the house, garden, conservatory, garden shed, and any other part of your property.

The Regulations stipulate the range of electrical installation work that is notifiable (to a building control department) where there is a requirement to certify compliance with the Building Regulations once the work is complete, as covered by Electrician Certification to BS7671.

For example, the following work is Notifiable and needs to be done by a Certified Electrician (BS7671 applies:

  • Installation of a new electrical circuit
  • Consumer unit upgrades and replacements
  • Additions or alternations to existing circuits in special locations*

*Special locations include kitchens where there is a high appliance electricity demand, and bathrooms or swimming pools with a close proximity to water.

While minor electrical tasks may be non-notifiable for building control approval, such as changing a socket or a light fitting, and potentially suitable for DIY, care must still be taken to ensure both your own safety and that of others, and ideally inspected and verified / signed off, by a registered competent person on completion.

In summary, the electrical work you do in your home must meet the Regulations for your own safety and the safety of anyone who enters your home. If a guest is electrocuted as a result of any electrical work you’ve done, which wasn’t compliant with these Regulations, you can be prosecuted.

Electrical Safety in the Home

So, while the law allows you to carry out some of your own electrical work, it’s crucial that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to do the job safely and legally. Accidents, and sometimes fatalities, can occur because people do not know what they are doing.

As a homeowner or landlord, it’s your duty to ensure the safety of your household or tenants. If any notifiable electrical work is not completed by a certified electrician, the local authority can enforce that the results of your electrical work are removed.

Also, if you don’t follow the Part P document regulations, and an electrical fault causes damage to your property, your house insurance will become invalid. If it endangers human life, you can be sued.

If you’re still keen to do some electrical work yourself, it’s crucial that you are appropriately skilled and understand exactly what the work you are carrying out will entail. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Always switch off and test the power before doing any electrical work.
  • Part P Building Regulations are there to provide guidance on electrical safety.
  • If you are trained and experienced, you can carry out electrical work that is not notifiable under the Building Regulations. However, any work done needs to be inspected and certified by a registered professional or building control body.
  • As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to abide by Approved Document P and ensure the safety of your home.
  • Approved Document P updates frequently, so make sure to always check it before doing any electrical work.

If you’re in any doubt about doing any electrical work in your home you should use a licensed electrician.

The above information is intended only as a guide and provides information on the minimum legal safety requirements for doing your own electrical work safely and legally. Neither this information nor the Electrical Codes of Practice are do-it yourself guides or manuals. Knowledge and skills are essential.

Better Still, Hire a Professional Electrician

When you hire a professional electrician, they will ensure that the job is done according to the UK national standard, BS 7671. After that, the specialist will give you an Electrical Installation Certificate or Minor Work Certificate, depending on the job. Along with that, you will also receive a Building Regulations Compliance Certificate that would confirm the work meets the building regulations.