Checklist Before Beginning Any DIY Electrical Wiring Project

Before beginning any DIY electrical wiring project, you need to give your project some thought. You need to plan out what you want and what you are going to do. You also need to ensure you have the proper permits, locates, materials, testers, and tools.

Let’s start with the planning process. Sometimes it helps to draw this out on a piece of paper, and other times it is more helpful to mark everything on the wall or ceiling. Where are you going to get your power from? Is there enough room in the breaker box to install another circuit breaker? There are lots of questions that need to be answered before you begin your project.

Are you going to do any digging? If so, you need to schedule a locate before you begin digging. To schedule a locate, call 911, and you will be connected to your local locator service. These locations typically need to be scheduled at least two business days in advance.

Electrical permits

I have learned that most homeowners skip this step. All electrical work needs an electrical permit. Some areas will allow homeowners to complete all electrical wiring on their own homes. Other areas have restrictions on what a homeowner can do. For example, here in Montana, homeowners are not permitted to install their own electrical service. These rules and regulations vary from state to state and even town to town. You need to check with your local building codes department before beginning any DIY electrical wiring project.

Directions and Instructions

You need to read, follow and understand all instructions and safety warnings that are included with all tools and devices you are going to use on your project.


To determine problems or to see if your electrical device is working properly, you need at least a voltage-tester. I also recommend a multi-meter and a receptacle plug tester.


Be sure your workspace is clear of all debris and anything else that could be a hazard before beginning work.

Electricity and water do not mix

NEVER stand in water, on wet floors, or work in wet clothing while working with electricity. Place dry boards or rubber mats on the floor to stand on if you are forced to work on wet floors. If you are working outside in the rain, or somehow you get wet while working on your electrical wiring project, change into dry clothes before working with live electricity or around breaker boxes and fuse panels.

Turn off the power

Always turn off the power before working on any electrical circuit or in a breaker box or fuse panel. Once you turn off the power, verify the power is off with a voltage tester before touching any wires or electrical devices. An easy way to determine which breaker or fuse controls the receptacle that you plan to work on is to plug a radio into the receptacle. Now flip through the breakers or remove the fuses until you hear the radio stop. When the radio quits working, that is the correct breaker or fuse.

Breaker boxes and fuse panels

Use extreme caution when working in or around breaker boxes and fuse panels. Remember, everything down the center is live 240 volts. Sometimes, when turning off the main breaker, the wires that feed the panel are still live. Breaker boxes and fuse panels are not really the place for inexperienced people to be working in or around.

Use the right tool for the job

When working with electricity, it is helpful to use the right tools with insulated handles. Always wear shoes with rubber or non-conductive soles. A good pair of leather gloves and safety glasses are helpful as well.

Completing your project

Before you can consider your DIY electrical wiring project to be complete, you need to test everything, clean up and get a final inspection.

Know your limitations

Do not rush through your project. When we hurry, we occasionally forget to think things through, and mistakes happen. If you do not feel comfortable with what you are doing, stop and leave it to a licensed electrician.

Worked in IT for 10 years, specialising in computer measurement, resource and performance management and complex problem solving. Changed careers to HVACr in 2015.

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