Mike Holmes on Electrical Dangers

By Mike Holmes

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Photo Credit: Alex Schuldt, The Holmes Group

I’m not a big fan of homeowners taking on reno projects on their own. In some cases, more damage is done than good. I would rather they learn everything they can about the reno to help them hire a pro who will do it right the first time. There’s nothing wrong with homeowners trying small projects, like repairing drywall or maybe even a backsplash. But electrical wiring is never DIY. Period.

A lot of bad things can come out of doing the electrical work in your home yourself. For example, it can prevent you from getting insurance on your home, especially if there’s knob and tube wiring. Also, using the wrong gauge of wiring to support heavy current demands, such as air conditioning, can lead to a fire hazard.

But unfortunately, too many homeowners think they can do their own rewiring. In Ontario, it’s about 75 percent--that’s alarming. If you mess up a tiling job, the worst that can happen is water damage and potentially mould. But if you mess up electrical wiring, you can cause short circuits, electrical fires—heck, you can kill yourself! Is that really worth saving a couple hundred dollars? I’ll tell you, nothing is worth that.

20 percent of all fires in Canada are due to electrical fires. In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to about 46,500 home fires that involved electrical failure or malfunction. That’s a lot – too much. In my world there wouldn’t be any electrical fires, because they’re preventable if the right pros are brought in at the right time.

Faulty wiring is the number one cause of electrical fires. Sometimes it’s due to poor workmanship, other times its just wear and tear. But in any case, you need to know the warning signs. That includes:

  • Flickering lights
  • Breakers that always trip
  • Fuses that always blow
  • A burning smell coming from appliances or in rooms
  • Discoloured wall outlets
  • Outlets that spark
  • Outlets and switches that are hot to the touch

These are all signs that tell you something’s wrong with the electrical in your home. The longer you wait to get it fixed the greater the risk. Get a licensed electrical contractor to come in to do an audit of the entire house. They’ll make sure all the electrical work is up to code and that all the connections are tight. Not to mention they’ll get all the proper electrical permits for any work.

If your home is older than 15 years you need to bring in a licensed electrical contractor to check out the wiring. Especially if the home has a finished basement.

Many homeowners finish their own basements, including the electrical work. A disaster could be waiting in the walls or in the ceiling. How do you know if everything is up to code? If there’s knob and tube wiring? Or aluminum wiring mixed with copper? How do you know if the previous owners hired someone who knew what they were doing? The truth is you don’t. And the only way to know for is by bringing in the right pro—a licensed electrical contractor with plenty of experience.

Topics: Holmes Makes it Right, Mike Holmes, Renos & DIY, Electrical, DIY, Renovating, Safety, Mistakes

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