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We all like to save a few quid by doing a bit of DIY around the home rather than paying someone to do it. However, most people will not attempt DIY on anything to do electricity for obvious reasons! As well as the worry of fire or electrical shock you also have to involve Building Control for most electrical work.
Since 2005, all domestic electrical work in England and Wales whether carried out professionally or as DIY, must comply with Part P of the Building Regulations (see here) or you could be asked to remove it, put it right or even fined up to £5,000. It could also make it difficult to sell your property in the future. In April 2013 the requirements for England were amended, see clarification of the amendments here.
For most electrical work you will need to notify your Local Authority Building Control Department office (BEFORE you begin the work) in order that they may inspect the work during construction and upon completion. It is a bit of an electrical quagmire out there so I have listed below, in a nutshell, the kind of work which is and is not notifiable. I would suggest contacting your local authority before you undertake ANY work to be on the safe side.
You don’t need to notify your Local Authority if you do minor electrical work such as:-
- replacing or repairing a socket, light or cable in any room;
- adding extra spurs, sockets or lights to an existing circuit (except outdoors or in a special location*); or
- installing security lighting or air conditioning to the outside wall of a house, provided that there are no exposed outdoor connections (unless a new circuit is needed).
However, the work must be done to the standards in the Wiring Regulations and you should consider having the work checked by a competent electrician to make sure it is safe.
You will need to notify to your Local Authority Building Control Department office where the work includes:
- the installation of a new circuit, whether at low voltage (typically 230 V) or extra-low voltage);
- the replacement of a consumer unit (fuseboard); or
- any alteration or addition to an existing circuit outdoors or in a special location*, whether at low voltage (typically 230 V) or extra-low voltage.
An alteration or addition to an existing circuit in a room containing a bath or shower is notifiable only where carried out in the space surrounding a bath or shower.
An alteration or addition anywhere within a room containing a swimming pool or sauna heater is notifiable.
*A special location is a room containing a bath or shower, swimming pool or a sauna heater.
We would, however, strongly recommend that any of the above works should be carried out by a Part P qualified electrician and we would NEVER recommend carrying out electrical work in a bathroom, kitchen, utility room or outside unless you are a qualified electrician.
The UK Government has recently introduced a register called the Competent Persons Register which brings together individuals and enterprises from all the different building trades who are registered with a Government approved scheme. To find a Part P registered electrician, please check the website here.
If you do decide to tackle any electrical work yourself, you will find some clear and simple guides to various electrical jobs around the house on the Diyfixit website here
Always take the following precautions:
- Locate cables in your wall. A common DIY error is accidentally drilling, nailing or screwing things into cables hidden inside your walls. Be especially careful before drilling above or below sockets and switches. A quality cable detector can help you to track buried cables before you start work and so help to avoid the risk of an electric shock.
- Shut off the power. If you're doing any work near electrical wiring or power supplies, where possible, shut off the power in your fuseboard and use battery powered tools. To confirm that all the power is off before beginning DIY plug an appliance into sockets and operate the lights.
-Use an RCD (residual current device). An RCD can save your life by cutting off the power in the event of an electrical fault caused by a DIY blunder. Make sure you have one fitted in your fuseboard (consumer unit), and where necessary use a plug-in RCD. See our webpage about RCDs here.
- Check power tools and watch out for the lead. Before using any power tools, check the lead and plug are in good condition. If you can see signs of damage, such as frayed wires, get the equipment repaired before using it. Watch out for the power lead at all times so you don't accidentally cut through or trip over it.
- Isolate the circuit you plan to work on by removing the circuit fuse and putting it in your pocket. Or switch off and lock the relevant circuit breaker. If you can’t lock it, tape the switch in the off position, and attach a very clear note to the unit stating that you are working on the circuit.
- Check the circuit is dead with a plug-in socket tester or, in the case of a lighting circuit, a voltage tester. When you have finished, replace the fuse/circuit breaker and turn the main power switch on again. Never restore power until the faceplates and covers of all accessories have been fitted.
Stay safe people!