15 Nov 2023

DIY Electrical Projects: What you can (and shouldn’t) tackle on your own

As the gloomy economy and cost-of-living crisis continue to bite, it might be tempting to forgo booking a professional and dabble in some DIY electrics to save costs. However, it is vital to remember that there is a vast difference between adding a new lick of paint and carrying out potentially dangerous electrical work in the home. For home improvement enthusiasts seeking to do as much as possible themselves, Paul Collins, Technical Director at NICEIC, explains what type of electrical projects you can and shouldn’t tackle on your own.


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Each year, the autumn presents one of the key home improvement periods for house-proud Brits seeking to get their home in ship shape for entertaining during the festive season. In fact, in previous years, British householders have been known to spend as much as £4.94bn on improving their homes and gardens before Christmas.

However, with one third of Brits more likely to DIY since the worsening cost-of-living crisis, concern surrounds the likelihood that ‘have-a-go homeowners’ may fail to draw the line between painting and decorating and serious renovation work, such as electrics.

After all, each year, around 20,000 accidental house fires, 2469 serious injuries, 46 deaths and over £100m in damage to private property is caused by electricity in the home. According to Electrical Safety First, the leading charity for electrical safety, almost half of all electric shocks described as ‘severe’ are the result of a DIY error.

Thus, while confidence is certainly an admirable quality to have, it cannot come to the detriment of safety in the home – and householders must be realistic about their abilities and know when it’s time to call in a professional.

In terms of best practice, we would recommend:


Replace a lamp/light bulb:
It may sound obvious, but it is entirely safe for you to change a lamp yourself. Just make sure that the light switch is turned off and the fixture is unplugged if it is possible to do so before changing the lamp. Also, it’s important to remember that there is a vast difference between changing a lamp and installing new lighting fixtures – the latter of which should always be done by a certified electrical business, such as those certified by NICEIC.

Conduct regular visual checks:
Before starting any home improvement project, a good idea is to take the time to conduct a thorough visual inspection of your electrical installations. Look out for signs of damage, such as frayed wires or exposed cables, cracked socket outlets and switches, and if you notice any issues, contact an NICEIC-certified business to address them.

Confirm if you need an electrical safety check:
It is recommended that these checks are carried out at least every 10 years, or five if the home is privately rented – so it’s always worth double checking before considering major renovation work. These must be carried out by a competent person, such as NICEIC-certified businesses.

Hire a professional:
When making electrical modifications in the home, it is vital that you hire a certified electrical business to complete the work. Doing so will ensure the work is carried out safely and to the required standards and regulations.


Alter or improve:
In this digital age, it’s easy to see why many homeowners may want to add additional socket outlets to accommodate all the various devices that modern life demands. Equally, a common electrical improvement is adding new switches or light fittings. But all too often, adding an extra socket outlet or a new fitting to an existing circuit is not as straightforward as you may think. Also, any new electrical installations must be installed in accordance with local Building Regulations, so our suggestion would be always to use a professional.

Tackle the bathroom and kitchen:
It will come as no surprise that water mixed with electrics can be a dangerous combination. That is why kitchens and bathrooms are considered high-risk areas that require special care to ensure that nothing electric is touchable from where a person could be in contact with water at the same time. Also, all electric circuits within bathrooms must be protected by Residential Current Devices (RCD), and there are rules that limit fittings to defined safety zones. Thus, our advice is to steer well clear of any electrical work in the bathroom or kitchen and strictly leave it to the professionals.

Outdoor spaces:
Whether you’re looking to introduce ambient lighting, a hot tub or power for a garden bar or kitchen, it’s vital to put safety first when it comes to anything electrical. Generally, any outdoor space is considered another high-risk area due to possible wet conditions and physical contact with the ground. This is why every cable, wire, socket outlet, appliance and light used outdoors has to be protected by an RCD, and cables must be suitable for use outdoors. Put simply, gardens and electrics don’t mix, so we always recommend that any electrical work in the garden is carried out by an NICEIC-certified business.

Even though it might be all too tempting to try to DIY to save money, the reality is that carrying out electrical work in your home without the right skills and experience puts you and your family’s safety at risk. It’s also important to remember that in order to comply with Building Regulations, most major electrical work must be notified to the local building control body in England and Wales. Failure to do so could make it difficult to sell your property when the time comes. Clearly, then, the bottom line is that the safest way to do DIY electrics is not to do DIY electrics at all.

For further information or to search for your nearest NICEIC-certified electrical business, visit the below website.

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