While the pandemic shutdowns kept everyone home, it created the perfect opportunity for folks to indulge in home improvement projects after binging on shows from channels like HGTV. According to the 2020 Home Improvement Report from NerdWallet, in 2020, 37% of home improvement projects were performed by homeowners, and 61% of homeowners reported taking on a project themselves after the start of lockdowns. And this trend has continued, as the 2022 Home Improvement Report notes that homeowners DIYed nearly 53 million home improvement projects between 2019-2021, accounting for 39% of projects and 20% of spending.
Now as the world settles into a postpandemic era, many homeowners are feeling the effects of these DIY projects.
In the cases where these projects were unsuccessful long-term, electricians may be called on to remedy the situation, said Tim McClintock, a regional electrical specialist for the National Fire Protection Association. McClintock shared NFPA’s best practices on how electricians can navigate challenges created by DIY home improvement projects that did not go as planned and need to be fixed.
“While electricity is used in all of our day-to-day activities from the time we get up to the time we go to bed, many times it’s simply taken for granted,” he said. “While DIYers are always well-intentioned, hazards can be present if installed incorrectly and could prove to be fatal as a result of improper wiring. There is a risk of fire or even worse, electrocution.”
As stated in the National Electrical Code, it is not intended to be “an instruction manual for the untrained,” McClintock said.
“NFPA always recommends that only qualified electricians should perform electrical work, but it doesn’t always happen that way,” he said.
In the event an electrician is called in to fix an installation that “went south or haywire,” McClintock’s advice would always be to work very closely with the homeowner and the electrical inspector to determine the exact work the homeowner attempted to perform. For liability reasons, electricians should also document the scope of the work they needed to perform to fix the botched job.
Electricians should also look to the latest edition of the NEC to help improve these potentially dangerous home improvements—whether it be a kitchen island redo or a full electrical job in a bedroom, he said.
The NEC was first published in 1897, and “its mission for practical safeguarding has been built on the collective knowledge of experts”—electricians, electrical inspectors, manufacturers, testing lab personnel, and other professionals, McClintock said. It’s the most widely used code around the world, and all 50 U.S. states incorporate by reference.
“As the electrical industry constantly evolves with new fire and life safety technologies or advancements in existing technologies, it’s very important to keep the Code up to date—and for installations to be performed in accordance with the most current edition of the NEC,” he said.