Common Electrical Code Violations

A hole in an orange wall with wires coming out of it.

Wiring a home on your own can save you thousands of dollars, but it can be a dangerous task if not done properly. Violating electrical codes can lead to major problems down the road and is hazardous to both your family and home. Here are a few common electrical code violations that should be avoided at all costs. (Remember to always shut off the current to your home before working on any electrical project.)

Old Wiring With New Lights

Installing new lights with old wiring can create major problems if the wiring can't handle the modern fixtures. Old wires were made to withstand 140 degrees Fahrenheit while new lights run at around 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Prevent this fire hazard by installing a splice box with new wires running to the fixture. If the wires were manufactured before 1987, then you need to replace them.

Bad Splices

Splicing two wires together should always take place inside a junction box. Placing a splice outside of a junction is illegal unless it's used as part of troubleshooting or temporary lighting. To avoid a code violation, simply install a junction box and run the wires inside. Use wire nuts to complete the splice and replace the cover plate to complete the install.


Wires in a hole in the wall.

It's tempting to stick as many wires as possible through your 7/8-inch holes while wiring the home. Overcrowding a hole, however, can lead to insulation damage as the wires drag across each other. The burned wires are a big fire hazard and can easily go unnoticed behind the walls. You should never place more than three wires through a 7/8-inch hole and always allow some wiggle room.

Tamper-Resistant Receptacles

The electrical code requires an installation of tamper-resistant receptacles both indoors and out. These handy devices prevent small children from inserting objects, like a paper clip, into an outlet. Not only do these make your home safe for kids, but they're also required by code.

Grounding Electrode Issues

In the past, it was perfectly fine to use the metal underground water piping as the grounding electrode. Given how new plumbing is mainly plastic, you should use rebar in the foundation or concrete as a grounding electrode. This is best done in the early phases of a building project as it can be difficult to access the rebar once the concrete is completed.

Buying the Wrong Circuit Breaker

A breaker panel.

Selecting the wrong circuit breaker can lead to fires and electrical hazards. There are three basic types of circuit breakers and each one has a specific use. Standard circuit breakers should only be used for large appliances and don’t offer good protection against fires. Ground fault circuit interrupters should be used in areas that contain small appliances and water, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Finally, arc fault circuit interrupters are ideal for living spaces and help prevent fires.

Forgetting the Neutral Wire

It’s easy to wire a switch and forget to include a neutral wire. Switches require a constant flow of electricity and need a neutral wire to run properly. If you're installing a new switch, it’s a good idea to include a neutral wire even if the switch doesn’t require one. This will prevent you (or someone else) from having to open up the wall at a future date.

Outdoor Covers

Installing the wrong type of outdoor receptacle cover is a common electrical code violation. A flat cover will only offer protection when something isn’t plugged into the outlet. This creates a hazard when extension cords are used for prolonged periods, such as holiday lights. Use an in-use cover instead of a flat one, especially in areas where moisture is likely.

Recessed Lighting

A recessed light in a white ceiling

Don’t allow your recessed lighting to come into contact with insulation unless it's rated for that kind of contact. There should be at least three inches between the fixture and insulation for proper fire safety.

Mixing Different Voltage Wires

Avoid mixing low voltage and line voltage lines when running parallel wires. This can create interference in communication and electronics. Run the lines at least six inches apart and avoid using the same box. Either run them into separate boxes or into one that has an appropriate divider.