Lessons of a self-schooled electrician.

While I am not a credentialled electrician, I have been playing with electricity since I was a young lad, and have installed breakers, wired stoves, and even mastered the four-way switch. I have also electrocuted myself on at least a dozen occasions -- one time waking up across the room from the clothes dryer.Simple electical diagnostic test.

Just yesterday, I rewired a couple of sockets in the living room after a 70s-era loose connection took out half of the circuit.

Therefore, it is with no little authority that I proclaim the following hard-earned lessons.

  • An electrician's job is one part welding (whoops, forgot to open the breaker) and two parts nicking fingers on sharp metal edges.
  • Don't twist the wires together before screwing on the wire nut.
  • Plastic electrical boxes with friction Romex stops are crap.
  • Electrical tape conceals all sins and binds all wounds.
  • Blacken the neutral wire leading back to the switch so that the next electrician will know that it's "hot."
  • Lamp cord has ridges on the insulation marking the neutral conductor.
  • Think twice before licking those terminals.
  • Leave no less than 6" of Romex sticking out of each junction box.
  • Always use screw terminals instead of friction-fit wire clamps.
  • It takes an average of four different screwdrivers to install a simple outlet.

Archived Comments

  1. Stacie on 20091218.Friday:
    I so agree with the last point! What is with that?!?! Why not twist the wires before putting on the wire nut, I was told to do that in the home wiring course at the College. I do have a problem attaching the regular wires to the wires that have a bazillion little strands of wire (no idea of names of each)... had these on indoor and outdoor lights - my nuts kept falling off!
  2. Dave on 20091219.Saturday:
    Stacie: Apparently "to twist or not to twist" the wires is an ongoing religious argument on the web (I won't even get into the "to wrap with electrical tape or not to wrap" argument). Like you, I had learned to twist first, but then was cautioned in very severe tones by an electrician not to twist. But he never explained the reason. If the nuts do fall off, you may have the wrong size, or the unshielded wire is too short.