Boxes in the master bedroom Recessed lights in the hallway
The lights in the kitchen
Circuit panels Main power line

Electrical Rough-in

No - it is not a typo, the electrical rough-in really did take more than a month... because I was doing the work myself with the help of my dad. We started working before we were actually "scheduled" so that we could get a jump start without delaying the project too much. Most of the time I was working before and after my "real" job each day, which slowed things down a bit too. Also, when the electrician comes in to do the work, he typically brings a crew of several people, so they can really knock it out in a hurry. Mark (my builder) told me that a typical electrical rough-in takes 2 or 3 days.

I decided that I wanted to do my own electrical installation several months before we started the project. My primary motive for doing my own installation was actually not financial. Although there was money to be saved by doing the work myself, the savings compared to the amount of effort required were minimal. Mostly, I wanted an electrical installation that was well thought out and designed to meet my needs.

In the months before I began the actual installation, I spent probably 30 - 40 hours planning out the layout of all the various electrical items - lights, switches, outlets, ceiling fans, CAT5 (phone & data) & coax (satallite & cable), built in speakers, etc. This required a tremendous amount of effort & discussion with my wife to determine how we wanted things to work. I scanned a copy of my house floor plans into my computer, and did my layout with a graphics editor (I used Photoshop, but any graphics editor will work).

I have not had a tremendous amount of experience doing wiring in the past, but have done enough here and there and finishing my basement in our last house. Wiring up a switch and an outlet so that it works correctly is not too difficult - however, understanding and applying the electrical code requires time & effort. There are literally hundreds of little rules that must be followed to wire a house to the specifications of the code. Again, it is not too difficult in a residential application, but you must know what the code is in order to apply it.

I purchased a few books to help make sure I followed the code and read each one cover to cover. The first book I purchased, Audel House Wiring, was sort of a high level overview of the code. This was a good book for understanding the theory and reasons behind many of the rules. The second book I purchased, Electrical Wiring Residential, was basically a text book for someone studying to become an electrician. It is a very long and in-depth book, covering both the rules & practical applications, and was *extremely* helpful. It was an excellent resource and I highly recommend it. It is more than 500 pages long, so it takes a while to read it, but it was worth the time spent and saved me loads of errors that probably would have caused me to fail the inspection.

The third book I purchased was the actual code itself. The NEC publishes the book Pocket Guide for Residential Electrical Installations for the items that apply to residential installations which is quite a bit smaller than the full code (which includes commercial and industrial items) but is still a couple hundred pages long. The code is written like a legal contract - so it is not exactly light reading, but it was *very* handy. With the assistance of the other two books I purchased, I was able to work through any areas of the text that were somewhat difficult to understand. I took detailed notes of everything that I learned in my reading, and had them handy during my installation for quick reference.

I started the installation by mounting all of my recessed lights. We put recessed lights everywhere - by the time we were done we had hung approximately 90 recessed lights. This took a tremendous amount of time, particularly since I was fussy about making sure the lights were balanced, centered, etc. This challenge is complicated because I had to work around obstacles such as trusses that sometimes run right where you want to place a light. After the cans were hung, we wired them all together, room by room.

After the lights were done, I mounted all of my boxes (for my outlets, switches, etc.) Last, I wired everything together, and finally did my homeruns (running wires from the main circuit breaker panels to each circuit in the house).

I thought that mounting the recessed lights would take the most time. However, wiring up all of the circuits turned out to be the most time consuming area. Stringing cable around the house with one or two people takes a lot of time - I swear I went up and down the latter a thousand times a day. The good news is that I lost 10 pounds!

What I learned

Doing the electrical installation yourself is probably not going to save you that much money relative to the total cost of your house. So, your motivation to do your own electrical installation should be to have it tailored exactly to your needs. If you are looking to simply save money, you will probably be disappointed with the amount of money you save for the amount of effort required.

Make SURE you have someone that can help you. The bigger your house, the more time you will need help. In my case, my dad spent countless hours working with me helping me get the job done. Without his continual assistance, there is no way I would have been able to get the job done in time. Even with his help, it took us FOREVER to get it done.

There is a lot more work to an electrical installation that you might think. Be prepared to spend many 12 hour days to get it done. Make sure you spend plenty of time planning where you want everything (switches, outlets, etc.) This is one of the main benefits of doing the work yourself - you can think about how you will use the house and install things accordingly. Don't show up assuming that you will figure it out as you go. If you do, you will miss things, and it will slow your work down considerably. You need to walk onto the jobsite already knowing pretty much where everything is going to go.

When I was reading the books about the code, I made a list of dozens of rules I needed to follow do comply with the NEC. I took these notes with me which proved to be very helpful when doing the work. If you would like a copy of my notes, just contact me.

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