4 Basic Electrical Repairs Any DIYer Can Do

Annie Sisk
Written by Annie Sisk
Updated December 21, 2021
A family changing light fixture
Photo: Hero Images / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Electrical repairs are generally better left to the professionals

  • However, there are some repairs suited for the ambitious DIYer

  • Most homeowners can handle jobs like replacing a light switch or outlet

  • Use proper safety precautions before you work with any electrical components

  • If you’re uncertain or simply don’t have the time, hire a local electrician

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In many, if not most, cases, DIY electrical repair is not something the average homeowner should attempt. Your home’s electrical systems are inherently dangerous, and without the proper training, it’s easy to make a dangerous error. However, many minor electrical repairs are well-suited for novice DIYers. With advanced preparation and proper safety precautions, you can safely tackle the following home electrical repair projects.

1. Replace a Light Switch

If you’re itching to tread lightly into DIY electrical work, start by replacing a light switch. This project will expose you to many different switches, including single-pole, double-pole, three- and four-way. It’s important to replace the switch with the correct type for the power and switch to function properly. Be extra cautious if you’re installing a dimmer switch for the first time, as dimmer switches can overheat, especially if you use the wrong kind of bulb. 

2. Replace a Light Fixture

Most homeowners can readily replace an existing light fixture. This project allows you to flex your DIY muscles and modernize your home all in an hour’s work. Once the power is off and you’ve removed the existing fixture’s hardware, you’ll need to locate the junction box and separate the wires to remove the existing fixture and install the new one. Check to ensure the mounting brackets are sturdy enough to support the new fixture. 

3. Replace an Outlet

Man working on the plug electrical outlet
Photo: Miljan Živković / Adobe Stock

The humble electrical outlet: every room has them. Sometimes it’s just a crooked plate, but if your outlet feels hot to the touch or you’ve noticed sparks when you plug in an appliance, it’s time for a new one. After you test the wires behind the outlet plate for power flow, you’ll need to trim and strip the wire ends that are damaged, rewire them to the new outlet, and replace the wall plate. 

4. Install a Ceiling Fan

If the room already has an existing light fixture and you’ve got a bit of DIY experience under your belt, you can most likely tackle a ceiling fan installation. You’ll need to ensure that the mounting bracket for the fan can support its weight. You may also want to have an assistant on standby to help you manipulate the fan and blades. 

If you don’t have any experience working with electrical wires and there’s no existing wiring at the installation point, you might consider hiring a pro to handle the job. 

Safety Tips for DIY Electrical Repairs

The best way to avoid an accident in any DIY project is to prepare for the job properly ahead of time. Follow these home electrical DIY safety tips for a smooth project and successful outcome:

  • Ensure that you turn off the power at your electrical panel for the appropriate circuit. Use black electrical tape over the circuit switch so that no one else accidentally turns the power back on. 

  • Use a voltmeter to ensure the circuit is really off. 

  • Unplug any appliance or lamp before you begin working on it, even if you’re absolutely certain you cut the power to the circuit. 

  • Before disconnecting any wiring in your repair work, snap some close-up photos with your cell phone camera. This will help you remember how to reconnect the wires correctly once you’ve completed the work.

When You Should Hire a Pro

An experienced professional should always tackle electrical projects that involve wiring or rewiring your home, installing a dedicated circuit, repairing or replacing your electrical panel. Getting these jobs wrong can result in damage to your property or even physical injury. Hire an experienced local electrician to tackle projects like these. On average, the cost to hire an electrician to replace an outlet ranges from $150 to $200. Professional ceiling fan installation costs anywhere from $50 to $200.

Some projects that involve electricity may require a licensed electrical contractor or a permit to perform the work. Bear in mind that your homeowner’s insurance may exclude from coverage any damage that occurs when an unlicensed person completes the work.

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