When is a permit or inspection required on electrical work?

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Sounds so simple—hire an electrician to move an outlet from one side of your backsplash to the other or switch out a single outlet for a double. But there are steps beyond the actual wiring that your electrician or electrical contractor may need to take to comply with local and state rules and regs.

Many state and local laws require that a permit be obtained prior to the installation of electrical wiring or devices, and that an inspection be performed to ensure that the work was performed safely and meets applicable code requirements.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, projects that require a permit include:

  • Adding or extending a new circuit and/or wiring for central air conditioning, a swimming pool or a hot tub
  • Installing and/or adding a receptacle or light fixture where one did not already exist
  • Installing and/or adding a new electrical panel
  • Restoring electrical service after an interruption caused by a hazardous condition
  • Wiring or re-wiring any new structure such as a house, garage or shed

In general, for minor repairs, permits aren't required by law, but the work must comply with the version of the National Electrical Codethat is recognized by the state or city in which you live.

Projects that do not require a permit may include:

  • Replacing a receptacle where one already exists
  • Replacing a faulty circuit breaker with the same size/type
  • Replacing or changing a light fixture
  • Installing a phone or coax cable for cable television

If you hire an electrician or contractor to perform work at your home, be sure to confirm that he/she has obtained the appropriate permits, and request an inspection once the work is complete. This protects your family against risk of electrocution and electrical fires—and it is the law. For more information, visit the Electrical Safety Foundation International Web site at www.electrical-safety.org.

Adding a recessed light to your closet (above) can make everything easier to find—and it requires a permit if there was no fixture there previously.
 Photo by Broan NuTune courtesy of the American Lighting Association.

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