What Happens if I Do Electrical Work Without a License?
Spoiler Alert: A Lot of Really Bad Things
We love a good DIY project. They’re so satisfying, aren’t they? Fixing something with your own two hands? Confidence-boosting. Making custom upgrades to your space? Comfort-enhancing. Saving a pretty penny? Wallet-approved!
Of course, that’s assuming everything goes well. But be honest: How many DIY projects have you started—and never finished? Or started and finished—but wound up with not at all what you were hoping for?
Ultimately, some projects just aren’t meant to be DIY. And electrical work is definitely one of them. Of course, we’re not talking about replacing a fuse, changing a lightbulb, or putting in a new outlet cover. We’re talking about adding circuits, replacing a whole panel, upgrading services, or wiring a new addition. You know: the big stuff.
And let’s be totally clear: Even if binging YouTube how-tos has you convinced you could do it, that doesn’t mean you should do it.
Still tempted? Check out this list of the top five things that will probably happen if you do electrical work without a license.
#1: You’ll hurt someone.
Electricity is nothing to mess with. Ever been shocked by an outlet? Try that x1000. We’re talking shocks, burns, and house fires. No DIY project is worth putting you or your family at risk. And if you hurt someone else, there’s a chance of lawsuits, court fees, or worse. Take everyone’s safety seriously and call the pros first.
#2: You won’t pass an inspection.
If your local government finds out about your project, they’ll likely send someone out to do an inspection. And chances are your handiwork won’t be up to code. That means you’ll have to tear it out and start from scratch. (Hello, extra time and expense!) Some electric companies will even turn off your service until you meet inspection requirements. All that work for nothing.
#3: You’ll lose money.
Extra steps, disaster projects, and failed inspections mean less money in your pocket. Suddenly your DIY, money-saving adventure is now double or triple the cost of hiring a professional in the first place.
Or, let’s say you hire a non-licensed professional to do the work. If they don’t do it right, you have no recourse. The only solution will be to hire the real pros to get the job done. And that job will probably be more expensive and time-consuming because it’ll have to start with cleaning up the mess left by the other “electrician.”
A licensed electrician has the incentive to get the job done right the first time. If they don’t, they could lose their job and their license. It’s definitely best to bet on the true professionals.
#4: You can’t sell your home.
We’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about people who got away with unlicensed work in the short-term—but it really came back to bite them later on. For example, most home sales involve inspections, and any home inspector worth their salt will expose electrical work that’s not done to code. Trying to save a buck or speed up a project by doing it yourself simply isn’t worth the long-term headache.
#5: You can’t even start your project.
Depending on your city and state regulations, you need a license to pull permits for home renovations. And if you do work without a permit, well, see #4.
Then there’s this all-too-familiar scenario: You start tearing things out, replacing wires, and suddenly you realize you’re way in over your head. You can’t really start the repairs or upgrades because you’re now lost in the wiring mess you’ve created.
Keep in mind, these cautionary tales don’t only apply to DIY projects; they also apply to hiring unlicensed help. Sure, the local handyman is a great guy who seems to know what he’s doing more than you do. But if he’s not licensed, the same consequences apply.
So what can you do?