For routine electrical repairs, such as wiring a plug or a fuse, just a few tools are needed. Most important is a torch. Keep one in a handy place and periodically check that the batteries are charged up.
- You should also always have handy a selection of fuse wire or cartridge fuses (depending on the type of fuse carriers you have).
- At least two screwdrivers with insulated handles will be needed. One should have a small blade, the other a larger one. You can buy a special electrician’s screwdriver that deals with the screw connections in plugs. Also useful for larger jobs is a neon-test screwdriver: when the tip of the screwdriver touches a live wire, neon gas in the handle lights up.
- There are several types of pliers suited to electrical work: radio pliers are useful for bending the ends of bared flex around terminals. Alternatively, a pair of half round pliers is good for making loops in bare wire. Diagonal cutters come in a range of sizes and are good for cutting wire of all kinds: a small pair can also be used for stripping insulation if you don’t have a pair of wire strippers.
- If your ambitions for your electrical improvements go beyond changing a plug, and include replacing socket outlets or ceiling roses, then you’ll need drills and the appropriate bits, chisels, hammers and mallets. Extensive electrical jobs that require running cables through walls, under floors or in roof spaces, will mean that you will need to cut channels into walls in order to bury the cable (and then conceal it with plaster); to lift and cut floorboards; and to drill through joists and behind skirting boards. To prise up floorboards, you’ll need a bolster and to cut them you’ll need a tenon saw and if necessary a padsaw or jigsaw.
- You’ll also need tools to help you ‘make good’ any surrounding areas: a float for plaster, plus decorating tools.
Electricity must be treated with respect: lack of knowledge and carelessness lead to danger. Most domestic electrical work can be carried out safely and correctly but always keep to the rules and put safety first.
- When electrical appliances are not in use during the day and at night, they should be switched off completely and the plug removed from the socket.
- Always turn off the electrical supply at the main switch before starting work. You don’t have to deprive the whole house of power; turn off the main switch at the consumer unit, and remove the fuse controlling the circuit on which you are working, then restore the supply. Remember to put the fuse in a safe place.
- Pull out the plug of an electrical appliance before undertaking any adjustments or repairs, or when you have to change blades or bits on power tools.
- Turn off the light switch when you replace a blown-out light bulb.
- Electrical cables and flexes should never be knotted. Ideally they should be unwound and laid flat to their entire length.
- If you suspect that an appliance is damaged, take it out of service.
- Never attempt electrical work beyond your knowledge or capabilities. If you are in any doubt at all, hire a qualified electrician.
- Check you have really isolated any electrical equipment you are working on by testing with a neon test screwdriver.
- Periodically inspect the flexes on household appliances such as irons. Never patch up a length of worn flex: always replace it with the correct type and size.
- Never overload sockets with adapters and too many extra plugs and never ‘hot wire’ equipment by poking wires directly into the sockets.
- Always follow the correct codes when wiring circuits. Flexible cables are colour coded Brown – Live (L); Blue – Neutral (N); Green/Yellow – Earth (E). Fixed cables are colour coded Red – Live; Black – Neutral; Yellow and green – Earth.
- Wear rubber-soled shoes when you work on an electrical installation.
- Any significant rewiring – especially new circuits – must be tested by a competent and qualified electrician. When ‘new builds’ and ‘self build’ houses apply for connection to the mains supply, they have to submit a certificate to the electricity board confirming that the wiring complies with the Wiring Regulations. For a small fee, your local electricity board will test DIY wiring at the time of connection. Never attempt to make connections to the meter or Board’s earth terminal yourself.
- Tenon saw
- Pliers: radio, half round and diagonal cutters
- Sharp knife
- Screwdrivers with insulated handles
- Wire strippers
- Neon-handled current tester
- Fuse wire
- Cartridge fuses
- Wire strippers
- Insulating tape