The National Electrical Code
and Your Project
The guidelines for electrical work in the USA are set by the National Electric Code (NEC). The NEC is published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a non-profit corporation. Throughout the country, the NEC has been adopted as the standard for all electrical work. Each community is free to modify the standards; when they do they usually make them more stringent. Check with your governing agency to determine what standards apply to your home.
The NEC is updated and published every three years. The current edition was published in 2011 and the next edition will be published in 2014. To order an excerpted copy of the residential NEC click below.
Each time the NEC is updated, elements of your home's wiring may fall out of conformance with current code. Usually it is not necessary to conform to the current code, only to the code that applied when the electrical work was done. New work must comply with the current code. In the case where you repair or replace a device (such as a fixture, outlet or switch) and no new cable is being run, you typically do not need to upgrade to meet current code.
Each community's rules about doing electrical work vary. Your community may permit you to make repairs, install new devices, add circuits or they may require a licensed electrician to complete some or all of these projects. Furthermore, your community probably requires a permit for any work before the work has started. Check with your local building department to determine what rules govern electrical work in your community. Failure to obtain a permit may make you subject to fines and may require you to open completed work so that it can be inspected.
Improperly completed electrical work has the potential to lead to damage, fire, injury and death. Do not underestimate the seriousness of undertaking your own electrical work. If you do not fully understand the work you are planning, understand the electrical code or do not have the proper skills to complete the work, you should hire a professional, licensed electrician.