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What is Electrical Rough-In?

When a home is built, an addition added or a during a major remodel, there will be a rough in phase for the different trades. In the electrical trade the rough in occurs after the framing has been completed but before the drywall has gone up, and possibly before the exterior sheathing has been installed. It is the time when access to the space between the studs, floor joists, ceiling joists and every other nook and cranny is most easily accessed.

Rough-in refers to the rough installation of the electrical wiring, boxes, fixture mounts, breaker panel, and sub panels. The installation of switches, outlets, fixtures and so on will occur during the finish phase as the construction work nears completion. An inspection is generally required of the electrical work, prior to covering the work with drywall. A building inspector will spot check, or possibly thoroughly inspect that all work meets electrical code requirements. If the work meets code requirements, the inspector will sign off and work can continue. Otherwise, corrections must be made and the work reinspected before other work can be begun.

An electrician is versed in the NEC, National Electrical Code, as well as your local community standards. The NEC is the standard used throughout much of North America. Some communities impose a higher standard and typically publish a code requirement guide on specifications that exceed the NEC requirements.

Can I Do My Own Electrical Rough In?

Electrical work can be quite expensive and many do-it-yourselfers consider doing the work themselves to save on the budget. Is it realistic to take on such a project? Can a homeowner do their own wiring? The short answer is maybe, if your community even allows a homeowner to do their own electrical work. Furthermore, there are a lot of things to consider that might make hiring a licensed electrician your better choice.

Doing electrical rough in doesn't seem too complicated. You drill some holes, pull some romex, nail in switch and outlet boxes; easy. If your electrical plan has been drawn up by a qualified professional, then you have a good map to work from. That is a good place from which to start. However, if you draw up your own plan, it will have to be approved by the local building department (the pro plan would require approval too). They will review it to make certain it meets the requirements, but they aren't going to make sure it is a sensible plan. They aren't going to critique it or make improvements other than to bring it up to code.

Next you need to know all the code requirements. Things like what gauge wire to run for each particular circuit, how high to mount the outlet and switch boxes, how to fasten the wire near the boxes, where to drill the holes to run the romex, where are nail plates required and a whole lot more. An electrician knows all the code requirements, the community standards and probably the quirks of the local inspector. An inspector is likely to be very rigorous when inspecting work done by a homeowner, and probably not very forgiving. The money you save in doing the work yourself may be lost if your project schedule stretches longer after any redo work that is required.

Liability issues are another thing to consider. An electrician usually assumes the liability for damage or injury that results from their failure to properly install an electrical system. That liability may last for the lifetime of the home. Do you want to be responsible for the electrical system even after you sell your house? Do you want to take any risks with the safety of your own family? Finally, some homeowner's insurance policies may exclude coverage for damage resulting from any work that was not performed by a licensed electrician. Your current policy may cover your house now, but what about next year's policy, will it still be covered?

We aren't trying to scare you out of doing your own electrical work, but we do want you to understand that this is not a project to take on lightly. Your knowledge and the quality of your work directly bares on the safety of your family and the families who live in the home in the future.

An alternative might exist in which you handle some of the grunt work of electrical rough-in while your electrician handles the important details. Essentially you fill the role of the electrician's assistant. Not every electrician would be willing to take on such an arrangement, especially those that already have an assistant on the payroll. However, if you can find a willing electrician, this could be a money saver while getting the benefit of the licensed electrician's experience.

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