24 Aug 2007

Can I still do DIY electrics?

I am in the very early thought process stage for building my own home. I have every intention of carrying out as much of the work myself as I possibly can, and this ranges from ground works to electrical installation, plumbing etc, etc.

However, the recent changes in legislation now mean that I have to employ someone else to do what I could do myself the day before the changes came into force.

To comply with this new legislation, my thinking is that I need to be approved under the "Competent Persons Scheme", and therefore, I need to know exactly what qualifications I need to gain, and what my next move is once I have the qualifications. Is it purely a case of gaining BS7671 and the like ?

It seems very odd that as a "layman" I can visit my DIY store or similar merchants and purchase all of the equipment I require to install systems, but I can't actually do anything with regard to fitting them.

Can you please clarify what the situation is.

Ian Thorley

Mark writes:

It wasn’t until 2005 that electrical work came under the auspices of building control in England & Wales. Part P, as it is known, doesn’t actually state that only competent persons are allowed to carry out electrical work: rather it suggests you have two choices. Firstly, you can elect to have a suitably Part P qualified electrician undertake the work for you and sign it off as having been carried out in accordance with BS7671. Alternatively, you can apply to have the electrical work inspected — and hopefully passed —by your local authority building inspector, or an agent acting for them. This, in theory, allows DIYers to undertake their own electrical work, in the time-honoured fashion, but adds in a measure of quality control that wasn’t previously there. If this work was being carried out as part of a larger project — i.e. building a house — then there shouldn’t be any additional charge for inspecting the electrics, though this may be at the discretion of the building inspector.

However, not every local authority is happy to undertake electrical inspections. Some of them have hired qualified electricians to undertake this new workload, others haven’t bothered and are instead insisting that all electrical work is undertaken by suitably qualified electricians. I suggest you make some enquiries to your local authority building inspectors and find out where they stand.

If they insist on you using a qualified electrician, and you still wish to undertake the work yourself, you then have a further two choices.

• One is to find a Part P electrician who will mentor you through the job, do some inspection and sign off the job as their own. They do exist. One who works regularly with selfbuilders across the land is Ben Addison.

• The other is to undertake the training yourself. There are various places you can do this training. One such is Trade Skills 4U.co.uk, who offer a range of courses suitable for your needs at a cost of around £1,500. This must include a City & Guilds 2381 qualification to show you understand the essentials of BS7671, and a further qualification for Part P Domestic Installers. Having successfully completed the courses, you would also need membership of a certifying body such as The Electrical Contractors Association in order to be able to sign off your own work. It would probably cost you around £2,000 for the qualifications and a year’s membership. However, at the end of this process, you would also have a very sellable skill. If you really enjoy electrical work, maybe this is what you have been waiting for!

1 comment:

  1. I understand that in Scotland we have a little more license at present re DIY electrics in self-build. It is a bit of a problem - skilled & qualified to work for 35 years on 3 phase generators, high frequency airport, hospital & military generators, & mainframe computer electrics with "clean earth" issues beyond the understanding of most, I'm still not qualified to wire a ring main in my first and only self-build. I don't really object to the way things are going but anticipate the day when I'll need a degree to be legally free to pour myself a glass of water. A work colleague in the 1970's when a Degree became mandatory in our profession announced to a new recruit - you'll be able to tell us the square root of a tin of beans, but can you get the lid off!! Is all this progress?
    First visit to your web pages - Excellent Stuff!