Before you begin your project or hire someone to do the work you should understand the basic requirements that need to be followed in order for your electrical upgrades or changes to be covered under your local or state electrical code.
Residential Electrical codes are different then those applied to commercial buildings but this does not mean they are not as important.
For the most part any time that you add a circuit or modify an existing circuit within your wall or outside the wall if conduit is used you can expect to need an electrical inspection and the work performed may need to be done only by a licensed electrician.
For the changing of Appliances, Lighting, Wall Switches and other work that is done to maintain the existing layout and function of your home you will most likely not be required to obtain a Permit and get an inspection of the work.
It is important to understand that the Code for your area will not be uniform with any other location. Although there are National Codes that are adopted by States and Municipalities each Official is allowed to make modifications to those regulations as they see fit.
They can add to or modify or completely throw out sections of code and introduce their own regulations.
If you live within a Metropolitan area you can expect that the Code Official will be more strict on their set of rules however that is not to say any area of the country has lax laws governing electrical codes. To be completely honest in large cities you are dealing with bureaucracies which are often run by contributions from Unions. It is not to say Unions are bad but when they can influence the Codes to require Union Contractors to perform work that an average home owner with minimal skills could perform they are getting in the way of personal freedom and could be limiting the ability of a home owner to afford important upgrades to improve the safety of their home.
On the other hand it is important to understand that the National Electrical Codes were (mostly) implemented not out of forethought but out of mistakes and disastrous situations that happened in our communities over a long period of time.
So, who do you contact?
In many locations there is a separation between the Building Official, Electrical Code Official and Plumbing Code Official… to find who you should contact in your area you should first contact your local government office.
In some states you will find that the local building official will inspect your foundations, framing and other construction and that a state official or a licensed electrician will need to inspect your electrical work.
You may also find that work done within your own home that makes improvements to the existing structure does not need to be inspected. This is often the case in rural communities however if you are adding a room to your house you will need an inspection.
How To Learn The Code
Electricians are not always informed of the code and because most small businesses tend to have one electrician on staff for which the whole office uses that persons license it is important that you also understand the basics of what regulations and methods must be used in your location.
The National Electrical Code is a great place to start however much of the book is technical in nature so you should have a decent grasp on electrical circuits.
You will also want to contact your local building officials website because they usually place documents online that state any additions or changes they have made to the National Electrical Code and which year of the code they follow.
Thats another thing you will often find that some locations use older versions of the code because becoming certified as a government code inspector takes a decent amount of time and understanding… although it is sad to say once they pass the exam they may be slow to adopt new standards which would require re-certification.
The YouRepair Store carries a full line of Building Code Books and related training materials.
Use the links above to find official code books