Precision - Woodworkers vs Electricians

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Forum topic by DKV posted 11-14-2013 07:23 PM 1732 views 0 times favorited 40 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3940 posts in 2466 days

11-14-2013 07:23 PM

Let me start out by saying if there are any electricians in the audience that are also woodworkers please take this critique with an open mind.

I just finished replacing three light switches with timers and here are my comments:
1. Breaker panels leave a lot of room for improvement when it comes to labeling.
2. Wall outlet boxes sit cockeyed, too far back or too far forward.
3. The solid core wires run to the boxes are either too short or too long.

Electricians must either have some very guarded secrets on how to best work under the above conditions or electricians are paid based on how many houses they complete in a day. In my mind (and I’m usually correct) electrical work in residences is very sloppy…unless of course what we the homeowners find behind the face plate is the typical standard that all electricians must aspire to.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

40 replies so far

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2739 days

#1 posted 11-14-2013 07:54 PM

They work with the power off. If they are union, you usually don’t see the mess. In homes, I have seen stuff that would curl your toes – literally. Like live receptacles behind a shower (that was leaking). Bare wires stapled to a joist – that were hot.

I really don’t thing an electrician did these things but rather after they left. People do the dumbest things.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View madts's profile


1855 posts in 2302 days

#2 posted 11-14-2013 08:40 PM

During the last 16 years we have been living in this house, while doing a lot of renovation, the worst work done while building the house has been the electrical. I have found wires run under sheet rock and not through the studs, as if some body forgot to run a wire. There is no consistency in the way the switches/ outlets are oriented. This is a 35 year old house in south Houston, where there were no codes when the house was built. I have just about rewired the house. And yes some of the wires are very long and some very short in the boxes. Does not seem to be a standard.

All this could be lack of schooling and also trade unions, that do/should provide training.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View exelectrician's profile


2327 posts in 2389 days

#3 posted 11-14-2013 09:07 PM


As far as I am concerned the wiring codes in the USA are vastly different from the rest of the world, where the voltage in outlets is 220V.
When you have 220V in all applications you have lethal voltages, and this leads to a much higher awareness of the danger of electricity. This in turn translates to a much higher level of training and integrity of all electricians, and users of electricity in general.
When I arrived in the USA 20 years ago and started working in a union environment the culture shock was quite alarming at times when I saw how complacent everyone was.
So yes I agree with your comments,
1. Breaker boxes are very cheaply built
2. outlet boxes – what can I say?
3.I detest solid core wire – probably the number one cause of fire in homes in the USA
4. Wire is not run in grounded metal pipe, in order to save a few dimes.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View Woodknack's profile


11472 posts in 2342 days

#4 posted 11-14-2013 10:38 PM

They don’t care, because their employers don’t care, because the GC’s don’t care, and in many cases the inspectors don’t care or are tipped to look the other way; it’s all about time vs money.

A few years back our commercial building was undergoing remodel. The inspector came by and went off on a rant about the old wiring, said it would all have to be pulled and redone, then wondered aloud what idiot signed off on it on ten years ago. Since I happened to have the paperwork in hand I pointed out that he did and showed him his own signature. He turned so red I thought he would literally have an aneurysm.

-- Rick M,

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2835 posts in 1937 days

#5 posted 11-14-2013 10:48 PM

Good one Rick! Wish I could have seen that!

-- Paul, Las Vegas

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2647 days

#6 posted 11-14-2013 11:10 PM

#1 Labeling on the breaker panel is a pencil but can get complicated since the electrician is always trying to minimize the number of circuits…no sense in dedicating a circuit to a single hall light if he/she can also feed a bedroom and stay within the code limits. For something to do on a rainy day get a helper and map out your house (those little walkie talkies work great).

#2 The “drywall ears” on outlets and switches are there for a reason. And there is a big difference between 20 cent cover plates and 40 cent cover plates (the latter might even be labeled “unbreakable”...they are engineered to bend without breaking.

#3 solid core wire…deal with it since 99% of the houses use it. I always prefer to leave a loop instead of the “piano wire” (even in the breaker panel boxes). Like a piece of lumber, you can always cut shorter but you can’t add to make it longer without it becoming a major project.

View oldnovice's profile


6752 posts in 3330 days

#7 posted 11-14-2013 11:47 PM

IMO, and teejk seems to concur, most of the problems mentioned above are due to inexperienced home owners doing their own work, not doing it properly, and giving up with “good enough” before they finish!

I am not an electrician but I worked in high tech in electronics, distributed control systems, automated test systems, DNA micro-arrays, Laser interferometers, and all of these fields require discipline as does electrical power distribution, plumbing and many other skilled fields. Most of the electricians I have known and seen their work are as good at their craft as any woodworker.

  1. My breaker panel is labeled because I took the time to do it and also made a paper copy.
  2. What teejk said.
  3. The main issue with stranded wire is that it is stranded making it possible to not use the entire gauge of the wire by anyone not trained properly.

That’s my 2 cents worth!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View BJODay's profile


526 posts in 1905 days

#8 posted 11-15-2013 01:57 AM

I have done my own wiring. I enjoy it and find it interesting. I recently remodeled my kitchen. I hired a friend who is a union member and a licensed electrician. He roughed in my kitchen circuits, both outlets, dishwasher, microwave and eight can-lights in 4 hours. It would have taken me two weeks.

Now I’ll add or replace a receptacle. But I call a pro for anything larger.


View Rick's profile


9413 posts in 2995 days

#9 posted 11-15-2013 02:06 AM

”3.The main issue with stranded wire is that it is stranded making it possible to not use the entire gauge of the wire by anyone not trained properly.”

I’ve Built & Remodeled a few Houses and I’ve Never seen Stranded Wire used as Home Wiring. In fact I wouldn’t be Surprised if it was against Code to use it as such.

Up Here it’s always Solid Core Copper Wire, Either 12/2 0r 12/3 or 14/2 or 14/3.

We had one Electrician that was so fastidious about His Work, All the Cover Plates Screws were Perfectly Vertical.
Yet, no one could work as fast and do as good a job as this guy.

A L O N G T I M E Ago as told to me by ???? (Shoot. Forgot His Name, Member Here) You had to be a Fully Qualified Carpenter before you could Apprentice as an Electrician. Got It! ”TopamaxSurvivor”!!

-- LIFE is what happens when you're planning on doing Other Things!

View JollyGreen67's profile


1658 posts in 2725 days

#10 posted 11-15-2013 02:08 AM

I couldn’t read the labels on my breaker panel – the dolt electrician who did mine attended the same writing school that doctors attend – so I relabeled them myself. Took all day, but at least they are now readable.

-- When I was a kid I wanted to be older . . . . . this CRAP is not what I expected !

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

28894 posts in 2300 days

#11 posted 11-15-2013 02:34 AM

I know why it’s done the way it is, but I agree that it is a pain in the butt to deal with.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View oldnovice's profile


6752 posts in 3330 days

#12 posted 11-15-2013 05:09 AM

Rick, my Dad’s house in Minnesota was built in 1889 (don’t know if the electrical was installed at that time) and contained knob&tube wiring along with some stranded runs to outlets/switches (old rotary and push button too) which my Dad replaced with a whole new electrical system.

When I had new counter tops installed the contractor said they would reconnect all of the plumbing, electrical, and gas. The gas connection didn’t allow the drawer under the cook top to close.

The plumber who was reconnecting the disposal was under the sink for over nearly three hours, finally called the office, and they told us they would send out another plumber tomorrow. The next morning I spent 35 minutes and had the disposal up and running … called the plumbers and told them never mind!

As with all things there are very good ones, good ones, average ones, and the bad ones, and very bad ones; whether it is electricians, plumbers, or woodworkers, teachers, atheletes, politicians (stretching the good side a bit) or whatever else involves human beings!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View tomd's profile


2148 posts in 3732 days

#13 posted 11-15-2013 05:34 AM

When I flip the switch and the light goes on that’s good enough for me.

-- Tom D

View Mark's profile


900 posts in 1937 days

#14 posted 11-15-2013 05:45 AM

As an electrician (ret) of 30+ yrs I guess I’d better put my 2cents in. 1) Panels are cheap because that’s the way everyone wants things. The labeling is crap because it was done free hand by a guy who’s in a hurry to finish the job under contract time, either his or his bosses. 2) Any decent electrical box that’s been out in the last 20 yrs. has mounting tabs on both sides to keep the box flush. Most are plastic, but there are still the elcheapo metal boxes that defy all reason , skill or logic to mount. These are manly used by the flash and bang style sparkies. 3) Solid copper wire…Rick hit it on the head. Stranded wire is against the CEC. It’s main purpose is in motor control where vibration is an issue. Oldnovice is correct as well It takes all kinds

-- Mark

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2739 days

#15 posted 11-15-2013 01:43 PM

I brought my house up to code, plus some and am working on my daughter’s house, when I can – its an 8 hour drive away. My daughter’s house had a floating ground on one receptacle, the others didn’t have a ground – the hot wire was probably reversed on a couple of them.

This meant that if you touched the refrigerator and the sink – you got the full 120 volt hit. I have replaced this with new and added ground and ground fault at the panel. There are still some challenges and we will get through them – like gutting the outside rooms, all new electric, and adding insulation – in a north western NY house.

-- David in Damascus, MD

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