Now that spring has become a reality and no longer exists merely as a date on the calendar taunting us, the do it yourself (DIY) season gets underway. Weekend workers flock to renovation centres scooping up everything from garden supplies to toilets. Our relatively short Canadian summers necessitate this mad rush so that projects can be started and completed with a bit of time left to enjoy them in the nice weather (okay, maybe not the toilets). Whether it’s a patio update or a bit of basement refinishing, warm weather and unfrozen turf make things not only easier, but often cheaper as well.
I’m not much of a DIY guy myself, but I can appreciate the desire. However I think it is very important that one accepts one’s DIY limits. This is no place for silly macho pride. Some things, surgery, aviation and legal representation chief among them, are best left to the professionals. And certainly electrical work falls into that category. Unless you are a trained and certified electrician, the term ‘electrical DIY’ should be a total oxymoron, never to be undertaken.
I have a very healthy respect for electricity. I’ve been known to call Hydro-Quebec and ask them to briefly shut down the southern part of the provincial grid while I change a light bulb. Not surprisingly they have yet to agree, so I soldier on and hope for the best.
But I see the DIY folks wandering down the electric supply aisle at the renovation centre as if in a trance staring at the coils of cable and wire, shiny little metal boxes with umpteen holes that can be punched out as needed. There’s colourful plastic twiddly bits used to connect two wires instead of good old fashioned electrical tape, and switches galore. These items differ from other renovation products in that their purpose is to conduct electricity. When properly installed they ensure the safe functioning of an electrical system. When improperly installed they can be deadly.
I can buy a curtain rod, one that comes with all the screws and anchors required. Not being the owner of a drill, I can skip the anchors and twist those screws right into the plaster and the curtains will probably stay up. But if not, the only result will be embarrassment.
I can lay a few rolls of sod – I know, green side up – to cover some bald spots in the backyard (if only they sold hair in rolls). If I don’t prepare the surface correctly, or provide sufficient water and the sod doesn’t take, it’s no big deal. But when electricity is involved it is a big deal, and cutting corners is not a good idea.
I think you should have to show electricians’ credentials before you can even buy many of the items on the shelves in the electric section. Like at the pharmacy where they keep the stronger but non-prescription meds behind the counter, they should carefully monitor who buys electrical goods.