5 Handy Electrical Remodeling Tricks and Tips

Old work electrical box inserted into wall opening with stripped cable

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

When it comes to minor electrical upgrades and remodeling projects, less is often more. That is, the less you can mess with the existing fixtures and wiring, the better.

If something is unsafe or improperly wired, of course, you should replace it. But if you just need to add a light here or an outlet there, it can pay to look for ways to streamline the process. So, you'll find a number of ways to move or extend outlets or lights that aren't all that hard. None of these electric remodel tips require an electrician, either.

  • 01 of 05

    If You Need an Outlet, Look on the Other Side

    Drywall saw cutting wall open to run electrical wire

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    It's easy to think room by room, as if they were completely separate spaces, forgetting that an interior wall is nothing more than some framing and two layers of drywall (or plaster).

    Electrical wiring runs inside the walls and can be accessed from either side. So if you need to add an outlet (receptacle) to a room that has no nearby outlets, check the opposite side of the wall. If there's an outlet (or a light switch) close by, you can cut a hole in the wall behind the outlet box to tap into the circuit.


    Just be sure you know what circuit you're tapping into, and don't exceed its safe load limit by adding a new outlet. 

  • 02 of 05

    Move Ceiling Lights Without Running More Wire

    Glass casing for light fixture prepared to be mounted to ceiling box

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Sometimes ceiling lights aren't where you want them to be. But you may find that you can move a ceiling light surprisingly far without adding more wire or running a new circuit.

    The electrical cables in your attic often have some room for movement. You can increase the range of movement by removing a few of the staples that secure the electrical cable to the framing. Be sure to re-fasten the cable with staples after you've moved the fixture. 

  • 03 of 05

    Open up Closed Boxes to Add New Fixtures

    Bare copper ground wires joined together in blue electrical junction box

    The Spruce

    These are easy to miss: electrical boxes that are covered up and often painted over. They are such a part of the landscape of our domestic lives that we barely notice them. These junction boxes don't need to be a visual annoyance. Instead, they can be valuable for extending outlets and lights.

    Junction boxes usually have live power in them: that's the reason for the cover. Boxes that contain wiring must have a cover that encloses the box and remains accessible. Remove the cover and test the wiring for voltage with a non-contact voltage tester. These detect voltage through wire insulation, so you don't have to risk touching any bare wire ends. 

  • 04 of 05

    Use Old Work or Remodel Electrical Boxes as Needed

    Old work electrical box mounted to wall opening with screwdriver

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Old work boxes, also called "remodel" or "cut-in boxes," are designed to be installed after the wall or ceiling drywall is in place. They have flip-up ears or bending tabs that snug up to the backside of the drywall to secure the box. You simply cut a hole that's a close fit for the box, insert the electrical cable into the box, slip the box into the hole, and tighten the screws to pull the ears or tabs tight to the drywall. This saves you the trouble of cutting out a large hole in the wall or ceiling to install a standard box against the framing.   


    Boxes that nail to the side of studs are stronger than old-work boxes and less prone to failure. If you're doing new construction where there drywall is not yet in place, use a nail-on box.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Take a Homeowner's Electrical Exam and Save Money

    A man studying for a test
    PeopleImages/Getty Images

    Do-it-yourself, non-permitted electrical work in residences isn't uncommon. For small jobs, like adding an outlet, it's likely that you don't even need a permit to do the work. However, for more major electrical work, like adding new circuits or installing a subpanel, you most certainly will need a permit. And permits usually mean working with a licensed electrician.

    However, in some areas, homeowners can legally do their own electrical work and get fully permitted and approved. The way to do this is with a ​homeowner's electrical exam. It's not standard everywhere but is growing in use.

    The homeowner studies up for the test and pays a nominal fee. They then take a test consisting of 10 to 20 questions, usually at the permitting office. If you're qualified to do the work yourself, you'll save the cost of hiring a pro. If you're not qualified, use an electrician