Do It Yourself
Know the rules. Know the risks.
30% of deaths related to electrical work in the home occur when people are renovating, installing, maintaining or doing repair work.
All electrical work is dangerous. Know what needs a permit, never work live, and remember: there’s always more to know.
Never Work Live
- Identify the circuit you will be working on
- Disconnect the circuit
- Test the circuit using the Three-Point-Test (see below)
- Confirm that the neutral wire is not serving another energized circuit
- Purchase and use a lock-out/tag-out kit to ensure the circuit you are working on stays de-energized
Have and Use the Essential Equipment
Use the Three-Point Test
The Three-Point Test not only tests the circuit, it tests your tester to make sure it’s working. Use an approved meter with fused leads. Always connect the neutral lead first and the hot lead second. Always disconnect the hot lead first and the neutral lead second.
- Test a circuit known to be live
- Measure the target circuit
- Re-test on the live circuit
What Needs a Permit?
If you’re doing electrical work in your own home almost all electrical work requires a permit. Consult the following chart for answers to the most common permit questions.
|Job||Description||Permit or not?|
|Changing a light switch||Simple like-for-like 2 wire to 2 wire change||No permit needed|
|Single pole to three-way switch||Permit needed|
|Replace an existing switch with a dimmer||Permit needed|
|Installing new power outlets||Outdoor||Permit needed|
|Ceiling fan||Installing a ceiling fan where no fixture exists||Permit needed|
|Installing a ceiling fan where a light fixture exists||Permit needed|
|Replacing any existing ceiling fan||Permit needed|
|Receptacles: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) or TR (Tamper-Resistant)||Replacing an existing receptacle||Permit needed|
|Installing new receptacle||Permit needed|
|Electrical panel||Any work on the panel||Permit needed|
|Installing pot lights||Installing pot lights in existing pot lights||Permit needed|
|Installing new pot lights||Permit needed|
|Installing a new light fixture||Replacing a 2-wire fixture for a 2-wire fixture||No permit needed|
|Installing a new light fixture where one didn't exist||Permit needed|
|Installing a chandelier where a flush-mount light or two-light fixture existed||No permit needed|
|Installing outdoor light fixtures requiring new runs||Permit needed|
|Installing outdoor fixture where no new run is needed||Permit needed|
|Deck lights||Installing lights on a deck / low voltage deck lights||Permit needed|
|GFCI outlet||Replacing old GFCI outlet with a new one with a cover on it||Permit needed|
|Running wiring to a shed||Outdoor||Permit needed|
|Replacing or rewiring a pool pump||Indoor or outdoor||Permit needed|
|Installing a new electrical appliance||Dishwasher||Permit needed|
Permit and Inspection Process
Working with an electrician
In Ontario, by law, anyone you hire must be a Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC).
General handymen and other service providers cannot do electrical work in residences, other than their own residence. Any tradesperson telling you a Licensed Electrical Contractor is not required for electrical work is a red flag. If you’re hiring a general contractor, confirm that the electrical work will be done by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.
A Licensed Electrical Contractor is required to display their ECRA/ESA licence number. Ask to see it, or check to see if they’re an LEC here.
Working with an Inspector
An electrical inspection is an added safeguard to confirm an electrical installation complies with the Ontario Electrical Safety Code. Even on jobs that seem straightforward, inspectors might find defects that need to be addressed prior to passing. An inspection also provides one-on-one time with a skilled professional, so you can ask questions if you need to. They may offer you expert advice on what needs to be done to bring the work up to Code, but they’ll never advise you to cut corners to compromise safety.
The cost for a permit depends on the amount of work you’re doing. The fee for simple residential work starts at $79. Click here to download the full fee schedule.
Please note that application forms cannot be submitted directly through the website to our Customer Service Centre. You can scan and email your completed form to: esa.Cambridge@electricalsafety.on.ca or fax it to: 1-800-667-4278.
For inquiries please call 1-877-ESA-SAFE (372-7233).
About the Ontario Electrical Safety Code:
The 2015 Ontario Electrical Safety Code, with more than 200 changes, came into effect as regulation on May 5, 2016.
ESA works collaboratively with its safety partners to update the Ontario Electrical Safety Code every few years. Each new edition includes technology and safety advancements, and helps keep Ontario at the leading edge of electrical safety.
The Code is a result of input from dozens of safety experts and thousands of hours of consultations. It's a must-have in every Licensed Electrical Contractor’s and skilled homeowner’s toolbox. You can purchase it from the CSA Group’s website here . And when you purchase it, you’ll also have access to bulletins, which are the important updates and interpretations that ESA regularly releases. This will help ensure a safe electrical installation and a smooth inspection process.
You can get the Code in the way that suits you best:
- A print copy is $219
- A PDF is $195
- A searchable, digital format is $195, accessible on smartphones, tablets and desktops and compatible with Windows and iOS.
(Please note : bulletins are available electronically. After purchasing the Code book, register at CSA Communities to access the bulletins online.)
Most Common Defects in Electrical Work
While ESA inspectors cite hundreds of different types of defects every year, they also see many of the same errors over and over. It’s important to note that while any electrical work conducted after May 5, 2016 needs to meet the requirements of the 2015 Ontario Electrical Safety Code, existing installations that met previous code requirements do not need to be updated. Still, ESA recommends implementing these rules for any electrical in your home as they exist for your safety.
1. 26-712(g) Tamper Proof Receptacle Required
All 5-15R and 5-20R receptacles within a dwelling shall be tamper resistant and so marked except for those receptacles located above two metres from the floor or grade, or those intended for a stationary appliance and located such that they are inaccessible.
2. Rule 26-700(11): GFCI Protected Receptacle Required
Duplex receptacles located within 1.5 m (5 ft.) of sinks (complete with a drain pipe), bathtubs or showers shall be connected to a circuit protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter of the Class A type.
3. 12-510(1) Minimum Support Spacing for NMSC
Where non-metallic sheathed cable is run between boxes and fittings, it shall be supported by approved straps, or other approved means located within 300 mm (12 inches) of every box or fitting and at intervals of not more than 1.5 m (5 ft.) throughout the run.
4. 12-510(1) Minimum Support Spacing for NMSC
Cable is required to be supported every 1.5 m throughout the run.
Run through holes in studs is considered as supported.
5. 26-722(f) AFCI Required for Branch Circuit
Branch circuits that supply receptacles installed in sleeping facilities of a dwelling unit shall be protected by an arc-fault circuit interrupter.
6. 12-114 Make Safe Unused Conductors
Incomplete or unused wiring is required to be disconnected, removed or to be made safe by terminating in approved enclosures.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of work needs a permit?
Almost all electrical work performed in Ontario requires a permit, with very few exceptions. A Certificate of Inspection is provided by ESA when the process is complete, and your insurance company may ask for it. Consult the chart above for the list of exceptions.
How do I apply for a permit?
There are two ways that homeowners can apply for a permit:
- Download the applicable Application for Inspection form, then scan and email it to: esa.Cambridge@electricalsafety.on.ca or fax to: 1-800-667-4278
- Contact our Customer Service Centre at 1-877-ESA-SAFE (372-7233) to speak with a Customer Service Representative.
How do I arrange for an inspection?
Or, to avoid waiting for a call back from us to book the inspection date, call the Customer Service Centre directly at 1-877-ESA-SAFE (372-7233).
How much does a permit cost? Where do the fees go?
The cost for a permit depends on the amount of work you’re doing. The fee for simple residential work starts at $79. Download the full fee schedule here.
ESA is a not-for-profit self-funded organization. As a result, ESA charges for inspection and other services. Revenues from the provision of services cover ESA’s operating expenses and support public electrical safety education.
What happens if I do the work without a permit?
A permit creates a permanent record of the electrical work that has been done in your home, and triggers a review process by the Electrical Safety Authority, which is an added safeguard for you and your family. Without a permit, there will be no record of the electrical work or a Certificate of Inspection, which is an important document for insurance and resale. If something goes wrong, you can be found liable and your insurance may not cover you if the work was not conducted by a Licensed Electrical Contractor or done under permit by you, the homeowner, which is the law in Ontario.
Is an inspection pass/fail? Do I get charged again?
The electrical permit fee includes two inspections. If the Inspector finds defects in the first “rough-in” inspection, whoever is doing the work has the opportunity to correct it before arranging the second inspection. If the Inspector feels that an intermediate inspection is necessary prior to the final one, charging for this inspection will be up to his/her discretion.
Where can I get advice about more complicated electrical work?
If you are doing the work yourself, make sure you have a copy of the 2015 Ontario Electrical Safety Code and follow the requirements outlined to ensure your installation complies and you are working safely. If after reading the Code you feel as though the specific project is outside of your capabilities, ESA recommends visiting esasafe.com to find a Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC). An LEC can even arrange to have your permit transferred.
My friend asked if I can do the electrical work at his place. Can I help him?
Unless you’re a Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC), no. The homeowner is the only person, other than an LEC, allowed to do electrical work in their home. So the best thing you can do for your friend is to refer them to our list of LECs.
Are the electricians/handymen found on online classified places like Kijiji doing work illegally?
If they’re not Licensed Electrical Contractors, yes, it’s illegal. And it could also be very costly, especially if the work ends up backfiring and the insurance company gets involved. They might even refuse your claim.
There’s also this: if you hire an unlicensed electrician and they get hurt on the job, you’re responsible. When you consider the many potential pitfalls, hiring an unlicensed electrician is not worth the risk to your family’s safety and home. A Licensed Electrical Contractor should always display their ECRA/ESA licence number, and it should even be on the Kijiji or other ad if they’re licensed.
How does an electrician prove he’s licensed?
Your Licensed Electrical Contractor (LEC) will display their seven-digit ECRA/ESA licence number on their work vehicle, as well as on correspondence, contracts, advertisements, yellow pages, websites and anywhere else where they communicate with the public. Ask to see their licence number: if they don’t have one, they’re not an LEC. And if you’re using a general contractor or other trade professional who subcontracts the electrical, the work always needs to be completed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor. Ask your general contractor; you can also easily verify a Licensed Electrical Contractor for find one in your area here .