First Fix Electrics
First fix electrics happen early on in a build or renovation as you’ll want to get wiring in before the walls are plastered. Of course, you can usually make changes later, but this will have a direct impact on cost and timelines if you have to chase out a wall that has already been finished, and effectively redo that work.
This means, ideally, you need to establish what electric points, sockets and lighting you’ll need when you’re back at the shell stage of your build. This can be fairly daunting, thinking that far ahead to your finished home and what is going to go where both furniture-wise and appliance-wise, but it’s a necessity if you want to get your finished home mapped out early for a cost effective build.
So to help you through this thought process, I’ve provided a checklist below. I’ve just had to go through this whole process recently for the 1930s home we’re renovating and my husband gave me 12hrs notice that the electricians were coming to do first fix the following morning, so I had to get thinking quick!
So now I’m sharing my thought process with you in the hope that this makes your job making all these decisions a little easier!
What sort of lights will you have and where will they go in each room? Spotlights or pendants? You will need to factor in the void space you have above the ceiling for spotlights to ensure they are feasible.
Wall lights? Floor or table lamps for effective and decorative impact? Where will you place these in the room?
You should also consider where will you switch the lights on/off from, and do you require multiple locations for switches? e.g. in a bedroom, do you want to be able to switch the lights on/off both from the entrance to the bedroom and from the bedside? One option for doing this as well is to go with wi-fi enabled light switches, so you could have a main switch as you go in to a room, then otherwise operate them from your mobile to save having duplicate switches on walls elsewhere.
With both sockets and lighting bedside, you should be factoring in where your beds will be located within the bedrooms and the size of the beds that will go in – kingsize, single etc. – and what style your bedside reading lighting will take. Wall lights, pendants, lamps?
As well as considering lighting and electrics around your furniture, you should also think about any fitted furniture you plan to have, be it offices, shelving or walk-in-wardrobes, and your electrical or lighting requirements for these. You may well want some feature lighting built in to these so will need to co-ordinate between your fitters and electricians so everyone is on the same page.
Where will you be doing your final touches whilst getting ready for the day? We’re talking make-up & hair. Will you have a dressing table or vanity unit of some kind that requires lighting and electrics for your hairdryer or straighteners. Will you have special lighting in this area?
When choosing the furniture for your bathrooms, will you have normal plumbed toilets or electric toilets? Will you have bathroom cabinets that light up with integrated shaver / toothbrush charger sockets? Again you’ll need to allow for the electrics to accommodate these. Also give some thought to any ‘mood’ lighting you may want in the bathroom or any cubby holes you’re building in to the walls that you may want to light up.
If you’re looking to have fancy jacuzzi bath or taps with lights to change the colour of the water, then think ahead to the electrics for these too!
You will need bathroom extractors, so again allow for how/where these will be operated.
TVs and Gaming
Which rooms will have TVs in and will these be wall mounted or sitting on top of a cabinet of some kind? This will determine the location of the electrics for these.
Where TVs are likely to be used for gaming, you should consider HDMI sockets along with TV aerial socket and plug points. We’d always go for 2 double sockets in these areas too allowing for the various devices that may need to be connected.
Thought needs to be given as to where you and the various members of the family will be studying or working from home – so much more relevant these days! Again, where you plan to plug in the likes of computers and printers, we’d always allow for 2 double sockets in these areas, and USB ports integrated with the plug sockets.
Give some extra thought as well to the lighting requirements in your office or study areas – you are likely to spend a lot of time there so need to ensure there is enough light for good visibility, but limited glare on your screens.
Kitchen & Utility Considerations
Your kitchen is most likely going to be the most complicated room to factor in for electrics. We’ve not even built the extension of our new house yet where the kitchen will go, but we’re already close to finalising our kitchen design. I know I needed to work on this early with ample time because
1) kitchens often have an 8-12 week delivery if they are made bespoke, but first fix electrics are done weeks ahead
2) there’s a lot of features to factor in to a kitchen requiring electrics
3) I want to get it perfect down to the appliances and practical functionality, so knew there would be several reiterations until we got it right
So, for ease here’s a checklist within a checklist of stuff you may want to consider with your kitchen, both relative to the appliances you plan to have and the location of them. Your kitchen supplier and electrician should likewise be on the same page.
- fridge, freezer – water/ice dispensers? Connection to water?
- wine fridge?
- hob – gas, electric, induction? Where’s the extraction going?
- instant hot water tap and/or filtered water?
- waste disposal?
- water softener?
- lighting – ceiling spots, pendants or combination of both? Kitchen diner lighting? Feature lighting under worktops or built in to light up kitchen cabinets/shelving?
- food preparation areas – where do you need electric sockets to plug in mixers, kettles, coffee-machines and other appliances that will either be in permanent position on your worktops, or make temporary outings for various food prepping? If you’re having an island in the kitchen, a retractable/pop-up double plug socket would be highly recommendable. The one we’re going for in our new kitchen has a phone charging deck on the top of the socket too. The technology and options nowadays are impressive.
Boiler & Heating
Your electrician and plumber will need to communicate around the electrical wiring requirements of your plumbing system too.
Windows and Window Coverings
Will you have any velux windows, domes or similar that you can’t reach and plan to operate electronically? There are great solutions out there now that have built in rain sensors, but of course these will only work as intended if they’re connected to the electric make up of the house.
Do you plan to have any curtains, blinds or other that will be controlled remotely? If so, don’t forget to allow for the electrics to accommodate this.
Sensors v Operated Switches
In some rooms it may be more practical to have lights that automatically switch on when you walk in or open doors. We have done this in the past for walk-in-wardrobe areas, bathrooms, boot rooms, and utility rooms. This is down to personal preference but can be handy in certain rooms. If you’ve got people in the house who are also elderly, having switches that automatically come on to light the way for them when it’s dark can also be a good safety measure.
Spare a Thought for Housework…
Mundane I know to be thinking about cleaning your house when you’ve not even built or renovated it yet, but don’t forget to consider where you will do your ironing, and where you’ll plug your hoover in to get to the various rooms and corners of the house.
External Lighting and Electrics
What external lights do you require on your patio, your driveway, around the sides of your house and up the garden? Will these be managed by switches (and if so, where in the house will you most likely want to control these from?) or will they be on sensors? Will you have any outbuildings or equipment outside also requiring light and electricity. Gym equipment? Hot tub?
With home-working as the new norm, smart TVs as standard and families owning a multitude of wi-fi functioning devices, good connectivity in a home is paramount. Reviewing your download speeds and options with your line providers is therefore really important to ensure your broadband will be fit for purpose. Where engineers need to visit site to upgrade or connect a home, this may also need booking in several weeks in advance.
I had a call with BT last week (22 Jan) and the first available date for connection is 13 April. This is now booked in! On a positive though the connection will require 2 engineer visits as it will be a completely new connection, ultra fast fibre direct to premises, so it doesn’t get much faster or better than that.
However, we’re already liaising with our electrician to ensure we have boosters through every level of the house for maximum efficiency.
Security & Safety
Last but by no means least, do not cut corners when it comes to your safety and security in the home. Especially when so much thought is going in to everything else, you want to protect your home and family for the longterm too.
In terms of safety, discuss with the electrician your requirements in terms of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, whatever is necessary either by law / building regs or for your own personal peace of mind and have these factored in at the outset.
You should also ensure that your electrical set up will be able to cater for your chosen alarm / security system when this is installed too.
Let’s keep your lovely new home safe and sound! The particularly fun part of course when you’re mapping out the electrics in your new space for first fix is letting your inner graffiti artist come out. This is when you are let loose with a spray can of paint to mark it all out for your electrician. Enjoy!