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I am doing electrical work in my own home. Primarily replacing old sockets and fixtures. Through the course of this work I am finding odd, but not unsafe, wiring paths. I want to document these paths so that I can develop a plan to improve them. I also want to document my own work to help the next guy who does work in my house.

What is the diagramming style or name for the plan that an electrician would use in a residential home in the US?

I want to know what this is called so that I can then tell myself, "I need to make a $TERM diagram". I can then acquire the right rulers, templates, and graph paper to make those diagrams.

  • Where is your house located? When was it built? What is the "level" of construction--architect designed (or euivalent) at the top to mass produced but professional to amateur built/substandard? – Jim Stewart Feb 25 at 15:59
  • @JimStewart 1970s construction, professional built, reasonable standard. Basement remodel in the 80s, kitchen reno in the early 00s. The challenges I want to account for are circuits that make sense but odd routing of wiring. I need the diagram so that when I stick my head up in the ceiling I can know what goes where. It also gives me a chance to make small improvements as I go or make the decision to fully re-do a run. The specific problems are better addressed with separate questions as they arise. – Freiheit Feb 25 at 16:38
  • Do you have copper wire or aluminum? – Jim Stewart Feb 25 at 18:43
  • @JimStewart check my post history for background on my homes wiring. Yes its aluminum, yes I know the risks, this diagramming task is to help me visualize and tackle those risks. – Freiheit Feb 25 at 21:19
  • OK now I know why you are considering replacement of runs. Our house was built in 1970 with aluminum wiring #10 for 20-A circuits and #12 for 15-A. I pigtailed the terminations in 1978 and have had no problems. Of course I wish we had copper, but so far no problems – Jim Stewart Feb 25 at 23:25
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The correct term is an Electrical Plan. I used Smart Draw when I remodeled my home. It's a great tool and there are several templates you can choose from to begin editing. Its pretty cheap to use.

enter image description here

  • An 'electrical plan' is what I am after as it shows the practical implications of where the wires are routed in reality. – Freiheit Feb 25 at 16:41
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    @freiheit - that's exactly what it does not tell you. All it tells you is what is hooked to what. Where it actually is, and what was actually done then, and finally: what actually exists now, always has to be verified in field. – Mazura Feb 25 at 22:44
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    @Mazura good point. There's nothing stopping me from drawing the wire lines a different way though. – Freiheit Feb 26 at 14:12
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tl;dr "Electrical Plan" or "Wiring Plan"


A wiring diagram or electrical schematic usually shows each connection using sometimes cryptic industry symbols and with no routing information. They may be too detailed for your purposes, and they wouldn't show how the cables run through the building.

Example:

enter image description here

An electrical plan or wiring plan would simply show how the cables run through the building and what each cable's specs are (14/3, 10/2, etc.), possibly along with device notes (outlets, switches, utility appliances, etc.), and without showing each individual connection. This may be what you're describing.

Example:

enter image description here

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On the commercial side with call them "as-built"s or "redlines" I've never seen an equivalent when doing resi. One generally ropes houses in the easiest/fastest manner while maintaining electrical safety, code standard, and good workmanship. In practical terms it means the usually the most direct / shortest route between devices on a circuit, while maintaining a neat appearance or the wiring. Typical house wiring is simple and straightforward enough that one doesn't need to mark EXACTLY how that particular run was routed.

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    Could you clarify where in the world these terms come from? – Criggie Feb 26 at 6:31
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    @Criggie An "as-built" is a drawing made after the work is done, it shows the work "as it was actually built", versus what was planned. – Dan C Feb 26 at 13:48
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    Combining your answer with what Jerry and isherwood suggest means I'm trying to work up an "as-built electrical plan". That shows me what I have in place today. – Freiheit Feb 26 at 14:13
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I'm not a electrician in the US and I'm not sure if there is an official type of drawing for what you have described but I use these for the most part

This is a screenshot returned from a google search for "schematic" enter image description here https://www.google.ca/search?schematic

There are a set of standard drawings to identify all elements of a system clearly that are universal at least in North American. I have seen some slightly different versions of the symbols on schematics from China.

This is an example of one enter image description here https://www.drbijli.com/know-it/know-your-home-electrical-system/

it's not the best schematic if ever seen but it gets the idea across. You wouldn't need to learn many of the symbols either because mostly you need switches, lights and recepticals.

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Home wiring is generally not very specific as noted by @isherwood . My house even less specific as the local code requires nothing smaller than 12ga , so it was unnecessary to list any gage. Even 220 V lines to various points are unspecified. Possibly because I drew them myself ( long story). I just drew in many lines; after it was wired ,the electrician told me he never ran so much wire in a house. If one had very specific plans , one would not have the fun of turning off the breakers to find what circuit went where.

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