Do I need an engineer to put up a Christmas tree?  Well, no.  But…

You Buy A Christmas Tree

Let’s say you’re shopping at a home goods store for holiday throw pillows and you come across a Christmas tree.  It’s gorgeous; you fall in love.  Not only is the tree fabulous, but it has a flashing Santa’s Workshop tree topper with a sleigh and reindeer.  The kids would love that!

You buy the pre-lit tree (and topper).  The helpful sales clerk arms you with more ornaments and garland, and you’re off.  But you still have to stop at the hardware store to buy an extension cord and a surge protector.  Can’t be too careful!

Back at home; in your quaint historic downtown cottage, you haul your purchases inside.  You open the box, unpack the tree and after a thorough inventory, determine that you have all the necessary parts.  After reading the instructions (twice) you decorate the tree and plug it in.  Perfection.

But You Smell Something Burning

Minutes later, you catch the whiff of something burning.  What happened?

  1. The Santa’s Flashing Workshop tree topper was defective and began melting down
  2. You plugged the tree, lights and topper into a defective wall socket
  3. You carefully plugged the tree, lights and topper into the surge protector; which was plugged into the extension cord, which in turn was plugged into the only wall socket in the living room of your quaint historic cottage, which also powered the TV system, lamps and a laptop
  4. ANY of the above

Do You Need An Engineer?

Christmas Tree Wiring

Christmas Tree Wiring Disaster

Although an engineer is not required to put up a holiday display, had an engineer been consulted on the Christmas Tree installation project, they would have foreseen the catastrophe.  A plan would have been recommended to bring the house up to code, add wiring, electrical outlets and upgrade the service.  It would have involved hiring an electrician to acquire the necessary permits and perform the work.  However, in order to acquire the necessary permits, the electrician would have needed a set of stamped drawings from an electrical engineer detailing the proper electrical distribution to handle the homes’ load (amount of stuff plugged in and/or using electricity in the house).

Though you still may not be convinced, the fact of the matter is most people don’t realize that there are any number of household projects that do require an engineer.  If you are working on remodeling your home or business, check with your local building department for the do’s and don’ts of your upcoming project.