Electrical Upgrade Mistakes to Avoid in Older Buildings

Upgrading the electrical system in an older building can be tricky. As a licensed electrician who specializes in upgrading older buildings, I've seen many mistakes that lead to safety issues, code violations, and unnecessary costs. In this comprehensive guide, I'll share the most common electrical upgrade mistakes I've encountered to help building owners avoid them.

Failing to Do a Thorough Assessment First

The number one mistake is failing to thoroughly assess the existing electrical system before developing an upgrade plan. Here are key assessment steps:

Conducting thorough upfront assessments catches issues early so the upgrade plan addresses them appropriately. It also prevents cost overruns from undetected problems cropping up mid-project.

Attempting DIY to Save Money

Another huge mistake is DIY electrical work to save on labor costs. Electrical systems are complex, and mistakes can lead to fires or electrocution. As a professional electrician, I always recommend homeowners use a licensed electrician for electrical upgrades. Here's why:

Leave electrical upgrades to trained professionals. It costs more upfront but protects your safety and home in the long run.

Not Planning for Increased Electrical Demand

Another common mistake is failing to account for today's higher electrical demand during upgrades. With most homes now having multiple computers, large appliances, charging stations, and electronics, the electrical load is far greater than even 20 years ago.

Here are important steps to avoid undersizing your upgraded system:

Trying to just squeeze by with the same capacity as the original system will lead to frequent tripped breakers and unprecedented electrical demand from modern devices. Plan ahead.

Using Outdated Wiring

When running new wiring, using outdated wiring types is an enormous safety issue in old homes. Very old buildings may still have cloth-wrapped wiring which is an extreme fire hazard. Even wiring from the 60s and 70s can be dangerously outdated.

Here are the minimum wiring types I recommend for any upgraded electrical system today:

Installing fresh wiring to modern safety standards prevents electrical fires and dangerous faults down the road.

Ignoring Grounding Needs

Proper grounding is a key safety issue that must be addressed in any electrical upgrade. Here are some grounding mistakes to avoid:

Cutting corners on grounding puts occupants at major risk of shocks and electrocution. Install grounding to current NEC standards in any upgraded electrical system.

Overlooking Hidden Electrical Hazards

When upgrading old wiring, don’t overlook “hidden” hazards lurking out of sight that should be addressed for safety:

Make sure to fully uncover and address any dangers hidden in walls, attics, basements or crawlspaces during upgrades.

Failing to Label New Circuits

Finally, don’t neglect one of the most basic but important tasks - labeling new circuits! Creating an accurate circuit map is critical for safety and easing future electrical work.

Take time to label each circuit and create a detailed map. This simple step makes electrical service much safer and simpler.

Upgrading old electrical systems requires great care and expertise. Follow these tips to avoid major mistakes and safely update your building's electrical capacity to modern demands. Let me know if you need any help assessing your specific upgrade project!