Assess the Current Wiring
Before beginning any electrical project, it's important to fully understand the current state of your home's electrical system. Here are a few things I recommend doing:
- Walk through your home and make notes of where you have two-prong outlets, knob and tube wiring, etc. Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathroom since these areas tend to have more electrical demands.
- Check the electrical panel. Note if you have fuses or circuit breakers, the amperage of the circuit breakers, and how many spots are still available in your panel for additional circuits.
- Consider having a professional inspection. An electrician can do a thorough assessment and help you prioritize which electrical systems need to be addressed first.
Develop a Replacement Plan
Once you've assessed the current wiring, develop a plan of attack. Here are some important points to consider when planning your wiring replacement:
- Prioritize safety risks first. If you have antiquated knob and tube wiring or homes with no grounding, focus on these areas first. Faulty electrical poses serious fire and electrocution hazards.
- Consider which circuits you use the most. The kitchen, bathroom, and home office tend to pull the most power.
- Plan around your budget. Rewiring a whole home can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Focus first on the most essential upgrades and schedule the rest over time.
Prepare for the Rewiring Project
Replacing electrical wiring is an involved project that requires extensive preparation:
- Turn off power at the main panel. Turn off the main breaker and unscrew individual fuses to be extra safe.
- Remove existing receptacles and switches. Take out all existing outlets, switches and light fixtures in the work area.
- Inspect condition of wiring. Look for cracked or frayed wire insulation and degraded connections.
- Purchase necessary electrical supplies. Make sure you have enough of the correct gauge of wire, boxes, receptacles, etc. for the job.
- Take precautions for dust and debris. Lay down tarps and seal off doorways with plastic sheeting to contain the mess.
Install New Electrical Wiring
Now comes the tough part - running the new wiring through your home's framing.
- Map out wiring routes. Plan the optimal routes between the electrical panel, switches, and fixtures. Follow existing routes where possible.
- Drill holes through framing. Use a long drill bit to penetrate joists and studs. Holes should be centered to leave room for clamps.
- Fish wires through walls. Use fish tape to carefully pull wires through openings in the framing to each box and fixture.
- Allow slack. Leave extra wire at every opening to allow for adjustments and splicing.
- Use cable clamps. Properly affix clamps to framing members to provide support.
- Connect wires securely. Use twist-on wire connectors and electrical tape for reliable connections.
Install New Receptacles, Switches and Fixtures
The final step is installing all the new electrical components:
- Mount new electrical boxes. Securely fasten boxes to framing using proper screws. Maintain proper spacing.
- Install receptacles and switches. Attach them securely to boxes with mounting screws. Follow codes for required grounding.
- Reinstall light fixtures. Attach lights, fans, etc. again with the new wiring. Make sure to match colors correctly.
- Label everything clearly. Use labels or marked tape to denote light switches, breakers, and junctions.
Safety First When Replacing Electrical Wiring
Working with electrical wiring can be extremely dangerous. Here are some critical safety precautions to take:
- Power down completely. Ensure the main breaker and individual fuses are completely disconnected.
- Beware of old wiring. Knob and tube wiring can still be live; cap off properly before removing.
- Wear personal protective equipment. Use safety goggles, gloves, long sleeves and rubber soled shoes.
- Do not work alone. Have someone available to assist in an emergency.
- Inspect all work carefully. Double check electrical connections and make sure no wires were pierced or pinched.
Replacing outdated electrical in your home is a major project, but very worthwhile for improving safety, efficiency and resale value. With proper planning and adherence to electrical codes and safety practices, you can successfully upgrade the wiring in your home. Consider consulting a professional electrician if you have any concerns.