How to Rewire a House Yourself on the Cheap
Rewiring a house can seem like a daunting task, but with some preparation and the right materials, it is possible to rewire a house yourself and save a lot of money in the process. As an experienced DIYer who has rewired my entire home, I've learned a lot of tips and tricks along the way. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through everything you need to know to rewire a house yourself on a budget.
Reasons to Rewire
There are a few key reasons you may want to rewire a house:
Upgrading the electrical system - If your home still has an old 60 amp electrical system, rewiring can allow you to upgrade to a 100, 150 or 200 amp system to meet modern energy demands. This will allow you to run more high wattage appliances without blowing fuses.
Safety concerns - Outdated wiring can present fire and electrocution risks. Rewiring allows you to bring the electrical up to modern safety standards.
Expanding circuits - Additional wiring will allow you to add more lighting fixtures, outlets, switches and circuits as needed.
Aesthetics - New wiring means you can eliminate the unsightly tangled web of wiring, cables and conduits that accumulate over time.
Planning the Rewire
Before jumping into a rewire, it's important to plan out the project in detail.
Create a home electrical plan - Draw up a plan of your home's current electrical system including the locations of the main service panel, all outlets, switches, light fixtures, and major appliances.
Determine new circuit needs - Decide where you need additional lighting, switches, outlets, appliance circuits, etc.
Calculate electrical load - Add up the wattage of all lights and appliances on each circuit to ensure you size the wiring appropriately.
Develop a materials list - Include all the wiring, conduit, outlet and switch boxes, circuit breakers, and tools you will need.
Pull permits - Check your local building codes and secure all required permits before starting.
Ordering the Right Materials
Rewiring a whole house is an expensive endeavor if you pay retail pricing for materials. Here are some tips to get quality materials at the best prices:
Check prices online at home improvement stores like Lowe's and Home Depot. Look for any available coupons or discounts on wiring and electrical supplies.
Check for used materials at Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations. You can often find boxes of wire, conduit, breakers, and other electrical supplies in good used condition.
Shop at electrical supply houses to take advantage of contractor discounts if available.
Buy wire in bulk spools rather than pre-cut short lengths to save money.
Use primarily less expensive 14/2 and 12/2 NM electrical wire for lighting and outlet branch circuits. Use thicker 10/2 wire only where needed for major appliances.
Buy a 100, 150 or 200 amp main breaker panel as needed. Shop carefully as prices can range greatly between brands and models.
Rewiring a house involves dealing with live electrical wires, so safety gear is a must:
Electrical gloves - These rubber gloves are specially insulated to protect you from accidental shocks.
Safety goggles - Protect your eyes from debris while cutting and drilling.
Dust mask - Keep from breathing in particulates if cutting in an enclosed space.
Work boots - Wear boots with rubber soles to avoid electrocution.
Clamp meter - Use this to verify wires are de-energized before working on them.
Circuit tester - Plug this device into outlets to confirm no live power is present.
GFCI Protection - Use GFCI outlets or a portable GFCI device for additional protection.
Fire extinguisher - Have an ABC type extinguisher on hand in case of an electrical fire.
Step-by-Step Rewiring Process
With proper planning and safety gear in place, you're ready to begin the rewiring project:
1. Turn Off Power and Remove Old Wiring
- Shut off power at the main breaker panel.
- Disconnect and remove appliances from circuits.
- Remove cover plates from switches and outlets.
- Carefully pull out all old wiring from the wall cavities, attic, and basement.
2. Install New Wiring and Components
- Run new NM electrical wire through wall cavities, drill holes to route between floors. Use staples to attach to studs.
- Fish wires into cut-in electrical boxes. Leave 6-8 inches of extra wire at boxes.
- Install new outlets, switches, and cover plates. Manage wire slack neatly in boxes.
- Install junction boxes where wires branch off to multiple locations.
- Mount the new main service panel and carefully connect all new circuit wires to appropriate breakers.
3. Connect Devices and Lights
- Reinstall hardwired appliances, lights, exhaust fans, etc.
- Use wire nuts to connect new wires to existing wires on those fixtures.
- Attach new wire to light switches in boxes.
- Test that all outlets, lights, and switches function properly.
4. Update House Electrical Plan
- Carefully label each new circuit at the breaker panel noting what it controls.
- Update your home electrical plan with all new wiring and circuit locations.
Here are some additional tips to complete your rewire successfully:
- Take photos before removal to reference wire locations and connections.
Label all wires with tape to avoid confusion.
Only open walls and ceilings where necessary to limit repair work needed.
Fish wires into finished wall spaces using flexible drill bits and wire running tools.
Only turn power back on once you've completed the entire rewiring project.
Hire an electrician if you need to upgrade your main electrical service panel.
Rewiring a house is a big project but also an extremely rewarding experience. By following local electrical codes, using safe practices, buying materials wisely, and applying these do-it-yourself steps, you can entirely rewire a house on a budget. Just take it step-by-step and you'll see the savings add up. The finished product will be a safer, modernized electrical system that adds functionality and value to your home.