Rewiring an old home can seem like a daunting task, but with proper precautions it can be done safely. As someone who has rewired my 19th century home, I learned firsthand how to update the electrical system without electrocuting myself or burning the house down.

In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through all the steps I took to successfully rewire my 140 year old farmhouse. I'll share tips on safety procedures, choosing the right materials, running new wires, replacing fuse boxes with circuit breakers, adding new outlets, and more. I'll also include real examples from my rewiring project.

By the end, you'll have the confidence to tackle rewiring your vintage home!

Electrical Safety Precautions

Before touching any wires, be sure to take precautions to avoid getting shocked or causing a fire:

Turn Off Power at the Breaker

Before doing any electrical work, the power must be completely disconnected at the main circuit breaker panel. Double check that the main breaker is shut off and test outlets with a multimeter to verify power is off. Remember to never work on live wires.

Wear Protective Equipment

Always wear rubber-soled shoes, gloves, and eye protection when dealing with electrical wiring. Never work in wet conditions which heighten the risk of electrocution.

Install GFCIs

Replacing outlets with GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets adds protection from shocks. I installed GFCIs in my kitchen and bathroom circuits.

Ensure Proper Grounding

Proper grounding is essential for preventing electrical hazards. Hire an electrician if your home's wiring does not include a ground wire.

Avoid Handling Wires Alone

For safety, always have someone else present when rewiring. They can call for help if an accident occurs. I had my brother assist me during my entire rewiring project.

Choosing Electrical Wiring

Selecting the right wire gauge and type is key for safety and performance:

Wire Gauge

The diameter of the metal wires, known as wire gauge, must be sized appropriately for the electric load. For 15 amp circuits I used 14 gauge wire. For 20 amp circuits, I used 12 gauge wire.

Copper vs Aluminum

While aluminum is cheaper, I opted for copper wiring since it conducts electricity better and is safer. Copper also withstands heat and corrosion better than aluminum.

Insulated vs Non-Insulated

Always select insulated wires that are encased in plastic or rubber. Insulated wires prevent electrocution and fires.

Solid vs Stranded

Stranded wire is more flexible and withstands vibration better than solid wire. I chose stranded wire for ease of pulling through walls.

Running New Wires

Running new wires can be tedious but I found these tips helpful:

Map Out Circuits

Map out each circuit on a house floorplan so you know which wires control which outlets and fixtures. This also lets you plan new circuits.

Label Wires

Label each wire as you disconnect old circuits so you can properly reconnect them. I used masking tape and a marker to label wire ends.

Fish Wire Through Walls

I used fish tape to easily pull new wires through walls and ceilings without major demolition. Just drill small holes to thread wire between floors.

Use Cable Staples

Cable staples fasten wires neatly against joists and studs. I positioned staples every 18-24 inches along wire runs.

Avoid Wire Damage

Take care not to staple too tightly or nick wire insulation which could cause shorts. Also keep wires away from nails, screws, and sharp edges.

Upgrading the Circuit Breaker Panel

Replacing an outdated fuse box with a circuit breaker panel is crucial:

Hire an Electrician

Only a licensed electrician should install a new circuit breaker panel. They'll ensure proper setup and grounding. I hired a local electrician for this job.

Choose Panel Capacity

Your panel must have enough slots for all required circuits. My electrician installed a 200 amp, 40 space panel to accommodate my home's needs.

Add a Main Disconnect

My main circuit breaker shutoff switch allows power to the entire panel to be safely disconnected for maintenance. This main disconnect is an important safety feature.

Install Breakers

Each circuit in the panel should have a dedicated circuit breaker that trips and shuts off power when overloaded. This prevents risky blown fuses.

Helpful Tips for New Outlets and Switches

Follow these tips when wiring new outlets and switches:

Position Outlets Properly

Outlets should be 12-18 inches above the floor and 6-12 inches away from doors or windows to avoid damage. I placed most outlets 18 inches high.

Do Not Overload Circuits

Limit outlets to 8-10 per 15 amp circuit. Overloading circuits risks tripping breakers or causing fires.

Use Specified Parts

Use outlet and switch boxes rated for the number of wires and connections. Also ensure cover plate screws don't touch wires.

Connect Switches Properly

Connect switch terminals properly - line wire to common terminal, hot to one traveler, light to the other traveler. This avoids reversed switch wiring.

Ground Everything

Properly ground all outlets and switches. I connected ground wires from boxes to ground screws on outlets and switches. Ungrounded wiring is extremely dangerous.

My Rewiring Project Results

Rewiring my old home took time but I'm thrilled with the results:

While rewiring an old home is hard work, it can be accomplished safely with proper planning and precautions. Take your time, do your research, and don't be afraid to hire a professional electrician when necessary. The peace of mind of having a safe electrical system is well worth the effort.