Rewiring your home may sound daunting, but with the right planning and materials, it can be done in a weekend for less than $100. As a homeowner, I've tackled several DIY rewiring projects and learned some key tips for completing this massive task efficiently and affordably.
In this comprehensive guide, I will walk through every step of the process, from creating a home electrical plan to stripping and connecting wires. I'll share tips for safety, choosing the right wire gauge and outlet types, as well as clever shortcuts to get the job done fast. Whether you want to upgrade from an outdated fuse box to a modern circuit breaker panel or just tidy up some old wiring, read on to learn how I rewired my entire house in a single weekend for only $87.
Develop a Rewiring Plan
The first step is to map out your home's current electrical system. Evaluate what you want to keep versus replace. Make sure to:
Inspect the main service panel - Note the amperage rating and if you have fuses or circuit breakers. This will determine how much power your rewired home can handle.
Identify all circuits - Label which outlets, lights, and appliances are on each circuit.
Check grounding - Test that outlets are properly grounded for safety. Upgrade ungrounded outlets if needed.
Look for problems - Watch for scorch marks, exposed wires, flickering lights, etc. You'll be replacing these issues during your rewire.
Once you've evaluated your existing setup, draw up a rewiring plan. Mark where all new wiring runs will go and the locations for additional outlets, switches, and fixtures. Having this roadmap in advance is crucial.
With the home electrical plan complete, make a list of all needed materials. For my 1,500 square foot house, I purchased the following for under $100:
- 50 ft. 12/2 NM cable - Provides two insulated 120V lines for 15 amp circuits. I used this for most household outlets and lighting.
- 25 ft. 12/3 NM cable - Three lines allows for the kitchen refrigerator and other major appliances that require 240V.
- Electrical tape - For securing connections.
- Wire nuts - For joining copper wires.
- 1 main circuit breaker panel - 100 amp to replace my fuse box.
- Circuit breakers - 15 amp and 20 amp for overcurrent protection.
- GFCI outlets - For "wet" areas like kitchen, baths, laundry, and exterior.
- Standard duplex outlets - For normal household plugs. Get self-grounding for easier install.
- Wall plates - Match your home's aesthetic.
Shop sales and buy only what you need. For a whole home rewire, avoid pre-cut wire bundles since they contain excess.
Before touching any wiring, shut off the main power at the breaker box or pull the main fuse. Verify it's off using a non-contact voltage tester. Then, flip the breaker back on for the circuit you are working on only.
I also recommend:
- Wearing electrical gloves for shock protection.
- Electrically grounding yourself by attaching a wrist strap to the grounded circuit.
- Working on one circuit at a time to avoid wires getting crossed.
- Having an emergency first aid kit nearby just in case.
- Keeping a fire extinguisher on hand.
Removing Old Wiring
With the power off, now it's time to remove any outdated wiring. Take it slow by:
- Labelling each wire with painter's tape as you disconnect it.
- Testing wires before cutting to confirm they are de-energized.
- Coiling up wires neatly to prep for disposal rather than just ripping them out in a mess.
- Inspecting the attic and walls for any hidden junction boxes or wiring to remove.
- Ensuring you have access to work areas by moving insulation or cutting holes where necessary.
Removing old wires properly takes time but is an important first step before installing any new wiring.
Running New Wiring
Plan your new wiring routes by:
- Drilling entry holes through studs high enough to run wires behind baseboards.
- Keeping wires at least 1 ft. from plumbing to avoid electromagnetic interference.
- Running 240V appliance circuits directly from the breaker box.
- Having home runs as short as possible back to the panel.
I like to connect circuits in this order:
- Anchoring the new ground wires to water pipes for earth grounding.
- Attaching the new hot/live wires to the breakers, securing with a nut.
- Connecting the neutral wires to the neutral bus bar in the service panel.
- Joining all new outlet and lighting neutral wires with pigtails.
- Matching up the hots, neutrals, and grounds to each outlet.
- Making sure hot and neutral connections are tight and secure.
- Testing each outlet before moving onto the next circuit.
Take it one circuit at a time and be sure to label all your new wires.
Helpful Rewiring Shortcuts
Here are some of the handy tricks I used to rewire my house quickly:
- Running new wiring through conduit for easier pulling and protection.
- Using wire staples to tack wires neatly rather than spend time drilling through joists.
- Grouping wires going to the same place together when running to simplify.
- Buying electrical boxes with built-in clamps to secure cables.
- Getting self-cutting wall plates that work on different outlet depths.
- Reusing existing wall plates if they are in good shape to save money.
- Cutting all wires to length at once using templates.
- Pre-stripping short 1/2" wire ends with a tool so they are ready to connect.
Wrapping Up the Rewire
Once all new outlets, switches, and fixtures are wired and tested, finish up with:
- Securing loose cables with cable clips.
- Patching all holes in walls with drywall or plaster.
- Verifying ground connections are tight.
- Replacing cover plates.
- Labelling the new circuit map.
- Testing GFCI outlets.
- Turning power back on!
Take time to clean up, dispose of all old wiring safely, and enjoy your sparkling new electrical system!
Tips for Maintaining Your Rewired Home
To keep your home's electrical system running safely for years to come:
- Test GFCI outlets every 3 months with the test/reset buttons.
- Check for loose plugs or light switches. Tighten if needed.
- Ensure all circuits are labeled correctly in the breaker box.
- Listen for crackling noises or smell burning smells that could indicate an issue.
- Check that wire connections are tight and corrosion free.
- Make sure outdoor outlets are equipped with covers when not in use.
- Consider having an electrician inspect periodically as preventative maintenance.
- Never overload circuits with appliances, heaters,chargers, etc.
While rewiring an entire house is an ambitious project, it can be executed in a weekend's time with the right planning and preparation. By methodically removing old wiring, running new cables, and properly connecting each circuit, your home can have a completely upgraded electrical system quickly and affordably using DIY skills. Just be absolutely diligent when it comes to safety given the risks of working with household electrical wiring. With the right materials, safety precautions, and helpful rewiring shortcuts, you can have a safer, more modern, and reliable home electrical system in no time!