Rewiring your home can seem like a daunting task, but with proper planning and precautions, it is possible for a homeowner to rewire their house safely without hiring a professional electrician. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to rewire your home safely on your own.
Understanding Home Wiring Basics
Before attempting to rewire your home, it is crucial to understand some basic electrical concepts and components of home wiring:
A circuit is a closed loop that electricity can flow through. Most homes have multiple circuits branching off from the main electrical panel.
Overloading a circuit by plugging in too many appliances can cause circuit breakers to trip or fuses to blow.
When rewiring, it is important not to overload any single circuit.
Modern home electrical wiring uses copper wiring encased in plastic sheathing. The two main types are:
NM cable (Romex) - Ubiquitous in modern homes for branching circuits.
BX cable - Used for wiring that is exposed or subject to damage.
Aluminum wiring requires special precautions and should be inspected by an electrician.
Knob and tube wiring found in older homes is dangerous and should be replaced.
Most household circuits run on 120 volts - suitable for lighting and outlets.
Large appliances like electric dryers and ranges require 240-volt circuits.
Knowing the voltage type for each circuit is crucial when rewiring a home.
Grounding and GFCIs
Proper groundingprovides a safe path for electricity to flow to the ground in case of a fault.
GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) quickly break the flow of electricity when a ground fault is detected. These provide important protection against shocks and should be installed in kitchens, bathrooms and other wet areas.
Preparing for a Rewiring Project
Careful planning and preparation is key to ensuring a smooth and safe rewiring project.
Turn Off Power and Establish a Lockout
The most important first step is to turn off power to the home at the main breaker panel. Additionally, you should lock out the main breaker box so that it cannot be turned back on accidentally while you are working.
Create a Home Wiring Plan
Examine your existing wiring and make notes on paper or digitally.
Map out each circuit in detail, noting where it runs, what it connects to, voltage, as well as any defects.
Plan your new wiring runs and placements of outlets, switches and fixtures.
Make a list of all the electrical supplies and tools you will need, such as:
- NM electrical cable
- Wire strippers
- Junction boxes
- Wall plates
- Circuit breakers
Shop for supplies at your local hardware store or electrical supply store. Ensure you have everything you need before starting.
Establish a Dedicated Workspace
Pick an area of the home such as the garage or a cleared out room to function as your electrical workshop while you work on the rewiring project. This space should:
- Have ample lighting and room to work comfortably
- Allow you to securely store your tools and supplies when not working
- Keep children and pets away from dangerous tools and materials
Step-by-Step Rewiring Process
With proper planning finished, you can now move on to the careful step-by-step process of replacing your home's old wiring:
1. Remove Old Wiring
- Start by disconnecting and removing old wiring and electrical devices (outlets, switches, lights, fans).
- Try to maintain the copper wiring intact as much as possible to pull new wiring through the same holes.
- Seal up any unused openings in walls with foam insulation to help contain fire.
2. Run New Wiring
- Start at your main panel, run new NM cables through holes and stud bays to each outlet or switch.
- Avoid running wires through humid areas like attics or wet crawlspaces if possible. Use junction boxes to transition between dry and wet areas.
- Make sure not to overload any single circuit by connecting too many outlets to it.
- Use cable staples securely fasten the cable every 4-6 feet and at least within 12 inches of each junction box.
3. Install Outlets, Switches and Devices
- Begin installing any wall boxes, outlets and switches in the new locations planned.
- Ensure you have the proper voltage outlets for each location.
- Pay careful attention to maintaining proper polarity when connecting hot and neutral wires.
- Use wire nuts to securely connect multiple wires within junction boxes.
4. Connect Circuits at Main Panel
- Run cable from each new circuit to the main breaker panel. Leave plenty of extra length.
- Make sure to carefully match the circuit breaker amperage to the wire gauge for each circuit.
- With the power still locked out, connect the new wires to the appropriate circuit breaker terminals.
- Neatly organize and label the wires coming into the main panel.
5. Inspect and Test New Wiring
- With the main breaker still off, test for continuity in each wire run using a multimeter.
- Turn the main power back on and methodically test each outlet, switch and fixture using a circuit tester and multimeter to check for faults.
- Fix any identified faults before proceeding. Consulting an electrician at this stage is wise if you have any concerns.
6. Install New Drywall and Devices
With the new wiring fully tested and ready, you can start tidying things up:
- Install new drywall patches and wall plates over junction boxes.
- Screw down outlet and switch cover plates.
- Reinstall light fixtures, ceiling fans, etc in their planned locations on the new circuits.
Rewiring a home comes with inherent hazards. Keep these important safety tips in mind:
- Wear insulated gloves and shoes when working with wiring.
- Disconnect both ends of a wire before working with it.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy.
- Work methodically and avoid shortcuts - electrocution and fires often happen from rushed mistakes.
- If at any point you feel unsure or overwhelmed, stop work and call an electrician. Safety should be the top priority.
While rewiring a house is a major undertaking, it is feasible for many homeowners to accomplish safely without professional help if done very carefully and methodically. Understand the risks involved, create a detailed plan, purchase quality materials, and focus on safety above all else. Patience and attention to detail during the step-by-step rewiring process is crucial. Seek assistance from experienced electricians if you have any concerns. Your home's new modern wiring will provide peace of mind and safer living for many years to come.