How To Rewire Your Home With Obsolete and Forgotten Techniques
Rewiring a home can be a daunting task, but with some knowledge of obsolete and forgotten techniques, it can be done safely and efficiently. In this article, I will provide an in-depth guide on rewiring a home using techniques that have fallen out of favor, but can still get the job done.
Assess the Existing Electrical System
Before beginning any rewiring project, it's important to thoroughly assess the existing electrical system. Here are some key steps:
Check the electrical panel - Open it up and look for signs of overheating, corrosion, or damage. An outdated fuse box will likely need upgrading.
Test outlets and light fixtures - Make sure each outlet is wired correctly and is free of defects. Replace any damaged outlets.
Look for knob and tube wiring - This obsolete wiring from the 1800s can be a fire hazard. It will need to be replaced.
Locate all wiring paths - Follow each wire run from start to finish, attic to basement. Map out the locations.
Gauge the wire sizes - Old wiring is often undersized. Replacement wiring should be a minimum of 12 AWG copper for 15 amp circuits.
Useful Obsolete Wiring Methods
Here are some techniques that modern electricians may not use anymore, but are handy for rewiring an old home:
Cloth-covered wiring - This insulated copper wiring wrapped in cloth was used from the 1920s-1950s. It can be reused if still in good condition.
Rigid metal conduit - Galvanized steel tubing that protects wires. Can be reused as is.
Cast iron boxes - Outdated but extremely sturdy metal junction boxes. Can be converted to accept modern wiring.
Metal clad (MC) cable - An early version of armored cable with an exposed copper ground wire. Handles high heat areas well.
Lead-covered cables - Early insulated cables covered in lead sheathing. Toxic if damaged but usable if undisturbed.
When dealing with antique wiring, safety should be your top concern:
Turn off power at the panel - Use a contact voltage tester to verify it's off. Lock out the panel.
Check wires before reconnecting - Closely examine insulation for cracks or fraying. Discard any damaged wires.
Only splice in junction boxes - Never connect wires using twisting alone. Use wire nuts in covered boxes.
Label all wires - Properly notating wire runs will prevent confusion.
Wear insulated gloves - Especially when handling old cloth-wrapped wiring.
Install GFCI outlets - Replacing ungrounded circuits with GFCI outlets adds protection from shocks.
Step-by-Step Rewiring Process
With the right planning, rewiring a house with antiquated techniques can save money versus rewiring from scratch:
1. Map out new circuit plan
- Evaluate family's needs for lighting, appliances, and devices
- Plan new 15-20 amp circuit routes accordingly
2. Install new electrical panel
- A 100 amp or 200 amp panel is ideal for most homes
- Use copper bus bars if reusing an old panel
3. Run new wire through walls
- Fish wires through walls via holes drilled near receptacles
- Or, remove baseboards to drill new access holes if needed
4. Connect wires to junction boxes
- Use clamps and cable staples to secure long wire runs
- Use wire nuts to connect circuit wires to receptacles and switches
5. Install new receptacles and switches
- Feed new 14/2 with ground wiring to each box
- Properly ground each switch and receptacle
6. Install new breakers and test circuits
- Balance multipoint circuits evenly across phases
- Check all outlets for proper polarity and grounding
7. Update all faceplates throughout home
- Use oversized plates for multiple receptacles and switches
- Label and color code plates for easy circuit identification
Tips for Maintaining a Rewired Home
Once the rewiring is complete, be sure to do the following:
Leave access panels - For junction boxes that may need maintenance later
Create a wiring diagram - To aid troubleshooting down the road
Hire an electrician annually - To inspect system and make repairs as needed
Shut power off before any renovations - Protect wiring from accidental damage
Do not overload circuits - Be mindful of amperage limits to prevent trips
With proper care, your obsolete wiring techniques can provide safe, reliable power for decades to come. The key is taking the time to do it right. Let me know if you need any help rewiring your old home!