How to Rewire Your Home Without an Electrician (And Save Thousands)
Rewiring a home can seem like a daunting task, but with proper planning and safety precautions, it's possible for a homeowner to take on this project and save thousands of dollars in electrician fees. As someone who has rewired my entire house on my own, I've learned a lot through the process and want to share my tips for how to rewire a home safely and successfully without hiring a professional.
Reasons to Rewire
There are several good reasons you may want to rewire your home:
Outdated wiring - If your home still has knob and tube wiring or aluminum wiring, rewiring will bring it up to modern electrical code standards. Outdated wiring poses safety risks like fire and electrocution.
Insufficient amperage - If your home's electrical needs have grown over the years due to more appliances and electronics, rewiring provides an opportunity to upgrade the amperage coming into your home. This prevents tripped breakers and allows you to run more devices.
GFCIs - Rewiring allows you to add ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other places near water sources. GFCIs shut off power when a short is detected, preventing shocks.
Lighting controls - During a rewire you can add features like dimmers, occupancy sensors, and timers to give you greater control over lighting.
Preparing for a Rewire
Before getting started, make sure you understand your home's current wiring and have a plan for the rewire.
Examine your electrical panel - Note the amperage rating to determine if an upgrade is needed. Check that all circuits are labeled correctly.
Map out all existing wiring and fixtures - Note wire material (copper, aluminum etc), gauge, locations, and circuits.
Decide on rewire extent - Some choose to only rewire problem areas, while others do a whole-home rewire.
Plan new wiring - Determine which circuits you want and where. Add capacity for future needs.
Get all necessary permits - Permits are required for most electrical work. Research your local permit process.
Purchase supplies - Make sure to get enough wire, boxes, receptacles, breakers, and tools for the job.
Rewiring a home comes with electrical dangers if safety is not taken seriously. Follow these tips to stay safe:
Turn off power at the main breaker - Remember to double check power is off with a voltage tester before working.
Work with a partner - Have someone available in case an emergency arises. Discuss safety before starting.
Wear personal protective equipment - This includes insulated gloves, glasses, sturdy shoes, and flame-retardant clothes.
Avoid working alone - Do not work on wiring when no one else is home to call for help if needed.
Use the proper tools - Work with insulated tools and test them regularly for defects. Never take shortcuts.
Inspect all existing wiring - Look for damage and replace any deteriorated wire. Apply wire nuts tightly to secure connections.
Verify grounding and bonding - Improper grounding poses electrocution risks. Bond neutral and ground wires correctly.
Step-by-Step Rewire Process
With safety and preparation taken care of, you're ready to get to work. Follow these steps to systematically rewire your home:
1. Turn Off Power
Shut off the main breaker and verify power is off throughout the house. Turn off individual breakers as well.
2. Remove Old Wiring
- Take down any old wiring no longer needed.
- Caution: Disable and remove any obsolete knob and tube or aluminum wiring.
3. Install New Wiring Pathways
- Drill holes through joists and studs for new wiring runs.
- Install metal or PVC conduit where wiring will be exposed.
- Tip: Conduit protects wires from damage.
4. Run New Circuits
- Run cables from the panel to circuits, outlets and fixtures.
- Leave extra length in case you need to move things later.
- Use cable clamps and staples to securely attach wires.
5. Connect Switches and Outlets
- Attach wiring to outlets, switches and fixtures.
- Follow diagrams properly for each type of connection.
- Warning: Do not reverse neutral and hot wires!
6. Connect Circuits at the Panel
- Attach cable sheathing to panel box with proper clamps.
- Connect wires to new circuit breakers and ground bus bar.
- Caution: Ensure insulation doesn't contact live parts.
7. Inspect and Test Circuits
- Inspect all connections for tightness and insulation integrity.
- Turn on power and carefully test each circuit using a voltage tester.
- Check grounding with a multi-meter to guarantee safety.
8. Update Permits and Documentation
- Call your inspector for a final inspection when ready.
- Update your home's wiring diagram for future reference.
With the technical rewiring complete, finish the project by thinking about:
- Drywall repair of holes and dents from installing wiring
- Painting, trim work, and other repairs to restore surfaces
- Adding wall plates, covers, and lighting fixtures to complete the job
- Disposing of old wiring safely and recycling metal components
Rewiring a home is very rewarding when done correctly. Take your time, be cautious of hazards, and don't be afraid to call a professional if any part of the project feels unsafe over your head. Your improved electrical system will provide peace of mind and added home value for years to come.