Why You May Want to Rewire Your Home Yourself
Rewiring a home can be an expensive project, with professional electricians charging hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on the size and scope of the job. As a homeowner, I may want to consider doing it myself to save money.
There are a few reasons I may need or want to rewire:
- My home's wiring is very outdated and needs to be brought up to modern safety codes. Old wiring can present serious fire and electrocution hazards.
- I need to upgrade the electrical service to add more circuits or increase capacity for new appliances and devices.
- I want to replace outdated fuses with modern circuit breakers for convenience and safety.
- I need to reroute wires or add new outlets, switches and lighting fixtures.
While daunting, a rewiring project is entirely possible for a dedicated DIYer willing to take the time to learn.
Evaluating Your Ability to Do the Work
Before deciding to rewire my home, I need to honestly assess my skills and knowledge. Key considerations include:
- Does I have experience with electrical work and wiring? Have I ever added an outlet, switch or light fixture successfully?
- Am I knowledgeable about important concepts like voltage, amperage, wire gauge, grounding, etc?
- Can I read and interpret circuit diagrams and electrical plans?
- Do I know the national and local electrical codes that must be followed?
- Am I willing to research and self-educate on unfamiliar electrical tasks?
- Do I have the physical capability for this demanding work? It requires lifting, climbing, crouching, etc.
If I lack confidence in any of these areas, hiring a professional electrician may be the wiser and safer choice. DIY electrical work can be rewarding but is best tackled by those with at least basic electrical knowledge. Attempting a full rewire without experience could put myself and my home at risk.
How to Learn Electrical Skills
If evaluating my abilities makes me think I can self-teach the skills needed, there are resources available:
- Take formal electrical training courses at a local technical/vocational school.
- Find an experienced electrician willing to mentor me informally.
- Read residential wiring books and guides completely before starting.
- Watch online training videos about home electrical wiring.
- Start small by adding outlets and switches to get hands-on practice.
- Invest in basic electrical tools and learning aids like voltage testers.
- Study national (NEC) and local electrical codes in depth. Many are available online.
With diligent self-education using these resources, the typical DIYer can gain enough knowledge to rewire a home safely. But it's vital not to skip steps when self-teaching a complex technical skill like electrical wiring. Rushing into a rewiring project without thorough preparation puts my safety in jeopardy.
Creating a Rewiring Plan
Before touching my home's wiring, it's essential to map out a detailed plan including:
- Map all existing circuits noting their amperage, voltage, grounding, and wire gauges.
- Diagram the locations of all outlets, switches, lights, major appliances, etc.
- Label the circuit breaker box and note which breakers control which circuits.
New Wire Routing
- Plan the new circuit routes and wire sizes needed.
- Consider where to position new outlets, switches and fixtures.
- Note any changes to service capacity if upgrading electrical service.
Safety Gear and Precautions
- Assemble all needed personal protective equipment like glasses, gloves, durable footwear, etc.
- Ensure I have GFCI outlets installed where required.
- Turn off power at the breaker box and verify it's dead before working.
- Put up caution signs so no one turns breakers back on unexpectedly.
Following a detailed plan prevents surprises mid-project and helps ensure every system functions properly when the rewiring is complete. Consulting local building codes is wise when devising the plan.
Acquiring the Right Tools and Materials
Rewiring a house requires an array of specialty electrical tools and materials. Key items I'll need are:
- Wire strippers - For stripping insulation off wires
- Voltage tester - To confirm power is off before working
- Cable ripper - For removing old cables from walls
- Fish tape - For routing new cables through walls
- Cable stapler - For securing cables flush to studs and joists
- Wire nuts - For joining and insulating wire connections
- Electrical tape - For wrapping and sealing connections
- Cable clamps - For securing cables as they enter boxes
- Wall anchors - For mounting boxes and fixtures solidly
Along with tools, I'll need to purchase sufficient supplies of correctly sized wire, boxes, receptacles, breakers, and conduit. Underestimating materials leads to unnecessary mid-project trips to the hardware store.
Step-by-Step Rewiring Process
With preparations complete, I'm ready to get hands-on with the rewiring. The basic process is:
1. Turn Off Power and Install New Breaker Box
Shutting down power is a crucial first step for safety. Once electricity is confirmed dead, I can install the new breaker box if I've opted to upgrade the service capacity.
2. Remove Old Wires and Devices
Now outdated wires can be taken out. It's messy pulling wires from walls and removing devices, so drop cloths and dust masks are recommended.
3. Route New Wires and Cables
Correctly sized new wires are run between the breaker box and all outlets, switches and fixtures. Carefully routing wires is important for safety and function.
4. Install Outlets, Switches and Other Devices
New electrical boxes are mounted at all planned locations. Then wires are connected to outlets, switches, fixtures and appliances with wire nuts and tape.
5. Connect Wires to Circuit Breakers
Each cable's hot wire gets attached to the appropriate circuit breaker, taking care to balance load across phases. White neutral wires connect to the neutral bus bar.
6. Close Up and Finish
With everything connected, I can insulate and close up the walls. Then I install cover plates, fixtures, lights and test that everything works properly.
Taking it slow and double-checking all work is critical for successfully wiring a home DIY-style. Rushing leads to dangerous mistakes.
Passing Inspection and Staying Legal
Local building codes require that DIY electrical work pass inspection to be approved and legal. To pass:
I carefully follow all requirements of the National Electrical Code and local codes when doing the work. No cutting corners!
I call for inspections at key stages like rough-in and final hookup. The inspector will check my work.
I fix any issues noted during inspections before getting final approval. Permits may be revoked if I don't fix problems.
I keep receipts for all electrical materials purchased in case proof is needed that legal wiring supplies were used.
Completing major electrical projects without permits and inspections is illegal and could risk insurance problems down the road. Doing meticulous, code-compliant work ensures I pass.
With the right planning and effort, I can successfully rewire my home DIY-style, saving money while staying legal and safe. But it's vital not to underestimate the complexity of such a major electrical project. Rewiring an entire house requires extensive self-education and diligent adherence to electrical codes. Attempting shortcuts risks electrical fires, shock hazards and legal trouble if inspections are failed. By using the guidance above and taking it slow and steady though, with patience and care, I can rewire my home legally and safely without the high cost of an electrician.