Rewiring a home can seem like an intimidating task, but with proper planning and attention to detail, a homeowner can successfully rewire portions of their house without hiring an electrician. The key is understanding local electrical codes, having the right tools, and taking it step-by-step.
While a major whole-house rewire is best left to professionals, smaller projects like installing new circuits or replacing old wiring can often be DIY. As long as you educate yourself and work safely, you can upgrade your home's electrical system and avoid the high costs of hiring an electrician.
This guide will walk through the entire process to help you rewire your home room-by-room while staying compliant with local electrical codes.
Gather Supplies and Learn Electrical Basics
Before getting started, you’ll need to purchase some basic supplies and equip yourself with electrical knowledge.
Here are some must-have supplies for rewiring a room:
- Wire strippers - Used to strip insulation off wires
- Voltage tester - Helps identify live wires
- Clamp meter - Measures current flowing through wires
- Cable ripper - Removes old wiring
- Fish tape - Guides new wiring through walls
- Electrical tape - Insulates wire connections
- Wire nuts - Joins copper wires together
- Cable staples - Affixes wiring to studs
In addition to these tools, you’ll need the correct gauge electrical wiring for each new circuit, as well as appropriate boxes, conduits, outlets, and switches.
Before getting hands-on experience, understanding basic electrical terms and concepts is a must:
- Current - The flow of electrons through a conductor like a wire
- Voltage - The "pressure" that causes current to flow
- Grounding - Safely directing current back to the breaker panel
- Amps (amperage) - The rate of electron flow
- Watts - The amount of power consumption
- Circuits - Closed loops that electricity can flow through
You should also familiarize yourself with how home electrical systems are wired, from the main service panel out to outlets and devices. Having a solid grasp of these fundamentals will help ensure you upgrade wiring safely and correctly.
Once you’re equipped with the right gear and knowledge, you can start the rewiring project. Here are the key steps:
1. Turn Off Power and Inspect
Shut off all power at the main breaker panel. Verify it's off by testing outlets with a voltage tester. Remove cover plates and inspect the existing wiring using a flashlight. Look for corrosion, damage, loose connections, or insulation breakdown.
2. Remove Old Wiring
If the existing wiring is damaged or unsafe, use a cable ripper tool to remove it. Pull out individual wires by hand if they’re in good condition and you intend to reuse them. Also remove any abandoned wires.
3. Plan New Circuits
Decide what new circuits are needed and sketch out where they’ll run. Calculate the amperage needed and select the proper wire size. Also choose suitable locations for any new switches, outlets, or light fixtures.
4. Run New Wiring
Use a fish tape to route new cables through walls and ceilings between the breaker panel and devices. Staple the wiring neatly along studs. Ensure wires enter boxes properly and make snug connections.
5. Connect Switches and Outlets
Following wiring diagrams, connect new outlets, switches, and lights to the new circuits. Use wire nuts to join wires securely. Ground each box and device properly.
6. Protect and Finish Up
Neatly fold and tuck wires into boxes. Secure receptacles and switches. Label circuits clearly in the breaker panel. Replace cover plates. Double check connections are tight.
7. Restore Power and Test
Turn circuits back on at the breaker panel one at a time. Use a voltage tester and multimeter to verify wires are live and devices function properly. Add breakers or fuses as needed.
Following Codes and Inspections
To avoid costly mistakes, be sure to follow local building codes closely during the rewiring process. Some key requirements:
- Use approved materials and wiring gauges
- Follow box fill limits and installation rules
- Maintain required clearance from pipes and vents
- Use GFCI outlets near wet areas like kitchens and baths
- Keep wire splices accessible for inspection
Check with your local building department about required permits and inspections. They will want to inspect rough-in wiring before it's concealed in walls, as well as final wiring before cover plates go up.
Thoroughly research your local codes and have an experienced electrician review your work if needed. This helps ensure your DIY rewiring job follows regulations.
When to Call a Professional
Rewiring an entire house or service panel upgrades are complex, high-risk projects best left to licensed electricians. Also consider hiring help if:
- The existing wiring is severely damaged or deteriorated
- Electrical boxes need extensive repairs or replacements
- You're uncomfortable accessing cramped wiring spaces
- Complex wiring tasks are beyond your skill level
Better to call a pro than take risks over your head as a DIYer. But for many straightforward rewiring jobs, with diligent research and safe practices you can take the DIY route.
Rewiring a room or specific circuits without professional help is very achievable if properly planned out. By educating yourself, following codes, using quality materials, and working carefully, you can take on select rewiring projects and avoid the expense of an electrician. Just be sure to get inspections and ask for help when a task is too complex. With some diligence and hard work, you can take control of your home’s electrical system.