How to Rewire Your Home Without Dying - A Guide for Novices
Rewiring a home can seem daunting, but with proper planning and safety precautions, even a novice can successfully rewire their house. Here is a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process safely.
Know When Rewiring is Necessary
There are a few instances when rewiring your home is necessary:
Upgrading to 200 amp service - If your home still has 100 amp or lower electrical service, an upgrade is likely needed to support modern appliances and electronics. This requires running new wire from the electrical panel throughout the home.
Old or damaged wiring - If the existing wires are cloth-wrapped, brittle, or have damage, rewiring ensures safe and reliable power delivery.
Insufficient circuits or outlets - Rewiring allows you to add more circuits and outlets as needed for convenience and modern usage.
Grounding issues - Homes built before the 1960s may have ungrounded outlets, necessitating a rewire to add equipment grounding conductors.
Aluminum wiring - Aluminum wiring used in some homes between 1965-1973 is prone to hazards like loose connections. Rewiring with copper wire is recommended.
If any of these conditions apply to your home, a rewire is likely worthwhile to gain safety and updated electrical capacity.
Develop a Rewiring Plan
Careful planning makes a rewire go smoothly and avoids surprises mid-project.
Map electrical layout - Note all switch and outlet locations, light fixtures, appliance circuits, smoke detectors, etc.
Decide on improvements - Determine what you want to upgrade such as more outlets, 3-way switching, 240V circuits, etc.
Select wire gauge - Consult electric codes to choose appropriate wire sizes for all circuits. #12 AWG is typical for 15-20 amp branch circuits.
Label everything - Use a system to label all wires so you know what they connect to. Color coding helps.
Work in phases - Rewire one section or circuit at a time to avoid outages throughout the home.
Pull permits - Get all necessary permits and schedule inspections with your local building department.
Gear Up with Safety Equipment
Electrical work carries risks like shocks, arc flashes, and electrocution hazards. Protect yourself with:
Insulated tools - Never use metal ladders or uninsulated tools when working on wiring.
Electrical gloves - Wear thick rubber gloves designed for electrical work.
Eye protection - Wear safety glasses or goggles in case of arc flashes.
Clothing - Do not wear any metal jewelry and choose non-flammable clothes without metal fasteners.
Work boots - Wear boots with rubber soles to prevent shocks.
GFCIs - Use GFCI-protected outlets or extension cords whenever possible.
Warning signs - Post signs to warn family members to avoid contact with wiring.
Step-by-Step Rewiring Process
With proper planning and safety gear, you can methodically work through the rewiring process:
1. Turn Off Power
Turn off the main breaker and all individual circuit breakers. Verify power is off with a contactless voltage tester.
2. Remove Old Wiring
Take down the existing wires from outlets, switches and junction boxes carefully. Save wire nuts and electrical boxes for reuse if in good condition.
3. Run New Wires
Route new cables between boxes and the panel following your wiring plan. Staple cables every 4-5 feet for support. Use wire nuts to join wires in boxes.
4. Connect Devices
Connect switches, outlets, lights, appliances and equipment ground wires according to code and labeling system.
5. Turn Power Back On
Energize the main breaker first, then switch other breakers on one at a time. Test outlets and lights on each circuit.
6. Wrap Up
Install switch, outlet and junction box covers. Verify grounding and polarity of outlets. Complete drywall repairs. Have an inspector approve the job before covering all hidden wiring.
Rewiring a house is time consuming but worthwhile. Stay safe by avoiding shortcuts and using extreme caution when working with live power lines. Turn to an electrician if you get stuck or overwhelmed. With patience and care, you can gain updated electrical capacity without costs of hiring a professional.