How to Rewire Your Home Without Dying - A Guide for the Average Joe


Rewiring a home can seem like a daunting task, but with some preparation and by following important safety steps, even an average Joe like me can tackle it successfully. In this guide, I'll walk through the complete process of rewiring a home, from assessing the existing electrical system to connecting the new wires. My goal is to empower DIYers with the key information needed to rewire without electrocuting themselves or burning their house down. Let's get started!

Safety First - Turn Off Power and Use Caution

Before touching a single wire, the very first step is to turn off power to the entire home at the main circuit breaker. Remember, electricity can arc across opened breakers or fuses, so I also recommend turning off the power at the street if possible.

Use a contact voltage tester to confirm power is off. Only proceed when you are 100% certain. As I work, I will also frequently re-check for live wires using the tester. Safety glasses, gloves, and insulated tools are a must as well.

I cannot emphasize enough how vital it is to use extreme caution when working with electrical wires. Always err on the side of safety, no matter how tedious it seems.

Develop a Game Plan

Next, I do a walkthrough of the home to create a detailed plan for the rewiring project. I'll identify:

Thinking through the full scope of work helps avoid frustrations or delays down the road. For a large or complex project, I may even sketch out my plan on paper.

Remove Old Wires

With power confirmed off, I'm ready to remove any existing knob and tube or cloth-wrapped wiring. I'll use pliers and screwdrivers to disconnect and pull out the old wires.

Any junction boxes no longer needed are also removed from the walls and ceilings after the wires are disconnected. I make sure to cap any wires in boxes I'm keeping using wire nuts.

Wearing safety glasses and a respirator, I may need to use a reciprocating saw for cutting holes in walls to access wiring. I limit this destructive work as much as possible though.

Run New Wires

Now the fun part begins - routing new copper electrical wires from my electrical panel throughout the home. Based on my plan, I'll cut correct lengths of "NM-B" rated wire and use staples to secure wires every 4.5 ft as required by code.

I often find running wires through walls easier since you avoid exposed wires across ceilings. I drill small holes to route wire between stud bays, carefully avoiding contact with existing plumbing, gas pipes, or HVAC ducts.

For any exposed wire spans like in a basement or garage, I use code-approved methods to securely fasten the wires.

Install Junction Boxes and Switches

With my home's walls now full of fresh wiring, I can install new electrical boxes wherever I need switches, outlets, or fixtures. I use "old work" boxes designed for retrofit installations.

I follow manufacturer instructions to securely mount the boxes, taking care to position them correctly. For light switches, I confirm wires are connected properly to control lights.

Connect Wiring at the Panel

The last stage is connecting all the new wiring to circuit breakers at my electrical service panel. I ensure each circuit is balanced across two "hot" 120V lines supplied by the 240V mains connection.

Proper cable clamps and strain reliefs keep those bundle of wires secure and separated. I label each new circuit clearly on the breaker panel.

For a sense of satisfaction, I turn the main power back on and do the final test - flipping switches and outlets on to confirm everything works!

Final Thoughts

Rewiring a home demands great care and patience, but it truly pays off in the end. Just take it step-by-step, adhere closely to electrical codes, and never take shortcuts when it comes to safety. Be meticulous in your planning and preparations. While it takes some sweat and muscle, you'll gain invaluable skills and save thousands over hiring an electrician. This average Joe believes in you!