Rewiring a home can seem daunting, but with proper precautions and ancient techniques passed down through generations, it can be done safely. Our ancestors had to rewire their homes without access to modern tools, so we can learn a lot from their methods. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk through everything you need to know to rewire your home like our forefathers did, without risking electrocution or burning your house down.
Gather the Right Supplies
Before beginning any electrical project, you need to gather the proper supplies and tools. Here is what you'll need:
- Wire strippers - To strip the plastic coating off wires
- Voltage tester - To safely check if wires are live before working on them
- Wire nuts - To connect wires together
- Electrical tape - To insulate wire connections
- Flashlight - To see inside dark electrical boxes and panels
- Non-contact voltage detector - Detects live wires without direct contact
- Circuit breakers - To safely shut off power to circuits
- Wire - Use the right gauge for the amperage on the circuit
- Conduit - Protects and hides wiring in walls and ceilings
Making sure you have the right gear will allow you to rewrite old circuits safely. Never try to rewire a home without the proper tools and safety equipment.
Shut Off Power at the Breaker Box
Before touching any wires, the power must be completely shut off at the main breaker box. Shut off the main breaker and unplug any essential appliances on the circuit you'll be working on. Verify power is off by testing wires with a non-contact voltage detector. Working on live wires can result in severe injury or death. Always double check that power is off before proceeding.
Rewire One Circuit at a Time
It's tempting to rewire the entire house in one go, but safety dictates only rewiring one circuit at a time. Turn off the main breaker, then turn back on only the circuit you'll be working on. This way, the rest of the house will remain de-energized as you work. Rewiring multiple live circuits simultaneously exposes you to lethal shock. Patience is key.
Use the Right Wire Gauge
Electrical fires are often caused by undersized wiring unable to handle the amperage load. When rewiring, use wire gauges capable of handling the circuit's amperage. For 15 amp circuits, use 14 AWG wire. For 20 amp circuits, use 12 AWG wire. Never use wire too small for the circuit - this can overheat the wiring and start fires. Match the gauge to the circuit's needs.
Run Wires Through Conduit
Exposed, loosely run wires are unsafe. For protection and aesthetics, run wiring through electrical conduit - plastic or metal tubing. Conduit also allows you to easily pull new wires through walls and ceilings later. Use conduit any time you run wiring through framing. It protects the wires from damage while hiding them from view.
Connect Wires Properly
Sloppy or improper wire connections can cause shorts, fires, and shocks. When joining wires, strip 1/2" of insulation using wire strippers. Twist the bare copper tightly together with pliers, then screw on a wire nut to seal the connection. No bare wire should be exposed. For extra protection, cover nuts with electrical tape. Double check wires are securely fastened.
Label New Circuits Clearly
With new wiring in place, clearly label each circuit at the breaker box. This makes shutting off specific circuits easier and safer in the future. Use simple labels like "Kitchen Lights" or "Bedroom Outlets". Match labels on breakers to the rooms they control. Labelling eliminates confusion when circuits need to be shut off for repairs.
Get Professional Electrical Inspections
Once the rewiring is complete, contact your local building department to arrange for a professional electrical inspection. Permits and inspections ensure your home's electrical system is safe and meets local codes. Only turn power back on once you've passed inspection. DIY electrical work can be hazardous if not done to code. Inspections protect your home.
Rewiring a house using safe, old-fashioned methods is completely doable for a dedicated DIYer. Arm yourself with proper gear, take it slow, and get professional inspections. Be meticulous in your work, and you can upgrade your home's electrical without deadly missteps. Our ancestors rewired their homes this way, and with care, you can too. Just be sure to never take shortcuts when dealing with lethal voltages.