Rewiring a home can be a daunting task, but with proper precautions and some long-forgotten techniques, I managed to rewire my home without electrocuting myself. As your home ages, the electrical wiring can become outdated and even dangerous. Rewiring allows you to upgrade to modern electrical capacity and safety standards. Follow these tips and techniques to get the job done safely.
Research Electrical Codes and Permits
Before touching a single wire, research your local electrical codes and permit requirements. Electrical codes ensure safety and provide guidelines on everything from wiring gauges to outlet spacing. Permits are often required for rewiring - don't skip this step or you could fail inspection and have to redo work.
- Check with your local building department on permit needs and electrical code regulations. Requirements vary.
- Consider hiring an electrician if you're uncomfortable with the details. They can pull proper permits and ensure code compliance.
- Factor in permit costs and inspection timing - they can add time and budget impacts.
Upgrade your Electrical Panel
If your home still has a fuse electrical panel, an upgrade should be part of your rewire project.
- Circuit breaker panels are safer and more reliable than old fuse boxes. They isolate electrical issues quickly.
- Hire an electrician to install a new panel properly. The amperage must suit your home's needs.
- Consider 200 amp service for most homes. Larger homes may need 400 amp panels or more.
- Budget extra time and costs for the new panel and circuit breaker installation.
Use Proper Safety Gear
Electrical shocks and burns can kill you. Protect yourself with proper safety gear:
- Insulated gloves rated for electrical work. Double up for more protection.
- Safety goggles to prevent injuries from sparks or explosions.
- Durable, non-conductive work boots like thick rubber. Avoid leather.
- Long sleeve, non-conductive clothing like cotton to prevent contact.
- Clamp meters to test wires before touching them. Test twice!
- Circuit tester to double check the power is OFF.
Rewire Room by Room
Rewiring your entire home at once can be overwhelming. Focus on one room at a time:
- Start with an non-essential room like a garage or storage area. Get experience before tackling critical rooms.
- Label each wire so you know which breaker it connects to. Color coding helps too.
- Take photos before removing old wires. Use them as a reference for re-installation.
- Test for dead wires before touching them! Wear gloves and glasses.
- Install new wires per code, one room at a time. Take it slow.
- Inspect connections carefully before re-energizing each circuit. Loose wires cause fires.
- Patience and care will get each room rewired safely.
Use Old-Fashioned Fishing Techniques
Running new wires through finished walls can be frustrating. Borrow some fishing tricks from the old days:
- Use a long flexible fiberglass fish tape to snake wires through walls. Feed it slowly.
- Attach the new wire ends to the fish tape to pull them through.
- A stiff metal wire coat hanger works too, but avoids electric wires.
- Try compact rigid sections of conduit for stubborn spots between walls.
- Drill small holes to peek inside the walls for guidance. Patch holes later.
- Maintain patience and a steady hand, just like old-school electricians.
Connect Switches and Outlets Properly
Finishing each room requires installing switches, outlets, and cover plates:
- Use screw-clamp connections instead of quick push-in wires. They are more reliable.
- Wrap connections clockwise with electrical tape for safety and longevity.
- Double check wires connections are tight and insulated before turning power back on.
- Affix cover plates to all switches, outlets, and junction boxes when done. They prevent accidental contact.
- Label each switch and outlet to correspond with the electrical panel.
- Test functionality in each room before moving to the next one.
Don't Skimp on Electrical Safety
Modern home wiring presents new hazards that our ancestors didn't face. Take steps to prevent electrical fires and shock risks:
- Use arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers to prevent dangerous arcs.
- Install AFCI outlets where codes require. They provide redundancy.
- Use GFCI outlets in wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms to prevent shocks.
- Verify proper wire gauges to handle appliance loads on each circuit.
- Keep flammable materials like drapes away from electrical sources.
- Label all panels and wires clearly. Prevent confusion.
- Hire a licensed electrician if you have any doubts or questions.
Staying safe while rewiring your home yourself requires research, caution, and some old-fashioned techniques. But with diligence, you can upgrade your electrical system to modern standards without getting zapped. Just be sure to pull permits, follow codes, and use proper safety gear.