How to Rewire Your Home's Electrical System for Safety & Efficiency
Rewiring your home's electrical system is an important project that requires careful planning and execution. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to rewire your home's electrical system safely and efficiently.
Assessing Your Home's Electrical System
The first step is to thoroughly assess the current state of your home's electrical system. Look for:
Frayed or damaged wiring. Exposed copper wires or cracked/brittle wire insulation can pose fire and shock hazards.
Small gauge wiring. Outdated wiring is usually too small for today's electricity demands. This can cause overheating.
Not enough circuits or outlets. Most homes today require more circuits and outlets. Older homes often lack enough to meet needs.
Aluminum wiring. While still up to code, aluminum wiring from the 1960s and 1970s is prone to overheating issues. Replacing it with copper is recommended.
Grounding and arc fault issues. Modern safety standards require proper grounding and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Older systems may lack these.
Voltage drop problems. If lights dim when certain devices turn on, this indicates excessive voltage drop. Wiring may need to be upsized.
Carefully inspecting the electrical panel and all accessible wiring and outlets will reveal if an overhaul is needed. Getting a professional assessment is also wise for most homes over 20 years old.
Planning Your New Electrical System
Once you've determined that a rewire is necessary, thoughtful planning is crucial. Consider:
Service panel size. The electrical panel needs to be big enough to handle all your home's electrical loads. Plan for future needs too.
Circuit layout. Map where each circuit should run and the outlets/fixtures it will serve. Group high-wattage items separately.
Special circuits. For items like large appliances, air conditioners, and pool or spa equipment, dedicated circuits help avoid overloading.
Whole home surge protection. Adding surge protective devices helps safeguard expensive electronics and appliances.
Additional outlets. Add outlets to eliminate the need for extension cords and provide flexibility for future needs.
Lighting. Factor in any new or relocated lighting fixtures and switches. Consider modern dimmable LED lighting.
Future expansion. For potential additions like electric vehicle chargers, it's wise to add extra room in the panel.
Carefully planning the design ahead of time makes the actual rewiring work much simpler. Get professional help designing your new electrical system if you're unsure about requirements.
Hiring an Electrical Contractor
Unless you're a licensed electrician, it's essential to hire a professional for any rewiring project. Electrical mistakes can destroy property or be deadly.
When hiring a contractor:
Verify licenses and insurance. Electrical contractors must be properly licensed and insured. Demand to see their credentials.
Check references. Ask for references from recent jobs and check reviews online. Reputable electricians have a proven track record.
Get multiple quotes. Be sure to get quotes from 3-4 licensed electricians before choosing one. Compare prices carefully.
Confirm permit plans. Electrical permits are required for rewire jobs. Make sure your contractor will pull all required permits and schedule inspections.
Request a detailed bid. The quote should cover the full scope of work, timeline, all costs, and warranty. Avoid vague bids.
Get it in writing. Before work starts, have the complete agreement detailed in a written contract. This protects both you and the electrician.
Hiring a true professional is well worth the investment for such an important home improvement project. Doing so helps ensure your new electrical system is safe, efficient, and installed correctly the first time.
Preparing for a Rewiring Project
Before the contractor arrives, there are steps you should take to prepare your home for a major rewiring overhaul:
Clear access points. Electricians will need to access walls, ceilings, and crawlspaces where wiring runs. Move any obstructions blocking access panels or pathways.
Organize storage. To rewire outlets and switches, furniture and items stored against walls may need to be moved to allow access. Be prepared to shift things.
Disconnect electronics. Turn off and unplug all electronics and appliances to avoid potential damage during the work.
Pack breakable items. If demolishing walls or ceilings, box up any plates, glasses, or delicate decor items that could get broken.
Plan for power outages. Your power will need to be shut off at times during the project. Be ready to go for periods without electricity.
Arrange accommodation. Rewiring takes days or weeks. If workspace is very limited, consider lodging elsewhere during the work.
Protect valuables. Lock away jewelry, cash, and other valuables just to be safe when workers are in your home.
Taking these steps minimizes disruptions and ensures the contractors can access everything they need to complete the rewiring efficiently. The small upfront effort pays off in a smoother process.
The Rewiring Process Step-by-Step
The actual rewiring process generally involves several key phases:
Phase 1: Removal of Old Wiring
The electrician will:
- Shut off power at main breaker panel
- Disconnect all outlets, switches, and fixtures
- Remove old wires from walls, attics, and crawlspaces
- Take down abandoned junction boxes and conduit
Removing outdated wiring is an important first step before new wiring can be installed. This also allows the electrician to inspect the full extent of your existing system.
Phase 2: Installation of New Wiring
Next comes installation of the new wiring system:
- Lay out pathways for circuit runs in walls, ceilings, and floors
- Drill access holes between floors and through framing
- Pull copper wiring through cavities and conduits
- Secure wires properly using staples, clips, and straps
- Attach wiring to new outlets, switches and fixtures
Proper support and protection for the new wiring prevents damage that can lead to dangerous shorts and fires.
Phase 3: Inspector Approval
Before covering up:
- Schedule inspection of rough-in wiring
- Make any corrections inspector requires
- Only cover wires once approved
Do not let contractors cover wires in walls before inspection. This ensures adherence to local electrical codes.
Phase 4: Make Repairs
- Patch holes in walls, floors, and ceilings
- Reassemble any removed insulation or vapor barriers
- Refinish any interior or exterior surfaces disturbed
- Confirm proper drywall nailing patterns around boxes
Proper restoration work keeps the integrity of the home intact and makes the wiring "disappear" into the structure.
Phase 5: Install Electrical Panel and Devices
- Mount new main service panel and ground wire
- Install new breakers and test all circuits
- Attach cover plates, fixtures, switches, and outlets
- Label all circuits clearly in the panel
- Perform final check of connections
With the electrical panel and devices in place, the new wiring system is ready to be energized!
After the major work is complete, there are still some important finishing steps:
Have the completed work thoroughly inspected by the local building department before covering any wiring. Only proceed once you obtain official approval.
Review the entire job with your electrician and fix any outstanding issues before making final payment. Only pay once 100% satisfied.
Properly reconnect all appliances, electronics, and fixtures. Make sure grounding is proper and polarity is correct.
Add labeling to the electrical panel marking all new circuits clearly. Update any wiring diagrams to reflect the new system.
Test every outlet, switch, appliance hookup, and lighting fixture. Verify proper function and no faults.
Taking these final measures ensures your rewiring project is a complete success, providing reliable and safe electrical service for years to come. Enjoy the peace of mind and energy efficiency of a modernized electrical system!