Rewiring an old home can seem like a daunting task, but it's completely doable if you take the proper precautions. As the homeowner, I want to make sure my house is safe and up to modern electrical codes without accidentally burning it down or getting electrocuted in the process. In this guide, I'll walk through all the steps I took to successfully rewire my old home room-by-room.
Research Local Building Codes and Permit Requirements
Before touching a single wire, it's crucial to research the local building codes and permit requirements in your area. Electrical work often requires procuring a permit from your local building department before getting started. I consulted my county's building code website and called the permit office directly to inquire about the specifics for residential rewiring projects.
Some key questions I made sure to have answered included:
- What are the legal requirements for acquiring a rewiring permit in my jurisdiction?
- How much does the permit cost?
- What inspections are needed throughout the rewiring process?
- Are there exceptions to permit requirements for small-scale electrical work?
Knowing the legal landscape upfront prevented delays and violations down the road.
Hire a Licensed Electrician or Do It Yourself
Rewiring an entire house is complex, so I strongly considered hiring a licensed electrician to handle the job safely and correctly. However, after some careful thought, I decided to do it myself to save on labor costs.
If you choose the DIY route like I did, make sure you:
- Study the national and local electrical codes thoroughly.
- Are comfortable working with high voltage electrical systems.
- Have the right tools for the job.
- Take precautions like wearing rubber-soled shoes, insulating gloves, and eye protection.
Safety should be the number one priority, so don't take this lightly. Home electrical fires are a leading cause of residential fires.
Turn Off Power at the Main Circuit Breaker
Before touching any wires in the rewiring process, I made sure to turn off power to the whole home at the main circuit breaker. Testing wires with a non-contact voltage tester confirmed power was completely off.
I also taped a "DO NOT ENTER" sign on the breaker box so no one would accidentally turn the power back on while I was working. Safety first!
Map Out Your Electrical Plan
With the power disconnected, I mapped out my new electrical plan including:
- What wires needed to be replaced?
- Where would I position new outlets and switches?
- What capacity breaker box did I need to install?
Creating a detailed rewiring plan helped maximize efficiency and safety during the physical rewiring work. I could stage all the necessary materials room-by-room to avoid unsafe electrical surprises.
Replace Old Outlets and Switches
One of my first rewiring steps was replacing all the outdated outlets and switches throughout the house. I purchased new tamper-resistant receptacles and rocker-style light switches that meet modern safety codes.
After verifying the circuit was de-energized, I:
- Disconnected the wires from the old outlets/switches.
- Removed the old hardware from the electrical boxes.
- Installed the new outlet/switch into the box.
- Securely reconnected the wires properly to the new device.
This brought my home's outlets and switches up to modern safety standards.
Run New AFCI and GFCI Circuits
Two major upgrades I made were installing AFCI (arc-fault circuit interrupter) and GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) protected circuits.
AFCIs shut off power if a dangerous arc is detected, greatly reducing the risk of electrical fires. I ran all bedroom outlets and lighting on AFCI circuits for fire safety.
GFCIs cut power if a ground fault is detected, helping prevent electric shocks. I protected bathrooms, kitchens, garages and exterior outlets with GFCI circuits.
While more expensive than ordinary breakers, these safety upgrades provide vital protection.
Replace Old Knob-and-Tube Wiring
The scariest part of my old home was the antiquated knob-and-tube wiring snaking through the walls. This crude, exposed wiring posed a major fire hazard. I methodically traced every inch of old wiring and ripped it all out.
In its place, I routed new properly insulated copper wiring through protective conduits. While tedious, this step was non-negotiable for safety. I highly recommend replacing any old knob-and-tube wiring found in a home.
Install New Breaker Box
With all the new wiring in place, I wrapped up by installing a new large capacity breaker box appropriate for a modern home. I chose a 200 amp main service box with room to add dual-pole 240V circuits if needed.
The electrician handled connecting the new breaker box to the main service line since that required working with live high-voltage lines.
Call for Inspections Before Turning Power On
With the rewiring complete, I scheduled the required building inspections before turning the power back on. The inspectors checked that all work complied with code before giving the green light.
I only flipped the main breaker once the final inspection was passed successfully. Safety first when dealing with major electrical work!
While rewiring an old home is a major undertaking, it can be done safely with proper planning and precautions. The peace of mind gained from modern, code-compliant electrical systems is worth the effort. Just be sure to do your homework, make safety the top priority, and don't cut corners. Taking the extra time to do it right will pay off for years to come.