Rewiring a home can seem like an intimidating task, but with the right preparation and safety precautions, it is possible for a homeowner to rewire their house without hiring an electrician. There are several reasons why you may want to rewire your home, from upgrading the electrical system to fixing faulty wiring. Rewiring does involve working with dangerous electrical components, so safety should be your top priority. Follow this guide to learn how to safely rewire your home room by room.
When Rewiring is Necessary
Here are some of the most common reasons you may need to rewire your home:
Upgrading the electrical system - If your home still has an old 60 amp electrical system, rewiring can allow you to upgrade to a 100, 150 or 200 amp system to meet modern electrical needs. This involves replacing the electrical panel and all circuit wiring.
Faulty or damaged wiring - Outdated wiring that is cracked or frayed can cause shorts, fires and shock hazards. If you have flickering lights, frequent tripped breakers or outlets that spark, a rewire may be needed.
Not enough circuits or outlets - If your home lacks enough circuits or outlets for today's electrical needs, a rewire can allow you to add more circuits and outlets.
Grounding issues - Homes built before the 1960s may have ungrounded outlets, which pose a shock hazard. Rewiring allows grounded outlets to be installed.
Working with electrical wiring can be extremely dangerous if safety rules are not followed. Here are some key safety steps to take:
Turn off power to the room - Turn off all power via the main breaker panel before doing any electrical work.
Wear insulating gloves - Wear thick rubber insulating gloves at all times to avoid shocks.
Use a fiberglass ladder - Only use fiberglass ladders, never metal, when working on wiring.
Cap wires and outlets - Cap any exposed wires with wire nuts and use outlet plugs when outlets are disconnected.
Work with a partner - Have someone watch you work and call 911 in case of an emergency.
Install GFCIs - Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) will shut off power in an accident. Install these outlets in any high-risk areas.
Rewiring a Room
Follow this basic process to safely rewire a room in your home:
1. Turn Off Power and Remove Old Wiring
The first step is to turn off all power to the room you are rewiring at the main circuit breaker panel. Test outlets with a voltage tester to be sure. Then, remove all outlet and switch cover plates and unscrew the outlets and switches from their boxes. Carefully pull the old wiring out of the boxes and dispose of it.
2. Plan New Circuits and Outlets
Decide where you want new outlets and switches placed. Having a good plan will make installation easier. Mark the locations with tape. Also plan which outlets you want on each new circuit. Draw up a basic circuit plan to follow.
3. Install New Outlet Boxes
With the power still off, install new electrical boxes for outlets, switches and fixtures. Nail the boxes into wall studs for stability. Make sure you buy the correct size. Follow box instructions carefully.
4. Run and Secure New Wiring
Starting from the main panel, run the new 12 or 14 gauge NM wiring through the walls to each box. Secure wiring every 4.5 feet with nail brackets. Use wire nuts to make connections. Keep wire colors consistent for hot, neutral and ground.
5. Connect Switches and Outlets
Connect the wires to the outlets, switches and fixtures. Follow diagrams on the devices. Make sure wiring is snug and does not touch metal boxes. Place wire nuts over connections. Make ground connections as well.
6. Attach Cover Plates and Restore Power
With all wiring done, screw the outlets, switches and fixtures into their boxes. Attach cover plates. Go to the main panel and restore power to the room. Test your handy work!
Whole House Rewiring Tips
If you plan to rewire your entire house, work room by room. Follow this room by room process:
Start with one room, like the kitchen, garage or a bedroom. Focus on one room at a time.
Rewire the room completely by removing old wiring and installing new circuits and outlets.
Leave wires disconnected but labeled at the panel for other rooms.
Once one room is done, move to the next room until the entire house is rewired.
Finally, connect all the wiring to the main panel. Upgrade the panel if needed.
Some other tips for whole house rewiring:
Create a detailed plan - Carefully plan all circuits, outlet placements, wire sizing and the main panel setup.
Hire an electrician for complex jobs - Consider hiring an electrician for tricky parts like the main panel upgrade.
Install in phases - If doing the entire house at once is too big a job, focus on a wing or floor at a time.
Leave walls open - Cut openings in walls and ceilings to run wires and close up when done.
While rewiring a home is labor intensive, the electrical savings and safety benefits make it a worthwhile DIY project. Just be sure to take precautions like turning off power, wearing gloves and having GFCIs in place. Follow the detailed room and whole house rewiring steps covered above and you can take on a rewiring project yourself without an electrician. Pay close attention to building codes and device instructions for a compliant and well-functioning electrical system. With adequate care and planning, you can safely rewire your home!