How to Safely Rewire Your Home Without Any Prior Electrical Experience


Rewiring a home can seem like a daunting task, especially if you don't have any prior electrical experience. However, with the right planning, precautions, and tools, even beginners can successfully rewire their home safely.

In this comprehensive guide, I'll walk you through the entire process step-by-step, from understanding home electrical systems, to developing a rewiring plan, to selecting the right materials and tools, to following proper safety procedures. By the end, you'll have the knowledge and confidence to tackle basic home rewiring projects yourself.

Understanding Home Electrical Systems

Before beginning any electrical project, it's important to understand the basics of how home electrical systems work. Here's a quick overview:

The Main Electrical Service Panel

The main service panel is the central hub that connects your home to the main power supply from the utility company. This panel contains:

Branch Circuits

Branch circuits distribute electricity throughout your home. Most branch circuits are 120 volts and are protected by a 15 or 20 amp circuit breaker in the main panel. Common branch circuits include:

Electrical Wiring and Devices

Within the walls, cables distribute power from the panel to devices:

Developing a Rewiring Plan

Careful planning is crucial when rewiring a home. Follow these steps to develop a complete rewiring plan:

Evaluate Your Electrical Needs

Consider how your home's electrical needs may have changed:

Choose a Scope of Work

Decide how much you want to rewire:

Create a Home Electrical Plan

Sketch out a home electrical plan that maps:

Having this detailed plan is extremely useful during the rewiring process.

Choosing the Right Electrical Materials

For a safe, durable rewiring job, select the appropriate gauge and type of wiring and upgrade key equipment:

Electrical Wire

Use copper NM (nonmetallic) cable rather than aluminum - it's safer and more reliable. Choose the right gauge for each circuit based on the amperage rating and length. Common gauges are:

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) Receptacles

Install GFCI receptacles in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garages, and outdoor areas to prevent dangerous shocks.

AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) Breakers

Use AFCI breakers for bedroom circuits to prevent fires caused by damaged/arcing wires.

Surge Protectors

Add a whole house surge protector at the main panel to protect electronics from power spikes.

Electrical Boxes

Use sturdy plastic or metal electrical boxes to contain connections. Avoid weak plastic handy boxes.

Acquiring the Right Tools

Rewiring requires some specialized electrical tools for safety and efficiency:

Many more tools like ladders, drywall saws, stud finders, and clamp meters may be useful as well. Invest in quality to make the job easier.

Following Proper Safety Procedures

Safety should be your top priority. Follow these guidelines to avoid electrical hazards:

Turn Off Power and Verify

Turn off power at the main breaker before starting any electrical work. Verify it's off by testing wires with a non-contact voltage tester.

Use Personal Protective Equipment

Always wear rubber-soled shoes, safety goggles, and electrical gloves when handling wires.

Connect Green/Bare Ground Wires First

Ground wires stabilize electrical currents and prevent shocks. Connect them first when wiring devices or boxes.

Keep Wires Neat and Tidy

Neatly bundle and clamp wires inside boxes to prevent loose connections and shorts.

Label New Wiring and Circuits

Label all new wiring with source and destination. Label new breakers clearly. This avoids confusion later.

Install GFCIs and AFCIs

Protective GFCI and AFCI devices prevent shocks, fires, and save lives. Install them according to code.

Get Electrical Permits and Inspections

Electrical permits and inspections ensure work meets code and is safe. They also provide great advice.

Rewiring Step-By-Step

Once you thoroughly plan the project and acquire the right gear, you're ready to start rewiring. Follow these steps:

1. Turn Off Electrical Power at Main Breaker

Shut off all power at the main breaker before starting. Verify it's off by testing with a voltage tester.

2. Remove Old Wiring

Carefully remove existing wiring. Pull it free from boxes and conduits, cut it out of drywall, unbundle it, and pull it out of the attic/crawlspace.

3. Drill Holes for New Wiring Runs

Drill holes through floor joists and wall studs to route new wiring between the main panel and device boxes. Follow your electrical plan.

4. Pull New Wiring Cables

Use fish tape to pull bundles of new NM cables through holes in framing. Leave plenty of extra length for connections.

5. Mount New Electrical Boxes

Mount plastic or metal boxes to framing where devices and fixtures will be located. Follow your electrical plan.

6. Make Wire Connections

Strip sheathing and connect hot, neutral, and ground wires securely inside each box and at the main panel.

7. Attach Devices to Boxes

Install receptacles, switches, lights, GFCIs, and other devices neatly into corresponding boxes.

8. Label New Wiring and Circuits

Carefully label new wiring and circuit breakers according to their locations/purposes. This avoids confusion.

9. Replace Walls, Fixtures, Faceplates

Patch drywall, replace insulation, install lights/fixtures, add faceplates, and repaint to hide rewiring work.

10. Turn Power Back On and Test

Turn the main breaker back on. Walk through the home testing outlets and lights to ensure all is working properly.

Final Tips

Follow these final tips for a successful project:

By taking the proper time to plan and prepare, even beginners can safely rewire their home successfully. Just work methodically, follow safety procedures, and don't be afraid to get professional help when needed. Thoroughly renovating your home's electrical system yourself is a very rewarding do-it-yourself project that saves thousands in electrician fees.