Home Rewires – Nitty-Gritty Questions and Answers

If your house was built before 1950, the wiring may not be up to current standards. Prior to 1950, many wiring systems relied on cloth-insulation, which deteriorates over time. Between the late 1800s to mid-1930s, wiring was given cloth insulation and, in addition, was held in place by a system called “knob and tube” or “knob and spool.” While cloth insulation may not be obvious, knob and tube is easy to see. It features whitish ceramic tubes (spools) through which the wires were run and whitish ceramic knobs over which the wires were wound. You can find photos on the Internet. If you suspect that your house was wired before 1950 or has cloth-insulated wiring or knob and tube, ask a qualified electrician to check it.

How much does a house rewire cost?

Of course, it depends on how much work a particular home needs and where you live. My company operates in a large urban area where the cost of living is as high as anywhere in the country. Depending on the type of existing wiring, we charge $4-$6 per square foot of home that needs rewiring. If you live in a less expensive part of the country, of course, you can expect a lower price.

How long does it take?

This depends on factors like the size of your house. In general, for a house of about 1,500 square feet, with 2-3 person crew, a complete rewire, where all the wires are replaced, takes about 2-7 days.

Is it necessary to break walls?

If your electrical wires were installed inside conduit (looks like plumbing pipes), breaking walls can be mostly or entirely avoided. For Romex or knob and tube, breaking walls can’t be avoided. If it’s necessary to break walls, an expert electrician will leave a clean patch ready for the painter.

Will our home lose power?

The parts of the house where the electricians are pulling out your old wires and replacing them with new ones will need to have the power turned off. Experienced electricians will sequence the rooms so that only a specific part of the house is without power at any one time. They shouldn’t leave your home without power overnight.

Will a rewire increase the value of my home upon sale?

Very likely. If your existing wiring is unsafe, this issue will come up in escrow during the home inspection. Also, some lenders may decline to provide a mortgage and some insurers may not offer home insurance. In this situation, you can expect fewer potential buyers and a lower price for your home. A rewire may make a higher price possible and a sale smoother. If you think you might end up doing a rewire before a sale, the best time to do it is as soon as you can pay for it. It will keep your family safer in the meantime.

Will it reduce insurance rates?

Many insurers refuse to provide insurance for homes with older electrical systems that don’t meet current safety codes. If you have such a home, you may find that your options are limited to insurance companies that charge higher rates.

Is an electrical permit required?

Yes. Upon sale of the house, if a rewire has been done, legally you will need to be able to show an electrical building permit. If you didn’t get a permit, you’ll need to disclose that. A permit requires that your electrician obtain an electrical inspection to make sure that the wiring follows the National Electrical Code.

Can I rewire my house myself?

This depends on your knowledge and skills. A safe rewire and one which will pass building inspections requires knowledge of many parts of the National Electrical Code as well as many electrical skills and special tools. Rewiring could be both a hazardous and lengthy undertaking for non-electricians. It’s possible but a challenging undertaking for the average do-it-yourselfer.

After how many years should a home be rewired?

There’s no set lifetime for an electrical system. A wiring system installed before 1950 should be checked out. But even a modern electrical system which was sound when originally installed should be checked every 10 years. Make sure that all electrical connections are still tight and in good working order.

If you feel that you would sleep sounder at night, get your electrical system checked. A qualified electrician may find that no work is needed, or that some connections need tightening, or that an older electrical system needs a rewire.