Discover the reasons, safety considerations, and benefits of rewiring your home. From planning and preparation to flawless execution, we'll walk you through the process, ensuring your home's electrical system is ready for the future.

Sparking New Life into Your Old Wiring: A Guide to Residential Rewiring

Steve Maurer, IME
Several years ago, we bought an older house. (The major reason I loved it was the huge yard on a corner lot, just outside the city limits.) The house was built back in the ‘60s, so there was definitely some work to be done, particularly in the electrical system.

We waited until we planned a major renovation before tackling the electrical upgrade. The service entrance, fed by overhead wires, was located at the back of the open carport in a utility room.

After enclosing the carport, adding two rooms to it, it was time to go to work on the wiring and full electrical system. That meant pulling new sheathed cables while adding receptacles and switches throughout the home.

We upgraded from a 100-amp fuse box to a full 200-amp circuit panel with a meter with a 12-circuit breaker panel on the outside. In the laundry room, on the inner wall, I installed a 32-space panel to handle the interior upgrades.

And of course, I brought the entire system up to Code, including the underground burial of the conductors to the house.

In this article, we’ll discuss several topics:

  • Reasons for rewiring
  • Safety considerations
  • Planning and preparation
  • Project execution, and
  • Benefits to the homeowner

Rewiring a home is a major undertaking, but one worth the effort. And if you offer this as a service to your residential, it can be profitable as well.

Reasons for residential rewiring projects
There are a lot of reasons a house needs a rewiring job. In many cases, like our house, there are often more than one reason. In our situation, we not only needed to add more circuits and capacity, but upgrade the aging entrance equipment.
In our neck of the woods, I’ve been in many older homes, particularly farmhouses, still powered by the old knob and tube wiring. Replacing aluminum wiring is another good reason to upgrade the wiring system.

Of course, additions like the one we constructed and the need for more power in modern homes are two more.

Many older homes are equipped with gas furnaces, ovens, and even dryers. As homeowners move toward all-electric appliances, the need for additional circuits becomes critical in many cases.

Changes in insurance requirements and new electrical standards may push the issue as well. And remember… if you do a major upgrade to a part of the system, the entire system needs brought up to code.

Safety considerations

Because most residential wiring installations are out of sight—behind walls, up in attics, under the house in crawl spaces—it’s essential an inspection be done to identify potential hazards that could crop up.

Many homes don’t have an accurate circuit panel directory, so all circuits need identified before work commences. When it comes to electricity, surprises can be dangerous, even deadly. In our rewiring project, one circuit powered parts of various rooms. And the wiring? It had been hacked at before and was inconsistent at best.

Many homeowners fancy themselves adequate electricians. Most… aren’t even close.

Planning and preparation

Any electrical project—new work and old work alike—demands proper planning and prep work. Along with the thorough inspection mentioned above, you need to sit down with the homeowners to discuss the project.

Make sure they’ve explained everything they want done. It’s also recommended to give them additional ideas that could come up later, after the job completion. Sometimes it’s much easier to implement changes now, than in the future. Internet and data cabling, or even a miniature data closet are good options to offer.

Combo power/data boxes higher on the wall will make TVs hung on the wall much neater.

For example, if they’re anticipating using one of the rooms for a home office, it might be a good ideas to suggest data cabling installation. Additionally, if they know where the computer and other equipment will be located, dedicated circuits might be a good idea.

That was the case when I rewired our house. My office had a dedicated circuit for computer and printer placement. And in my wife’s sewing office, we ran a circuit just for her machine.

Then, as always, you need to have the “money talk” with them. What is their budget and how firm is it?
Explain how using quality components might cost more, but pay off over time. If they don’t have a firm budget idea, you might provide several options at different price points.

Once you’ve got the green light, don’t forget to secure any permits needed and start scheduling any necessary inspections.

Project execution
Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty… doing the work. Plan your work, then work your plan as they say. If possible, get the job done with as little disruption to the homeowner as feasible. For example, when I rewired our house, I started with the new addition, roughing it in and making the home runs back to where the new panel would be located.

Sometimes it’s possible to work in sections, or room by room. If cables need replaced (like switching from old 2-wire cables to code requirements), you might be able to use the old to pull in the new. When I did mine, I was able to rough in the additional receptacles and switches, get them terminated and ready before I had to shut off the electricity to land them in the panel.

Be sure to test and/or troubleshoot each circuit as soon as possible. Get it done before the final inspection and you’ll almost guarantee passing with flying colors, meeting safety standards and proper function with just one inspection.

Benefits to the homeowner

Let’s be honest. While a full home rewiring job may be profitable for you, it won’t be inexpensive to the homeowner. So a little education goes a long way here. Explain how the work will make the home much safer and potentially more energy efficient.

And while a modern rewire may not add much to the “curb appeal” of the home, it might boost the value of the home should they sell it later.

Not only that, but a well planned and executed rewiring job make sure the homeowner can make future upgrades much easier.

In a real sense… it helps future-proof the home against obsolescence for years to come.
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