Rewiring A House: Leave This Project To The Pros

Mike/flickrIs your electrical system underperforming? Tripped breakers, flickering lights, and strange sounds or smells all spell trouble – in the form of potential for shock, fire, and electrocution. Now may be the time to have an electrician replace your wiring. Find out why.

Carl Campbell/flickr

Warning signals that rewiring your house might be necessary

  1. Overamped panel. Your panel is dangerously overloaded when it includes circuit breakers or fuses rated at a current that exceeds the capacity of their branch.

  2. Breaker trouble. Frequent tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses are more than an annoyance. Think of them as a cry for help from an electrical system that’s overamped or overaged.

  3. Brownouts. Your electric lighting grows dim or flickers. (If you are using CFL bulbs, be aware that these may be the cause of dimming lights. They lose about 20-25% of their power 4,000 hours into their 10,000-our lifespan.)

  4. Strange sound or smell. This should be a no-brainer: sizzling, buzzing, or crackling noises and odors of charring, scorching, or smoke from your electrical system are a wakeup call to investigate rewiring your house … ASAP!

  5. Heat or discoloration. Watch out for overheating or scorching. electric components, such as outlet covers or switch plates which are blackened or uncomfortably hot to the touch, signal danger.

  6. Shock. Any kind of electric shock – no matter how mild -- when you handle an outlet or cord may be a warning. Don’t risk electrocution; get the problem seen to.

  7. Obsolete wiring. Tough rubber sheathed cables (TRS) and aluminum or knob-and-tube wiring are outdated for residential use. Rewiring your house according to modern safety standards is a must in these cases. In fact, it may be ordered by your insurance company or mortgage lender.

  8. Two-prong outlets. Old-school two-prong outlets are ungrounded which means they are a potentially lethal electric shock hazard.

  9. Extension cords everywhere. Once in a while, you might need an extension cord when a lamp or toaster plug doesn’t quite reach a nearby outlet. But if your home is bristling with extension cords or you're using them for major appliances, beware!

  10. Home improvement. Wait, what? Isn’t home improvement a good thing? Yes, but ... if you add a room, a home entertainment center, or even a few new appliances, you’ll need increased electrical capacity. Older homes tend to have 60-100 amps of service, while contemporary standards call for at least 200 amps.

Why is rewiring your house not a DIY project?

Paul Wilkinson/flickr (crop)

Safety first! Rewiring a house is not a job for amateurs. or a place to hone your DIY skills.

A professional, licensed electrician will upgrade your home electrical system the right way in order to:

  • safeguard you and your family against electrocution and house fires
  • comply with local building code
  • provide you with a written warranty against future problems
  • satisfy your insurance provider and mortgage lender requirements
  • maintain value when the time comes to sell your home

How much is the cost of rewiring a house?

Cost tends to vary widely, depending on factors like the size of your house and physical accessibility of the wiring.

Experienced electricians may be able to remove old wiring and run replacement wires through a crawlspace, basement, or attic – or fish new electrical wiring through the walls of your home. This will spare you the expense and hassle of having to rip open your walls or flooring.

A rough estimate of the cost of rewiring a house is $4,000-8,000 for a small 1200-square foot home, with easy access to the wiring system. Cost goes up to about $20,000 for a much larger floor plan or more difficult access.

Keep in mind that whatever the cost to rewire your house, this is most likely a once-in-a-lifetime expense.

Not sure rewiring your house is necessary? Have an electrical inspector check your home. Prepare for the inspector’s visit by noting any danger signs you’ve noticed. Photos of problem areas can be very helpful, saving time and possibly money.

Foto Miki/flickr

Laura Firszt writes for 

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