House rewire

giesterfarherJune 12, 2010

Hi! I just bought a 1950 Bungalow in Central California. It was remodeled just before I bought it, but apparently the wiring wasn't brought up to code. I knew this going in, so it was not a surprise, but now I'm looking to have the wiring done.

Any ideas on what the costs involved would be, for a contractor, or to do it myself? I am not totally unskilled at wiring, I just don't really want to start pulling wires, LOL. Nothing would need to be changed as far as the locations of any outlets or fixtures, just replacing the wires and outlets themselves, so they have 3 prongs and are grounded.

It's an 1100 sq ft, 3 bed 2 bath house, if that helps.


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I have no advice but am glad you asked the question. I'm considering the purchase of a mid 19th century requiring a total rewire; 2300 sf, two stories.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 6:08PM
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"Just replacing the wires" is not as easy as you make it seem.

There is NO WAY anyone can give you even a rough estimate without seeing the job in person. Couple that with the fact that you live in the most expensive state in the country. Bottom line is get a few reputable contractors in to give you quotes.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 8:57PM
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Large residential rewiring jobs involve some trade offs.

Spend more time fishing wires to minimize wall damage, or get in and out quickly for the wires and have more damage to repair in the wall surface.

The time to carefully cut access openings and fish is easily 2-4 times the 'chop a hole for access' method.

Even things like any texture on the walls comes into play.

Smooth walls are easily patched (plaster or drywall) while textured surfaces require another round of work (often after the basic hole is filled in).

Ceilings are of course the same as walls for damage vs. repair (except overhead work is that much more of a hassle to accomplish).

In many cases a balance between the 'cut as many holes as needed' and the hours of fishing wires is called for.

It is very difficult to connect new cables to old boxes without cutting out around the old boxes, and at that point new boxes are often a better option.

Even things like neatly cutting out holes and leaving the plaster pieces can simplify repair.

Get multiple bids, talk carefully with the contractors, and
do not jump on the lowest price.

It can all to often come back to haunt you when unseen problems are found inside the walls.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 9:42AM
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As you have stated your only reason to rewire is that you don't have grounded service? Recently, I stated that we rewired a house your size because the owner insisted she wanted the service to be grounded romex. It took three of us a week and we charged $5,000 and the job was in Dallas. I cannot imagine a job being done for that low a price any where in California. We are master electricians and the job included a 200 amp panel, a new service entrance replacement of every switch and receptacle plus new GFCI protected circuits in the kitchen and both baths.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 3:11PM
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> Nothing would need to be changed as far as the locations
> of any outlets or fixtures ...

Not a chance. The code requirements for numbers, locations, and spacing of receptacles have changed since your home was built.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2010 at 3:48PM
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My advice to you: leave well enough alone and that comes from experience. In older houses, circuits can continue from room to room to room and you will be opening up a can of worms in labor costs. Since you just moved in, give it a chance and see if you have any issues with blowing fuses etc once you have all of your appliances running. As far as 3 prong outlets....I initially thought I needed to have all those replaced too until someone raised a valid point to me....most of the things I would be plugging in such as bedroom lamps, clock radio, tv etc. didn't have 3 pronged cords on them to begin with, so it I left the two slot outlets as is. Exception was in the kitchen and laundry room.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 1:09PM
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Get in there and start pulling wires, remember you are not totally unskilled at wiring. Then you can come back and tell us what it cost and how easy it was to do.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 5:46PM
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I vote for scotty's answer. Pull new 12 AWG romex to where it's needed - kitchen, TV/stereo, desktop. Do it DIY, a little at a time but make sure you're to code with outlet placement and what needs a dedicated circuit. Most of these rules apply in the kitchen. (Google kitchen electrical codes.) Don't be afraid of drywall repair - it's not that hard and like brickeye says, if the wall has no texture, it's very easy.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 6:25PM
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Unless there is something unsafe about the existing wiring, I'd leave it be. You may find that the circuits cannot handle the electrical loads of a modern home. If that is the case, you can add more circuits as needed, You might need to upgrade your service, or at least get a bigger panel. As for the ungrounded circuits, they'll be fine for most things live TVs, lamps, etc. with no grounding prong.
I ran into a similar situation 10 years ago when I bought an old house with knob & tube. In fact, 3/4 of the house was on ONE circuit! The wiring in the basement was an abomination. Numerous taps were made into the K&T, including an exposed soldered splice for a washer receptacle. All the crappy work was clipped off and put on new circuits. All that remains on the K&T circuit is ceiling fixtures and a few 2-slot receptacles for a lamp, cordless phone, etc.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 10:57AM
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