Maybe you already live in an older house. Perhaps you’re planning to move into one.
While dance crazes and must-have gadgets come and go, the classic appeal of a well-maintained older home never seems to go out of style.
One of the most important ways to keep your old house going strong is to keep the electrical wiring in good condition.
That often means replacing outdated or damaged wiring, or at least adding in some new wires to boost your home’s safety and capacity for handling today’s electric loads.
But how much does it cost to rewire an old house? Do you even need to replace every electrical wire, or will a few simple updates do the trick? And exactly how do you rewire a house?
Many Factors Affect the Cost of Rewiring an Old House
Everybody wants a straightforward answer on how much a project will cost, especially when a lot of money is involved.
But the fact is there are many factors that influence the cost of rewiring an old house, including the following:
- The size and age of your house
- Ease of access to the wiring to be updated or replaced
- Materials used
- Whether other projects are involved: are you just replacing the wires, or do you need to update outlets, lighting fixtures, or the electric service panel? Is this part of a larger home improvement project, such as renovating the kitchen?
- Labor involved
- Whether the walls will need to be opened
- Individual electrical rewiring needs: do you need everything replaced, or just a few new wires added in?
For example, the cost to rewire a small house would typically run between $1,500 and $3,000. If you have a moderate-sized home and easy access for the electrician to work on your system, rewiring would likely cost between $3,500 and $8,000, depending on materials and labor.
On the other hand, if your home is large, and/or if it is inconvenient to access the wires that need updating, the job could run anywhere from $8,500 to $20,000, and in some cases may exceed $30,000.
And what, exactly, are you paying for when you have your home rewired? Your main expenses will be materials and labor.
- Copper wire could start as low as $400 and run as high as $3,000 if you need extensive upgrades to outlets and fixtures.
- If your service panel needs updating or replacing, it could cost between $800 and $3,000.
- Replacing other devices like outlets, switches or fixtures could cost between $65 and $120 per device.
Because costs can vary widely, shop around with different electricians. Get quotes, verify that they are licensed, check with the Better Business Bureau, and ask for references on past work. In addition, many home improvement projects, including residential electrical rewiring, require a permit from your local government.
For example, the city of Springfield, MO requires an Electrical Permit for “all electrical work except the replacement of lamps, the connection of portable appliances to suitable, permanently installed receptacles, or for the replacement of over-current protective devices which have become defective or inoperative.”
How Do You Know If You Need to Rewire?
There are several things to think about when determining whether you need to rewire your house.
Replacing Old Wiring as Part of a Bigger Project
Like we said earlier, if you are planning to remodel a kitchen, add a new room, or some other renovation, replacing old electrical wiring may automatically be part of the project. In fact, remodeling is often a great time to update household electrical wiring, as walls may already be open anyway, giving the electrician easy access to the wires.
Schedule an Electrical Inspection
When it comes to rewiring an old house, you need to know whether and how much updating you need before you start the job.
This is where an inspection by a qualified electrician can help. He or she will investigate your entire electrical system and identify specifically what needs to be changed and what can be left alone. This will also go a long way toward establishing a realistic budget.
What’s the Capacity of Your Old Electrical Wiring?
If you need to connect a bunch of 21st century technologies to a house that was built before the disco era, you likely need to add more wires.
Why is that? Decades ago, the standard electrical capacity for old houses was 60 amps. Today’s homes require a new standard of 200 amps, to handle things like HVAC equipment, computers, high-definition televisions, and home automation systems. If you don’t have enough wiring, it can lead to inconvenient voltage drop-offs that will damage electronics, require excessive use of extension cords, and increase the risk of fire and electrocution.
Replace Worn-Out Wires
Houses built in the 19th and early 20th centuries often contain knob-and-tube wiring, which may be worn out and lacks the capacity to handle modern electric loads. In fact, many insurance companies will not cover your home unless the knob-and-tube wiring is either replaced or augmented with updated electrical wiring.
Look for Symptoms of Damaged Wiring
Even if you don’t have an inspection or home project scheduled, there are some warning signs that will tell you if updated wiring may be needed.
- Frequently tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses
- Burning smell, sizzling sounds, or discoloration near outlets or fixtures
- Outlets or switches that are warm to the touch
- Excessive need for extension cords
What Happens During Rewiring?
If your home needs updated wiring, you may be wondering how extensive the project will be. Will your walls have to be torn up? Will it make a big mess?
In some cases, it will be necessary to tear out walls, run the new wires, then put up new drywall. If that is the case, the cost of all this should be included in your estimate before the work begins.
At other times, it may be possible to run the wires through basements, crawl spaces, joists, or the attic, or “fish” the wires through walls, which minimizes the need to essentially rebuild your walls.
Do you need to schedule an inspection or get an estimate for updating the wiring in your home? Contact the certified electricians at Complete Electrical Solutions today. We look forward to answering your questions and keeping your electrical system going strong for many years to come!