Why bother rewiring a house?
Well at worst, old or faulty cables or electrical safety systems can be a serious fire hazard and can lead to serious injury or electrocution.
Modern electrical rewiring adheres to strict building regulations, so it typically comes down to the age of your house.
Consider this: U.S. fire departments respond each year to an estimated 25,900 home electrical fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. These fires cause an estimated 280 deaths, 1,125 injuries, and $1.1 billion in property loss.
39% of home electrical fires involve outlets and receptacles, interior house wiring, and other electrical wiring.
While these numbers are staggering, steps can be taken to prevent your home from becoming a statistic.
The electrical system in your home may need to be repaired or updated. A complete rewire with a new electrical panel can be a big expense, but that pales in comparison to the importance of keeping your home and family safe.
If you are thinking of buying a property more than 25 years old, it is important to check that the wiring is up to date before you buy it. Ideally, you will get an idea of what work is required and an estimate of the likely cost so that you can take this into account when assessing the feasibility of the project and how much to offer.
Even if you already own the property you are renovating, it is important to know early on if any rewiring work will be necessary, as it can be very disruptive to the fabric and decor of the building. It so is best completed early on, before any re-plastering or redecorating work takes place.
Find out when rewiring a house is required and the cost to rewire a house.
- Typical signs your house needs rewiring
- 1. Flickering or dimming lights
- 2. Lightbulbs burning out in their sockets
- 3. Regularly blown fuses
- 4. Sparking outlets
- 5. Discolored outlets or switches
- 6. A faint smell of burning
- 7. Fluctuations in power
- 8. A growing reliance upon extension cords
- 9. An electrical shock when you touch a cord (a big no-no)
- 10. Constantly tripping circuit breakers
- 11. Porcelain fuses
- 12. Outdated property and cabling
- Does my house need rewiring?
- Is Rewiring a House Necessary?
- How to tell if you have old electrical wiring
- What if it has not been Rewired?
- How much does an Electrical conditioning report cost?
- How much to rewire a house?
- How long will rewiring a house take?
- When to rewire a house?
- Finding an electrician to carry out your rewire
- What are the other issues to consider?
- Keeping Your Family Out of Harm’s Way
Typical signs your house needs rewiring
Whilst a complete house rewiring service may seem expensive, and it pales in comparison to the safety of your home. We know all too well that human nature prevails to ignore small electrical deficiencies until it’s too late. As part of our commitment to electrical safety education, we’ve compiled a shortlist of the top signs your house needs rewiring below:
1. Flickering or dimming lights
One of the most common tell-tale signs your house needs rewiring is the flickering or dimming of lights. When a light brightens, there is too much voltage, and when they are dim, they are receiving too little. Whilst common to think there is a problem with the lightbulb itself, this type of spike or decline in power is typically synonymous with loose wiring or faulty circuits and should be looked at as a priority.
2. Lightbulbs burning out in their sockets
If you have not noticed flickering or dimming lights, you may have experienced lightbulbs burning out within their sockets. This is a typical sign of bigger problems with your wiring and is caused by the fluctuations in voltage. With lights being the most visual signs that a house rewire is required, you should contact your local electrician as soon as you notice this.
3. Regularly blown fuses
Growing amounts of technology and electrical appliances within our home results in older style fuses which are not designed to take this weight of electricity blowing. If your fuse blows regularly, you may need to upgrade them to more modern circuit breakers.
4. Sparking outlets
Sometimes sparking outlets are perfectly normal and nothing to worry about, however, they can be a clear signal of a potentially dangerous problem. If your outlets are short-circuiting, excessive heat is building up within the outlet, which causes melted insulation. When exposed, this can lead to electrical fires.
5. Discolored outlets or switches
A clear sign of sparking outlets and that your house needs rewiring is discolored or charred electrical outlets and switches. A loose connection or faulty wiring near the outlet or switch can result in the sparking, which will cause a small fire. This small fire will leave a discoloration on the surface of the outlet and should be looked at immediately.
6. A faint smell of burning
Typically, when an electrical short occurs near your switches, the small fire will cause a faint smell of burning. If you notice a burning smell and are unable to identify the source, your wiring may also be shorting behind your walls or underneath your floors. Any smell of unidentified burning in your home should be tested by a qualified electrician as soon as possible.
7. Fluctuations in power
Power fluctuations can be caused by loose wiring, overloaded sockets or too small of a conductor carrying power to your home. If you are not daisy chaining electrical appliances and notice fluctuations in power, there may be a deeper problem with your electrical wiring.
8. A growing reliance upon extension cords
On the subject of fluctuations in power, a growing reliance upon extension cords is a typical sign that your house needs rewiring with additional sockets placed in your common living areas.
9. An electrical shock when you touch a cord (a big no-no)
Nobody likes an electrical shock, especially your children. If you have recently received a small electrical jolt when touching a cord or cable, you should contact your local electrician immediately for a home electrical safety inspection.
10. Constantly tripping circuit breakers
When your circuit breakers trip, this is a good sign that they are doing their job. A circuit breaker is placed within your home to “trip” and cut off the electrical flow when a circuit exceeds the number of amps it is designed to handle. However, if your circuit breaker trips too frequently, this is a clear sign that there is a problem with your wiring. If you’re unsure where your circuit breaker is, you can use a circuit breaker finder.
11. Porcelain fuses
The everyday homeowner will not be aware of porcelain fuses and therefore, should enquire about a home electrical safety inspection to be sure. These pre-date modern circuit-breakers are an obvious sign that wiring needs to be updated to conform with current electrical standards.
12. Outdated property and cabling
If your property is over 40 years old, you are most at risk of outdated cabling and degrading wires. They are dangerous and need to be replaced immediately to comply with modern electrical safety standards.
Does my house need rewiring?
Are you buying a property for more than 25 years old? It would be important to check that the wiring is up to date before you buy it. This will give you an idea of the extent of whether the house needs rewiring and the rewiring cost so that you can factor this into your plans and potentially for negotiations with the vendors.
If you already own a property and are looking to undertake some home improvements or conversion, it is important to know if you have old electrical wiring. Rewiring a house could change the timescale of your plans and can be disruptive to decor. So it is best to complete this early on.
In both instances, you should get an electrical conditioning report to test your home electrics. We talk more about conditioning reports and their cost later on.
Is Rewiring a House Necessary?
According to the homebuilding & renovating advice center, rewiring a house is necessary:
- If a property has not already been rewired within the last 25-30 years, the chances are it will need upgrading at least in part in order to bring it up to current standards. The wiring may be potentially dangerous and may not be able to cope with the demands of modern living.
- Suppose you plan major remodeling work that constitutes a material alteration as defined by the Building Regulations. In that case, it is likely that you will need to rewire part, if not all, of the property, including upgrading the consumer unit (fuse box).
- If you are extending your home or converting an attic or garage, this will constitute new work, and therefore all of the new wirings will have to conform to Part P: Electrical Safety. All existing wiring will have to improve to ensure that it is able to carry the additional loads safely. It needs the earth to current requirements, and that cross bonding is satisfactory.
- Where you are extending or remodeling, the rest of the existing wiring does not have to be upgraded, except where the energy efficiency requirements require upgrading of the Building Regulations, i.e. central heating controls.
How to tell if you have old electrical wiring
It’s not always easy to spot the symptoms of old electrical wiring in a house as many of the house wiring and cables will be hidden behind walls and in the loft space. You should always take care when dealing with electrics. If you aren’t comfortable in checking whether you have old wiring or new, call an electrician!
However, here are a few simple tips to help you understand why your home might need rewiring and how you might be able to spot it.
A good place to start is the electricity meter and fuse box (now known as the consumer unit). If there is an old-fashioned-style fuse box, with big white ceramic-style fuses, then the chances are that the property needs completely rewiring.
A modern consumer unit will have circuit breakers and RCDs (residual current devices or residual current circuit breaker). An RCD is a sensitive safety device that switches off electricity automatically if there is a fault.
Another tell-tale sign that rewiring a house may be necessary is having a mix of different socket and switch styles. This could indicate that a partial rewire has taken place especially if there is evidence of surface-mounted wiring running along skirting boards and up walls. Of course, it is possible to have old wiring to a new light fitting so you might need to carry on searching.
In some rare cases of very old properties, you may still find round pin sockets or original dolly switches, both of which are a sure sign that a rewire is necessary!
Another clue is the color and style of the cabling. You should be able to find some exposed cables at light fittings, around the fuse box. Modern electrical wiring has PVCu insulating cable and should be either white or grey.
If you are in any doubt, call an electrician. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
What if it has not been Rewired?
Unless the wiring is the modern PVCu coating type, then a rewire is likely to be necessary. If you see any old rubber insulated cabling, fabric insulated cabling (used until the 1960s), or lead insulated cabling (used until 1955) then it needs replacing as the insulation can rot and/or break down, leading to short-circuiting: a fire hazard and potential electrocution.
Even older PVCu cable may need replacing if it is not twinned earth cabling (with a second earth cable running within the outer sleeve). But this may only be evident if you are able to remove a switch or socket faceplate and look closely.
If you are in any doubt, assume that a total rewire is the requirement and budget accordingly. It may be that the system can be improved for less money by upgrading earthing and cross bonding.
How much does an Electrical conditioning report cost?
If you’re looking to buy a house, you should be able to get access to the property for an electrical conditioning report. This will enable you to find out exactly what work is required and more importantly, does the house need a rewire. A conditioning report will also give a good indication of how much it will cost.
How much to rewire a house?
We are often asked, how much does it cost to rewire a house? The price of rewiring a house will vary depending on its size. Also, how accessible/empty the property is and the complexity and standard of the finish.
However, often a full rewire can be avoided providing the existing cabling is sound and able to carry any additional loads. It also may be possible to upgrade it by ‘simply’ adding a modern consumer unit. This will be established during the electrical conditioning survey.
How long will rewiring a house take?
Again this will vary depending on the size and accessibility of the house. As an example, a kitchen may take two days. A three-bed semi probably two days to first fix, then the same again to second fix. A larger property will take much longer.
When to rewire a house?
If the house needs rewiring, it should be undertaken at the first fix stage. Ideally at the same time as any central heating and plumbing work and before plastering. New domestic wiring cannot be surface mounted. Installation is likely to involve lifting carpets, floorboards, and possibly the skirting boards too. Channels in the walls will need routing and possibly in some ceilings if there is no access from above.
As well as installing new cabling, first, the fix stage will involve fitting new back boxes for all sockets and switches. In addition to rewiring for all power and lighting circuits, it is a good opportunity to rewire for modern central heating controls, alarms, smoke detectors and doorbells, to add outdoor lighting and sockets, and to rewire the telephones and television aerial sockets.
At this stage, it would be good to think about the spec for two-way or even three-way switches for hallways, landings and rooms with more than one doorway.
Something to bear in mind; if the mains supply or meter needs moving, this will have to be done by the local electricity utility company. There will be a separate charge, and you may need to give several weeks notice.
The second fix work involves fitting sockets, switch plates, light fittings and the consumer unit.
Electricians usually prefer to work on a supply-and-fix basis, meaning they provide labor and materials (wiring, back boxes, etc.). This ensures they have responsibility for the quality of the materials and the work done. For the second fix, some electricians will be happy for you to supply your sockets, switches and light fittings, although it’s good to liaise with the electrician throughout this process.
Finding an electrician to carry out your rewire
For a house rewire electricians typically work to a fixed price. Although it is usual to agree to rates for each additional power point, switch or light fitting added. The price will be calculated using measured rates according to how long they expect the work to take, how many circuits there are and the number of power points, light fittings and switches.
They will also take into account whether the work is a new build or extension, in which case they can just face-fix the circuits, or a renovation, in which case they may have to lift floors and chase out plasterwork to conceal the wiring which, therefore, takes longer and costs more.
You can try and keep costs down with a friendly electrician by doing some of the prep work, such as chasing out plasterwork, lifting floorboards and generally making access easy to save time.
What are the other issues to consider?
Rewiring can cause major disruption, and so it is best to vacate rooms while the work is being done. Floor coverings and floorboards may have to be pulled up and channels routed out in the walls as new cabling cannot be surface mounted. If rewiring is needed, it should be done before any plastering and decoration and around the same time as any plumbing and central heating installation.
In addition to rewiring for power and lighting, it is important to make sure there are a sufficient number of sockets and switches to meets your needs and those of the modern homebuyer.
Electricity in wet areas
Bathrooms, kitchens, and other wet areas, for example, swimming pools, have the greatest risk of electrocution. There are special restrictions on electrics in wet areas. For example, shaver sockets must be positioned away from the splash area of a shower, and no other sockets are allowed in bathrooms. Only pull-cord switches are permitted.
Electrical appliances in damp areas, such as ventilation fans and light fittings, must have moisture and mechanical protection, known as Ingress Protection or IP.
Keeping Your Family Out of Harm’s Way
Detecting indications of problems with your home’s wiring enables you to take action to safeguard your family from the potentially lethal hazards of fire and electric shock.
Suppose you spot any signs your house may need rewiring. In that case, our qualified electricians can carry out an electrical safety inspection and risk assessment of your home to help you make an informed decision on whether your property requires professional attention to its electrics.
An experienced electrician can rewire your home to meet the highest safety standards and give you peace of mind that you, your family, and your property are well protected against electrical dangers.
Rewiring can be an opportunity to not only increase safety but also meet modern convenience – adding extra switches and outlets for kitchen appliances and new electronics.