Rewiring a House: How To Manage the Project

Take charge of your home rewiring project. Follow these tips to ensure a positive outcome.

You’ve decided to stay in your fifty-something-year-old house and you’re ready to rewire it. Twenty-first century electrical wiring is a game changer for older homes.

Here’s our advice on successfully managing your rewiring project from start to finish. Your goal is a rewired house. Here’s how to make it happen.

How To Scope a Home Rewiring Project

There are three main elements to this type of project: What work needs to be done? What is it going to cost? How soon can it get done?

Once you have a list of prospective contractors, invite them individually to your home for a tour. With good feedback, ideas and ballpark costs from each contractor, you’ll come up with a list of improvements that fit your budget and timeline.

Identify the improvements you want

Take the time to make a detailed checklist/wishlist that clearly outlines your project. Prioritize it, so you can readily delete or add items depending on how your budget evolves.

These updates enhance your home’s safety, comfort, convenience, appeal and resale value.

  • Upgrade the electrical service from 60 to 200 amps. For new homes, the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires a minimum service of 100 amps. However, 200 amps is standard today in most areas, and even 400 amps for larger homes. Sixty-amp service is considered outdated today, and often must be upgraded to 100 amps to satisfy mortgage lenders and insurance companies.
  • Add more dedicated branch circuits for the kitchen, laundry, bathrooms, garage, office, etc. Older homes were wired with fewer branch circuits because homeowners didn’t have all the appliances and other electrical gadgets we have today. These old circuits become overloaded when we plug in too many appliances and other equipment. These overloaded circuits quickly become fire hazards.
  • Upgrade or add lighting, inside and outside. Likewise, the lighting in older homes is sparse, and usually not where you need it. Today, we recognize good lighting in a home is important for health and safety.
  • Add receptacle outlets to meet the current electrical code. Older homes simply don’t have enough outlets. Homeowners often resort to extension cords and power strips to compensate, which aren’t a substitute for permanent wiring and can be hazards if used improperly.
  • Add hard-wired, interconnected smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with battery backup. These important safety devices save countless lives every year. With interconnected alarms, if one goes off, all will alert occupants throughout the home. Local codes often require smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to be installed when building permits are issued for home renovations. It’s a way of ensuring that over time, most homes will eventually have these life-saving devices.
  • Install ceiling paddle fans in bedrooms and/or living spaces. Besides being popular and stylish, they spin in both directions, which helps with indoor air quality. In winter, they help circulate warm air that otherwise rises to the ceiling. In summer, of course, they provide a cooling effect.
  • Pre-install electricity for future projects, if your budget allows. The cost of home improvement projects will only increase in the future, so it’s good to plan ahead if you’re staying in your home long-term.

Determine your budget

Be sure to factor in costs for permits and inspections if your contractor hasn’t already, as well the cost of you and your pets staying elsewhere during the project, if needed. Set aside money for hidden problems, too. If you’re looking to cut costs, consider helping with furniture covering, dust control, demolition, trash removal and wall and ceiling repairs.

Set the project timeline

Work with your contractor to come up with a realistic plan, keeping in mind that rewiring a home takes time and every house has unique challenges. Be realistic and patient. Be clear on how often you want project updates from the contractor. And keep in mind, as with the budget, you should build in extra time for unforeseen problems.

How To Manage a Home Rewiring Project

It’s your job to clearly communicate and oversee your plan, and your contractor’s job to execute it. Keep an open line of communication and keep track of the project, but leave the electrical work to the contractor, who has the expertise to get it done.

Here’s what to keep in mind as a homeowner/project manager:

  • Stay in touch: Talk to your contractor at the beginning of the project and agree on a communication protocol. In-person? Email? Phone? Text? Pictures? Videos? You have lots of options, and there’s no excuse for either party to not communicate. Come to an agreement on what works best for you and the contractor. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
  • Prepare the job site: Make sure the contractor has plenty of room to work. Be prepared to move your stuff, store it elsewhere or provide good coverings.
  • Keep a clean site: Sweep and pick up trash the workers missed at the end of each day. If a job site is more messy than you can tolerate, it’s best to just to be proactive and clean it up than let it fester and become an annoyance. Yes, the contractor should instruct the workers to tidy up each day, but you may have higher standards.
  • Expect inconveniences: Construction is always dusty, messy and noisy. Unexpected problems crop up, requiring extra time and/or money. The power will at times be turned off. When things go wrong — and at some point they probably will — stay calm and work through the problem. Getting upset or angry doesn’t solve the issue. Despite the many inconveniences and potential setbacks, relish the progress that’s made every day!
  • Show your appreciation to a hard-working crew: Beverages, treats and friendly greetings are all appreciated.
  • Do a final walk-through: You are responsible for quality control. Do your own inspections and make a punch list of corrections that need to be made before the job is considered done.

John Williamson
John Williamson has been in the electrical industry in Minnesota for over 45 years as an electrician, inspector, instructor and administrator. John is a licensed master electrician and certified building official. John has worked in the construction codes, licensing and inspection industry for over 33 years, with over 27 years at the State of Minnesota. For the past 30 years John has also provided electrical code consultation and writing for various book and magazine publishers. John is retired from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry where he was the Chief Electrical Inspector.