Rewiring a house

Old 10-18-04, 11:18 AM
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Rewiring a house

I own a 1935 Bungalow in Roseville, CA. Last week I had my hot waterheater relocated to the laundry room in my house. It cost me $2800. The water pipes in the house are galvanized iron and the hotwater wasn't flowing well do to corrosion. So, I had all of the hot water pipes repiped, cost me another $2300.

Now I need to replace the knob and tube wiring in my house. I don't want to pay an electrician $7000 to rewire my house. I would rather do it myself. Is this something the average homeowner can do?

I work on computers and computer networks for a living. I'm a pretty resourceful guy who has good building and troubleshooting skills. I purchased the Black and Decker electric guid for residential wiring. It's seems to be a pretty good book.

I would like to do this project a little at a time, maybe one circuit at a time. Is this possible? Is it to farfetched of an idea? Where should I start? I have a newer breaker box that must have been put it in before I moved in. It's pretty big with alot of room. Should I start by drawing a schematic of my current wiring? I would like to add a couple more lights and plugs.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also, any resources I should reference?

Thanks a bunch.
Old 10-18-04, 11:30 AM
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The B&D guide is good, but it's not good enough for this scale of a project. I'd suggest looking into one of those $100 books such as "Wiring a House".

In general, a resourceful guy could replace the branch circuit wiring with sufficient study and preparation and effort. And it is a reasonable project to do one part at a time over a long period. Make 100% you understand all the codes before you start. It'd be a shame to have to do it twice!
Old 10-18-04, 11:38 AM
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This is not something that I feel the average person can do. Is it something you can do? Maybe.

You are starting in the right way, by reading about it. I suggest that you read that book and a few others.

You will want to plan this well. Years ago they ran many fewer circuits than are needed today. You will need to run circuits according to code and according to practicality. Code is your minimum, you will most likely want more.

pay particular attention to kitchens and bathrooms. These are places where it is easy to make a code mistake, and where the code is difficult to understand.

I also suggest that you have someone knowledgeable look over your plans. You don't want to overlook something and regret it later.

As for the actual work, I suggest that you arrange for inspection as you go along. If this means several permits rather than one single permit, then so be it. You want someone to tell you made a mistake after running one or two circuits, not after running 20 circuits.
Old 10-18-04, 12:07 PM
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Thanks for the tips.
Old 10-20-04, 06:05 AM
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Home Rewiring

I have a 1880's farm house. I have read everything i can find. I am in the process of rewiring this house. As long as you be very safe, I think you can do it. Instead of running new wire thru the walls, I am using 1/2" PVC conduit on the baseboards. This way I can preserve the original plaster and lathe walls. Good luck with your home.
Old 10-23-04, 03:29 PM
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I would start at the beginning with making sure that your service is up to snuff. If it is undersized or too small or overloaded, then this is the place to start before you start adding circuits. If you have a modern service with a 100 amp minimum (depending on your house load) then you are probably alright. This is most likely an electrican project to change. Then you will have a new panel with plenty of spaces for your new circuits (and you won't have to re-land your new wires if you have to change out the service later)
Old 10-23-04, 07:56 PM
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As long as your re-wiring,

don't forget about all the other wires you may want to run, such as telephone, cable, computer, alarm systems!
Old 10-24-04, 12:01 AM
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I decided to get a couple of quotes.

Yeah, I already have a 300 amp service panel. So I'm good there. My main concern is I have lathe and plaster walls. I have a couple of electricians working on quotes for me. One is around 10k and that's based on doing no wall work, i.e., assuming walls have already be torn open and someone will close them up. The other quote, the guy will do everything, wire the house, and open and close the walls, for around 16k.

Man, I don't want to spend that kind of money. My biggest problem is the walls. I like the lathe and plaster, but I don't see anyway around tearing it completely off the walls. If you try to do wall surgery and cut into that stuff it just cracks and the cracks run. I guess I would just have to settle for sheetrock.

This is just going to cost a bundle which sucks...
Old 10-24-04, 05:11 PM
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You should not need to tear the lathe and plaster off. There are ways to work around this, like removing the baseboards and working from there. You need to find somone who has done this type of rewire work before.
Old 10-27-04, 06:17 AM
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Thanks Joe. I believe you are correct.
Old 10-27-04, 10:00 AM
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Do you have adequate headroom in the crawl space and attic?
Old 10-28-04, 04:44 PM
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There is a crawl space. It's kind tight, and the bottom plates sit on a stem wall. It's a Bangalow so the attic is kinda tight as well, however I need to go up there and check it our better. It would be difficult to come down through the top plate I think. But, I'm no sure. There is a center wall that divides the house in half. I could run some wires down it. Other wire paths would have to be done near the baseboards I guess.

I am being referred to an electrician by a friend. I guess this guy has done alot of work on older homes, including those with lathe and plaster.
Old 10-30-04, 11:06 PM
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I'm about 90% finished on a complete rewire of my 1915 house so I can give you a couple of pointers. First do a lot of reading, the books mentioned are excellent. This forum is also great source of information, the people are very knowledgeable and helpful, so read the threads often and if you have a problem or question just ask, somebody will answer it.

As far as the actual work goes it's not especially difficult but it's also not what I would call easy, it's time consuming, it's messy, and it's a LOT of work. But it also won't set you back 20 grand either. All said and done I'll have spent about 1500 dollars including tools. Figure to spend at least 6 months doing this if not more depending on your house size and how many floors you have. I haven't had a free weekend in longer than I care to remember but I can also think of so many more things to drop the money I've saved on. Take your time and do it right.

Finding acceptable routes to pull through is by far the hardest part and that gets increasingly harder as you go up floors, in that the first floor (if you have a basement) is the easiest and the top floor is the hardest (especially without an attic). Don't assume the route that the knob and tube follows is the best path, often it isn't. I ended up abondoning a few outlets and putting covers over them because it was easier to put new receptacles in a different location.

Fishing wires behind finished walls is not easy. In many ways it's an art form. Buy a set of fiberglass fish sticks. This will make you life much easier as you can both push and pull wires with them behind the walls. Fish tape is marginally useful, I have a fiberglass one that I've used a few times. If you have radiators following the radiator pipes often gives a good route to the upper floors but you need to be assured that you aren't resting wires on the hot pipes which is not always easy. A small flashlight and an inspection mirror go a long way in telling you whats behind your walls. If you abondon a circuit in the walls (which you will likely do several times) be sure you disconnect it at both ends. Don't even bother trying to remove the old wires, it's next to impossible and completely unnecessary.

Pulling up the baseboards is definitely the way to go and you will crack you plaster doing this, likely in large chunks. Remove the bottom 2 or 3 sections of lathing that run behind the baseboard and toss them, this will give you the space you need to work and you won't be able to tell when you put the baseboards back on. Cracking the plaster is pretty much unavoidable.
You just have to accept it. An electrician will crack the plaster too , and repairs to it aren't always included in the quote. It felt like I was destroying my house at first but I got used to it. Patching can be done a couple of ways. I've found spackle to be virtually useless except for the smallest of repairs. You will likely have larger repairs. Keep the lathing intact if at all possible (sometimes it's not possible). For large areas or deep wounds in your walls use a base layer of plaster of paris because it's cheaper than dirt and dries hard in about an hour. You can then put a layer of drywall mud over that and sand it smooth. Fiberglass mesh tape works well for holes where you break the lathing. With a little practice you won't even be able to tell you had a giant hole there. If you have to cut a hole in the lathing, and you likely will for a switch or something, the easiest way to do it is with a rotozip, and be careful because old lathing is dry and brittle and will catch on fire on high speed. Having a smoldering piece of wood fall into a wall cavity is not at all fun

Another thing to consider is using a raceway which is sort of a decorative conduit to feed outlets externally mounted. But you still need to get new wire to feed it. And I don't personally care for the look.

Last edited by phillyguy; 10-30-04 at 11:31 PM.
Old 11-01-04, 03:36 PM
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Thanks alot philly. I appreciate you sharing your experience. It will help me out tremendously.

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