Rewire of House: Options? Any help appreciated...

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Old 09-26-09, 09:37 AM
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Arrow Rewire of House: Options? Any help appreciated...

I am currently in inspection/negotiation phase of buying a house with 100% Knob and Tube wiring. I am an IT professional who works occasionally from home and could benefit from having grounded outlets in every room. I plan to live in this house for at least 7 years.

The house:
Contract price $56k
Recent appraisal $70k
Total estimated rehab costs: $13k
Tax credit of $5600

Cape Cod 1.75 stories
~1000 sq ft
unfinished basement
accessible attic
2 BR + 1 Bath upstairs
Living, Dining and Kitchen downstairs
Updated 100AMP breaker box
... probably some lead paint.
I have had 2 quotes on it for complete rewire of $8000 and $10000. I also received a revised quote to replace all visible (basement and attic) KnT for ~$2000.

I don't want just a wiring face lift. I would be doing this for three reasons:

1) Functionality - I am a techie and need grounded plugs everywhere
2) Resale (ease and value) - while this isn't quite an added value, rewiring will ensure that it won't be a negative value, thus easier to sell.
3) Home insurance premium reduction - est. 30/month savings over 7 years is ~$2500, so ultimate cost will be ~$5500.

Is it worth it? I can still walk away...

How should I be shopping to reduce costs? How do I talk to a contractor to ensure best outcome?

How can I personally reduce costs? Can I do some of the work?

Can I rewire it myself and hire someone to come out and hook it up...

... and if so, what are Ohio/National codes, processes, headaches, etc. I am a PC techie and I understand gauges and diagrams enough to rewire a new construction, but I have little experience drilling through things and fishing (once for a 5 home run install of cat5 in a 4 room single story). I suspect going on the outside through conduit from basement to attic, then dropping down interior walls would be easiest. Am I required by code to have a minimum number of outlets in this room? I am aware of spacing restrictions, but what if I only put 2 outlets on two interior walls and leave the other two exterior walls without power?

Finally, do I have to actually remove the KnT from interior walls or can I just leave them and just disconnect them from the breaker box? ... because once I cut into the drywall, it is technically "exposed"... so I am guessing get rid of the "exposed" KnT, right?

Help!

... and thanks!

-Demosa
 

Last edited by demosa; 09-26-09 at 10:03 AM.
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Old 09-26-09, 09:52 AM
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I also received a revised quote to replace all visible (basement and attic) KnT for ~$2000.
That would not be code compliant. You can not alter or extend ungrounded wiring. You can not alter or extend K&T wiring. You can not splice new wire on to K&T. That is three strikes against the alleged electrician that suggested that. Assuming he even pulled a permit and managed to sneak it by an inspector you would still have an ungrounded system that may be more prone to fire and maybe have dangerous wiring such as switches on the neutral and California 3-ways.

Should there be a fire and an insurance investigator sees evidence of K&T in use not abandoned that could be a problem.

This might be a doable DIY project if your are interested but it is time consuming.
 
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Old 09-26-09, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post

This might be a doable DIY project if your are interested but it is time consuming.
I added some questions to my original post at the bottom re: DIY. I want to get my head around it before I actually buy the house. =)

Thanks for the quick reply!
 
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Old 09-26-09, 11:04 AM
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Can I rewire it myself and hire someone to come out and hook it up...
Maybe but many electricians will not want the extra work of checking your wiring or the responsibility of accepting your wiring. Connecting is actually the easy part.

It is best to start with a book such as Wiring Simplified available at Home Depot or a similar book. You will need to know things like how many receptacles are required by code. Chances are you will need to add some. In many cases when replacing existing wiring to receptacles you can use the existing holes but I would remove the existing receptacle box which give a opening for easy fishing then replace the box with an old work box.

K&T is just cut and remove where accessible. That in walls is just abandoned in place.

You will need a Home Owners permit and inspection. You may be able to do it one circuit at a time but the permit may have time constraints. I'm assuming NM-b (Romex) is permissible in Cincinnati but if AC or MC is required it will be more difficult.
 
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Old 09-26-09, 11:24 AM
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So what you're saying there may be a minimum required number of outlets per "room"? i.e. I can't just decide to cut back and put one single outlet in every room (hypothetical)?

I will check with the inspector's office... I just wanted to be a little more equipped and know which questions to ask.

Also, about how much are mats for this kind of job? Probably 20 outlets, a couple GFCIs, some conduit to run outside and up a wall, some junction boxes and a whole bunch of wiring. Let's assume i have access to a drill, bits and fishing lines...

... and how big of a deal is the lead paint on the walls? Just buy a respirator and vacuum well, right?

(Vacant house)

Thanks for your help.
 
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Old 09-26-09, 11:48 AM
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Couple of issues....we have fall and winter coming on. Is the place heated? Do you want to have power gone for a month while you fooled around with the electric?

I would not consider anything less than a complete rewire. It would be a tremendous dis-service to yourself and any future owner. When that house was built....there was no vision of home theatre, computers, hair dryers, microwaves, 30 cubic foot SubZero refrigerators, etc. etc.

Check locally, but I suspect that once you start rewiring, it will all have to be to code....outlets every 12', GFI many places, AFCI everywhere else, etc.

Material cost: GFCI and AFCI breakers are pricey, but all in all the total material cost will be a mere fraction of contract labor.

LEAD: Codes vary. But unless you have some very pricey millwork there, the first step would be to simply remove and discard ( by a lead abatement contractor) all baseboards, door casings, and window sills and trim. I think you can then just prime and paint the walls....check local codes. If you have to cut into some plaster walls for the electrical work....which is likely.....just protect the work area and yourself. Check locally to see if they want you to have that done by a lead guy.

Since a garden shed out here would cost more than that house is costing you, it sounds like a good investment. But just don't underestimate what it might take to rehab an old place.
 
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Old 09-26-09, 12:08 PM
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All good comments so far. I will add that older circuits tended to wander all over the house. Abandoning part of the circuit in a rehabbed room may cut power to the other end of the house.

Not that this cannot be done by yourself but there is a learning curve for the required circuits, receptacle spacings etc. You are also dealing with old work and fishing wires unless you strip off the plaster, or at least one side.

Either way I would try to see if the old work boxes like the SmartBox could be used instead of regular old work boxes. Pushing and pulling on the receptacles can loosen the plaster.
 

Last edited by pcboss; 09-26-09 at 01:25 PM.
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Old 09-26-09, 12:55 PM
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One month job, you say? This is yet another reason I am considering getting a contractor. When I hear "mere fraction", what does that actually represent? From experience, about how much would this job cost me in $$$, excluding my labor and ibuprofen.
 
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Old 09-26-09, 01:27 PM
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Your cost will depend on your house framing. Balloon framed will make it easy to fish up and down the walls. Platform framed or having walls not stacked will add to the cost.
 
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Old 09-26-09, 03:52 PM
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If you are going to rewire the house, especially if you do it yourself and open any walls, it would also be a good time to get it insulated. There shouldn't be any insulation around the knob and tube wiring.

It sounds like the house will have balloon framing, it was common in the era so pulling wires should not be that difficult.

Good luck on the house.
 
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Old 09-26-09, 04:56 PM
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You only rarely need to open walls if you have both attic and basement access and he has said he does. The only other big reason in an old house is fire stops. Of course if it is a real brick house not todays brick veneer then the plaster may be right on the brick.
 
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Old 09-26-09, 08:17 PM
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True, but it would still be a good time to insulate. Might help him save a few bucks on heating the place too.
 
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Old 09-26-09, 09:12 PM
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You don't need to tear out walls to use foam or "blow-in". Of course this is getting off topic and is more of an opinion thing where there are multiple good answers.
 
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Old 09-27-09, 11:19 AM
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You need to consider communication cables, heating-control cables, detecors for smoke and contaminated air, recessed liting ,and seperate circuits for window AC units. This is best accomplished by dis-regarding the existing wall / ceiling finish,
which will be extensively damaged in the process.

Removing the finish on the exterior wall much simplifies the wiring , and you can isulate, effecting a substanial savings in heat energy during the period you occupy the house.

You can apply a veneer of sheetrock over the interior walls after the wiring is complete , and after the joints are concealed , you will have the best possible surface for both painting and wall-papering.

If you nail fur-strips to the ceilings , you will have a void under the ceiling finish which is ideal for both routing cables across the ceiling ,and installing recessed fixtures. Also the void is a "dead-air" space which is effective as a barrier to heat loss thru the ceiling.

As previously pointed out , the cost of the material ,sheetrock , is an insignificant aspect of the overall expence, and will much reduce the cost of concern , the labor.
 
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Old 09-28-09, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by demosa View Post
I have had 2 quotes on it for complete rewire of $8000 and $10000.
I'm a little surprised at those ones given the nature of the construction market and that the service panel is already updated. Perhaps call another contractor or two.

I also received a revised quote to replace all visible (basement and attic) KnT for ~$2000.
I do not recommend partial replacement. In my opinion it's a hack job.

How should I be shopping to reduce costs? How do I talk to a contractor to ensure best outcome? How can I personally reduce costs? Can I do some of the work?
It can be hard to coordinate any sort of realistic work sharing with the homeowner. Especially since I assume you also work full-time you've got at best a couple hours a night to put into the job whereas the electrician can bring in a couple helpers and do two weeks worth of your work in one day. There is also an insurance / license liability that the electrician may not want to deal with.

Even so, if you're willing to do it I would certainly ask the contractor what you can do to help. He may be just fine with you drilling holes or pulling fish lines or other time savers like that.

Can I rewire it myself and hire someone to come out and hook it up...
If you do that you might as well just hook it up too. I do advise studying up before proceeding with this on your own though.

... and if so, what are Ohio/National codes, processes, headaches, etc.
Ohio follows the 2008 edition of the National Electric Code. There may also be local modifications at the county or city level so check with the local building authority.

I suspect going on the outside through conduit from basement to attic, then dropping down interior walls would be easiest.
Not always. Sometimes you can find a nice wire chase around plumbing or HVAC through the center of the house. Often times the back corner of a closet makes a nice chase to the upper floor or a cavity in a balloon framed wall.

Am I required by code to have a minimum number of outlets in this room? I am aware of spacing restrictions,
There is not a minimum number spelled out directly, but the spacing requirements give you an effective minimum. There must be a receptacle within 6' of every break in the wall and at least every 12' thereafter, measured along the base of the wall continued around corners.

but what if I only put 2 outlets on two interior walls and leave the other two exterior walls without power?
It would have to be a very small room to have the sum of two walls be less than 12'.

Finally, do I have to actually remove the KnT
Generally just abandon what is not accessible. The rest can go right to the metal recycler.

RE: Lead --

I suggest you get an inspection from a lead remediation contractor. For a couple hundred bucks they will come out and do a thorough testing of the home for lead paint. They test the mouldings, walls, windows, doors, etc all separately so you know how big of a problem you are dealing with. They do both a "presumptive" test with a handheld gadget that can detect lead and also will take swabs for laboratory analysis.

It is my understanding that lead exposure is not a huge deal for adult men, but it a significant issue for children and for women who are or may become pregnant. If any of those situations pertain to you then serious investigation of the lead is necessary.
 
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