Some questions about a home re-wire?

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Old 09-16-10, 09:24 AM
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Some questions about a home re-wire?

I have a home that is mostly all knob and tube and I want to get it updated. Its a fairly big house with a full attic, 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, Living room, dining room, kitchen, and attic. All the walls and ceilings are plaster except for the kitchen which has paneling but I'm certain was just put over plaster. Now to the questions I have...

1. How much will a complete home re-wire typically cost?
2. Will I have to tear down all the walls and ceilings?
3. Could the electrician just cut around the areas needed and I patch them up later?

Tearing down all the walls and ceilings is my biggest concern. I wouldnt mind tearing down the outside walls so I could insulate but isnt absolutely necessary at the moment. I'm also wondering how they will tackle the attic. I might not have enough to get the entire house done but I do have enough (hopefully) to do at least the 1st and 2nd floors. The basement and attic will probably have to wait until I get more money.
 
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Old 09-16-10, 09:32 AM
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2. Will I have to tear down all the walls and ceilings?
No.
3. Could the electrician just cut around the areas needed and I patch them up later?
Yes, but depending on the circumstances new wires can often be run without damage.
1. How much will a complete home re-wire typically cost?
I'll leave that for the pros.
 
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Old 09-16-10, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by jsamp View Post
1. How much will a complete home re-wire typically cost?
This varies widely job-to-job, so we really can't guess without a lot more information. Local labor prices vary quite a bit too and this is mostly a labor job.

2. Will I have to tear down all the walls and ceilings?
No, but the electrician can give you a better price if you do (e.g. planning to gut the room anyway). Some items like first-floor ceiling lights do require at least some plaster removal and repair to get at, although the damage can usually be minimized to a couple holes in the corners or edges of the ceiling.

I wouldnt mind tearing down the outside walls so I could insulate but isnt absolutely necessary at the moment.
That would help the wiring process substantially if you were going to do it anyway. You may also want to consider opening the walls from the outside if you're planning on insulation and/or siding or windows.

The basement and attic will probably have to wait until I get more money.
The basement and attic are usually the first to attack in a job like this because that is how you get access to the first and second floors without completely tearing out the walls. The electrician will also need to find or make some chases between the basement and attic to pull all of the new wiring back to the service panel.
 
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Old 09-16-10, 07:28 PM
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Your best bet is to talk to two or three electricians and see what they recommend based on the layout of your house.

You'll want to get the work permitted and inspected, which should be a piece of cake for an electrician. Be wary if they suggest you do the work unpermitted.

Understand also that you'll need to bring your receptacle spacing up to code, which likely means more receptacles in most rooms (which will likely be a good thing). You'll also want the electrician to evaluate your main service panel. This would be a good time to replace/upgrade if needed.

As others have said, a good electrician should be able to pull wires through the walls with limited holes. Some will be required, but you don't have to rip down whole walls (unless you want to for other reasons).

Good luck!
 
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Old 09-18-10, 07:50 PM
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Thanks for the replies folks. I'm actually really relieved to know they dont have to take it all down. I had to take down a small section of plaster and lath in one of my ceilings to access some plumbing and for a small area it left a HUGE mess.
 
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Old 09-19-10, 07:23 AM
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Given the age of the house you might have balloon framed construction. This makes fishing cables vertically very easy as the stud go from the basement to the attic. Also draft or fire stopping in vertical chases was non-existant which is bad for fire spread but easy to pull cables in.

After all the infrastructure like plumbing and wiring is upgraded consider insulating your home.
 
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Old 09-19-10, 08:26 AM
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You can still insulate your walls without tearing them apart. After all the wiring is done, you can have cellulose blown in. They can do it from the outside or the inside. If your is balloon framed, you will have to install some blocking in the basement and attic. The blocking itself is a good idea to stop air flow from going to the basement and to the attic.
 
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Old 09-19-10, 07:16 PM
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Now I hope it is ballon framing because it sounds like it will be cheaper that way though knowing that fire can spread easier disturbs me. I'm not sure exactly what it is though. I tried looking at wikipedia but I cant make sense of it.

What little I do know is in the basement the walls are concrete blocks. On the outside part its brick (the whole house other than basement is brick not sure if that matters). On the edge thats not covered by brick it looks like the boards are just sitting on top. Is that what ballon framing is? How can I tell?
 
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Old 09-19-10, 07:47 PM
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It sounds like your has is probably made from brick and has very little framing. A balloon frames house has walls made from 2x4's and the extend from the foundation all the way to the roof. Houses are not built like that anymore. The walls for the first floor will stop where the second floor deck is. Then the second floor walls sit on the deck. If your house is made form brick, you probably have furring strips attached to the brick and then the plaster lath attached to that.
 
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Old 09-19-10, 08:57 PM
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Given that your house is old enough to have original knob & tube wiring, I'd be willing to bet the exterior walls are full masonry, brick and block or brick and tile with plaster applied directly over the inner masonry (block or tile). Firring strips were applied to exterior masonry for lath to be attached to in the 30s, 40s and early 50s, but the older full masonry homes usually didn't have them. Brick veneer (brick over wood frame) exterior walls didn't really get popular till mid to late 50s or so.

Can you explain this a little more?
On the edge thats not covered by brick it looks like the boards are just sitting on top.
 
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Old 09-20-10, 09:01 AM
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A pic explaining what I mean would be better. My house was built in 1921 not sure if that will help.



Then the boards go diagonal on top of that then its the hardwood floor on top of the diagonal boards.

 
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Old 09-20-10, 06:32 PM
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I think I see what you mean, the floor joists go directly into the masonry. Correct? It appears to me that you have a full masonry exterior wall with no wood framing. That was pretty common construction for brick homes in the 1920s.
 
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Old 09-20-10, 07:15 PM
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In a true brick house the exterior walls may be solid not hollow, no place to run new wires. I have seen them where the interior plaster was directly on the brick but maybe that is local construction technique.
 
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Old 09-21-10, 12:22 PM
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Yes the floor joists go into the masonry. Thats what I was trying to explain. I'm not to sure if the lath and plaster are directly on the brick or not. I do know that there are very little fixtures on the outside walls. On the 1st floor there are a total of 7 electrical fixtures. 4 of them are plugs, 2 light switches, and 2 wall mounted lamps. On the 2nd floor there are zero electrical fixtures on the outside walls. There a couple in the attic but I'm pretty sure thats past the brick. Most of the electrical stuff is done on the inside walls.

I didnt mention this before still not sure if it will help. There is also a concrete block center in my basement. It looks like this [ | ] going this way ---- is all wood. In the middle there are 3 joists side by side about 3/4in away from each other. It looks like a majority of the electric is run up through that as well as the water pipes to the upstairs bathroom.

I do have a couple more questions if you dont mind. The help so far has been appreciated for sure. I just want to understand what I'm getting into before I call 3 electricians for quotes. I have about 10 grand saved up for this job and just want the cheapest code compliant way. I have a bad feeling thats not going to be enough.

In a couple of older homes I've seen the electric plugins have been on the floor. Is this code compliant? Would it be a cheaper option? I'm not sure how they would tackle the 2nd floor but I would assume the same way the other electric wiring is. If I waited to do the attic last could they down the road run conduit electrical pipe from the outside? Or is that a bad idea?
 
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Old 09-21-10, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by jsamp View Post
I have about 10 grand saved up for this job and just want the cheapest code compliant way. I have a bad feeling thats not going to be enough.
I would put that in the ballpark for a job this size. Do you know if the service and main panel also need to be replaced as part of this job or are those reasonably new?

In a couple of older homes I've seen the electric plugins have been on the floor. Is this code compliant?
Yes, that was going to be one of my suggestions actually. The materials are more expensive for floor-rated boxes and brass covers, but much less labor to install than getting through the plaster.

Another options is to use surface mounted raceway like wiremold. These really depend on what kind of look you want or don't want.

Wiremold:


could they down the road run conduit electrical pipe from the outside? Or is that a bad idea?
Yes, you can run pipe up the outside to the attic. I have done this a number of times when you just can't find an interior space. Some other options are to run beside plumbing or to go through the back of a first floor closet where the pipe can just be painted and hidden.
 
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Old 09-21-10, 01:02 PM
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I definitely wouldnt object to the non metallic raceways. I could always paint the raceways to match the room. The knob and tube just worries me. The service panel is 100Amp. I would love to go 200 but I suppose that could wait depending on the cost to do this.

I just want the cheapest code compliant method I can find. I also want to sound halfway educated when we are discussing the options.
 
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Old 09-21-10, 02:04 PM
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The pros will correct me if I am wrong but I believe RC (rigid conduit) can be buried in masonry if the walls aren't hollow. That would work on the first floor with only short runs to the receptacles from exposed Jboxes in the basement. Extra cost but if say in just one or two rooms such as living room and/or dining room would be a way to avoid the look of surface race in appearance critical areas.
 
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Old 09-21-10, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jsamp View Post
I definitely wouldnt object to the non metallic raceways. I could always paint the raceways to match the room.
People usually do paint them to match the room. The surface race also comes in metal if you want it to be more durable.

The service panel is 100Amp. I would love to go 200 but I suppose that could wait depending on the cost to do this.
If your current panel meets your needs and you do not plan to add any major electrical loads, there is no reason to upgrade. The change from 100A to 200A is at least a $2,000 job by itself so avoiding that cost if it is not necessary gets you a lot of additional interior wiring. The reasons a panel upgrade might be required would be if your panel is in bad condition, doesn't have enough spaces for the new circuits or if it is an obsolete brand with hard-to-find or expensive breakers.

I just want the cheapest code compliant method I can find.
Did you plan on doing any of the work yourself, or are you just looking for advice on hiring a contractor?
 
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Old 09-21-10, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
Did you plan on doing any of the work yourself, or are you just looking for advice on hiring a contractor?
I dont know enough to do electrical work. I know it can be dangerous if not done properly. I'm definitely looking for advice for a contractor as well as advice with my best options. I'm worried about getting ripped off more than anything. I've definitely got some good advice and ease of worries as well from this thread.
 
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