Updating the electrical wiring in a house is not the way most homeowners want to spend their remodeling budget. Rewiring an entire house can range anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000. The cost depends heavily on the age and construction of the house, instead of the size of the home. For example, dropping a new wire from the attic into drywall walls in a modern house is much easier and less expensive than trying to fish wire through old plaster walls from a muddy crawlspace. It's a good idea to keep in mind that these costs are an investment and can increase the value of your home when it comes time to sell. Certainly, being able to sleep each night without worrying about an electrical fire is priceless.
Hiring an Electrician
Licensed electricians can cost between $30 to $70 per hour. However, the hourly rate alone is not as important as the electrician's experience and capabilities. For example, a $70 electrician experienced with homes like yours, with a truck full of tools and parts, can be a lot less expensive in the long one than one who has little experience, inadequate tools and has to keep leaving to get more parts. A good rule of thumb is to get quotes from three electricians. You can contact your municipality's building code office to ensure they are licensed to do the work and the Better Business Bureau to check their ratings. Bundling several small projects together may get you a discounted rate, especially if the electrician needs to account for travel costs for each job.
Dividing Up the Project
Dividing a large electrical project into smaller pieces won't save you any money, but it will make it easier to budget. Some projects should be always be grouped together. For example, if you are upgrading an old fuse box to a circuit breaker, that's a good time to upgrade the service to your house to a 200 amp service, simply because the service will often have to be disconnected and reconnected anyway. This project can cost between $700 and $1,500. Once this is done and the wiring already in place is up to code, you may be able to break the rest of the projects into two or three sections, like the kitchen, second floor or garage. Running a single electrical line through the house can cost between $150 to $300 per line, depending on the length of the line and the construction of the house.
Any small electrical job, like changing a light fixture or changing the cover on a wall outlet, has the potential of becoming a major project requiring a complete overhaul. This is more often the case with older homes, as wires and the insulation surrounding them have a tendency to become brittle over time. Adjusting a wire could break the insulation or crack the wire, requiring the entire wire to be replaced. Once an electrician gets inside the walls, there's a possibility new dangers may be found. Changes in electrical codes may necessitate rewiring, even if a danger doesn't seem to be imminent. Even a new home is not immune to an overhaul. How safe your wiring is depends on how well it was installed and what materials were used. You may have hired a competent electrician, but you have no guarantee that the last homeowner was a diligent.
Doing some electrical work yourself can save you money on hiring an electrician, but this task is not for everyone. One mistake can easily burn down a house and kill your family. It's important to keep in mind that electricians study for years as apprentices and must pass rigorous testing before they are licensed. Laws vary between municipalities on what you can and can't do yourself. You can call your local building code office to see what's allowed in your community. In some municipalities, even running a wire to a new electrical outlet requires an inspection, an electrical permit and the work must be done by a licensed electrician. Where a homeowner can legally do the work without an electrician, it's important to remember that this means you as the homeowner, not your uncle Harry who's handy with tools.
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images