For so many of us, rewiring our home is at most a once-in-a-lifetime event. Given what a disruptive and often expensive chore it can be, that’s probably a good thing, though it does present a few problems, especially when it comes to setting a budget.
If you’ve found yourself in the unenviable positioning of needing to replace your wiring, you’ve no doubt found yourself asking questions such as:
- How much does it cost to rewire a house?
- Why is it so expensive?
- Why do I even need to bother rewiring anyway?
In today’s guide, we’ll answer all of those burning questions and more. We’ll look at how much you should expect to pay for rewiring in 2020, why it’s so important, and what you can do to make the job as easy and cost-effective as possible.
How much does it cost to rewire a house in 2020? With so many factors at play, it can be hard to determine a precise figure, but our in-depth guide will help you plan a budget for this major project.
The Average Cost of Rewiring a House in 2020
A typical American household spends an average of $2,100 to rewrite their home, though those costs could be as little as $1,500 or as much as $10,000+.
The good news is that those numbers incorporate everything including parts, labor, and essential permits.
The bad news is that such figures are determined by a number of unavoidable factors such as the age and size of your home.
In other words, if you’re living in a large property that was built between the 1940s – 1960s (or even earlier), then the cost of rewiring your house is going to be much more expensive than it would be if you were living in a small, modern home.
We’ll dive into the specifics later, but as a rough guide, expect to pay between $1,500 and $3,000 for a small home, between $3,000 and $8,000 for a mid-sized property and anywhere up to $12,000 for large houses of three thousand square feet and above.
Why is House Rewiring Necessary?
Hiring a professional electrician to rewire your home could be essential if your current wiring is over forty years old.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Since our electrical wiring is hidden with the walls of our homes, it’s easy to take it for granted and even forget it’s there altogether. Yet to do so is to ignore the fact that old, outdated, or just plain faulty wiring can pose a serious threat to our safety.
In 2017, a report from the United States Fire Administration revealed that electrical faults are responsible for almost 26,000 household fires, resulting in 280 annual deaths, around 1,220 injuries and property losses of up to 1.1 billion US dollars.
A lot of these issues are caused by what’s known as knob-and-tube wiring, an early form of wiring homes that was common in homes built between the late 1800s and mid-1940s. At the time, knob-and-tube was seen as an inexpensive way to bring power into a home, but today it is seen as inefficient, ineffective, and dangerous, posing a serious safety hazard to modern homeowners.
In fact, many household insurers throughout the United States won’t even offer insurance on properties where knob-and-tube wiring is in place.
The same goes for aluminum wiring, a standard feature of homes built in the 1960s and 1970s which lacks sufficient insulation and therefore poses a big fire risk.
Times Have Changed
It’s no secret that the way we live has changed dramatically over the last several decades. Today, we’re fortunate enough to be able to fill our homes with all manner of devices designed to make life more comfortable, convenient and enjoyable.
Yet back when many of our homes were built, products such as high-powered computers, modern kitchen appliances, and entertainment systems had barely even been dreamed of, never mind brought into the home. As such, the wiring in older properties may longer be fit for purpose, requiring a serious rewiring to prevent overloading.
Increase the Value of Your Home
If you’re planning to put your home on the market in the next year or so, now may be the perfect time to invest in a full-scale rewiring. Sure, spending the money on replacement wiring may seem like a big expense for a house you’re planning to leave, but the return on your investment will be well worth it.
Potential homebuyers can be put off by homes with outdated wiring, especially, if there’s a risk they’ll have to pay for new wiring themselves later down the line.
Conversely, a home with new electrical wiring can go for a much higher asking price, meaning there’s every chance of making your money back and then some.
Key Signs Your Home Needs Rewiring
If your circuit breakers are tripping regularly and fuses frequently blow, that’s a good sign that it’s time to rewire.
Over time, even the best wiring in the world will experience some level of wear and tear. So, if it’s been decades since your home wiring was last replaced, now is a good time to consider at least booking a Periodic Inspection to check whether your wiring is in good order.
Not that time is the only factor to take into consideration.
Your electrical wiring system will give you some pretty strong hints if it’s wearing down to the point that it needs to be replaced. If any of the following are happening in your home, you can take it as a good sign that you need to call in an electrician.
There are a small number of occasions when flickering lights may be par for the course in a modern home. If you turn your cooling system on after a long period of inactivity, for example, the sudden surge of power may cause a brief moment of flickering.
If, however, you find that your lights are flickering more and more often and that there’s no obvious cause of it, you can take it as a strong sign that your electrical wiring is either badly damaged or simply so worn down that it needs replacing.
Blown Fuses and Tripped Breakers
Sure, your electrical panel may flip once in a blue moon when you try and utilize more power than your breaker is capable of handling, but if you find that your breaker is tripping all the time or that you’re forever having to buy new fuses, that’s another good indication that something is wrong.
You Can Smell Burning
If you smell burning, you need to act fast. While the other signs listed above may mean that your wiring is simply worn down and should be replaced sooner rather than later, a burning smell is a sign that something is seriously wrong and that you’re one overloaded circuit away from a disaster.
In this instance, get on the phone to your electrician immediately and get a complete home rewiring done as soon as possible.
You Hear a Buzzing Sound
As with burning smells, buzzing sounds should be taken as a strong warning that your wiring needs replacing right away.
Buzzing is usually the result of faulty, damaged, or incorrect wiring that should be replaced without delay.
Major Factors Impacting the Cost of Home Rewiring
The electrical wiring in old homes can often be outdated and unfit for purpose, making rewiring essential
So, you’ve seen the warning signs, you know that it’s been decades since your home was last rewired and now you’re certain:
There’s nothing else for it but to shell out and get the work done.
So how much is rewiring your house going to cost exactly?
As we mentioned earlier, between $1,500 and $10,000+ is a good ballpark figure, but to give you a more accurate answer, it pays to look at the individual factors that determine precisely how much you’ll need to budget.
Those factors are:
1: The Size of Your Home
Nothing impacts the cost of electrical rewiring than the size of your property.
Some experts recommend calculating the cost by square feet, suggesting that you could expect to spend somewhere between $1.50 and $3.375 per square foot.
Of course, that means calculating the length of your walls and getting the calculator out. To save you that effort, here’s a look at the average cost of rewiring the most common sizes of modern homes:
- 1,000 square feet – $1,500 – $4,000
- 1,500 square feet – $4,000 – $6,000
- 2,000 square feet – $5,000 – $8,000
- 2,500 square feet – $5,000 – $10,000
- 3,000 square feet – $8,000 – $12,000.
2: The Age of Your Home
Yes, the age of your home is going to determine how likely it is that you’ll need rewiring work in the first place.
If your property was built any time before the 1980s, there’s a very good chance that your wiring system is so out of date as to be obsolete, if not entirely dangerous.
Yet that isn’t the only way that the age of your home plays a factor in the price of rewiring.
The design and layout of older properties could mean that the old wiring is harder to get to and require more work to replace, so labor costs are likely to be higher than they would be in a more recent development.
Likewise, old properties tend to need brand new replacement switches and power outlets that have to be cut into the walls, so you’ll be looking at both added labor and added material costs.
3: Upgrading Your Electrical Service Panel
Some times, it might be that the biggest problem with your wiring system is that it just isn’t capable of carrying the amount of power you need. In that case, you’ll also need to update your breaker box, properly known as an electrical service panel.
For this, you should expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to upgrade your outdated panel to a modern, 200-amp system.
4: Opening Walls
There will be some rewiring jobs where you can get away with running wires across the loft or in the basement, meaning your electrician won’t have to carry out any structural work,
Then there will be those jobs in which the only way to carry out a successful rewiring will be to open up your walls to run new wiring behind them or install new switches and outlets. These walls will then need to be repaired afterward.
In case you hadn’t figured it out, that’s going to cost you a lot more.
Whereas we told you earlier that a simple rewiring job could cost you up to $3.375 per square foot, opening up and repairing walls will up that cost to around $5 – $8 per square foot.
5: Adding Outlets and Switches
Buying a new set of light switches may not cost much on their own, but the cost of installing a new electrical circuit for that switch or power outlet could set you back up to $150 a time.
One way to save money here is to install multiple outlets in one go, a process for which you should be able to negotiate a better deal with your electrician.
6: Permits and Inspections
You’ll rarely be able to carry out an electrical rewiring job without getting an appropriate permit from your local government building department.
Each state sets its own prices for these permits and average prices can vary greatly from as little as $150 to as much as $900, though most tend to average around $250.
Fines for carrying out electrical work without a permit can be as much as $500, so it doesn’t make good financial sense to go without one. What’s more, no reputable and ethical electrical contractor will start work until the appropriate permits are in place.
On the plus side, buying a permit usually means that a government inspector will come out to check the work after it’s done. This offers additional peace of mind once the inspector confirms that the work has been done correctly and your new wiring is completely safe.
Cost of Rewiring a House by Bedrooms
If the insulation lacks unforeseen issues, the cost of rewiring a 120 square foot bedroom is approximately $200. A two-bedroom house costs approximately $400 to rewire. A 3 bedroom house averages $600 and 4 bedroom house averages $1,000. An additional $1,200 to $3,000 may be required if your panel needs updating.
Basement Rewiring Cost
The electrical rewiring cost of a 1,000 square foot basement is about $1,000 – $2,000. The lower price is for a basement without inner walls.
Pricing is determined by the purpose of the basement, size of the electrical subpanel, and the number of outlets. For instance, a lavish multimedia entertainment room in the basement requires more outlets than if you use the basement as a storage area.
Cost of Replacing Tube and Knob
Tube and knob replacement for a house is $1.60 to $3.80 per square foot. This roughly translates to an average of $2.70 per square foot. The main reason for replacing the tube and knob is they lack a ground wire.
The majority of insurance companies refuse to cover home electrical fires because they do not have a ground wire. Initially, the wire was installed in the 19 century. If your home is old, you will need to replace the tube and knob to meet insurance requirements.
Tube and Knob Wiring Removal Cost
The cost of removing the tube and knob wiring is $5,000 – $6,500 on average. You need to get a permit that costs $250 – $600 before you can start the project. Technically, you do not have to remove the wiring, but you have to ensure it is disconnected before you start rewiring.
State laws dictate that the system needs to be thoroughly inspected by a qualified and certified electrician before you start rewiring. An expert will be able to confirm whether or not the system was modified and installed correctly. Additionally, they will know the requisites of local building codes before removal or disconnection.
Preparing for Installation
Accessibility is the best thing you can do to ensure the electrician will have the best working environment. For instance, you can move pictures and furniture on the walls which have wires behind them.
You can also ensure there is a plastic tarp laid down to protect hardwood or carpet floors. Clearing the floor of personal belongings and knick-knacks guarantees easier access for the electrician to do their job.
After any rewiring job, there must some kind of cleanup. In some cases, an electrician can do this job. Make sure this is laid out when you are getting a quote or estimate from an electrician.
Common Electrical Codes
Several electrical standards are required by each state. For example, the NEC (National Electric Code) is a good place to start for safe and responsible electrical practices.
Once you have completed your rewiring project, an inspector will give you guidelines to ensure you adapt to the NEC guidelines of your state. Experienced and licensed electricians are always updated with all code requirements.
You need to ensure that:
- You have grounded wiring.
- The most dangerous wiring violation is splicing. If you need to do a splice, you need to enlist the services of a professional and certified electrician. You also need to confirm that the splice is isolated from other junction box wiring.
- Over-lamping occurs when you put a higher wattage bulb into a socket that has a lower wattage. The result is a potential fire due to overheating meaning over-lamping should be avoided.
- Uncovered junction boxes are the main cause of shock from a splice in the junction box. Covering it does not cost more than $20.
- Outlets are required by code to be placed within four feet of each doorway, and every 12 feet after the four. No one will make your upgrade if you live in a house that doesn’t meet these standards. On the other hand, overloading circuits may cause a fire. For $100 for first-floor outlets and $200 for second-floor outlets, you can avoid such issues.
- GFCIs are required by current code to be the only outlet as long as it is within 4 feet of a water source. Sources of water include a bathtub or sink. These can be replaced with D-I-Y GFCI outlets at around $12 or less.
Frequently Asked Questions About Home Rewiring
Electrical rewiring can be such a messy and disruptive process that many families prefer to take a week’s vacation while the work is carried out
How Disruptive is Rewiring a House?
There’s no easy way to say this, rewiring your house can be very disruptive.
The process is carried out in two parts.
First of all, the cables and wiring need to be fitted into your property. That typically means running them under the floors, across the ceilings, and into the walls. As you can imagine, trying to do with that with all of your furniture and fittings in the way is going to create some serious headaches for your electricians.
With that in mind, you’ll likely need to remove furniture and even take the carpets up so that your floorboards can be lifted where necessary and that any debris resulting from your ceilings being cut into doesn’t cause any lasting damage.
In the second stage, you’ll need to cut a channel into the plaster of your walls (a process called ‘chasing) and run the cable through the channel). Having done that, you’ll need to replaster over the wall and sand down, so if you’re planning any major renovation work that involves replastering, you’ll be better off carrying out your electrical work first to save time.
How Long Does it Take to Rewire a House?
On average, a whole-home rewiring should take around three days, though more complex projects can take anywhere between seven to ten days.
As the rewiring work can completely take over your home, most electricians recommend booking a vacation or at least staying with friends and relatives while the work is being carried out. This usually means that the work can be carried out faster as the electricians can get on with the job without having to make accommodations for you and your family.
It also means you avoid the hassle and headaches of living in an electric-free home with workmen coming back and forth all day.
How Often Should a House Be Rewired?
A well-done rewiring job should serve your home well for the better part of 40 years providing the work is carried out to a high standard using quality materials.
However, there aren’t any hard and fast rules about this. Nobody is going to force you to replace the wiring after four decades have passed, nor is there anything to say that you don’t even need to think about your electrical wiring in that time.
As a general rule of thumb, industry specialists recommend that homeowners ask a qualified electrician to carry out what’s known as a Periodic Inspection once every ten years to ensure that everything is up to code.
For rented properties, landlords should have a Periodic Inspection done every five years.
Final Thought: Why It Pays to Hire a Professional
By now, we’ve hopefully given you a better idea of how much it will cost to rewire your house.
Using the guide above, you’ll be able to consider the age and size of your home, whether you need to open walls and add on the cost of your state’s electrical work permit, and inevitably reach one inevitable conclusion:
This isn’t going to be cheap.
Looking at those figures, nobody could blame you for at least mulling over the possibility of going it alone. After all, you’re already pretty good at DIY, you can buy electrical wiring from a hardware store, and you’re fairly confident you know what you’re doing.
So where’s the problem?
The problem, dear reader, lies in the fact that electrical work can be incredibly dangerous. One wrong move could not only cause some serious damage to property, but also result in injury or worse.
Professional electricians come prepared with the skills, knowledge, and specialist tools to carry out the work safely and to the highest of standards. So, even though it may cost more, this is one area of your home you simply can’t afford to cut costs with.