Q: How much will it cost to rewire my home?
John C., Staten Island, New York
A: This is a question we get frequently. The answer, as it is so often with major home projects, is that there’s a big potential cost range.
You can expect to pay $8,000 to $15,000 to rewire a 1,500- to 3,000-square-foot home. The precise cost will depend on the size and age of your house, the ease with which an electrician can access old wiring, and the quirks that abound in older homes.
But how can you be sure your home requires rewiring? With something as important, and potentially dangerous, as the system that delivers your home’s electric power, it’s crucial to rely on expert advice.
Here’s what electricians who’ve earned top ratings from Angie’s List members tell us:
If your home is 50 or more years old, you should at least consider having your wiring inspected by an experienced pro, as it may feature dated knob-and-tube or aluminum components. You should be particularly concerned if you notice any of these signs:
• Frequently tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses.
• A persistent burning smell, sometimes accompanied by a sizzling sound.
• Charred or discolored outlets and switches.
Fortunately for homeowners, rewiring is typically a once-in-a-generation home expense. But considering the risks of improper or outdated wiring, it’s an upgrade you might not want to put off. The U.S. Fire Administration attributes nearly 26,000 residential fires a year to electrical causes.
Rewiring involves removing as much of the old wire as possible and installing modern non-metallic wire that’s sheathed in plastic. Compared to older wiring types, non-metallic is safer, easier to work with and doesn’t get hot when surrounded by insulation.
One option for removing old wiring is to tear out walls, run new wires and seal everything behind new drywall. That, however, is expensive and time-consuming. A job may land on the low end of the cost range if walls need few cuts and wiring can run through a basement, crawlspace, floor joists and attic.
To preserve an older home’s integrity, electricians often fish wires through walls, using rods and a thin metal line called fish tape. This method occasionally requires a small cut and patch, but preserves plaster walls while adding the conveniences of modern wiring.
In the process of rewiring, an electrician will almost always upgrade your service capacity. Homes with old wiring may have 60 to 100 amps of service instead of today’s standard minimum of 200.
You can’t be too careful when it comes to your electrical system. Do your homework before hiring anyone to work on it. Plan to get multiple, detailed bids from experienced electricians who have good reputations on a trusted online review site. Verify licensing, as well as insurance and bonding. Make sure to get a line-item proposal detailing exactly what they plan to fix and how much it will cost.
And no matter how old your wiring or your home, make sure to place smoke detectors throughout and practice a response plan in case of fire.
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