If you’re renovating an older house with outdated electrical systems like knob and tube or aluminum wiring, you might discover that it needs to be completely rewired for safety purposes. Outdated wiring can be a fire hazard, and the last thing you want to happen is be subject to the tragedy of a house fire.
Not all old wiring is dangerous so having an inspection by a licensed electrician or maybe even more than one would be a wise place to start if your house was built before the 1960s which is when modern wiring became more commonplace. You should get a sense of whether your house need to be rewired. Of course, this always brings up the topic about the cost to rewire a house.
Before You Rewire Your House
You may not need to rewire your entire house, but you won’t know for sure until you have a licensed electrician come out to your house and give it an inspection. You could learn that part of your house was upgraded with newer wiring so only a part of it contains older components that need to be replaced. This will save you money on overall costs. You may even discover you only need minor repairs that you can do yourself.
Make sure you get quotes from several electricians before selecting one to rewire your house. Some may be overpriced, but you don’t want to always go with the cheapest option either or you’ll be subject to the tyranny of the lowest bidder.
You’ll want to get a quote that includes all services and hourly charges to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples. Then, select the option that provides you with the services you need at the best price. Look for extras such as warranties and other perks that give you value.
Combine Projects When Possible
Perhaps you only need the basement rewired right now, but you know you’ll need to eventually get the entire house’s wiring replaced, along with your outlets and main service panel. In most cases, you’ll save money by having everything done at once rather than piecemeal. Not only will you no longer need to worry about the safety of your wiring, but you’ll also get a better deal by having your electrician do all the work at one time.
Cost to Rewire a House
The amount you’ll pay to rewire your house depends on a lot of factors, the biggest one being the size of your house. Obviously, the bigger your house is, the higher your costs will be.
Nationally, rewiring costs range from $1,500 to $10,000, but again, that range encompasses all house sizes, from small condominiums to huge McMansions. In 2019 the average home size in America was 2,301 square feet so knowing whether you are above or below the average size will help you determine your overall cost.
Price Per Square Foot
According to national labor and material costs for rewiring a house, you can expect to pay between $2.00 and $4.00 per square foot. Combine that with the 2,301 SF above and you’ve got an average cost of about $6,900 to rewire a house.
Most older homes that need rewiring are smaller than that so a safe assumption for an older 1,500 SF house would be between $4,000 and $5,000.
Wiring a house isn’t something you should attempt to do as a DIY project, as the danger to both life and property is too dangerous. You need to hire a licensed electrician to do the work for you to ensure it is up to code and installed properly.
Rates for electricians range from $50 to $100 per hour so that can cause your rewiring costs to vary greatly.
Most locales require you to get a permit before you work on your home’s electrical system. This is because it will need to be inspected to determine if your electrician’s work is up to code before giving it the all clear.
Permit costs vary from city to city but you can safely assume a base cost of $25 to $100 and then a percentage of the rewiring costs around $2-5 per $1,000 of project cost. That equates to about $75 to $150 in permit fees.
In most cases, the electrician will pull the permit for you and include the cost in their price, but you want to make sure that they do. Un-permitted electrical work is a real danger, and you could be looking at steep fines for not notifying your building department that you’re rewiring your house.
Service Panel Replacement
Older homes didn’t have as many electrical needs as we do today which means they had smaller service panels. A house from the 1920s typically only had a 60 amp panel. That has steadily grown over the decades until today when most new homes run 200 amp panels.
For a smaller house a 100 amp panel should be sufficient which will typically run you from $850 to $1,600. If you need to upgrade your service panel to a 200 amp panel then you are likely looking at $1,300 to $2,500.
Fuse Box Replacement
If you still have an old fuse box rather than a breaker box for a sub-panel in your house that is something that should be included in your rewire plans. Fuses are not nearly as convenient as breakers and as an older technology it is time to bring them up to current codes.
The average cost to replace a fuse box to a new breaker box will often run $900 to $2,000.
Costs to Patch Walls
A lot of electricians will tell you they need to take whole walls down to run the new wires. While this will certainly be easier for them it’s not always the case and they may not bill you for the patching but you’ll certainly pay for it in the end.
Sure, they’ll have to punch holes strategically, but if you find a good electrician they will be willing to fish the new wires into the walls without destroying everything which can greatly increase your costs later when patching your walls.
If you’ve got plaster walls you’ll want to read my posts about How To: Cut Plaster Walls to make sure the your electrician knows how to cut holes without doing extra damage which is common. Also, another good post for after the wiring is done is How To: Patch Plaster.
The price you’ll pay to repair the damage later largely depends on the skill and willingness of your electrician to help you out, and this can add significantly to the cost to rewire a house.
Cost to Remove Old Wiring
Contrary to what a lot of people think you don’t need to go through the hassle and expense of removing the old wiring. Simply disconnecting the wiring from the service panel so that it is de-energized is completely acceptable.
If you have walls opened up and you’re rewiring your house as a part of a larger remodel then go ahead and remove it but don’t be fooled that in order to rewire your house you need to have every trace of old wiring torn out.
This is an unnecessary cost that you should almost always skip.
Taking the Plunge
Rewiring your house can take anywhere from 3 to 10 days depending on the size and complexity of your project so when you are ready to tackle this project make sure you plan accordingly.
Plan to be out of the house for the duration since the power will be on and off at times during the process and you’ll have electricians and their helpers making a mess.
Have a good drywall or plasterer and painter waiting in the wings unless you plan to do the patching yourself so you can get back to normal life sooner.
If you’re anything like me you’ll sleep better at night knowing that your wiring is safe and sound afterward. A whole house rewire isn’t a sexy project, but it definitely increases your home’s value and salability as well as the safety of your family.
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.