Introduction

man approaching front door to ring the doorbell
Photo: Ryan Benyi
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Q: The doorbell in my 1929 home has died. What's the easiest and safest way to install a new one?
—Scott Thompson, Red Bank, N.J.

A: Matt Tomis, master electrician, Tomis Electrical Contractors, replies: Ninety percent of the time, when a doorbell doesn't work it's the fault of the button on the outside because weather and constant use wear it out. But it's also possible the chime or transformer, the other parts of a traditional wired doorbell, have stopped working.

To pinpoint the problem, simply test each component with a multimeter, sold at home centers for under $15. There's no need to shut off the power as you troubleshoot because the transformer steps down regular 120-volt household voltage to a safe 16 volts or so.

Doorbell wiring is seldom the cause of this problem, but when it is, I recommend going with a wireless system and skipping the hassle of rewiring. That simplifies the installation process in old houses like yours. You'll just have to occasionally replace the batteries.
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    Tools List

    • multi-bit screwdriver
      Multi-bit screwdriver
    • multimeter
      Multimeter, available at home centers for about $15
    • wire strippers
      Wire stripper

    Shopping List

    doorbell button (if needed)

    18-gauge wire

    doorbell chime (if needed)

    electrical tape

    wire nuts