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jmjasteward
Re-wiring Old House

We are considering purchase of a 100 year old, two story home that needs all the wiring upgraded. We want to save the original plaster and the wood trim to keep the house's appeal and historic look. Of course we need a contractor but we want to know the possible ways to run new wire without wrecking the house's interior. What about using fiber optic scopes to explore the walls to find passage ways for wiring? Anyone have experience with this type of issue? Thanks

dj1
Re: Re-wiring Old House

For a clean job, including a panel upgrade (license required), call for estimates from electricians.

Re: Re-wiring Old House
jmjasteward wrote:

We are considering purchase of a 100 year old, two story home that needs all the wiring upgraded. We want to save the original plaster and the wood trim to keep the house's appeal and historic look. Of course we need a contractor but we want to know the possible ways to run new wire without wrecking the house's interior. What about using fiber optic scopes to explore the walls to find passage ways for wiring? Anyone have experience with this type of issue? Thanks

An electrician will walk around in the attic and crawl space with a powerful flashlight looking for ways to fish wire.

He may drop a weighted string down a cavity to see how far it will drop.

Also, remove some switches and receptacles.

All this will tell you if the walls have insulation, firestops etc.

If you need a fixed price from an electrician you can point these things out and maybe get a better price.

t_manero
Re: Re-wiring Old House

Dear J: I think I saw a recent posting here from someone asking about re-wiring -- the price was something like $17,000, so prepare accordingly.

dj1
Re: Re-wiring Old House

You really can't put a price tag on safety. Old wirings, faulty wirings, outdated electric main panels, and so on, are the leading causes of house fires.

Some insurance companies won't even insure homes with inadequate electrical systems.

HoustonRemodeler
Re: Re-wiring Old House

Wire the bottom floor from underneath and the upper floor from the attic. If the house is that old the walls should not have insulation. You can also remove all the siding to re-wire, which would give you a chance to insulate and re-plumb.

Tom
Re: Re-wiring Old House

We all agree that rewiring an old house should be a priority but inadequate wiring is not the leading cause of residential fires. It is actually 4th on the list and a very small percentage of residential fires. The National Fire Protection Association(NFPA) is and has been the authority on this and every other issue regarding fires and fire protection service for 116 years.

According to the NFPA the leading causes of residential fires for 2005 to 2009 are as follows;

Cooking 42%
Heating 17%
Intentional 8%
Elect. Dist 6%

This ranking did not change in 2010. Other causes such as candles, children playing with fire, smoking etc. ranked further down the list.

t_manero
Re: Re-wiring Old House

Just wanted the OP to know what he's taking on once he signs on the line. He's doing a good thing by asking.
In my experience, we took on a house that needed $20,000 for deferred maintenance and $50,000 for renovation, and lifetime $500 per month of landscape maintenance (we can't physically do the work), and we're stuck. Part was our fault for under estimating the complexity and having a desire to settle in.
But we got bad advice, also. Everybody said "Oh, it just a minor issue that can be fixed. Just call around for a contractor."

Re: Re-wiring Old House
t_manero wrote:

Just wanted the OP to know what he's taking on once he signs on the line. He's doing a good thing by asking.
In my experience, we took on a house that needed $20,000 for deferred maintenance and $50,000 for renovation, and lifetime $500 per month of landscape maintenance (we can't physically do the work), and we're stuck. Part was our fault for under estimating the complexity and having a desire to settle in.
But we got bad advice, also. Everybody said "Oh, it just a minor issue that can be fixed. Just call around for a contractor."

True it can get pricey but, have your electrician prioritize the items needed to bring it "up to Code". Some items like GFCI protection on circuits in wet locations are critical while other items like AFCI's in all areas are questionable. Do the critical items first and ask for daily updates on the costs. Stop when your budget runs out.

If you don't disturb wiring which was once legal..it can remain until you have the time and money to upgrade it.

keith3267
Re: Re-wiring Old House

Plaster can be patched, and in a 100 year old house, I suspect that it already has plenty of patches in it. In fact, there is a good chance that the areas around each outlet and wall switch are already patched as the house is not likely to have been wired when it was originally built.

I am quite leery about the NFPA statistics applying to this house. Those stats are for all houses that caught fire. If you were to isolate house fires stats to old houses with wiring that dates back before 1940 or so, then the stats might be very different. I once looked at a house built in the 40's but in a chance conversation with my insurance agent, he told me that I would not be able to insure it with State Farm unless all the wiring was replaced. Dodged a bullet there.

Re-wiring is not going to be cheap, and some patching of the plaster will be inevitable, but a good contractor will be able to minimize the damage and subsequent repairs. A good contractor like this may cost a little more up front, but can save you more in the long run in other costs for repairs. A cheap contractor will just want to rip out all the walls and you will have an expensive mess to clean up.

But if you do decide to rip out the plaster on the exterior walls, you can insulate the house and save some money on climate control in the long run. You can also check and address any structural problems that might show up later.

Tom
Re: Re-wiring Old House

There have been several studies completed that isolate just those facts. One study found that houses that were pre 1946 had much lower electrical fire causes then houses built 1946 - 1969, 1970 - 1991 and 1992 - 2003. In most cases the fire causation rate was twice as high for these later built house then the pre 1946 houses. In a study conducted by the Dallas FD and published in the New England Journal of Medicine(Vol 344, No. 25 - June 21, 2001) the fire rate causation of residential electrical was much lower 1900 - 1939 as opposed to each of the next five decades.

The fact is that fires are primarily caused by the residents of the houses themselves; cooking(primarily unattended food or frying), Heating(space heaters), smoking, candles, children playing with fire, intentionally set, accidental etc around 85%. About 15% are caused by electrical, storms, appliances(dryers) etc depending on what year you are looking at.

Residential fires are going to happen. The sad fact is many of the fatal fires happen at night with non-functioning smoke detectors. People either purposely remove the battery because of nuisance alarms or fail to replace them. Hard wired and interwired smoke detectors - now mandated for around a decade are having an impact but they are in a tiny percentage of the total housing stock.

Fire prevention is every homeowners responsibility. Turn off stoves and ovens if you become occupied with other things, supervise chldren and keep ignition sources out of reach. refuse to use candles(an ever increasing source of home fires), don't drink and smoke inside your house, don't use space heaters, use extreme care when using flammables, and get your home hard wired with smoke detectors. It is a relatively easy and reasonable cost job for an electrician. My 120 year old Queen Anne has code hard and interwired smoke detectors. How about your homes?

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