When Should I Rewire My House?


Giving blanket advice about when someone should rewire their home is tricky. There are no hard and fast rules about how frequently you should rewire your house, and just because the wiring in a home is old doesn’t mean it is automatically unsafe. Likewise, newer wiring doesn’t necessarily equal safer.

When should I rewire my house? You should rewire your house if there are warning signs that there’s a problem with the wiring, or in response to advice from a qualified electrical inspector. Rather than “When should I rewire my house?” think in terms of “When should I have an inspection of my home’s electrical system?”

Don’t worry, though; we have details! Here’s everything you need to know about when to consider a rewire of your house.

When Should I Rewire My House?

It may sound like an unhelpful or obtuse answer, but you should rewire your house when it needs rewiring. So, how do you know when your home needs rewiring?

It’s reasonable to assume old wiring in your home is dangerous, that electrical components have a limited lifespan, and that it’s essential to rewire after a specific period to keep your family and home safe. But that is not the case.

The electrical system’s age and components do not necessarily indicate when you should rewire your house. What is important is that your electrical system is installed, maintained, and inspected to ensure it is safe. 

How To Tell, It’s Time To Rewire Your House

A home should be rewired either when a qualified electrical inspector says it needs rewiring, or when there is a sign of a problem.

How Do I Know There’s A Problem With My Electrics?

There are warning signs that your electrical system may be faulty.

  • The circuit breaker keeps tripping.
  • An outlet or switch is discolored, scorched, or charred.
  • Your lights flicker or dim, especially if this happens in response to the use of a particular outlet or appliance.
  • You notice warm areas in the wall or floor, without an identifiable source.
  • An outlet or switch is hot to the touch.
  • There are sparks when you plug in or unplug an appliance.
  • You can hear an odd humming, buzzing, popping, or crackling noise coming from an outlet, switch, wall, floor, or ceiling.
  • There is an odd plastic, rubber, or burning smell you cannot trace.
  • Your light bulbs brighten and burn out more quickly than they should.

What If There Aren’t Any Signs Of A Problem?

If there aren’t any apparent signs of a problem with your electrical system, there are still times you should have a professional inspection.

If It’s Been Over Ten Years Since The Last Inspection

Electrical issues can develop without any noticeable signs. Therefore, if it has been more than ten years since the wiring in your home has been inspected, it’s time to have a professional take a look. 

When You Remodel

If you are planning to do anything more than putting some paint on the walls, an electrical inspection is worth considering. This is especially true if it has been a while since an assessment has taken place.

You do not want to go to the time, trouble, and expense of remodeling and discover you have to rewire six months later. 

Before You Buy A Home

Have a full electrical inspection as part of your pre-purchase home inspection. Don’t rely on the basic home inspection to find any issues. Home inspectors do not necessarily look behind furniture, and they do not look behind the walls.

Even if you are buying a new home, it is worth having a full electrical inspection. This should find any potential problems resulting from shoddy work, incorrect installations, substandard materials, etc.

When You Have New Tenants

Whether you rent out homes you own but in which you do not live, or part of the house you live in, it is crucial to inspect the electrical system when a tenant leaves.

You do have to have a full professional inspection every change of tenancy. This is only necessary if it has been ten years or more since the last professional appraisal, or you have reason to believe there is a problem. 

The Importance Of Maintenance And Awareness

If you do not need a full professional inspection, and there are no obvious problems, you should make regular checks to ensure your electrics are in good working order and well maintained. 

In addition to responding to any issues, you may notice, be proactive, and look for potential problems. Once a month, take the time to walk around and check all elements of your electrical system elements are in good working order. 

  1. Turn on the lights, and plug items into the outlets. Then walk around to check for any flickering, buzzing, odd smells, heat, or smoke coming from the walls, floors, outlets, or switches.
  2. Inspect all the outlets, switches, and other elements of the system you can see. Look for cracks, chips, or other damage and test to see if they are loose.
  3. Check for pest activity. Rodents are notorious for chewing cables and droppings, sawdust or other detritus will be a sign to investigate further.
  4. Look at the circuit breaker and ensure all of the circuits are correctly labeled. Unplug anything on the circuit, flip the switch to the tripped position, and then back again. If you do not hear a distinct click, there may be a problem. Always have this situation investigated by a qualified electrician.

If you discover an issue during your regular checks, be sure to deal with it as soon as possible. Failure to do so can result in a range of consequences.

The Ramifications Of Unsafe Wiring 

There are multiple possible consequences to unsafe wiring in your home, ranging from minor to life-changing, even fatal. They include:

Damage To Appliances

Power surges caused by faulty wiring can shorten the life of your appliances in two ways. A series of small surges can, over time, cause damage to any of the electrical components. You may not notice this happening until, suddenly, an item stops working.

A sudden large power surge causes arcing within an appliance, resulting in either equipment failure or an electrical fire.

Physical Injury

Injuries caused by faulty wiring include:

  • Electrocution: A death caused by an electric shock.
  • Electric shock: The harm caused by a non-fatal flow of electricity through the body. This can be as minor as a momentary sharp pain in the hand, as major as amputations, organ failure, or anywhere in between.
  • Electrical burns: An electrical burn occurs at the points where the current enters and leaves the body.
  • Secondary injuries: These are things such as head injuries that occur as the result of a fall caused by an electric shock.

Residential Fires

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, between 2012 and 2016, faulty electrical distribution and lighting equipment caused an average of 35,150 home fires each year in the US. As a result of these fires, there was an average of 1,200 civilian injuries and 490 civilian deaths each year.

These numbers do not include fires caused by electrical equipment such as heaters and clothes dryers. They refer purely to those fires caused by faulty wiring.

A Rise In Insurance Rates

Once a claim has been made on your home insurance, you can expect your premiums to go up, your coverage levels to go down, or both. In some cases, an insurance company may refuse to cover your home at all.

Financial Liability

If someone is injured in your home due to faulty wiring, you may find yourself financially liable for their medical bills. In some cases, you might even be the subject of a lawsuit to claim other damages.

Inspections And Contractors

When you hire someone to inspect your electrical system, first ensure they are a qualified professional. Check with your local government to see if there are any minimum requirements someone must meet before inspecting or working on your home’s electrics.

 

Ask potential inspectors and contractors about their qualifications, where and when they earned those qualifications if they have taken part in any professional development since qualifying, and whether they are a member of a professional organization. 

 

Before having any work done, get at least three different contractors to come and take a look at your home. Ask them to give you a detailed quote for the work that needs doing, the cost of materials, and the amount they charge for labor.

 

Ensure the quote lists the exact work to be carried out in each area of the home and check all materials to be used are UL labeled. This means they have been independently verified as safe and suitable for use. 

The Last Word

There is no standard answer to When Should I Rewire My House? You cannot rely on the age of your wiring to tell you, old wiring may be safe, and new wiring can be dangerous.  Instead, you have to consider when your house’s electrical system was last inspected and whether there are any warning signs of a problem.

 

Geoff

Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.

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