Electrical Wiring Upgrades to Consider During a Home Renovation
No GFCIs Installed
GFCIs, or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, are designed to instantaneously turn the electricity off if the plugged-in item comes in contact with water or other types of moisture. These safety devices are standard in bathrooms and kitchens now, but if you own an older home they may be missing from your rooms.
Plugs Fall Out of Outlets
You plug in an appliance, and a few minutes later the plug is laying on the floor, meaning that you need to upgrade them. Outlets should grip the end of the plug when it’s plugged into the holes. When the clip that’s intended to hold the plug wears out, it allows the plug to slip out and fall to the floor. Regrettably, this situation can cause arcs, sparking, and it’s a fire hazard. Have your electrician change these outlets as soon as possible.
Power Upgrade Needed
An electric service upgrade is usually recommended or needed to increase the capacity of the existing electrical service. With all the new appliances and modern devices we now have in our homes, we find that older homes just don’t have sufficient power available to handle the increased demand. As a result, a service change is required. Other common reasons to change out an existing panel are due to obsolete technology.
Most vintage homes will need to upgrade the electrical wiring at some point. The appliances and technology we own now demand a certain level of reliable power. A home renovation is a right time to upgrade your know and tube or aluminum wiring as well as installing new major appliances. If you have to open walls as part of your home renovation consider making upgrades to your electrical wiring while you have open access. This could be the perfect time to update old wiring for safety, efficiency, and modern gadgetry.
Cost of Redoing the Electrical in a House
Updating the electrical wiring in a house is not the way most homeowners want to spend their remodeling budget. Rewiring an entire house can range anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 to rewire a 1,500 to 3,000 square-foot home. The cost depends more on the age and construction of the house, rather than the size of the home. For example, dropping a new wire from the attic into drywall walls in a modern house is much easier and less expensive than trying to fish wire through old plaster walls from a muddy crawlspace. It’s a good idea to keep in mind that these costs are an investment and can increase the value of your home when it comes time to sell. Certainly, being able to sleep each night without worrying about an electrical fire is priceless.
Hiring a Professional Electrician
Licensed electricians can cost between $50 to $100 per hour. However, the hourly rate alone is not as important as the electrician’s experience and capabilities. For example, a $100 electrician experienced with homes like yours, with a truck full of tools and parts, can be a lot less expensive in the long run than one who has little experience, inadequate tools and has to keep leaving to get more parts.
Dividing Up the Project
Dividing a large electrical project into smaller pieces won’t save you any money, but it will make it easier to budget. Some projects should be always be grouped together. For example, if you are upgrading an old fuse box to a circuit breaker, that’s a good time to upgrade the service to your house to a 200 amp service, simply because the service will often have to be disconnected and reconnected anyway.
Exploring Complete Overhauls
Any small electrical job, like changing a light fixture or changing the cover on a wall outlet, has the potential of becoming a major project requiring a complete overhaul. This is more often the case with older homes, as wires and the insulation surrounding them have a tendency to become brittle over time. Adjusting a wire could break the insulation or crack the wire, requiring the entire wire to be replaced.
The Risk of DIY
Doing some electrical work yourself can save you money on hiring an electrician, but this task is not for everyone. One mistake can easily burn down a house and kill your family. It’s important to keep in mind that electricians study for years as apprentices and must pass rigorous testing before they are licensed. Laws vary between municipalities on what you can and can’t do yourself. You can call your local building code office to see what’s allowed in your community.
Electrical Install for Remodel
New Work vs. Old Work
Electrical installation often is characterized in one of two ways: new work, or new construction, and old work, or remodeling. The main difference is that with new work the framing is exposed, so it’s much easier to install things like boxes and wiring, while old work requires surgical cuts in drywall and drilling through framing with special bits to minimize the amount of patching required. Additions and major remodels can involve a lot of new work because old walls are being removed, new ones are being framed or things are generally torn up anyway.
To Rewire or Not to Rewire
The question of whether you should rewire part of all of your electrical system during a remodel is a big one that certainly can’t be answered here. But there are some basic considerations that are sure to come up. The main thing to assess is the condition and capacity of your current system. If you have a fuse box (as opposed to a modern breaker system) or your household electrical service is anything less than 100 amps, you should upgrade to a new service panel (breaker box) with 150- or 200-amp service. This doesn’t mean you have to rewire the whole house, nor does it mean you’ll use more electricity. It means you’ll have a safer system that can accommodate the added demands of your remodeled space and make it much easier and safer to add circuits or rewire any part of your old system in the future.
Following Code = Safe Abode
That’s all that needs to be said about electrical safety; you’ve heard it already. So let’s talk about installation of electrical equipment when remodeling. Most local code authorities will let you replace an existing light fixture, receptacle or switch without filing a permit, but that’s about it. Adding a new circuit or even extending (tapping into) an existing circuit likely requires a permit and inspection.
As mentioned earlier, electrical systems are relatively flexible, and electricians have all sorts of tricks and techniques for running new wiring and adding devices without tearing up your house. So don’t be afraid to address the wiring questions. And don’t think that cutting corners will save you much money. Proper electrical installations don’t necessarily take significantly longer or cost more than shoddy work. Where you pay extra with the latter is in lack of peace of mind, compromised safety and performance and, possibly, legal problems down the road.
Bringing In an Electrician
Finding a Qualified Electrician
Faulty wiring is a fire waiting to happen. That’s reason enough to hire an experienced electrician, but not the only one. Although wiring might seem like a black-and-white proposition—either the light goes on or it doesn’t—it’s actually a vast interdependent network. Circuits that are otherwise safe but poorly designed can damage appliance motors and electronic gear because they deliver the wrong amperage. Lights on even partially overloaded circuits can flicker when an appliance is in use, or the breaker may trip or the fuse might blow, shutting down the circuit entirely. Hiring an experienced electrician can help you avoid these problems.
Picking the Right Pro
Electricians tend to specialize. Some concentrate on new construction, some just in commercial work and some go only on service calls to fix dead outlets or faulty fixtures. Those who specialize in remodeling have mastered techniques for wiring existing homes and additions, such as snaking wires through finished walls, assessing the capacity of existing circuits and evaluating whether to install an additional service panel (where the circuit breakers are) to handle increased power demands.
Judging Work Quality
Though it takes a trained eye to spot an electrician’s mistakes, you can eliminate some names from your list based on the neatness of their work. As a rule, a job that isn’t neat probably isn’t safe. If you can get access to a site, find a place where a number of wires run together, usually near the service panel. Romex — the flat, white plastic-sheathed cable common to most residential wiring — should run to the service panel in a neat, orderly way. If cables are crossed and jumbled, or if they droop from joist to joist, the electrician is neither doing a methodical job nor exhibiting the care essential to wiring a home safely. This is not nitpicking. Cables that merge at the service panel in an orderly way make it easier for the electrician to match the cable with the correct circuit breaker.
Working With an Electrician
For large remodeling jobs, such as additions or whole-house renovations, electricians work from plans generated by the designer or architect. The plans show outlet and switch locations and label fixture types, such as fluorescent and incandescent. Often the electrical plans are drawn up long before you’ve had a chance to pick the light fixtures, so you will have to supply your electrician with this information.
How to Run a Successful Electrical Business
Benchmark Your Performance
If your company is growing and profitable, it may be tempting to continue with business as usual. But are you as profitable as you could be? Perhaps your competitors have a formula for how to run a successful electrical business that’s more potent than yours.
Keep Your Business Plan Current
If you don’t have a business plan, it might be time to create one. Running an electrical business successfully involves having a plan in place for how you’ll reach your goals.
Stay Tuned In to Your Customers’ Needs
Getting customers can be a challenge, so it’s vital to keep them. When possible, check in to see how things have worked out since your last job. Perhaps your customer remodeled a bathroom and your role was to install several new fixtures and GFCI receptacles. Maybe adding new fixtures to another bathroom would spruce it up without a complete remodeling job, a small project you could propose. Maybe you’d want to bring a new NFPA 70 standard to the attention of a customer you haven’t seen for a while.
Keep Your Technology Up to Date
Almost daily, new small business technology hits the market that enhances personal safety and business productivity. You don’t need to buy new technology for its own sake, but to help you grow and maximize your profitability. Whether it’s software for customer relationship management, bookkeeping, making financial projections, tracking time, managing work orders, or job bidding, it’s all out there and getting better all the time. Technology’s long-term benefits can make it a worthwhile investment.
Maintain Sufficient Working Capital
Running short on cash can be costly in more ways than one — when it forces you to maintain a balance on a credit card account, lose out on discounts from suppliers, or prevents you from purchasing productivity-enhancing technology. Leveraging working capital loans and other forms of small business financing are key to running a successful electrical business. They can tide you over during a dry cash flow spell.