Whole-House Rewiring: Finished at Last

After those major electrical problems surfaced, we started searching for an electrician to replace all of our ancient outdated wiring in one fell swoop. It took a week of comparison shopping and over two weeks of work, but I’m happy to finally report that the project is finished, the holes in the walls are repaired, and our entire house now has safe, modern wiring.

Right now, we are happily basking in the glow of our working light fixtures (pun intended), because for almost two weeks, this was the scene in our bathroom:

An image showing a dark bathroom, lit by only a battery-powered camping lantern.

The bathroom, lit by a camping lantern.

Shopping for an electrician was an interesting experience. The quotes we received varied wildly, from $1,900 on the low end all the way up to $10,000 at the highest, plus one guy who insisted he couldn’t give us an exact price until he ripped open our walls and measured exactly how many inches of wire he would have to add and/or remove. They also varied quite a bit on the amount of construction chaos they predicted. Some basically said, “we’re going to have to tear the walls down and you’ll need to move out while we work” while others promised smaller, more strategically-placed holes and a house that was livable at night.

The quote we ended up picking was for $2,800, and it actually came from the same contractor who refinished our floors. It turns out he’s a total jack-of-all-trades who works with a licensed electrician, and came with a glowing recommendation from some friends of ours who’d had him do similar work on their place. And even though the quote wasn’t quite the lowest, it included patching and re-painting the walls afterward — everyone else we called had a pretty clear “not my department” attitude toward that.

Granted, it still wasn’t cheap by any means, but it also wasn’t as bad as we’d originally feared. Plus, the timing was actually pretty fortunate: we had filed our tax returns good and early, and the electrical problems started right around the time our refund check arrived. So that eased the blow quite a bit.

Anyway, here’s a handy breakdown of everything that got done:

  • All new wiring everywhere in the house. No more random partial power outages, no more scary buzzing sounds in the walls, and peace of mind that our house won’t burn down while we sleep. Hooray!
  • Upgrade to a newer larger circuit box. The box that was there when we moved in only had 12 slots maximum, with 9 in use, although the vast majority of the lights and outlets were concentrated on just 2 of those for some reason. The new box has a maximum of 20, with everything much more sanely balanced across 13 of those, and some extras for if we ever want to add some real electric-powered rooms to the attic someday.

    An image showing two circuit boxes, one old and one new.

    The old circuit box (left) compared to the new circuit box (right).

  • All new outlets and light switches. When we moved in, almost every outlet in the house was of the two-prong variety, but they’ve all now been upgraded to the three-prong kind. It feels oddly luxurious to be able to plug our laptops straight into the walls without having to mess with adapters.

    An image showing a brand new modern electrical outlet.

    Shiny new 3-prong electrical outlet.

  • A new light fixture and fan for the bathroom ceiling. There was no ventilation in our bathroom when we moved in, and tons of moisture would build up when we took our showers. It was no coincidence that the electrical problems started in there — apparently the situation had gotten so bad that when they took apart the conduit, water actually dripped out of it. (Yikes!) It ended up costing extra for the fan, a vent for the fan, and the labor to install it all, but it’s made a dramatic reduction in the amount of fog in there every morning.
  • Some other light fixture upgrades. The fixture in our kitchen was so old that its wire was brittle and frayed, so we had no choice but to replace that one. We also took the opportunity to add a few other nice-to-have but not strictly necessary lighting upgrades. This included a ceiling fan for the living room, since summer is on the way and we have no central air conditioning, some lights for under the kitchen cabinets that add some much-needed visibility to whatever you’re trying to prepare on the counter, and a light for above the bathroom mirror to make up for the shadows that get cast on your face from just the one fixture on the ceiling.

    An image showing some new light fixtures in their original boxes.

    The stack of new light fixtures as seen before installation.

More details about the new fixtures, and the various holes that got knocked into our walls during all this, could fill an entire post — so I’ll aim for making another update in the next couple of days about that. In the meantime, have you ever heard of humidity in a bathroom causing problems with the wiring like that? I’d always assumed that the worst you had to worry about was mold or mildew building up, but live and learn I guess…

3 Comments

  1. Water corrodes, and corroded wiring shorts out, so it’s not really surprising. I think you did great on the budgeting, it cost us $1750 just to have the outside breaker box and the inside fuse box (plus wiring between them) replaced, and that was the low estimate. Nor did they do any patching or painting. On the plus side, our power bill has been about half what it usually is this time of year! Hope your upgrade gives you a similar efficiency boost.

  2. It sounds like you got a good deal, and now you won’t have to worry about something that major for a while. I know that has to be a huge relief! Love you all!!

  3. You did good! And now we can breathe a sigh of relief as well! Things do have to be replaced occasionally in old homes (ask me how I know), but wiring is one that can’t be ignored. Proud of your success!

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