Rewiring an Old House

Rewiring may be a disruptive task, but if you are working with faulty or inadequate installation, it may be a worthy investment. If you are yet to buy and it is possible, we recommend you get your wires inspected. This can help you see what work may be needed and how much it might cost.

Is Rewiring an Old House Necessary?

As a rule, if a property hasn’t been rewired since the late 80s, it will likely need some upgrading. This is to ensure the property is safe and complies with current standards. If you have an old-fashioned fuse box, it is likely that rewiring is needed.

Spot the Signs

The colour and style of wiring can indicate when it was last updated. Remember to power off the consumer unit before you start the inspection. Modern installations use a PVC-insulated cable that is grey or white. If the wiring isn’t PVC coated, you will likely need to rewire the property. If you see old cabling insulated in rubber, fabric or paper, then replace it. These coatings often break down over time and can be dangerous.

If you see two or more sets of circuits, it is likely that there are some redundant cables. This is common but unsafe. Even if the wiring is PVC coated, a certified electrician should test the installation. This is to ensure they are safe and can carry the loads to which they will be subjected. If they pass this check, you needn’t perform a full rewire. You may only need to upgrade the consumer unit and proper bonding arrangements.

You need bonding to make any domestic property safe. Even without rewiring, rooms with plumbing should be bonded to prevent risks of electrocution. Aesthetics should also be considered as many old buildings come with surface-mounted cabling. This is visually intrusive and can detract from the heritage character. This can be dangerous as wires are more exposed to potential damage. You may want to consider rewiring, even if they pass the inspection.

Electricity supply

Provision of services to old houses can present their own issues. For example, several properties joined together could use multiple electrical supplies. It’s also possible for them to share a supply because they were previously in common ownership. This could make the routing and positioning developments unsafe or unsatisfactory. If the mains supply and/or meter need altering, it must be done by an electricity supply company. This comes at a cost and requires several weeks’ notice.

Impact on building

As rewiring is invasive, you should schedule this to be done before any re-plastering or decorating.  Inform your electrician of any potential issues. It’s important to cause as little disruption to the building fabric as possible. To minimise the visual impact, locate as much electrical installation as possible that is in a non-sensitive area. This includes spaces such as basements or roof spaces. Fixing wiring to the surface of historic stone or brickwork can damage the walling. Use cable clips on mortar joints where it can’t be avoided. You can remove these later without significant damage.

Chasing Plastered Walls

Reuse existing channels, switch and socket locations. Chases should be done carefully by hand and cables should run in plastic conduits. This will allow future rewiring without cutting the wall. When making good, you should use the right materials for the surrounding fabric. Do not simply opt for modern plasters or fillers. You should also reuse old notches in timbers where the cables pass through the floor joists. You electrician should plan the installation to prevent any joist cutting where possible. If necessary, however, avoid notching the bottom section. This area does the most work and cutting it can weaken it. It would be wise to drill suitable holes along the centre line. This “neutral zone” in the middle of the joist takes the least load. These are general rules to follow, but if in doubt, speak to a structural engineer.

Maintain Home Character

Many people rewire because their electrical requirements are far greater than when the electrics were last overhauled. It’s important to weigh the requirements against the impact of the building fabric and level of intervention involved.

Too much “smart” tech could compromise what makes your old house so wonderful. The right wiring solutions can solve this by eliminating the need for conduits and cables. You can even buy wireless switches! If your old building has thick walls, you may find wireless coverage to be difficult. However, with careful design and the right boosters, you could still avoid pointless costs and disruption.

Talk to ABM Electrical Today

Whatever you may need for rewiring your property, it pays to have the right products. With our selection of cables, switches and more, you cannot go wrong by choosing ABM Electrical for your supplies. Get in touch to find out more.

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