Rewiring a home can be a major job and expense. But because of  the safety hazards of damaged or deteriorated wiring, it may be essential. So how do you know when rewiring is necessary? 

There are no hard and fast rules. Simply because wiring is old, doesn’t mean it is unsafe. Wear and tear can vary depending on type of materials and previous usage.

It is recommended that a periodic inspection is carried out by a registered electrician at least every 10 years for an owner-occupied dwelling and five years for a rental property or at the change of tenancy.

A qualified electrician will say if your home needs rewiring and what can be achieved within a specific budget See Electrical Installation Condition Reports

If a property is more than 30 years old and has the original wiring, it is likely to need updating, at least in part, to meet modern standards, including replacing the fuse box with a modern consumer unit. A sign a rewire is necessary, is dated rubber, fabric or lead-insulated cabling. Modern wiring is PVC coated, coloured grey or white, and twin-earthed.

Old and faulty wiring can cause the entire electrical system to trip frequently or blow fuses or, at worst, spark a potentially lethal house fire or electrical shock.

If you are considering purchasing an older property, check the wiring is safe before buying. An electrician can tell you what work is required to bring it up to current standards with estimates of the cost which you can take into account when making an offer. Even modern homes can have problems, for example shoddy DIY electrical work.

Rewiring is an opportunity to not only improve safety but also modern convenience – to add more switches and plugs for kitchen appliances, home computers and televisions. If you are selling an older property, a recent rewire can boost its appeal to buyers.

If you are planning a major renovation project, it is likely you will need to rewire all or part of your property. Electrical installations must comply with Building Regulations BS 7671, also known as the IET Wiring Regulations. This sets the standards for electrical installation in the UK. If you are extending your home or converting the garage or attic, all the new wiring will need to conform to the latest Building Regulations and the existing installation be updated to safely carry the extra load.

The warning signs

If you have an older home and it has not been inspected for a number of years, it may be due a rewire. Signs that you may need to rewire your home include circuit breakers that trip regularly, slight shocks from switches and outlets, frequently flickering or dimming lights, damaged or exposed wires and cables.

If you spot any of these warning signs call out an electrician who will find out exactly what work is required – and give you an estimate of the likely cost.

How much does it cost to rewire a house?

total rewire can cost several thousand pounds for a small property and significantly more for a bigger dwelling. However, a full rewire can often be avoided if the existing cabling is sound and able to carry any additional loads. Older installations can be updated by adding a modern consumer unit. New consumer units can be fitted, tested and certified for around £350. When the old fuse box is replaced with a modern consumer unit, it is frequently necessary to upgrade the installation’s earth bonding. 

Electricians will often work to a fixed price, based on how long they expect the work to take, and it is often possible to agree rates for each additional power point, switch or light fitting.

What are the other issues to consider?

Rewiring can cause major disruption and so it is best to vacate rooms while the work is being done. Floor coverings and floor boards may have to be pulled up and channels routed out in the walls as new cabling cannot be surface mounted. If rewiring is needed, it should be done before any plastering and decoration and around the same time as any plumbing and central heating installation.

In addition to rewiring for power and lighting, it is important to make sure there are a sufficient number of sockets and switches to meets your needs and those of the modern homebuyer.

Electricity in wet areas

Bathrooms, kitchens and other wet areas, for example swimming pools, have the greatest risk of electrocution. There are special restrictions on electrics in wet areas. For example, shaver sockets must be positioned away from the splash area of a shower and no other sockets are allowed in bathrooms. Only pull-cord switches are permitted.

Electrical appliances in damp areas, such as ventilation fans and light fittings, must have moisture and mechanical protection, known as Ingress Protection or IP.

Can I do the rewiring work myself?

A home rewire is not a job for an amateur; it is very important for your and your family’s safety to employ a qualified electrician. There are serious safety implications with poorly installed electrics. Not only could it put you and your family at risk but insurance companies may not pay out in the event of a fire. It may also be picked up in a survey when you come to sell.

DIY electrical work is not illegal but it is regulated by law under “Part P” of Building Regulations. This classifies building work into two categories: notifiable and non-notifiable. Basically this distinguishes between major work or work in high risk areas such as kitchens and bathrooms and minor work such as adding switches or sockets to existing circuits. Major work must be notified to your local authority’s building control department.

For major electrical work, including rewiring, DIYers must belong to one of the Government’s approved “Competent Person” schemes or submit a building notice to the local authority before carrying out the work. For a fee, local authority inspectors, will check the work has been carried out in accordance with Building Regulations.

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