If you’re thinking of buying a property that’s more than 25 years old, it is important to check the wiring is up to date before you buy, as it’s possible the whole house will need rewiring. Ideally, you will get an idea of what work is required and an estimate of the likely cost so that you can take this into account when assessing the feasibility of the project. Rewiring is best to be completed early on, before any re-plastering or redecorating work takes place. This is because rewiring can be very disruptive to the fabric and decor of the building.
When is rewiring necessary?
If a property has not already been rewired within the last 25-30 years, the chances are it will need upgrading at least in part in oder to bring it up to the current standards. The wiring may be potentially dangerous and may not be able to cope with the demands of more modern living.
If you are extending your home or having an attic conversion completed, this will constitute new work and therefore all new wiring will have to conform to Part P Electrical Safety and all existing wiring will have to be improved to ensure that it is able to carry the additional loads safely.
When you are extending or remodelling, the rest of the existing wiring does not have to be upgraded, except where upgrading is required by the energy efficiency requirements of the Building Regulations
Rewiring a property is messy, disruptive work. It happens in two stages: first fix, when cables and wiring are installed, and second fix when everything is joined up or made ‘live’, when the front faces of sockets, switches and lights are fitted. Those runs of wires go everywhere: under floors, through walls and across ceilings, so first fix is best done without carpets or furniture, so floorboards can be lifted and ceilings cut into. To position new sockets and switches at legally correct heights, plaster generally needs to be chased into, too.
This is why it’s important to plan what’s going where in each room before starting the first fix stage, so you know where you need lights, plug points and any other electrically driven items. Additions mid-way through are costly and time consuming.
One way to prepare is by drawing a plan of your home with each room on graph paper and marking up the position of beds, sofas, kitchen units and so on. You can then consider the lighting and switches required. Little things like under-cabinet and bedside lighting are easy to do when planned from the start, but costly to undertake later. As well as thinking about task, mood and feature lighting, remember smoke and heat alarms, garden RCD safety sockets and external security lights.
Think about future-proofing
Today we are a super-consuming society hooked on ‘tech’. In terms of electrics, this means mood lighting, su ghih hirround sound, high-speed Wi-Fi, kitchen gadgets and TVs in the bathroom. Electrical circuits must be up to the job — and you need to plan ahead. Do you want ethernet cable to every room to ensure uninterrupted Wi-Fi (or perhaps just living spaces and bedrooms)? Will you want speakers in each room or a security system?
Move out if possible
Full rewires usually happen when homes are empty, but for hardened homeowners it is possible to live in one room while having works happen around you. If you can’t move out, then dust-cover furniture and expensive items, preferably moving electrical equipment into a separate room, as this is not your electrician’s responsibility. Get your electrician to install the new consumer unit and prep your habitable room with a temporary supply of sockets.
How long will the rewiring take?
A kitchen rewire may take two days, a three-bed semi probably two days to first fix, then the same again to second fix. A larger property will take much longer.
What is involved in rewiring a house?
If rewiring work is required, it should be undertaken at first fix stage (before plastering), at the same time as any central heating and plumbing work. New cabling cannot be surface mounted and so the installation will involve lifting the floor coverings and floorboards and possibly the skirting boards too, routing out channels in the walls and possibly in some ceilings that are inaccessible from above. All of this work will cause major disruption and so it is best not to try and live around the work if possible.
As well as installing new cabling, first fix stage will involve fitting new back boxes for all sockets and switches. In addition to rewiring for all power and lighting circuits, it is a good opportunity to rewire for modern central heating controls, alarms, smoke detectors and doorbells, to add outdoor lighting and sockets, and to rewire the telephones and television aerial sockets. It is also worth redesigning the wiring plan for sockets and switches to make sure it meets your needs and those of modern house-buyers.