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Question DetailsAsked on 7/18/2016

What is the cost to rewire a 3,000 square foot house?

It is a two story home. It was built in 1893. Plaster walls.

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2 Answers


I bet the price will be electrifingly shocking

Answered 3 years ago by the new window man


Depends on the exact house construction of course - and I am going to assume wood studwalls with plaster over them and any type of siding, not solid brick or stone construction with just "slap" surface plastering on the inside. If that were the case it changes the whole picture drastically - maybe as much as a 2-3 fold increase in electrician and repair cost if the wiring was "built-in" as was sometimes done back then, unless you can accept surface races (surface-mount tracks) for some of the wiring runs.

I am guessing was originally knob and tube wiring through the attic, dropping down to each outlet and light upstairs; and exposed basement or crawl space wiring running up to the lights and outlets through the floor and bottom of walls downstairs - though sometimes the downstairs ceiling wiring would be run with the upstairs outlet wiring and continued down into the floor to the downstairs ceiling fixtures (if any). Back then ceiling light fixtures were not as common as now - a lot were wall sconces or "electric lanterns".

One thing you may have to consider - current outlets may be dual-circuit - top and bottom "plugs" were on different circuits (and commonly only one outlet per room) so if multiple items were plugged in at the same outlet they were actually drawing from two different circuits. An easy way to minimize overloads, especially when lighting and maybe early powered sewing machine and a high-draw tube radio or TV were all coming off one outlet. Legal to do that these days if you want (have to label each outlet as such), but not normally done. Current practice is each outlet is on only one circuit - if you expect high demand in one area, like kitchen counter convenience outlets, you split adjacent wall outlets into separate circuits. But you want to consider if you think this is necessary or desirable.

Assuming the main service (meter box and feed to the fuse/breaker box) is low capacity (probably not original, but lets say currently 100A service or under and maybe 75 or 60 or 50 if fuse box), realizing this is sight-unseen I would hazard likely to run in the ballpark of $1500-2000 plus or minus $500 to upgrade the service and main breaker and breaker box, and another $1500-3000 for the rewiring in the house. Plus probably $1000-2000 range for plaster repair of where the electrician had to open up ceilings and walls and repainting - though could be less if doing a general remodel at same time so walls will be getting patched and repainted anyway.

This does NOT include any needed rewiring of any outbuildings or well pump, if applicable.

If doing re-siding a lot of the new wiring could be roughed-in in the walls while the siding is off, if properly coordinated with the general contractor controlling both the electrician and the siding crew (and would take 2-3 man electrician crew to avoid leaving siding off for more than a day or so) - making both the electrical work and the plaster repair/repainting cost go down in cost.

So - ROUGH ballpark, maybe $3500-7500 depending on access difficulty - commonly in the $3000-5000 ballpark for that sized house with mid to late 1900's construction, but in older pre-WWII houses you run into heavy beams and brick flues and fireplaces in unexpected places, fire blocking and bracing in the walls that has been replaced with plywood sheathing now, big globs of plaster or wire (or back then maybe burlap) mesh in the wall from the plastering, odd insulation like shredded blankets or raw cotton or compressed straw, etc which can throw a kink into the works - so can be straight forward, can be a work-around situation at times, leading to an easy 2:1 difference in likely cost range. Plus different bidders can be expected to come in with 2:1 or even 3:1 difference in bids depending on their experience with that age house and how many problems they expect to run into.

If incoming feed from the utility is not adequate to meet current capacity standards (likely is not if pre-1960's, most likely is if post-1980's, 60's thru 80's questionable), then upgrading the "service drop" from the utility to the meter box can run from nothing (with power companies who figure they will recoup the cost in increased usage charges) to in the $500-1500 range commonly with those who charge; occasionally more and into the several thousand with utilities who are grubbing for every $ they can get or city-owned utilities using the utility as a cash cow for the city. If you have a very long line to your house (say in rural area) it can run $5-10,000 or more at times to increase capacity, especially if you currently have only 110/120V power from a transformer quite a ways away, because you will certainly want and need 220/240V power if modernizing the house wiring.

I have been on a couple of this type job where it was simpler to put in a separate breaker box for each story or wing of a larger house, running a main 220/240V feed cable to each of those from the main service connection, with several individual main breakers at the service connection to be able to shut off each breaker box individually if needed, but all off the same meter. Then branching out from those sub-panels to each story or wing - more like a typical multi-tenant commercial job or multi-family building.

Consider also, in your planning, whether electric house configuration is a possibility - i.e. making any major appliances or heating equipment electric which is currently gas. For instance, you might want to wire and provide capacity, at a nominal added cost, for electric range, high-amperage microwave or microhood unit, electric clothes dryer, maybe electric hot water heater or tankless heater, etc.

For this sort of job you would certainly need to identify several (probably 5-10 to get enough bids to be meaningful in determining which are responsive and which are unreasonable) long-term local contractors who do rewire jobs, and initially have discussions about how they would go about the job and what they would do to minimize damage to the house before getting bids - and get those steps in writing in the contract (with a drawing of runs and both old and new termination points).

It might be worth it to you to spend $500-1000 to have an architect with resident electrical designer actually draw up the current outlets and lights and such, and to work out the new wiring layout, circuit capacities, existing and any new desired outlets or light boxes or such. Also for any high-demand outlets that are not there now like for electric water heater, furnace, range, dryer, garage/shop equipment, electric car charging or winter engine block heater outlets, any outdoor lighting or pool or deck lighting, sump or lift pumps, well, swimming pool power if applicable, potential in-floor heating or sauna or such electric area heating, any possible in-law apartment upgrade wiring (second kitchen etc), and any electronics/ communications/ TV/ computer wiring you want put in, because you certainly do not want to be limited to the 1890's service standards. Plus, on a total rewire, current electrical code will have to be met on all levels unless you specifically get a waiver, so that means outlets not more than 12 feet apart (measured along the walls, not direct distance) on basically every wall in finished rooms except in kitchen and bath. Can be quite a project to plan an upgrade from pre-WWII electrical system to modern, and it is more than you should or can expect bidders to do - so if you want true BIDS, rather than just rough estimates with a cost-plus contract, quite a bit of up-front planning will be needed and documented for use in both bidding and construction.

And of course if you have plans professionally done, they should be reviewed and approved for the building permit by the building department BEFORE bidding, so the contractors know they will not run into inspection problems with it, and also so you know you will not be looking at expensive change order due to inspection failures based on the design.

The design/layout can also be done by an electrician if you get a good one, and he can negotiate with the building inspectors, but you would be paying him up front time and materials for that - then negotiating on the final job cost after that, so puts him in a lot better, basically non-competitve situation which is not as advantageous for you.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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