Rewiring a Period House: Here’s All You Need to Know
Chances are, the wiring in your period home was installed before more than 70% of the electrical appliances in your house even existed. Not only are they inadequate in dealing with our modern demands, but they are also a potential safety hazard.
An adequate wiring system is critical in making your old home a more comfortable, safe and modern space. Rewiring a period home is an extensive project, but no need to worry. This article will guide you on how you can effectively go about it.
Do You Really Need a Rewiring Job?
Rewiring a period house can be a long, expensive and invasive project, so we need to make an informed decision. However, it can be essential in some cases to maintain safety and quality.
If your property was built before 1970 and has not been rewired since, it will almost definitely need rewiring. Before the 1980s, Vulcanised India Rubber insulated (VIRi) and Tough Rubber Sheathed (TRS) were the insulators used on wires in homes. Though these materials did their job of insulating the wires, they tend to deteriorate over time. This leads to a risk of live wires being exposed.
Here are some signs that your period home needs rewiring:
- Flickering lights and blown bulbs
- Circuit breakers trip and fuses blow randomly.
- An old-fashioned fuse box: you can often tell these apart by the way they look. They have wooden backs, cast iron switches and white ceramic fuses.
- Aluminum cables or Black & Red cables: aluminum cables are easy to identify as they have writing on them. They’re just not very good conductors, so you should get them changed. If you have black and red wires, your property has likely not been rewired since 2006.
- Some plugs and sockets get too hot to touch.
- Wiring insulation is made of fabric, lead, or rubber: all modern cables are uPVC coated by standard.
- A mix of different switch designs: may indicate that a partial rewiring occurred.
- Surface-mounted cables: they are visually obtrusive and carry a high risk of damage.
Many of these signs indicate that the wiring in your house is potentially unsafe for living.
Maintaining the Integrity of Your Period House
A major part of learning how to rewire your old house involves knowing how to protect your antique property’s character and structure. We recommend that you conduct your rewiring work before starting a renovation or re-plastering project. This will allow you to patch up any changes in the structure quickly.
Period homes have delicate structures. We need to ensure minimal disruption to the building foundations and that areas of special significance do not take any damage.
Make every effort you can to locate the majority of your electrical installation in non-significant areas to maintain your home’s aesthetic value. You can use floor voids, unused chimneys, cellars and roof spaces as creative and inconspicuous routes for your wiring. This may result, however, in longer cable runs.
If you’re passing wiring through any floor joists, try to use any old slits and notches in the wood. Do your best to avoid any new cuts in the joist. In cases where cutting is necessary, avoid any changes to the bottom section as this could weaken the beams. It’s generally safer to notch along the central line if you must drill any holes. You should contact a structural engineer if you have any confusion.
Use existing socket locations, channels and switches when chasing wiring in plastered walls. Avoid fixing wiring to the surface of historic brickwork or stone walls, as this can cause visual damages. If you need to fix cable clips, do it on mortar joints so they can be removed later without scars.
One big reason you might be rewiring a period house is increasing the number of sockets, wiring and switches for modern technologies like TVs, satellites, fire alarms, heating systems, lawn lighting, etc. These can all be great, but you need to weigh the pros and cons before going all-in for these technological additions. We recommend avoiding too much technology in your house as it could ruin the antique vibes and character.
Try and go for wireless technological solutions wherever possible as they are much less visually intrusive.
Choose the Right Electrician
Take your time to pick out electricians that have worked on period houses before. Ask neighbors or friends who have had good experiences with electricians in rewiring projects for their period properties.
You need to clarify to them that protecting the character and structure of the house is your number one priority.
Once you’ve found an electrician that is suitable for your precious home, get them to do an Electrical Installation Condition Report. It will identify all the issues prevalent in your home’s wiring and potential solutions to those problems. The survey costs are around £250-£350 for a comprehensive report.
They will quote you a price according to the results of the survey. Typically, rewiring a period house will cost around £3,500 in the UK. This may vary according to the specific needs of your home.
Electric Plan for Rewiring a Period House
You need to map out a detailed plan on how to rewire your old house before you begin any work. Rewiring occurs in two stages: first fix and second fix. Wiring and Cables are installed in the first fix, and everything is made ‘live’ in the second fix along with the installation of switches and sockets.
It’s essential to plan where all installations, wire chases and other fixtures need to go before beginning the first fix. Either get a copy of a pre-existing plan of your home or draw a floor map on paper. Mark all your furniture in every room. This will help you consider where you need lights or switches. For example, you might need a couple of sockets beside your bed or a light right above your kitchen countertop.
Think about all your tech items, and their locations. For instance, thick walls in a period house can make Wi-Fi signals weak. You may consider having to install various boosters or routers throughout the house for which you will need sockets and wiring.
A general rule is to include more sockets than you think you need to future-proof your home.
The Rewiring Process
If you’re doing your rewiring as part of a renovation project, then the first fix stage will coincide with heating and plumbing work at the beginning. It will involve installing cables underneath floorings and inside walls. Since period houses are delicate, you will have to map out chases in the walls and ceilings cleverly.
You are not just rewiring lighting and power circuits. You should also rewire for smoke detectors, fire alarms, TVs and heating systems.
Integrate ‘home runs’ for your large appliances or heavy activity areas. This is when wires run directly from a circuit breaker to an outlet with nothing else in between. This reduces the load on your system.
Make sure to buy switches that match the historic look of your period home. Do not let your electrician cut holes in your antique house. They will permanently damage the integrity of your home. There is also no need to replace every piece of wiring; an effective rewiring process replaces only the parts that are needed.
The second stage involves re-plastering the walls and ceilings and replacing the floors. Install switches, sockets and the consumer unit.
A Few Tips
Here are a few simple tips that you should keep in mind when rewiring a period house.
Increase Power Capacity
This is a part of future-proofing the electrical system of your home. Our modern lives are highly dependent on electricity, and our ever-increasing number of appliances means that this demand will only get bigger. You need to ensure that your rewiring can sustain increasing loads for the coming future safely. Upgrade the main panel and wiring system to be able to handle a larger capacity. The main service panel should be at 100 amps, at the very least. We recommend you go for anything between 150 and 200 amps.
Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)
Install GFCI in places where there is a danger of sockets coming in contact with water. This includes the kitchen, bathroom or your backyard. GFCI outlets cut power as soon as they come in contact with water. They are a vital addition in your rewiring to keep you and your family safe.
Install Outlets Every Eight Feet
Install electric outlets between six to eight feet apart throughout your home. You will prepare for future needs with this method while also eliminating the need for extension cords. Extension cords are a big danger as they are prone to fires, so it’s best to minimize their use.
This is by no means a short and easy project, but it is vital for a safe and livable home. No matter what, you must keep these two things in mind when rewiring a period house: protect the house’s heritage and prioritize safety.
Visit our website for more expert tips on how you can upgrade your lifestyle in your period home while maintaining its history and character.