Rewire or not to rewire?

27 Dec 2010
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United Kingdom
Hi All.

I currently live in a 3 bed house built in 1958 and we've lived here since 1987. And in that time we haven't had the house rewired.

Now, I have a bit of money set aside for some home improvements and one of the things on my list is a full rewire.

The wiring in the house looks to be modern looking grey insulated cables but with black and red wires in it. So I assume its been rewired atleast partly since 1958? The fusebox is a very old looking brown Wylex unit with 3 fuses in it and above it is a more modern looking fusebox with 1 fuse in it for the shower.

Back in the early 90s we had an extension built and a spark came in the to fit new electrics to that. When he was under the floorboards he commented about the amount of wiring under them and mentioned it looked like a partial rewire and that the old cabling was never removed but he couldn't be sure.

We do have some issues with the electrics like some sockets not working and light switches not working with some damaged too. Hence the reason why I am thinking a full rewire for piece of mind. And in addition theres not enough sockets in any of the rooms apart from the kitchen.

So my main question is how much upheaval, and how long would a full rewire take? Can we carry on living in the house at the same time? And above all how much do you think it would cost in a 3 bed semi with 2 reception rooms and a kitchen in the North West? I was thinking of setting aside £2500 for it to be done?


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Personally I think your budget should be about the £3,500 sort of area but do get a few quotes. It is possible to live in the house whilst it is being rewired but it will be messy and also floorboards will need replacing and power restored after each day, this will also increase the cost. A rewire sounds required from the description of your property and from the description of the lack of sockets etc. You don't want to decorate and then have electrical problems. The last rewire I did with the customer living in it was done by splitting the house in half with the owner living in the rooms I was not working in and then swapping over when the first half was done. You will need to sort this out with your chosen electrician.
It is a very difficult question to answer without knowing your requirements.

Best thing is to open the yellow pages and find 3 electricians who are members of a compertent person scheme ( NICEIC, NAPIT, ECA) and ask for quotes.

don't be afraid to ask for references
The condition of the cables will to a certain extent determine if you do a full re-wire, if the cable used for the socket ring is PVC 2.5 and tests up OK there is no reason why quite a big chunk cannot be re-used, particularly if this avoids disruption to the property, the ring will need splitting and extending to new socket points.

The lighting may also be re-usable if there is an earth wire in the cable used, if not then you are either limited to double insulated or plastic fittings.

PVC in red and black was new in the 50's, my grandads invoice book shows we were using it on new installs in T&E in 1952 and the Wylex box you describe is also a product that was new in that period. The board will need replacement whatever as it gives you only very limited protection.

Get in 3 different contractors to look and quote for the work, they will be able to make a clear judgement on what needs doing and if there is scope for re-using parts of the cabling based on what they see and what you want in terms of number of sockets and other circuits.

Make sure the contractor you ultimately choose is registered for part P and a member of NICEIC, ECA, ELECSA or NAPIT, see the other recent thread "electrical issue please help" as a caution to what can happen if they are not registered.

Good Luck
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Thank you.

I've been looking on the net and on here about horror stories. So I intend to get someone that knows what they're doing and is qualified/registered to do it.

As I don't intend to spend this amount of money and not get it done right and up to standard!
I really don't understand why people seem to think that electrics can be done cheaply, after all you wouldn't let anyone install gas appliances, I know I wouldn't.

Plus electrics scare me, I think its come from growing up in this house. I seem to remember a socket once 'bit me' so to speak.
If your house wiring hasn't changed much since 1958 it may benefit from a re-wire.

I would expect the wiring to be PVC/plastic insulated, this was available in 1958, and doesn't deteriorate as badly as rubber insulated cable. Your house may have a mixture of both cable types, as rubber was being phased out around this time.

Your lighting circuits may or may not have earth wires. They should have.

In 1958 fewer sockets were fitted in rooms, so you probably don't have enough.

Assuming you don't want to see surface wiring and accessories on the walls, you may be able to re-use conduit drops in the walls for the light switch runs.

Sockets will depend on if they are in the places you now want them.

Light switch back boxes could be wooden. If they are these will need replacing for metal ones. Deep boxes are more desirable for fitting dimmer switches.

The wiring in the extension from the 90s should be salvagable if it has been done correctly. It should be able to be extended or reconnected.

Lights in bedrooms may be near the windows, if so you may wish to consider centralising these.

Now would also be a good time to install extra wiring for tv, internet, telephone, doorbell, shower, outhouses, outside lighting.
You would be better off getting recommendations, from people you trust, of good electricians. Yellow Pages is riddled with idiots, as is the local paper.
You would be better off getting recommendations, from people you trust, of good electricians. Yellow Pages is riddled with idiots, as is the local paper.

I've just been on NICEIC's website and found 2 on there that are local. I assume to be on there they'll have to be on their trustmark scheme?
It may be worth thinking of it as 'A brand new installation' rather than a 'Rewire' to move the thinking away from adapting a 50-year old design, which is probably hopelessly inadequate for today's needs, to designing an installation suited to current times.

For instance, some (many?) consider a larger number of radial circuits offers advantages over a small number of ring circuits. The ring circuit was a design only thought up when copper for cables was in short supply. Wiring lighting circuits by 'loop at switch' rather than 'loop at ceiling' can make more sense with modern light fittings. Maybe even consider adding (or making provision for) IT and communications as part of the design.
You would be better off getting recommendations, from people you trust, of good electricians. Yellow Pages is riddled with idiots, as is the local paper.

I've just been on NICEIC's website and found 2 on there that are local. I assume to be on there they'll have to be on their trustmark scheme?

Trustmark is an optional extra that a sparky has to pay for. The only qualification is to be a member of NICEIC, NAPIT, etc.

Please also check out the sparkies registered with NAPIT. And pick one who has FULL SCOPE capabilities. He/she usually also have a test and inspection qualification and you'll need your existing wiring inspected before anything else is done.
Having chosen your electrician then an informal off therecord chat with the building control officer ( BCO ) to advise him that a Mr Spark will be doing the work for you might provide an indication of whether Mr Spark is accepted by the BCO without question. It may even provide an indication that in the past the BCO have paid extra attention to work carried out by Mr Spark for some reason that they cannot mention to you.

After all you would not want to have the work done and then find that the BCO will not accept Mr Spark's signature on the certificate of compliance as he is not listed on the lists the BCO have.
If the spark is registered with NAPIT, NICEIC etc then no certificate is provided to LABC. The cert goes to the householder.

NAPIT/NICEIC etc will confirm the LABC that the work has been done in accordance with building regs by one of their registered electricians. I do not believe that the name of the electrician is revealed.

Mind you, the BCO will probably run into the spark on site, at some point. but he will already have started by then.

So if I set £3500-£4000 aside that should cover it right?

I just want a bog standard rewiring to be honest too, no need for TV points and such like all rooms either have Freeview with an aerial or Cable anyway.

I am hoping that I can get a few jobs done in under £20k, need new kitchen (approx £5000), Bathroom (approx £1000) and Central heating which I am budgeting around £3000 for. Then theres new windows and doors! Tis getting expensive now!!

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