Wiring A House Homework

Hello, this is my first post in this forum. I'm just seeking out some help as I deal with a remodel of a 1920's house...I just got thrown a major curveball and I'm desperate for some unbiased advice.

My house is a 1920's craftsman bungalow in Arizona that I recently purchased (in as-is condition). It's about 1800 square feet (1200 main level, 600 converted attic). I'm about halfway through a major renovation that includes foundation work, removing two load bearing walls, and renovating the kitchen and one bathroom.

When I bought the house, I knew it had a hodge-podge of wiring. There were at least three kinds that the inspector noted: lots of old knob-and-tube, lots of wire from the 1980's, and some modern wiring. The inspector tested many of the knob-and-tube wires and indicated that he could only find one or two "runs" that were active. The rest he found to be inactive. I know that the previous homeowners upgraded the panel about five years ago (to a 200 amp). Long story short, I absolutely plan to update all of the electrical at some point, but I decided not to do it at this point, since most of the wiring is already "serviceable" and our kitchen, bathroom, etc. will have all-new wiring once I'm done with the remodel.

Anyway, now that we've gotten into the renovation, my general contractor is recommending a re-wiring of the whole house, since several walls are already down and he can see some of the not-up-to-code electrical issues. But then I almost PASSED OUT when he gave me the quote. He told me it would be $65,000 to re-wire the house (including tearing down the remaining walls and replacing them with drywall). Sixty-five-thousand dollars! That's way more than the entire cost of the current renovation, and a giant percentage of the value of the entire property! Needless to say, it's something I absolutely cannot afford and I'm officially freaked out. My contractor has been very trustworthy up to this point...but now I have doubts. He did say that it would be around $55,000 if we chose to "punch holes" in the walls instead of tearing them down and replacing them.

The bottom line is that I've never even heard of a re-wiring project that's even half of what my contractor just quoted me. And keep in mind, this is not a large house and it already has a 200 amp panel. It has a great crawlspace (about three feet high, completely unobstructed) and a huge attic. Most of the attic is finished, but I've told our contractor that I would rip up the floor so the electricians could have full attic access. He said it would not change the price. I'm at a loss because before I hired this GC, I had two licensed electricians give me ballpark estimates for re-wiring our house and they were in the $12-15K range.

I know it's nearly impossible to describe my home/situation on the internet, but I'm just humbly looking for some general advice from some folks who understand older homes. I feel like I've done a lot of "homework" on old houses but I know I still have a lot to learn. Is there any way his quote of $65,000 could be valid? Should I just stick with my plan of not doing the wiring now and waiting to hire a licensed electrician on my own in the near future?

Thanks in advance for the help.

  • 1

    Organize your tasks for action. Knowing that there are all kinds of different tasks in wiring a home; perhaps 37, and every one of them is very easy to only do one at a time. When you know the tasks inside and out and can combined some of them together, though, “you are all set” for a quick run through. These are the tasks you'll have to complete, and below are more steps for doing them efficiently:
    • 1. Mark the second floor low boxes
    • 2. Mark the second floor ceiling boxes
    • 3. Mark the second floor home run locations
    • 4. Mark the first floor low boxes
    • 5. Mark the first floor ceiling boxes.
    • 6. Mark the first floor home run locations
    • 7. Mark the basement ceiling
    • 8. Mark the basement low boxes (if it’s a finish)
    • 9. Lay out all of the recess cans and exhaust fans.
    • 10. Box out the second floor low boxes
    • 11. Box out the second floor ceiling.
    • 12. Box out the first floor low boxes
    • 13. Box out the first floor ceiling boxes
    • 14. Box out the basement low boxes (if finished)
    • 15. Box out the basement ceiling boxes
    • 16. Second floor drill out
    • 17(1). First floor low drill out
    • 17(2). First floor ceiling drill out (not common but wiser to use a better drill and take homework notes)
    • 18. Second floor home runs
    • 19. Second floor long pulls (most do lesser at a time)
    • 20. Short jumps (bedroom feeds and bathroom legs)
    • 21. Cut in when everything is stabbed in the box (many do)
    • 22. Nail plate the second floor
    • 23(1). Pull the first floor home runs
    • 23(2). Pull the basement home runs
    • 24. First floor long pulls (lesser at a time)
    • 25. Basement long pulls (lesser at a time)
    • 26. First floor jumps
    • 27. First floor jump arounds
    • 28. Weatherproof jumps 29. Basement keyless
    • 30. Cut in first floor
    • 31. Brace 3 and 4 gang boxes
    • 32. Nail plate the first floor
    • 33. Basement jumps (if finished)
    • 34. Cut in panel
    • 35. High ceiling
    • 36. Pan off
    • 37. Clean up.
  • 2

    Start your day by combining tasks 1 and 2. Saving half of the time needed on the second floor, mark out for both the high boxes and the low ones.

  • 3

    Do your first non-combo (task easier to keep left alone). It’s time to mark up the second floor home runs everywhere that they are supposed to go.

  • 4

    Mark the first floor now. Combining 4 and 5 is the same way as marking the second floor, now it’s more complex, so greater care and more looking over is needed.

  • 5

    Mark the first floor and basement home runs. The old number 6 means marking the first floor, but it’s good to have a good understanding of what the basement home runs are like because they are all pulled in the same path as the first floors and could more than likely be of a different type of wire.

  • 6

    Move on to marking the basement. Combines 7 and 8 (8 not always) but marking up everything that is needed in the basement and better to help with what’s needed for the first floor too.

  • 7

    Don’t burden yourself by trying to carry to much at once. You should lay out all of the recess that is needed for 9 independently, especially if there are a lot of them, making the next task lesser to carry.

  • 8

    Begin the task that's the first one that saves more than half the time. Combining 10, 11 and 31 for the entire box out of the second floor and brace the 3 and 4gangs as you go.

  • 9

    Start another like the second floor. Bringing together 12, 13, and another part of 31 for the entire first floor box out and bracing.

  • 10

    Bring together 14 and 15. If it’s a finished basement go ahead and box both the highs and lows, or just the ceilings if not.

  • 11

    Don’t combine any task with 16. The second floor drill out doesn’t have a lot to it; still it would be a good idea to think about any drops or down and under to be drilled right away.

  • 12

    Begin another thing that saves a lot of time. 17(1) and 17(2) in drilling the low holes on the first floor and carrying a ladder for drilling the ceiling holes needed. It’s better to use a stronger and longer lasting drill for what may be more, but as you go, being aware of any down and under or drops that could be recorded(taking notes) to add to your homework. Dropping bobbers into each more complex hole( ½ hot, switches, and home runs) for identification as you are pulling the first floor from the basement.

  • 13

    Do number 18; this one is varied. Pulling the second floor home runs isn’t really much for saving unless you just pull more at a time.

  • 14

    Start number 19, but remember that homework has come into use. It would still vary depending on your understanding of it, but pull the second floor long shots.

  • 15

    Combine and do tasks 20 and 21. You have already done all of your pulls that require traveling, and you can now as you go throughout the second floor pull all the short stuff and cut in as you go. Be aware of everything you just pulled; trace it all down as you are doing your easiest tasks as you go and you’ll be able to detect if anything was missed, mixed, or double fed.

  • 16

    Keep number 22 as a non combo. Many homes may have sprinkler pipe or need to be foam sprayed, now would be more than half the time saved if you carried cardboard and the spray foam as you go.

  • 17

    Do the 23(1), 23(2) together and 28 with care. The home runs for the first floor and basement do go to different spots but flow in the same path as the weatherproof jumps,  saving more than half the time here with carrying them all at the same time. Look over where they are all going first and be sure to have the home runs on your spinners and the weatherproof jumps separately unraveled.

  • 18

    Look through then combine 24, 25, 27, and 29 to finally easily save extra time. The first floor long shots, basement long shots, first floor jump around, and basement keyless are ready. Homework is needed here even more useful  then the second floor long shot phase, because now pulling the more complex and plentiful runs you can just look at your homework, pull, and say, "I'm done," still keeping the keyless on separate real.

  • 19

    Bring 26 and 33 together. The basement and first floor jumps that was too short of a run to include in your homework can now be easily jumped, meanwhile cut in basement as you go.

  • 20

    Multiply 30, 32, and 36. “Button up” the first now that the basement is 100% and cut it in(now it’s even more complex than the second floor so do remember all you pulled and trace it down), nail plate as you go as well as pan off.

  • 21

    Get ready for the non combo number 35. Isn’t a lot of time saved easily, but a High Ceiling can have all kinds of time saved to it too.

  • 22

    Cut in the panel for your number 34 task. Being aware of nothing missed and even thinking of refreshments as well.

  • 23

    Clean-up now for completion to 37. It’s easy enough to just put all things in the garage or outside and sweep up all the debris as throughout the entire house.

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