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Old 07-26-2011, 02:24 PM   #1
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1960s ranch complete rewire-what can I expect?

We own a two bedroom one bath ranch built in the late 1960s on a full finished basement (about 1000 SF of living space total) with an attached garage. This is our first home, and our hope was to "trade up" eventually by making improvements to this home and buying something else. The house was solid but very dated. So far we've painted, installed all new doors and windows, baseboard and casing trim, refinished the hardwood, put on a new 40 year roof, and updated the already finished basement with new carpet, trim, built-ins, etc...all DIY. Since that time we've decided not only that housing market is probably not going to be in our favor for a long time, but that we've really grown to like the area and the house itself. That being said, my outlook has shifted toward upgrading the infrastructure of the home since we plan to be here long term. That brings me to the electrical system.

Overall the system is safe and sound, no major problems, but it's outdated and just not well designed. The seller upgraded to a 200A service with a new box, new breakers, etc...but all of the old circuits were left intact. It looks as though over the years many hands had made tweaks to the system as evidenced by some odd quirks. For example, the circuit labeled "Kitchen lights" controls not only the kitchen lights, but also one lone pull chain light in the basement. The attached garage (it was added sometime after the home was built) lighting, door opener, and outlets are on the same circuit as the kitchen outlets, so if you try to open the garage door at the same time my wife is making toast, watching the kitchen TV, and the garage light is on, it will trip the breaker. Also, there is only one outlet in the garage which is less than ideal. There are also only two GFCI's outside-I'd like to have at least one on each side the of the house. It would also be nice to have a transfer switch and receptacle for a generator. Finally, we have an electric range that I'd like to swap for propane which will make some room in the box for future expansion purposes as we'll definitely be adding on eventually.

Basically I'm hoping to hear from others who have had a similar type of home rewired by a pro (I am not considering DIY'ing this-at least not the whole thing) and what their experiences were in terms of how much demo work was involved, etc... Our attic is unfinished space and half of the basement is unfinished which I would think helps in terms of access, but I'd imagine that drywall will have to come out in certain areas so that new wiring can be installed. I thought it might be helpful to go room by room and list what I'd want done so that maybe a homeowner or contractor could give me an idea of whether this would be a project that could be done while living in the house and selectively opening up walls, or whether it would be a gut job where we'd have to live in a hotel for a week:

Bedroom 1 - Combine receptacles of bedroom 1 and bedroom 2 (adjacent to bedroom 1) on the same circuit. Combine the overhead light/fan in bedroom 1 with the overhead light in bedroom 2 on a separate circuit.

Bedroom 2 - Pretty much explained by bedroom 1.

Bathroom - Combine light and fan (if that is permitted by NEC?) on the same circuit. Install additional GFCI (there is currently one) on separate circuit.

Hallway/living room - Combine hall light, living room overhead light/fan, and front porch light on one circuit. Combine hall outlets and living room outlets on one circuit.

Kitchen - Combine kitchen lights, fan, range hood, and back porch light on one circuit. Install additional kitchen GFCIs and regular receptacles on separate circuits.

Garage - Break off from kitchen. Combine door opener and lighting (indoor and outdoor) on one circuit. Install eight GFCIs on two separate 20A circuits. Install 220V receptacle (this could be fed with the old dryer circuit) for a welder.

Basement (utility) - Install six GFCI's total (currently there is one GFCI and one regular outlet, both on different circuits, not including the panel GFCI), and provide separate circuits for the sump pumps and oil furnace.

Basement (finished) - This work was done sometime in the 1990s and is actually fine as it is-three circuits, two for outlets and one for lighting.

Outdoor - Install two additional GFCIs on the house (four total) on two separate circuits.

Other - Provide separate circuits for roof ventilation fans, and for the subpanel which contains circuits for the electric hot water heater and the central air unit.

I would also like to leave a fair amount of open space as I mentioned we will eventually be adding on as well as remodeling the kitchen and finally installing a dishwasher which I know will require a separate circuit. I'm very interested in hearing from folks who have had similar work done in their homes.


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Old 07-26-2011, 03:25 PM   #2
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I'm in the middle of a similar project, my 1959 3 bedroom ranch overhaul.

I ended up gutting the rooms, even the 1/2 a finished basement that was done in 2000.

Just realize it's not what you see that should concern you, it's what you don't see. In my case I had most of the old wiring in the basement covered. Junction boxes, bare splices, even the doorbell transformer where covered under the "new" ceiling.

Check with your AHJ for local codes. You may need to install AFCI breakers and install hard wire smoke/co's.

The bathroom light/fan and outlet can all be on the bathroom circuit. It must be 20 amp, GFCI protected and serve no other location.

Your garage door opener will need to be GFCI protected as well.

Good luck and have fun!


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Old 07-26-2011, 03:40 PM   #3
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I rewired most of a 1959 built, 1800 sf colonial. Similar issues to you, except that I had (and still have) 100A service. I replaced the main panel with breakers (they were fuses), and the upstairs panel with breakers (they were also fuses). Most of the circuits lacked an independent equipment ground, and the first floor panel lacked an independent equipment ground (the ground was tied to the neutral in a subpanel, probably code when the system was installed 50 years ago, certainly not code today.

I installed mostly new circuits (there are a few original circuits left). The wire had some issues, it was the old cloth cover, but the big issues was no IEG, so when I put the new circuits in, I went with all 12 gage copper, so the new circuits are 20A rated, and I used mostly 20A outlets (code allows use of 15A outlets on a 20A circuits, seems odd but apparently it is OK).

Pulling the wire for the new circuits was difficult and time consuming. It was a little easier because the basement is unfinished, and in a few cases I went up to the attic and down the walls. We had no insulation (added it several years ago), so it was easier to fish wires through the walls than it would be if they were insulated. Fishing horizontally was very difficult because we have actual plaster walls, little wallboard, and the lath interfered with pulling wire. I had to cut a lot of holes in the ceilings to pull the wire through.

All told, I probably installed 500 feet of new wire, two new panels, and at least 20 outlets. I did this over a period of several years, on an as necessary basis. The work was not particularly difficult, just painful, time consuming, and picky. I would rate standard electrical work as somewhat easier to get right than plumbing, which seems to use a lot of unusual parts that do not always fit together, unlike electrical which is pretty standardized (i.e. 12 gage Romex is essentially identical from one manufacturer to another, hasn't changed much in 50 years, maybe the coverings are better).

I have no idea what a professional electrician would have charged, you can be sure they would have done it quicker, and likely with less damage to the walls and ceilings. If time is an issue, or you are uncomfortable working with electricity, than a pro would be well worth it.
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Old 07-26-2011, 03:47 PM   #4
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Assuming everything already there was done with proper permits, it can be left as-is and you can make additions and corrections at your leisure.

Probably the most important addition would be two 20 amp circuits to the kitchen counter receptacles. Use GFCI breakers or a GFCI duplex receptacle unit in the first outlet box of each circuit. The circuit that originally served the kitchen receptacles can continue to serve the other things but the outlet boxes it passed through must be kept as junction boxes for the loose wire ends after the old receptacles were removed and the covers kept exposed. Then the new circuit receptacles for the kitchen would have to be in new boxes.

Run a new 20 amp circuit non-stop to the laundry room or area with a receptacle meant for the washing machine and/or a gas dryer. Nothing else on that circuit. Other receptacles in the area and on older circuits can remain there.

While the bathroom wiring can remain as-is, the correct wiring for bathrroms is one 20 amp circuit for everything in one bathroom or just the receptacles in two or more bathrooms. Nothing else ont hose circuits.\ Lights and fan can optionally be powered by "any old" other circuit.

For outlet boxes daisy chained, such as in your garage, just one GFCI unit is needed to protect them all.
The good conscientious technician or serviceperson will carry extra oils and lubricants in case the new pump did not come with oil or the oil was accidentally spilled, so the service call can be completed without an extra visit.

Last edited by AllanJ; 07-26-2011 at 03:57 PM.
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Old 07-26-2011, 05:01 PM   #5
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Only you can be the judge, but I'd take it piece by piece. That's what I'm doing right now. We replaced our old panel w/ a 200 Amp one as a good base. The kitchen is coming out in a few weeks so I'll do all new 20 amp circuits in there and rip out everything that was kitchen related. After that I'll do a run up to the attic and down to the new bathroom that was redone by a "contractor" in 2007 before we bought the house. Genius tied it into a 15 amp bedroom circuit.

Certain things I'll probably leave alone like the low use ones going to the bedrooms.

Just my thoughts.
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