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ra_doliv 07-05-2007 01:12 AM

Aluminum rewire plan
Hello everyone -- I am new to this forum but I have been lurking for a while and have learned a great deal already.

I would like your input and recomendations on my aluminum rewire plan. Unfortunately my house was built in 1970 and has aluminum wire. We have decided to stay in the house so I want to change out the wire to copper. Here is my plan: Run a new feed wire form the breaker panel to a 4"X 4" box above each room. Run switch loops and outlet runs to this box and make the splices in the box above each room in the attic. As long as I conform to box fill standards, do yous guys see any issues with this approach?? I know it will use more wire, but I am ok with that (plan on 12/2 for all branch circuits anyway).

I think this technique will allow me to do less drywall damage as I retro the copper in.

Any help or comments greatly appreciated!!!

dmaceld 07-05-2007 09:56 AM

This is going to be a major rewiring project. You would be best off having an electrician do it. You probably will be advised to change out the breaker panel, and maybe even the service entrance.

But the biggest gotcha is all the new wiring must be code compliant. When you do a major wiring upgrade all the new stuff has to comply with the current code, which means GFCI and AFCI breakers, minimum number of circuits in the kitchen, limits on what all can be on specific circuits, and on and on.

You're getting ready to bite into a huge enchilada. You will need big time help with it.

Jeekinz 07-05-2007 01:49 PM

Is it a ranch style home? Maybe you could use 12/3 so you can have another circuit? You should be able to find a void in an interior wall where you can make all your "home runs".

Good luck. An electrician would charge a fortune to do that.

markde25 07-05-2007 03:22 PM

Hey RA,

I am in the same situation, only my house had an addition built on to it during the 90's and most of the aluminum was swapped out. I do have one circuit left that is aluminum, though and I am going to try and swap it against a 12/2 copper circuit.

Why were you planning to use a central box above each room, though? Wouldn't it be easier to just calculate the nominal and max loads and then configure a standard circuit to handle the current draw? Once you have that planned out, you should be able to just fish wire down the walls to remodel boxes by drilling 3/4" holes in the top plates. You can then assure that you have one outlet every X feet and GFCI's where you need them, etc.

As long as you plan well, you will probably only need one void in a wall to carry the cables for all circuits into the attic...


ra_doliv 07-05-2007 05:02 PM

Thanks for the replies:

Dmaceld:Yes, I expect it to be a big project --- done in room size bites. I am familiar with the current kitchen requirements: 2 20amp GFCI appliance circuits, seperate circuits for disposal, microwave, fridge and dishwasher. Conversion of range to 4 wire circuit etc. Obviously, many of these have to be home runs by their very nature. I have no issue with bringing the house up to current code --- the whole reason for the project is to increase the safety of my family. The 220V circuits are not the ones I am most concerned about --- they generally go from service panel to the dryer, water heater etc. I am really concerned about running the general purpose outlets in each room -- since I can't run them from box to box like you would in a new construction environment, I came up with the idea of the junction box or boxes in the attic above each major room. Just want to know if this approach is inherently a code violation.

Some of you pros wade in on this and tell me if you thnk I am in outer space on this deal.

Jeekinz: It is a 1500 square foot Florida concrete block ranch sytle house --- good attic above everything. Don't want to use the shared neutral because of the potential issues if you lose the neutral on either branch and end up with a 240V circuit --- I knoe copper is way up, but material cost is the smallest factor in this project.

dmaceld 07-05-2007 06:07 PM


Originally Posted by ra_doliv (Post 51697)
I came up with the idea of the junction box or boxes in the attic above each major room. Just want to know if this approach is inherently a code violation.

It is not. In fact you could argue that is actually better because the failure of any individual outlet won't disable the remainder of the circuit.

The code says you need to keep the boxes accessible, which is a non-issue since they'll be in the attic.

Watch how many wires you bring into a box so you don't exceed the code allowed box fill. There's also practical considerations about how many wires can be reliably spliced together.

You will need to use breaker panel GFCIs, which are pricey, or set up a wiring run where you can run the home run through a GFCI in an outlet box. Blank face GFCIs are available so you could put one of them in a box near the panel for a kitchen circuit and still comply with the restriction of no kitchen circuit outlets outside the kitchen.

Do you have a copy of the NEC, or a wiring book that spells out all the NEC residential reqm'ts? If not, consider getting one. You could get snagged on some gotchas otherwise. The reason I ask is because some of what you said need to be on separate circuits, aren't required by code.

JohnJ0906 07-05-2007 06:55 PM

AFCI breakers (arc fault) are required in bedrooms, '05 NEC. Each circuit will need its own neutral. I know you said you were not going to use 12-3, but I did want to bring it up.

"08 NEC will require AFCI in most of the house.

Interconnected smoke detectors, on each level, and inside each bedroom. Consult the directions for proper placement re: walls, HVAC vents and returns, baths, etc.

JohnJ0906 07-05-2007 07:04 PM


Originally Posted by Jeekinz (Post 51668)
An electrician would charge a fortune to do that.

An electrician has insurance so if something goes wrong, you will be financially covered.

An electrician has training and experience, so things don't go wrong.

An electrician has workers comp, so if his employee is injured, the employee's medical expenses are covered, and he won't starve and be homeless.

If a person is injured working on their own house, and can't work, who pays the bills?

Will homeowners insurance pay for damages caused by homeowner-done work?

I would like to point out there are several electricians who participate here, on their own time, trying to help people.

Would my company charge "a fortune"?

This is a major project, a complete house re-wire, it will be costly. Not a fortune, but a fair price for a large job.

Maybe I read a little too much into that comment, but electricians need to make a fair living too.

ra_doliv 07-05-2007 09:03 PM

Dmaceld -- I have a wiring book from the big box store and have spent considerable time on forums like this one as well as the "pro" forums. Which kitchen item would not require a separate branch circuit?? The only one that there is any debate on would be the fridge ---- everything I have read clearly requires all the others to be individual circuits. I planned the fridge on a 12/2 single outlet receptacle.

JohnJ0906: Will use the arc fault breakers on bedroom circuits. The smoke detection circuit is no problem --- I am a Certified Alarm Contractor in Florida as my day job. I don't think Jeekinz meant anything with his comment other than this will be a large(read expensive) project and I cetainly appreciate you r comments about pro electricians and am very grateful that some of you guys are willing to help us out at no charge.

Is this major rewire the kind of job a pro would want to do or would it be looked at as "trash" work to do only if really slow??

Any other tips/hints/concerns from the pro perspective??

HouseHelper 07-05-2007 09:26 PM

Your plan sounds good. If you are lucky, you can use the old cable to pull the new to the attic.

Take heed of the comments about box fill and don't be afraid of multiwire circuits. They can be your best friend in a rewire.

Consult your local authority about what code cycle they are enforcing, what the rules are for DIY electrical work, and what their requirements are for AFCI circuits.

Remember that the small appliance circuits in the kitchen can be shared with the dining room and breakfast nook; disposal and dishwasher can be shared (unless there are local amendments); bathroom receptacles must be 20A dedicated circuits but can be shared with other bathroom receptacles; laundry receptacles must be dedicated 20A circuits; dryer and range circuits must be 4 wire... the list could go on for a long time.

Many jurisdictions require AC smoke detectors in addition to any supplied by an alarm company.

Not all electricians will undertake rewiring. It is tedious, messy, and sometimes frustrating. That is why rewires always cost more than new construction.

Be prepared to start early in the day and be done with your attic work by 10AM. Working in an attic this time of year can be VERY dangerous.

dmaceld 07-05-2007 09:55 PM


Originally Posted by ra_doliv (Post 51730)
The only one that there is any debate on would be the fridge ---- everything I have read clearly requires all the others to be individual circuits. I planned the fridge on a 12/2 single outlet receptacle.

You got it, almost! The code allows, but does not require, the fridge to be on a individual circuit which can be a 15 amp circuit.

Dishwasher, disposal, and microwave are not required to be on individual circuits. The only absolute requirement is a minimum of 2 circuits serving all the receptacles in the kitchen, pantry, breakfast nook, and dining room, and the receptacles on the counter top must be divided between the two circuits. Good design practice is to put more than 2 circuits as you plan on doing, but it is not required. You might want to consider using the same circuit for dishwasher & dining room, or something of that sort. Spread the load out according to its expected usage. If the microwave is built in, then its circuit can be shared elsewhere in the k, dr, bkft, or p area. The receptacles in the kitchen, pantry, dining room, & breakfast area may not serve any other area of the house, including the kitchen lights. They can serve a clock receptacle or provide power for electrical needs of a gas stove, oven, or cooktop.

In the kitchen, GFCI protection is required only for the receptacles serving the counter tops.

I see you have already gotten a comment about the bathroom circuits. Keep in mind one circuit can serve all of one bathroom, but the receptacle circuit may not extend beyond that bathroom. The light can be served by other circuits, but if there isn't much load in the bathroom just do it all on one.

Recognize that recommended or "accepted", or "usual", or "normal" does not equal required!

Stubbie 07-05-2007 10:54 PM

I'll add a couple clarifications for bathrooms

A 20 ampere circuit that does not supply any other load must supply the bathroom receptacle outlet/outlets required in Section 210-52(d).

Clarification: These receptacles can be 125 volt, 15 ampere receptacles that are rated for 20 ampere feed-thru and can be used for this purpose [210-21(b)(2)]. In other words you dont need to install 20 amp "t" slot receptacles.

Clarification:This Section of code does not require a separate 20 ampere circuit for each bathroom. One 20 ampere circuit can be used to supply multiple bathroom receptacles. This means receptacles only...nothing else.

Exception for dedicated bathroom 20 amp circuits.......

A dedicated 20 ampere circuit to a single bathroom it is permitted to supply the bathroom receptacle outlet/outlets and other equipment within the same bathroom, but only if the sum of the equipment does not exceed 10 ampere (50 percent of the branch circuit ampere rating) in compliance with Section 210-23(a).

210.23 (a) and (b) is why what your reading is telling you to run individual circuits to some of those fixed in place kitchen appliances you previously mentioned. Also the manufacturer may in some cases require it but usually the installation manuals just say it is recommended.

Your local codes may also require individual branch circuits where the NEC does not.

Good luck with your project and enjoy what it teaches you.


JohnJ0906 07-06-2007 05:32 PM

The code MAY require dishwasher, disposeall, and microwave on seperate circuits. Almost certainly something the size of a microwave. An appliance "fixed in place" ie: all 3 of the above, cannot excede %50 of the circuit if other loads are shared. Instructions may also require the seperate circuits, which means the code requires you to follow the instructions. A good idea in any case.

JohnJ0906 07-06-2007 05:37 PM

I was a little touchy in the post above (#8). My apologies.

A house rewire is more difficult and much more time consuming than wiring a new home, where everything is open. Also, working around furniture, etc. This does, of course, translate to higher cost.

And, I would like to point out the cost of copper has skyrocketed over the last couple of years.

Good luck on your project! :thumbsup:

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