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Not everyone in the United States lives in a brand-new housing development with the latest and greatest electrical wiring. Census data shows that as much as 13.5% of America’s housing units were built before 1940, while 19.5% were built before 1950. If you live in an older property, regularly experience issues with your electrical system, or just hope to bring your property up to modern standards, you may be weighing whether your savings would cover the cost to rewire a house.
Our comprehensive review of estimates from across the web shows that the average cost to rewire a moderately sized home ranges from around $3,500 to $12,000 — but your bill can go up to $30,000 for a large, complex project. Other budget items to take into consideration include the cost of repairing drywall, repainting, and arranging for temporary lodging since a full rewire can take as long as 10 days.
A full home rewiring sounds like a daunting task, but sometimes it’s necessary to keep your house in safe and functional condition. To lighten your burden, we’ve put together this budgeting guide, including cost estimates aggregated from multiple reputable web sources. In addition, we collected guidance from an experienced electrician, and asked a top real estate agent about whether a complete rewiring is worth the cost and disruption.
Cost per square foot ($2-$4)
Several estimates from sources including Cost Helper, Thumbtack, and Home Guide indicate that you’ll pay between $2 and $4 per square foot to rewire a home. Your costs will largely depend on your home’s accessibility, the cost of materials, and your electrician’s hourly rate.
Average cost at $3 per square foot ($6,900)
As of 2019, the average U.S. single-family home was 2,301 square feet. For a middle-of-the-road project at $3 per square foot, that would put you at just under $7,000 for the job.
Real-life cost estimate ($8,000)
To get a real-life rewiring quote, we spoke to Henry Grantham, an electrician and service manager with Stone Electrical Construction, located in Florence, South Carolina, and recent winner of “Best of the Pee Dee.” Grantham has worked in the electrical field for 11 years and is highly experienced in rewiring homes — he even wired a historic home located in Darlington County from scratch since the home was too old to have electricity.
Grantham says the average cost for rewiring a modest 1500-square-foot home in South Carolina is between $7,000 and $9,000. He notes that this figure would be all-inclusive to cover:
- Copper wire
- Crew labor
- Work permits
- New electrical panels and outlets
But even with our 1500-square-foot example home in South Carolina, Grantham says cost still varies based on the following factors:
- Accessibility of the home
Some homes, according to Grantham, have easily accessible crawl spaces, making rewiring an easier task. Homes that are built on a slab without a crawl space can be more difficult to rewire — in those cases, the crew works through the attic if they can. The goal is to keep as many walls intact as possible.
- Number of appliances and devices
This count usually goes hand-in-hand with the size of the home since it pertains to the number of bathrooms, kitchen areas, and entertainment centers — but some small homes might have more devices and appliances than others.
Low and high end cost extremes ($1,500 to $30,000)
An estimate from CostHelper indicates that you may be able to complete a house rewiring for as little as $1,500; however, to get that kind of deal, you’d likely need to complete the project yourself. This is not advised unless you are a licensed electrician, as a mistake could result in fire, serious injury, or death. (Seriously, call a pro on this one!) On the high end of the spectrum, a large home with difficult access could cost up to $30,000 to rewire.
|Source||Average cost to rewire||Low- and high-end cost||Cost per square foot|
|HomeGuide||$5,500||$2,000 – $9,000||$2 – $4|
|Cost Helper||$5,750||$1,500 – $30,000||Not available|
|Thumbtack||$4,000 for a 1,500 square foot home||$6,000-$12,000||$2 – $4|
|The Craftsman Blog||$6,900||$1,500-$10,000||$2 – $4|
Methodology and sources:
- HomeGuide: HomeGuide tracks millions of user-submitted project estimates and correlates them with local professional estimates to deliver accurate averages.
- CostHelper: CostHelper has a team dedicated to researching the cost of hard-to-price goods and services, including the cost to rewire a home. The site combines its findings with direct user feedback.
- Thumbtack: Thumbtack tracks project estimates from the millions of people who use its site to connect with local professionals every year, then shares those prices on its site.
- The Craftsman Blog: These stats were researched and published in 2021 by Scott Sidler, the owner of a historic home renovation company since 2010.
Additional rewiring cost considerations
While the above estimates provide an overview of the low, average, and high-end costs to rewire a home, your individual invoice will vary based on several factors. Some of these variables include:
The location of your home and the cost of living in your area matter, since supplies and crew cost different amounts in different places, says Grantham.
“The cost of living and location matter a great deal. I might buy a roll of wire here [in South Carolina] for $100, but it might be $150 in Phoenix — which doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but when you’re buying a lot of wire, it matters,” he points out.
“Cost also depends on what the crew is getting paid for their labor. Our guys get paid between $15 and $30, depending on what they’re doing.”
Drywall repairs and repainting
The walls around your home will probably need to be patched up after a rewiring job, so budget for it. Thumbtack indicates the average national cost for one room’s drywall repair is about $340, with an entire house going up to about $904. Though you’ll have to pay for each room, the more rooms you need to repair, the less expensive it turns out to be per room since the contractor is already there on site. Keep in mind that wall repair costs are not included in a rewiring quote.
“We don’t do drywall repairs or repainting,” Grantham notes. “That is the customer’s responsibility to get repairs on those; we don’t do that. We are strictly electrical, and we only do electrical work.” You can always ask your electrician if they know someone reputable in the area or seek out a referral from friends, family, or your real estate agent if you have one.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply costs have been fairly steep, says Grantham. In fact, he recommends waiting to do major electrical work until costs have gone back down, if possible.
“Right now we are dealing with inflation, so I have to call every single day and get prices on stuff,” he points out. “For example, I quoted a guy the other day to replace signage lights — and right after he approved the quote, it went up. So it’s a really bad time to be doing something like [rewiring your home.]”
How much time will rewiring take?
National estimates indicate that it takes three to 10 days to rewire a home. Grantham, however, recommends planning for about two weeks of work in the home, which includes the actual rewiring, any necessary repairs, and the finishing touches.
“The time to rewire is three to four days tops for a standard house,” he says. “But it’s more like two weeks because we do the wiring first, and then other contractors come in and do wall repair, sheetrock, et cetera. After that, we come back in and put in the devices and cover plates, and close everything up. So our time might be three or four days, but the whole process is longer.”
Do you need to rewire your home?
When an electric issue with your home arises, solutions other than a total rewire may be available to you. Here are the factors that should guide you to deciding on whether to replace your entire system, do a partial update, or even leave it be.
1. Your home was wired using either knob-and-tube or aluminum.
Older homes usually have one or two types of dated wiring:
Knob and tube (common in houses built between the 1880s-1930s, and sometimes a bit later)
According to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, knob-and-tube (K&N) wiring isn’t “inherently dangerous.” But when surrounded by building insulation or improperly modified, K&N wiring can pose a fire risk.
As such, some insurance companies won’t cover homes with K&N, unless an electrical contractor says it’s safe. In addition, K&N wiring only pairs with two-pronged electrical outlets — good luck plugging in one of today’s major appliances or a modern surge strip without three prongs!
Aluminum wiring (popular in homes built from the mid-’60s-’70s, due to the national copper shortage)
Though aluminum wires can conduct electricity safely, the connections can be problematic and are prone to getting too hot. A partial fix that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has deemed appropriate is to attach copper to the connecting ends of aluminum wiring, using either the COPALUM device or AlumiConn brand set screws. However, if your aluminum wiring is causing noticeable issues, an electrician may still recommend a full rewiring.
2. You have noticed obvious signs of electrical problems.
As we said, sometimes these older wiring systems technically work, especially when they’ve been inspected and partially updated. But when you combine those types of wiring with one of the following signs of an electrical hazard, it’s time to ask yourself if a total rewiring is best.
- Hot outlets or scorch marks: Electrical outlets and switches should always be cool to the touch — if you touch one and it feels warm, or if you see dark scorch marks, that’s a sign that connections are getting dangerously hot.
- Frequently tripping circuit breakers: If you’re regularly visiting the circuit breaker box (also known as the load center) and resetting the circuits after a trip, that could mean that your circuits are working too hard and electrical surges are too frequent.
- Smoke around the home: Spotting mysterious smoke anywhere in the home — whether from a breaker box, an outlet, or switch, along the baseboards, or coming from an appliance — is a sure sign of an electrical hazard.
- Lights that dim unexpectedly: Have you ever turned on an appliance and noticed a lamp or overhead light going dim as a result? The circuits may be overloaded.
- Loose connections at outlets: If you notice that appliance plugs don’t seem to fit snugly inside the electrical outlets around your home, this could be a sign of loose connections between the wires and outlets.
- Wires that are damaged in some way: If you notice damaged wires in the attic, basement, or anywhere that wires might be visible, those wires need to be replaced.
- Strange sounds or odors: Beware of odors that remind you of something burning or noises that sound like buzzing or crackling — both of these are signs of electrical problems.
3. You plan to sell, and you have electrical concerns.
If you’re planning to sell an old home with electrical issues, you might need to rewire the home to secure an offer. However, according to Jimmy Stewart, a top real estate agent in Fort Collins, Colorado, the need to rewire should be evaluated on an individual basis — and, as a former building contractor, he would know. Furthermore, a working electrical system won’t necessarily add value to your home, even if it’s copper, Stewart notes.
“People expect the electricity to work properly,” he notes. Some homes need at least some of the runs to be rewired for sure. But it would be a case-by-case thing. I’d have to look at it closely.”
If you believe your home needs a rewiring job, start your journey by having a professional electrician come look at your electrical system. An electrical system inspection will inform you if a total rewiring is needed, whether you’re getting ready to sell or just thinking about long-term home safety and value.
The final word on rewiring
Don’t opt for a full rewire unless you absolutely have to. It’s an expensive and disruptive process, and it won’t necessarily increase the value of your home. If you do need to rewire for the sake of safety and owning a functioning home, then budget accordingly and make sure you get more than one quote from local trusted professionals before moving forward.
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