House rewiring - cost of copper

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benevo
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House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by benevo » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:03 pm

Hello gang!

I'm getting a quote in the next few days to rewrite my home's electrical. For background, we purchased it 2 years ago, after it was renovated, and it was built in 1939 - so, an older home.

The electrical isn't causing any issues whatsoever (knock on wood!), however when I've replaced the minor things I can do myself (light fixture, thermostat, etc.), I've noticed that it's definitely older wiring. Additionally, multiple/odd rooms are linked on the same breakers, etc. A rewire would update the wiring, but also make things easier!

I'm NOT in a rush, since there are no negative issues (it's not like anything sparks or hums, etc). No one even recommended we get it done, I just know I'd like it to be updated wiring. However, when I scheduled the quote, the electric company rep (they have a good reputation, for what that's worth), suggested doing it sooner than later - citing the increasing cost of copper: https://www.nasdaq.com/markets/copper.aspx?timeframe=2y

He suggested getting it done before spring/summer due to these rising costs.

Now, I know he could easily be trying to get me to do it sooner than later as a salesperson. However, does he have a valid argument?

Thanks for any insight!

A newer homeowner, younger (29) individual, and constant learner,
be

gmc4h232
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by gmc4h232 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:08 pm

Sounds like you are trying to time the copper market....You know bogleheads dont support market timing.

ResearchMed
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by ResearchMed » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:09 pm

benevo wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:03 pm
Hello gang!

I'm getting a quote in the next few days to rewrite my home's electrical. For background, we purchased it 2 years ago, after it was renovated, and it was built in 1939 - so, an older home.

The electrical isn't causing any issues whatsoever (knock on wood!), however when I've replaced the minor things I can do myself (light fixture, thermostat, etc.), I've noticed that it's definitely older wiring. Additionally, multiple/odd rooms are linked on the same breakers, etc. A rewire would update the wiring, but also make things easier!

I'm NOT in a rush, since there are no negative issues (it's not like anything sparks or hums, etc). No one even recommended we get it done, I just know I'd like it to be updated wiring. However, when I scheduled the quote, the electric company rep (they have a good reputation, for what that's worth), suggested doing it sooner than later - citing the increasing cost of copper: https://www.nasdaq.com/markets/copper.aspx?timeframe=2y

He suggested getting it done before spring/summer due to these rising costs.

Now, I know he could easily be trying to get me to do it sooner than later as a salesperson. However, does he have a valid argument?

Thanks for any insight!

A newer homeowner, younger (29) individual, and constant learner,
be
How much of the actual price of the upgrade is actually the copper itself? You aren't trying to put up copper siding on yur house, right?

Perhaps a builder/contractor here can suggest if the copper itself drives the price, when it's wiring for a single home.

It sounds to me like he is trying to get you to sign sooner.

One thing... indoor jobs are best for bad weather/winter, so maybe *you* have some bargaining to do it before the weather turns nice?
Although unless the contractor is sitting around trying to find something to do, the nicer weather will be starting in several weeks, depending upon where you are.

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stats99
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by stats99 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:10 pm

He is trying to give you a “compelling” event so that you make your decision, hopefully in time for his quarterly quota count.

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MP123
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by MP123 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:14 pm

The electrician's labor is likely to be much more than the cost of the wire. There isn't all that much copper in 12 or 14 gauge wire anyway. Probably a bit of a sales job by the electrician but not a bad idea to get it taken care of.

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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:19 pm

It’s BS! The sales guy is trying to drum up business now. If you want to know the price - ask the rep what kind of wiring they will use. Chances are they are using Romex or armor cabling. Head over to Home Depot, look at the rolls of wiring - one is white, second is yellow, heavy duty wiring used for stuff like central air or whole house generator is orange. Comes in rolls of 50 feet and 100 feet, your biggest expense is that of labor, not wiring, not connection boxes or switches or breakers.
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dpc
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by dpc » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:21 pm

Sounds like sales BS. Copper prices fluctuate, but I'm not aware of any long-term upward trends. Majority of your costs will be labor. As others have pointed out, the copper is only part of the cost of the cable.

Speaking as a EE, if you do this - make all receptacle circuits 20 A with #12 wire. Also, I'd get another quote.

Also, for insurance purposes, pull a permit and have it done by a licensed electrician.
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HoosierJim
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by HoosierJim » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:32 pm

Home depot current pricing - contractor pricing and volume cable lengths will reduce the price.. Depending on the house, and routes you can find, might use

2000' of #14 = $78 * 8 = approx $625

1000' of #12 - $132 *4 = approx $625.


Plus dryer, oven, etc if electric. Grounding and feed wire but these are usually short runs.

Easy access basement/attic - any existing conduit?

Efficient use of chases and distribution could cut the wiring by a 1/3. Existing house requires less then optimal routing - for example every outlet might be dropped from the attic vs horizontal connection in new construction.


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HoosierJim
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by HoosierJim » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:42 pm

If I wasn't in a big hurry, I would thoroughly research smart circuits and home automation, sound, entertainment, video, security, outdoor lighting, data cabling AND wireless options before embarking on a house rewire.

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just frank
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by just frank » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:51 pm

I can think of no reason why the price of copper will be higher in the future than in the past.

jadedfalcons
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by jadedfalcons » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:54 pm

I sell electrical wire.

I'm not worried about the price.

He just wants to get a job locked in.

killjoy2012
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by killjoy2012 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 8:52 pm

I have friends that are electricians, and I dabble with personal and family projects. While no, no one knows if CU will go up or down in price, CU did spike 5-6 years ago and almost doubled the cost of a 250' roll of 12/2 or 14/2 Romex - that's a fact. Romex is fairly cheap right now comparatively, but still fairly expensive compared to 15+ years ago. And as others have pointed out, even with a double cost, the labor will be the majority of the cost.

OP - as someone that recently rewired a 100 year old house, pulling out the knob & tube, you need to be very clear with the electrical contractors bidding on the type/amount/cost of wall damage that you're willing to accept. Many contractors will not even be interested in bidding if you're expecting 0 wall damage. In fact, most would prefer to demo plaster/drywall on Day 1 in areas that would speed up their job. A zero damage job is generally too labor/cost intensive for most to be bother with (afraid their price will just scare you off). And even then, expect a couple accidents to happen.

My father, brother and I spend most weekends and several week nights over the course of a summer to rewire his 2 story, 2,500 sq foot house.... new 200A main service and all branch circuits. It was a BIG job... and definitely pull permits.

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Sandtrap
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by Sandtrap » Tue Feb 20, 2018 9:15 pm

Minimum.
Written estimates from at least 3 reputable licensed, insured, bonded electrical contractors.
All bidding on the same work to be done and same materials used.
Permits.
Progress payments then up to substantial completion, 10% for completion of punch list and "certificate of occupancy" if it's extensive and needed.
If areas are needed to be torn out and refinished, then bids for that and time frame to completion.
And so forth.
The cost of copper is negligible compared to total cost as a total house rewire, including new service and panel, from the original "knob and tube" is a labor intensive project.
j :D

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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 9:52 pm

Now that we've dispelled the copper wire cost skyrocketing rumor, I'll ask why you want to rewire the house in the first place. My house isn't old but I think the guy who did the wiring was more interested in how much weed he could smoke rather than running wire in a standard way. I'll follow a breaker around the house. I'll have 2 hallway lights on the first floor, the outdoor light in the kitchen and some outlets on the second floor.

What I found helped was to mark the breaker box with what it fed when I needed to work on any particular circuit. I do know that all the outlets are properly grounded and there are no 2 wire ungrounded circuits. If the wire is old but the insulation is good, I'd leave it.

I wired my garage myself and it's overly logical with each outlet marked with circuit number to match the breaker and a guide at the breaker box. The inspector loved me. There's no way I'm rewiring my house to make it logical.
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OnTrack
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by OnTrack » Tue Feb 20, 2018 10:45 pm

Could invest in a copper ETF or ETN. Then if the price of copper increases, the value of the ETF/ETN should increase. Then there is no need to rush into the project due to fear of increasing copper prices.

BTW, this sounds a lot like the inflationary psychology that took hold in the 70's where people felt compelled to buy things before the price went up, thus perpetuating the cycle of inflation.

denovo
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by denovo » Tue Feb 20, 2018 10:51 pm

Since your home was built in 1939, just sit back and hold tight and keep your money for things that break.
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obafgkm
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by obafgkm » Tue Feb 20, 2018 10:52 pm

killjoy2012 wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 8:52 pm
While no, no one knows if CU will go up or down in price, CU did spike 5-6 years ago and almost doubled the cost of a 250' roll of 12/2 or 14/2 Romex - that's a fact.
"CU"? Is that "Consumer's Union"? In context, I doubt it.

Do you mean to type "Cu" for copper?

btenny
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by btenny » Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:05 pm

Why are you thinking about rewiring your house? Wiring does not wear out nor get old. Insulation gets dried out but does not break or become unsafe unless it is disturbed. Yes wiring standards back when were not as robust as modern houses or set up for the high power modern kitchens and laundry rooms. So unless there are real problems most people do not rewire. Rewiring is very intrusive and damaging to plaster and walls and paint and ceilings. And rewiring is expensive. So most people do not rewire unless they are doing a major remodel. Or do you have firm added electrical load that needs to be added and wired? Is there some inspection that you had where the wiring insulation was found lacking?

Are you remodeling the kitchen and or the laundry room to add a lot of new high power appliances? Are you adding a high power solar system or a electric car charger? Remodeling the garage to add lots of power sockets? Adding lots of new outlets in several rooms?

You get the idea from my questions above that if you are going to rewire the house you should probably do a lot of thinking about what all needs to be updated and added to the house features as well as new wiring.

Good Luck.

suemarkp
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by suemarkp » Wed Feb 21, 2018 12:19 am

I disagree about the older wiring. The insulation does break down and get brittle with age. The worst is ceiling light fixtures that people put over sized lamps in, or even when they updated you'll see that most ceiling fixtures made since the 1980's require the use of 90C rated wire which wasn't installed until 1985. So all the wires going in/out of ceiling light fixtures tends to be in poor shape. In the 60's and prior, the ceiling boxes tended to be where things were spidered out if a cable method was used.

If there is still knob and tube, that can be fire insurance issue and an EMF issue. If you extend a circuit, you're supposed to use arc fault breakers now (and boy go price those!). They are like a GFCI breaker in that is the neutral was stolen by another circuit, the AFCI will trip. Troubleshooting a code legal update can be a major pain if you leave old circuits behind, especially knob and tube.

Grounding was also poor prior to the 1960's. Many circuits may not have equipment grounds or if there is the old BX cable that cable armor didn't work well as a ground and could get red hot on a fault.

Lack of circuit capacity is another problem with older houses. Even kitchens from the 70's can be a problem now days.

So there are many good reasons to update. If you're going to rip any significant drywall out, consider changing plumbing while you're in there. Especially if it is galvanized.
Mark | Kent, WA

Valuethinker
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by Valuethinker » Wed Feb 21, 2018 9:55 am

HoosierJim wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:42 pm
If I wasn't in a big hurry, I would thoroughly research smart circuits and home automation, sound, entertainment, video, security, outdoor lighting, data cabling AND wireless options before embarking on a house rewire.
The best practice is to go wireless? The problem is that wired technologies go obsolete, and then you have a house full of useless cables. You literally get to the point where new electronics are not compatible with old cabling?

Someday we may decide all these radio signals are bad for us, in the meantime the best future proofing is wireless.

On the other hand, for electrical gizmos, it seems you can never have too many plug points (sockets) and never have enough capacity (within reason).

Modern appliances are electronics are often better on power consumption than 10-15 years ago, big jumps in efficiency in models available. However the arms race for a bigger TV etc. continues.

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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by tev9876 » Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:40 am

Multiple rooms on the same breaker is intentional. Back in 1939 the entire family would gather in the living room around power sucking tube radio and floor lamps with 1000 watts of bulbs heating up the place. With all activity centered in one room, you wanted to spread the power load on multiple circuits.

If you want to know what is where, spend an afternoon drawing a floorplan of your house with all of the lights and outlets. Turn off each breaker and figure out what it does, then label the floorplan. I did this when I first moved in my house, but of course lost it later. Now I use the "radio on full volume and trip breakers until it is off" method if I need to work on something.

I'm also in the don't fix what isn't broken camp. You also may be opening up other cans of worms - like running into asbestos that is perfectly safe undisturbed today.

Power draw in modern houses should be down substantially vs a couple decades ago. LED and CFL bulbs draw a fraction of what incandescent do. Modern TVs too. Phones, tablets and laptops don't draw much power. Ungrounded circuits can be modernized by adding a $20 GFCI and new 60 cent grounded outlets on the branchs (with proper labeling). If the microwave and blender are always tripping the breaker, then hire an electrician to pull one new circuit for the kitchen. There is no need to destroy your house to replace all wiring because it looks old.

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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by renue74 » Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:53 am

I rewired a 1600 sq/ft 1935 house last summer. I bought most of the wire myself and ran it with a buddy. 1000' ft of 14/2 (white) romex wire cost about $200 at HD. The kitchen and bathrooms GFCIs, and the washer require 12/2 (yellow) wire. Dryer 10/3 (black) and stove 6/3. Some 14/3 for 2way switches....then all the outlets, boxes, switches, GFCIs, etc. I think materials cost me about $1500 to $2000. The rest was the licensed electrian.

My walls were open. I had pulled all the plaster out and ran completely new electrical throughout. New boxes, lighting, GFCI, everything up to code.

I had an electrician actually wire the new panel and meter box portion. It still cost me about $6,000 total for the darn thing. I thought I would save money running the wire myself.

Copper is not that expensive. It's the $95/hour labor that get's you. I feel like sometimes they milk that.

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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by ThriftyPhD » Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:53 am

Valuethinker wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 9:55 am
HoosierJim wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:42 pm
If I wasn't in a big hurry, I would thoroughly research smart circuits and home automation, sound, entertainment, video, security, outdoor lighting, data cabling AND wireless options before embarking on a house rewire.
The best practice is to go wireless? The problem is that wired technologies go obsolete, and then you have a house full of useless cables. You literally get to the point where new electronics are not compatible with old cabling?
No. Cat 5 cables were available in the early 90s. They support 100 Mbps, and would work better than most wireless options. The spec was deprecated in 2001 with the introduction of Cat 5e, which allows for gigabit speeds. Cat 6a, introduced in 2008, allows for 10gigabit speeds for up to 100 meters. Note that all of these cables are backwards compatible with equipment that supports Cat 5, and the VAST majority of equipment will run just fine on Cat 5, never saturating the 100 Mbps available.

There are many devices that can run on power over ethernet (POE). This includes VOIP phones, security cameras, and wifi routers. This means that you just need to drop an ethernet cable to that security camera, and not install an outlet. It also means that a single uninterruptible power supply (UPS) on your main router will supply battery backup to all of your devices that are using POE.

So, if you're going to want to install some home security cameras, the best option may be to choose a quality POE set of cameras, figure out where you want them and drop a Cat 6a line to each location. Have a quality UPS and POE compatible router installed in a central location, and your security cameras will continue to work even if the power is out.

Installing Cat 6a through your home would plenty future proof. Devices 20 years from now will likely be able to use Cat 6a. If you're REALLY worried about it, have some conduit installed and the Cat 6a pushed through the conduit. In the future, if you want Cat 9g, it will be much easier to pull it through the existing conduit.

The more equipment that has a wired internet connection, the less that needs to use wifi. The fewer devices using wifi, the faster the connection for the remaining devices. In addition, you can improve your wireless network by having multiple routers through your home. POE can simplify this, and giving some thought to the layout of your home can tell you were these routers need to go to give the best coverage.

And, all of that is orthogonal to the suggestion for installing home automation equipment. This usually means replacing outlets, switches, or fixtures. Better to do this during an upgrade rather than after an upgrade, especially if all of this equipment will be replaced during the upgrade anyway.

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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by forgeblast » Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:57 am

Around this time too, a lot of stores do inventory. They might also have sales goals.
Our home was built by the owner, and man I wish they would have hired an electrician.
We are moving our kitchen and doing a remodel and watching someone who knows what they are doing and doing it right
is a joy!

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by Epsilon Delta » Wed Feb 21, 2018 1:39 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 9:55 am
HoosierJim wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:42 pm
If I wasn't in a big hurry, I would thoroughly research smart circuits and home automation, sound, entertainment, video, security, outdoor lighting, data cabling AND wireless options before embarking on a house rewire.
The best practice is to go wireless? The problem is that wired technologies go obsolete, and then you have a house full of useless cables. You literally get to the point where new electronics are not compatible with old cabling?

Someday we may decide all these radio signals are bad for us, in the meantime the best future proofing is wireless.
The following may be a bit a head of it's time. But I think the future is to put relays (or similar) near or in any switched device and control it remotely. I'd hold off rewiring an old house for a few years until the industry gets it's act together.

Consider what happens when you put a relay in each light fitting, control it remotely, and stop using 120V/5A on 12 gauge wire as a 10 baud data path. You lose all the switch loops and get far simpler topology for the wiring. You only need to do is run live/neutral/ground to each point of use This should reduce the amount of wire by at least half, increase safety, reduce the labor needed (particularly reducing costly electrician labor), increase convenience (switches are exactly where you want them). This will be particularly useful in a retrofit since avoids most wiring in walls.

The control signals can either be wireless, or low voltage signals over very thin wire (which can be safely run behind baseboards or buried in a slot in wall board where fishing through wall cavities is difficult).

This is what happens in vehicles, most of the control is on canbus so you only run four wires into a door instead of having to run a separate wire for each function. It's been standard in factories for decades, we routinely use relays to avoid a hundred foot switch loops of 000 cable.

Given the rapidly reducing cost of electronics this should become mainstream. The current costs of remote switches are unreasonably high, just like LED lightbulb were five years ago. Most current devices are designed to fit in switch loops, not eliminate them.

Now about wiring for data going obsolete. I know of cat 5 cables that are running well over 100Mb/s, There are probably some cat 3s doing the same You can't guarantee it before hand but you can test it and if it works theres no need to pull new cat 6, particularly for short links in a typical house. This is similar to POTS phone cables. Designed to carry analog signals from 20-2000Hz but used to carry DSL at 3Mb/s for miles in some cases.

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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by ThriftyPhD » Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:11 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 1:39 pm
Now about wiring for data going obsolete. I know of cat 5 cables that are running well over 100Mb/s, There are probably some cat 3s doing the same You can't guarantee it before hand but you can test it and if it works theres no need to pull new cat 6, particularly for short links in a typical house. This is similar to POTS phone cables. Designed to carry analog signals from 20-2000Hz but used to carry DSL at 3Mb/s for miles in some cases.
You're right, cat 5 is rated for 100 Mbps, but can go over that, particularly for short runs. I wouldn't replace cat 5 for cat 6 unless I had very specific needs.

But if you were doing a new wiring with no existing ethernet installed, would you go with 6 or 6a over 5e? I'm seeing 1000 feet of riser rated bulk 5e for $60 (on sale), cat 6 $90, cat 6a $140. Different prices for plenum rated, but either would likely meet the needs, decision would just need to come down to local code requirements. Depending on distances or POE needs, the 6a might be worth a price premium over the 6, but I think the 6 is a much better option than the 5e. Cost in materials is much less than what labor will cost, with the upside of 6/6a being more future proof.

Installing at the same time that the house is being rewired is good because it's best to avoid having the ethernet run in parallel to power cables. And if you can run conduit, all future proofing is taken care of since it's easy to pull new wire through the conduit.

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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by ralph124cf » Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:20 pm

Depending on your local building codes, Romex may not be legal, and conduit, either thinwall or flex, may be required. Do you have conduit now? If you do, pulling new wire will be very easy, with the problems occurring at junction boxes.

For a single story house, especially if you currently have knob and tube wiring currently, the easiest way will probably be to do the wiring from the attic or basement, and disconnect the existing current wiring entirely. This will allow you to add conduits to every outlet without opening the wall cavity (measure carefully). You can also add conduits for Ethernet and cable and telephone at the same time.

Based on when your house was built, you probably had a sixty amp panel. If you have, or are considering, central air or an upgraded electric kitchen, you really should have 200 amp service. An electrician is definitely needed for this.

Ralph

Countermoon
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by Countermoon » Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:35 pm

I live in a small house built in 1939. I talked to several electricians who advised me not to update the wiring due to the cost. Walls and ceilings would need to be removed and it would be a large expense for little gain. The entire 2nd floor, kitchen, and bathroom were gut renovated when I bought the house in 2016 so much of the wiring is brand new.

I wouldn't bother doing it unless you're going to be in this house for decades to come.

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by Epsilon Delta » Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:40 pm

In general I think trying to future proof is a waste of time and money. The amount of just-in-case cable that is dark and will always remain dark is staggering. So I just install what I plan to use in the next year or so. I bought a bulk reel of cat 5 a decade ago and I just use what is on hand. I really can't see what I would ever need more than about 20Mb/s at random points in the house. Particularly running a star network (and see below). If my fridge or toaster ever needs gigabyte ethernet there is something seriously wrong.

My approach to conduit is to not finish the basement and attic and treat them as one huge conduit. It's probably worth installing a large riser between the two, and maybe one or two where you intend to mount TVs. It was a pain to go from coax to HDMI to ethernet. But note that preplanning by using better or more coax would not have helped here, I do in fact have two coaxes behind one TV and they are both now dark. The only use I could make of them is as fishtapes.

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Re: House rewiring - cost of copper

Post by Rwsavory » Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:27 pm

We've owned two old houses during the last 30 years, with our current one dating to 1909. The biggest lesson to learn in owning an older house, and the hardest sometimes, is that if it ain't broke don't fix it. There will be plenty of stuff to spend your money on, so you have to choose your battles carefully. If you make a major improvement, such as a bathroom or kitchen renovation, that's the time to do upgrades, but only to the extent necessary to comply with codes.

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