Ultimate Homeowners rewire Guide for 2021

So you have just found out your home needs to be rewired, have you?! Well, you have a lot to plan and possibly budget for. Follow this guide and get the most from your full (or is it a partial?) rewire. I’ve rewired apartments, bungalows, houses and shops all over Cardiff City. But enough about me: this advice applies wherever you live in the UK. So make yourself a brew and let’s get started!

Think of rewiring your home as a blank canvas. I see so many prospective rewire jobs where the client “just wants whatever is there at the moment”. Listen, this is your chance to get sockets, lights and data points where you want them. It doesn’t really matter what I, or any other electrician in Cardiff thinks to be honest. It’s your home and it’s going to cost you thousands. So plan it properly and do it once.  I’ll happily share my thoughts, tips and tricks for you – the homeowner before asking electricians to quote.

Ten things to ask yourself before rewiring your home

  • Am I going to live in my home whilst the rewire takes place?

My advice: Move out. Stay with friends, family, airbnb – or whatever it takes to get out. It will get done quicker and you are less likely to get stressed out whilst your home is taken to bits. Ask friends, family and work colleagues if they have experience of house rewires and see what they say. I no longer do occupied rewires.

  • How am I going to pay for the rewire and any other trade work once it has been completed?

When you get electricians to quote: don’t forget to ask payment terms. Some want partial payment to book the job in and get materials. Others may want 50% when first fix is completed and the balance when the rewire is finished and certified. On the subject of payment, check how they want payment to be made. Some electrical contractors, including Simon Portillo’s Electrician Services offer credit card payment for all electrical work. Shameless plug, i’ll get back on track.

  • Do I want the wiring and accessories surface mounted or chased inside the walls?

Rewiring is labour intensive. Surface mounting cables and accessories will save on labour time and therefore costs. But, it doesn’t look as nice. It doesn’t look too bad in places (like running vertically up the corner of a wall for example), but if it’s everywhere; it will stand out like a sore thumb. Chasing wiring and accessories takes longer, makes mess and costs more for redecoration, but does look a lot neater when finished.

  • Do I have any plans to change the kitchen?

The kitchen is the big one when it comes to planning a rewire. Why? Well, think of any other room in your house. Electrical requirements are – what, three sockets, a ceiling light and switch. Ok, a lot of people are asking for data points on rewires now, but you get my point. Now, the kitchen:

Cooker circuit – a dedicated circuit for a hob and over. If its a really super duper kitchen, you might even have two cooker circuits.

Socket circuit- With the amount of appliances and socket outlets installed today, it’s common practice to install a socket circuit in the kitchen all for itself on a rewire.

Lighting – Are you having a million downlights? Well, some electricians install a circuit for the kitchen lights on a big install.

Heating – Due to their layout, some kitchens don’t have much space for central heating radiators. So, plinth heaters can be used in these circumstances. If there are a couple of these. then there is another circuit.

Whilst it’s fresh in my mind, let me tell you about the electrical dependencies for a recently completed rewire in Cyncoed:

One Induction hob. One double oven. One plate warmer. One cooker hood extractor. One wall mounted extractor fan. Under cabinet lighting. Plinth lighting. Twenty downlights. A grid switch assembly for the dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, fridge freezer and wine chiller. Ten, double socket outlets.

Your kitchen might not sound anything like that. But I think you get my point about the planning required for a kitchen compared to any other room in your house when it comes to getting it rewired. If the kitchen is staying as-it-is then it’s common practice to run the cables in at a low level and route them through the void in the cabinets. This saves taking the wall cabinets down and damaging tiles.

  • Are the electricians quoting registered and providing me with the relevant certification upon completion?

For crying out loud: make sure whoever you hire to rewire your home is registered. You can check this yourself right now on the competent person register. Don’t be fooled in to thinking you don’t need any certification. If you want to sell your home or have any challenges with your insurer: they will ask for it.

  • How much of my belongings do I need to put in to storage?

How much stuff have you got then? Are you very frugal with purchases or a hoarder? The less possessions you have whilst the rewire takes place, the better. It’s as simple as that. The more you have in the way, the longer it will take (and therefore the price will be higher) and there is always the risk of things getting damaged. I’ve done rewires on two bedroom houses with bugger all space where the owner has hired a long wheelbase van and put items in there. One rewire had a huge tent in the garden full of items. All water tight.

  • How long is it likely to take?

Rewiring is a two (I almost said man then), person task. Whilst its hard to give a definitive time scale for you dear reader: your chosen electrician should give you an idea when they take a walk around your place. Some of the variables I can think of, include:

The amount of stuff you have (including the loft). This is how the upstairs lights are rewired.

If you are going to live in the house whilst the rewiring takes place. I would advise not to, but maybe you have no choice! See what they say about the matter.

What the flooring is on the first floor. Carpet can

  • Do I need to let the neighbours know there is going to be noise whilst the rewire takes place?
  • Do I need anything else installed that I don’t have at the moment?

Rewiring is very labour intensive and disruptive. The quickest rewires are empty properties. So that’s no possessions or anyone living there. Items restrict access and can stop sections of the floor being lifted. And there is always the risk of damage. If you want to live in the property whilst the rewire takes place; time is spent at the end of each day making it safe and power needs to be kept on. The longer the rewire takes, the more money it’s going to cost you and not all electrical contractors carry out occupied rewires.

Sections of the floor will need to be lifted in places along with access to the loft. Clients often say “let me know where you need access; and I’ll make space”. But the truth is: access is needed almost everywhere! It’s a bit like saying to your body “let me know where blood is going and i’ll make sure you don’t get blocked in”. The house would be empty in an ideal world (and only world if the electrician you want to hire only takes on empty properties!) whilst rewiring takes place. Walls and coving will be chased away in places to bury cables which will need plastering and decorating afterwards. Unless you opt for the surface mounted trunking option which although quicker to install; has none of the mess associated with wall chasing. That said, it is noticeable in some areas of the house.

Surface mounted accessories with matching plastic trunking is the cheapest and less messy way to rewire, compared to:

Chased in accessories takes longer, causes a mess and requires redecoration although the nicer looking option once completed.

If you or your neighbours work from home then you may need to make alternative arrangements to get away from all the noise and disruption. Depending on how much furniture, paintings, books and hi-fi equipment there is, you may even need to place some items in a detached garage or storage. Do you want to risk possessions getting damaged or pay electricians to move furniture when they could be getting on with the rewire?

When bungalows, apartments and houses are built the cables go in before the walls, ceilings and floors are dressed up. Now you need a rewire thirty years later; some of that will need to be undone! If you have already moved in you will need to prepare yourself for disruption. Some people choose to stay with relatives, friends or plan a holiday to let the electricians get on with it – at least for the first part, referred to as first fix where are the cables are routed to where they need to be. The less obstacles they have, the quicker you can get your home back to normal!

What to think about before getting your house rewired

Replacing the wiring in your home is something you only want to do once so think wisely! Some customers make the most of the expense and disruption by getting everything they need now and for the foreseeable future. With help from my rewire guide you can do the same.

Are you going to live in the house whilst the work is being carried out? Some do, but its a lot easier if you don’t! Occupied rewires means less daily working time. The last hour can often be spent making things safe for your return (like putting floorboards back down) only to be undone again the following morning! The longer it takes, the more money its going to cost you.

How much stuff have you got? Book cases, sofa’s, tables, beds, laminated flooring and integrated wardrobes all add time to the job because they are in the way of sockets, switches, fuse boards and all the cables inside the walls and under the floor. If you contact electricians who rewire properties in the Cardiff area they will tell you unoccupied, empty houses are a dream to wire compared to an occupied one full of items, which aren’t so popular! Bear this in mind if you are thinking of buying a home, or know someone who is!

Are the light switches on the correct side of the door opening? If they aren’t, now is the time to correct them. What about the location of lights: do you have a long hall with just one fitting in the middle with two dark spots either end? Now is the time to resolve that. Always think LED for lighting: they use less power, come in a range of outputs and don’t generate any heat making them much safer, especially for the increasingly popular downlights which sit inside the ceiling void. Do you want to dim any locations – like above your dinning table for example? Dimmers need to have deeper back boxes, not the plaster depth ones often found in Cardiff homes.

It’s not uncommon to see socket outlets installed directly on top of the floor in older properties throughout Cardiff’s City Centre. Socket locations and heights can both be corrected as part of the rewire

  • Socket locations: Are they where you really want them and are there enough for today’s electronic equipment? Most customers want at least three double sockets in each room, apart from the kitchen where people need much more for all the gadgets and usual washing machine, tumble dryer, dish washer, microwave, kettle, toaster and coffee maker.
  • What about electrical items you haven’t got at the moment, but might want in the future? If you are thinking about an electric shower, induction hob, outside lighting, hot tub or summer house; now is the time to mention it. The cables can be brought to the location ready for future work, like kitchens, hot tubs and detached summer houses.
  • Is the location of your existing fuse board OK? Rarely in a perfect place; but if you need to use ladders or take furniture apart to operate it – sort it now.
  • Buying your own parts. This is something some customers suggest but it’s just not worth it in my opinion. You might have seen a deal of the century in your favourite DIY store, but electricians know what works, what doesn’t, what is a good, reliable brand and can probably get it for less than you anyway. Maybe you want brushed chrome accessories or mirror.  Just ask! If you are going to the expense and disruption of having your home rewired then its a good idea to have the same brand of accessories fitted throughout. Just let them know what you want and let them source it all for you.
  • Do you have any plans for your kitchen? A typical room in a house will have a light and some sockets.  Kitchens need a lot of planning for all the electrical requirements.  Cabinets may need to be removed and sometimes tiles smashed off. Cables need to run from wherever your accessories are (lights, switches, sockets, showers, boilers) back to the consumer unit.

Questions i’m often asked by customers during a rewire

❔ What happens to the old wiring?

Old cabling can be cut off and removed wherever the electrician has access to them. That said, wiring is buried inside walls, under floors and above ceilings. The only way to get rid of every single piece is to take your home to bits so it doesn’t happen. Old socket outlets and light switches can be removed and plastered over if relocating.

❔ How long is it going to take and would we be better off moving out whilst it is being worked on?

This depends on the size of the property, how much chasing there is to do, what the flooring is made of and what the access is like in the loft to name a few. Family and friends will share horror stories of having their house rewired whilst living there at the same time, i’m sure! I’ve worked for clients in Cathays, Cyncoed and Pontcanna although ask any Cardiff electrician – an occupied rewire will always take much longer than an empty one. That’s because even when there is little furniture in the way, the property still needs to be made safe for the occupants to return every evening. The last hour of the working day can be getting the floor suitable for walking on, or all the dust sheets out of the area – an hour which could be spent getting on with the rewire if the property were empty. Some electricians are happy to work longer days to get the job done quicker, but you might not want a tradesman working in your house at 8am when getting ready for work, or 7pm when you want to relax after working yourself. The fewer obstacles in the way, the quicker (and more cost effective) it will be for you. So, if you are considering purchasing a property, get the electrics checked in the way of a electrical installation condition report before moving in.

❔ Do I need a skip?

This was the waste from rewiring a three bedroom house. A mixture of rubble from the wall chaser, old cable and cardboard boxes from the new cabling and accessories

Most waste from rewiring can be categorized to make removing it as simple as possible for the customer to deal with if they wish. Plastic bags and cardboard boxes from electrical accessories can be recycled. Dust and rubble from wall chasing will need to be disposed of and does not come under the usual domestic waste we place outside for regular collection. Most customers arrange for someone to collect this or take to the local recycling centre themselves.

❔ Can we start working on any part of the house whilst the wiring is being replaced?

It’s best to wait until the rewire has been completed, chases in-filled, tested and certified before getting on with other work like new flooring or decorating.

❔ I noticed your estimate includes smoke and heat detectors. I would like to install my own battery operated models.

The building regulations states a major alteration of the building (which includes a rewire) requires registered electricians to install mains, interlinked smoke detectors as part of the job. The Aico models i install are mains powered with sealed, lithium back-up batteries (no need to replace – whilst in date) and last ten years.

❔ Can any of the electrical accessories be re-used?

Unless any of your items are already brand new its rarely worth re-fitting old accessories.  Its best to fit new accessories with new wiring for piece of mind and longevity.  Often customers will ask for some of their original light fittings to be re-fitted.  Instead of a pendant set you would expect to see in a brand new home.  Sometimes customers will ask specifically for a basic pendant drop so the rewire can be completed and fit nicer lights at a later date.

❔ How long does the noisy, messy part go on for?

The first fix is the messy part.  That is when walls are chased, floors lifted, cables and socket boxes installed.  I in-fill my chases as part of the job so you wont need to arrange for a plasterer to come in before i get on with the second fix (the nicer part where the accessories are fitted). I use a bonding coat plaster to hold the cables in place and then finish off with good quality Gyproc Easi-Fill ready for decoration. On a typical three bedroom house the first fix will last around five working days.

❔ Can i fit USB sockets after the rewire has been completed?

If you want usb sockets installed – have them done as part of the rewire. It wont cost you anymore in labour and you know they have been professionally installed.  Some usb socket outlets need deeper back boxes to allow for the transformer. The electrician can do this as part of the job.

❔ I have arranged for a tiler to re-tile the kitchen.  What will happen to the socket outlets you have just installed?

Because cables supplying the kitchen accessories often come down the walls; tiles need to be hacked off to install the new wiring and socket outlets

Most tilers slacken the socket screws off to allow the socket to lift away from the wall to get the tiles installed correctly. The other option is to place the cables inside an enclosure to allow the tiler unrestricted access and have the sockets re-fitted once the tiling job has been completed.

❔ What do you think my total cost for the rewire will come to?

Your total cost for your house rewire will be:

✅ The amount the electrician charges you

✅ Plastering work (if you hire me I will in-fill all the chases as part of the job)

✅ Redecoration costs (paint, wall paper and a decorator if you aren’t going to do it yourself)

✅ Storage (if you have placed items in to storage)

✅ Accommodation and travel if you decide to stay elsewhere whilst the rewire is taking place.