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How do I know if a house I am buying needs to be rewired?

When you are buying a second hand home, one of the big questions which a lot of people will have is around the electrics and whether or not they will need to be upgraded or "rewired".

In general, every 10 years a house should be inspected by an electrician to test and certify the electrical system and give any recommended upgrades or repairs. In reality, most people do not have this done, so if you are buying a second hand home you should budget to have an electrician inspect the system and in some cases budget for a full rewire.

Electrical systems experience wear and tear over time and regulations/standards improve over time as we learn better, safer methods and develop better materials. So an electrical system which was installed on a house 50 years ago would not meet today's standards and would need to be rewired.

In addition, faulty electrics are one of the most common causes of house fires and so ensuring the electrical systems are up to date and in good condition is vital for the safety of you and your family.

What is a house rewire?

A house rewire is the process of bringing the electrical system in a house up the current standard. In most cases this would be done for safety and efficiency purposes.

For the most part, it does what it says on the tin (if you are under 40, that just means it is what it sounds like) - replacing all the electrical wiring in the house. But it would also involve upgrading some of the electrical components like lights, switches, sockets, fuse boards, smoke detectors etc.

What are the tell tail signs that a house would need to be rewired?

Houses which were built before the 1990s and have never had their electrical systems updated would almost certainly need a full or partial rewire.

Ultimately, you would need the expert advice of an electrician who can inform you how much of the electrical system needs to be rewired. However, if you are viewing a house and see any of the following elements, it is a good indication that the electrics need to be updated and it would be a good idea to budget for that cost and speak with an electrician.

Old "Screw In" Style Fuse Board

These old fuse boards started being replaced in the late 1980s with newer "RCB" type units. The old fuse boards are not up to current standards and would indicate the house electrical system has not been updated in the last 35-40 years.

In addition to not meeting today's improved standards and not being suitable for modern households, the ceramic fuses used have become more and more difficult to find replacements for.

If the property has an old style fuse board with Ceramic screw in fuses, it will need to be rewired
Old and New Style Fuse Boards

Twisted Wiring on Light Fittings

This was a type of wiring used for lights extensively before the 1990s. However the grade of this wiring is not up to the current standard and not suitable for handling the electrical current needed for some lights. In addition, if you do see this wiring it is a minimum of 35-40 years old and so would be very prone to wear and tear.

The old type of wiring on light fixtures where 2 thin wires are twisted could be an indication that the house needs to be rewired to bring it up to current standards
Example of the old grade of "twisted" light fixture wiring

Low Sockets

The current requirements state that electrical sockets should be a minimum of 450mm from ground level. If the house has sockets which are lower than this, it is likely that the they have never been upgraded, or were upgraded a long time ago before the current standards came into effect.

If sockets in the home are lower than 450mm from floor level, it can be an indication that the property has never been rewired.
Example of sockets at ground level and correct height of 450mm

For example, many houses built in the 50s, 60s & 70s would have sockets at floor level. If these had been rewired in the last 30 years, they would have been raised higher on the wall.

"DIY Electrics"

Only a qualified electrician should work on the electrics in a house. Often when people "give it a go" themselves, the work is not completed to the same standard as a qualified electrician and this can be obvious with how the work is finished.

If you see any random wires where it looks like there shouldn't be, crooked or upside down sockets, switches or anything that just looks unusual, there's a good chance the work was not completed by a qualified electrician and so likely not certified.

How long does it take to rewire a house?

A house can be rewired in several days for smaller, less complex houses or up to 2 weeks for larger more complex jobs.

The work can be messy and create a lot of dust and holes in walls & ceilings, so it is important you find a company who not only completes the electrical work to a high standard, but also "cleans up" the work and at a minimum patches up and plasters any new openings they have created.

How much does a house rewire cost?

Depending on the size and complexity of the house, number of sockets, switches, lights etc, a full house rewire can cost anywhere from €10k to €20k.

To get a final quote you would need an electrician to inspect the property.

TIP: Gorman Electrical Services have built a handy online estimator. It takes just a few minutes to fill out and will get you an estimate which will be pretty close to the final cost. --> Instant Rewire Estimator


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