Electrical Costs...the 3rd rail of home improvement.

13 Replies

Good Morning Bigger Pockets!

I have made it my goal to get better at quickly estimating rehab costs. I have gotten pretty good at identifying and estimating almost everything in the house...however, I am still struggling in two very important areas...Electrical and Plumbing costs.

I have read that some investors calculate their cost to re-wire a home at $1.75-2.00/sq ft of the home. However, this is significantly less than what I experienced in my recent rehab.

So, I guess my question is...did I get ripped off? Did I over invest in my property with can lights and other things? This was my first project, and I acted as my own GC. So, I fully expected to pay a little more for some of my contractors. I didn't know what I didn't know yet. I would assume that most of these guys have "contractor rates" and "retail rates".

This is a 1400 sq ft 1950's brick ranch with 1.5 baths. It was clear that it needed major electrical work. We were replacing almost everything in the house, and had to bring the electric up to code. The home still had the original wiring, and most of the outlets were stretched out so that plugs would just fall out of them. 

We ended up putting in a new breaker box, re-wired the entire house, installed modern recessed lights, as well as a few other more modern elements such as outlets for TVs. 

One of the quotes is pictured below. It is detailed, and the total amount due is $5354. Which if I was to use the $2/sq ft cost estimate...I would have overshot my budget by a mile. This is not the electrician that did our project, however the price is in the ballpark of what we ended up paying. 

I would love to hear from other rehabbers on how they determine their electrical costs. I would greatly appreciate any insight that helps me get better at this.

Thanks in advance!

@Brandon Lee  

Its a little hard to read the quote, did that price include all the light fixtures as well?


I'm guessing those investors using that figure must be high-volume guys who can get pricing on that basis.  That is certainly nothing like what I can get.  

The last place we did was about 1500 sf.  Complete rewire, including upgrade to 200 amp.  Finished at just over $10k.

The romex alone was 1300.  For a 1500sf house, that's more than .80 a square foot.  And we're suppose to get it all done for $2/sf?

That reads to me like either a fantasy, or the price gotten by someone with huge purchasing power.

I could see, maybe, $2/sf as a LABOR ONLY cost.

Hi @AndrewCordle. That quote included the bathroom fan/light combo, smoke detectors, outlets & switches, as well as the can lights.

We had to provide the ceiling fans, bathroom light fixtures, dining room light, and counter pendant lights.

And, as I re-read your post, I see that you have at least two quotes in the same range.  Which suggests a reasonable price, and that I am right that $2/sf has no connection to reality, at least for anyone but very high volume guys.

Even for them, honestly, I can't really see how.  I already mentioned the romex.  Add a 200 amp panel at a couple hundred and you are already at $1/sf.  Can lights at $12 apiece, 3 dozen gang boxes at .75 apiece, CAT wire, TV wire, GFI outlets are like$15 apiece...

I think you are at close to that $1.75-2.00/sf just for materials.

The bathroom light/fan combo is like $175 right there.

No, you didn't get ripped off.  You got fed some bad information on what costs to expect.  Do you remember where you read it?

As an electrical contractor we don't price at a pet square foot.  If we do we will lose money. The last home I wired I figured after the bid it was around 5.50 a square foot. I feel you paid a fair , if not cheap , price.  

I remember now...it was an internet video by a "guru".

Jerry Norton on Properly Estimating Rehab Costs in 15 Minutes

Yeah, I guess I can estimate rehab costs in 15 minutes if I just pull a figure out of my a....

Thank you all for your input. I definitely feel like I learned a few things in calculating my costs...mainly, I can figure out exactly how many fixtures, lights, outlets, switches, and boxes I need...and now I know the costs. 

I think my only question is for @PeteCrutchfield as a contractor. Could I have gotten the above job for $4800?

Thanks for all your help!

Just got an estimate yesterday for a 1k square foot 2-story rowhome from an electrical contractor that does a ton of work for me and it was just over $5k. That's upgrading service to 200 amp from 100 amp and completely rewiring the entire house, etc. I'd love to see anything near $2/square foot!!! As @Richard C.  said, I'll be at $2/square foot in rough-in materials and panel alone, forget labor and finish work. 

Is it safe to say $5/sf then?

I pay people based off of time, not sf. The question i ask myself, being a knowledgeable individual, how many days, given what is desired, will this job take to complete, given 8 hour days. I come up with a flat amount of money that i pay either one or two people per day. Then that what a good amount to pay is. Add in material costs...then you have your appropriate total.

Electrical is going to be highly dependent on many things, including:

1.  Location.  I'll pay about twice as much in some areas where I rehab than other areas.  This has to do with insurance costs, competition, local codes, etc.  For example, do you have to wire to the 2008 NEC?  2011?  2014?  That makes a difference, because materials for the newer codes can be much more expensive -- you could spend an extra $1000 on breakers (arc fault) and outlets (tamper resistant) if you're held to the newest codes.

2.  Accessibility.  Are you wiring a house that's gutted with no sheetrock?  Or will the electrician have to cut sheetrock and fish wires?  Do you have a crawlspace or attic?  Or will the electrician solely have to go through ceilings and walls?

3.  Time.  Do you want someone who is going to bring one or two helpers and wire your house in two days?  Or can you wait two weeks for the part-time guy to do it himself?

4.  Fixed Price or T&M.  Will the bid be fixed to include any changes/repairs required by the inspector (even if the inspector is being unreasonable)?  Or will any changes be charged separately should you fail an inspection?

To give a ballpark, I've paid $2.50-3.00 per square foot for new construction wiring.  Most recently, I paid $12K to wire a 4000 sf house in Maryland to 2011 code, plus wiring of Ethernet to all rooms -- this was an electrician and helper who got the rough done in 2 days and the finish done in a day.  I think this is a pretty good benchmark for what most investors in much of the country (though certainly not the whole country) could expect for a similar job.

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