Rewiring or replumbing a house

22 Replies

the question is have any of you heard of or has had this happened to you. 

My father in law or boss has been in the construction business and roofing business for 40+ years now. He knows my goals in real estate investing and he warned me that there are certain situations you would be forced to rewire or replumb a house based on if it was up to code or not. Is this a logical thing ? I could understand if some shady wiring was done and having to redo that but rewire a house because the home didn't have power for a few months and now needs an inspection??? Thanks guys

If you had a really old house with knob and tube maybe if you pulled permit to renovate you Might have to redo... not sure.  I think the short answer would be no not normally.  some vacant houses get stripped of copper wire and copper drains... that would require a redo.

My electrician told me that if you do work that impacts more than 50% of the wiring in a house,  you need to bring all the wiring up to code.  This could mean rewiring if the old wiring doesn't meet code.

This might just be a Georgia thing,  but that is my understanding.  Not sure about the plumbing

I talked to a local electrician and he said mostly they make you bring the outside of your house to code if anything. He also stated that it can happen but very unlikely. Thanks for the reassurance 

Your father-in-law may be right, depending on your local building codes. If certain remodeling is done or certain components of a system are replaced, it can trigger an inspection and/or a requirement to bring the entire house up to code.

When purchasing a property that is new to you, be sure to do a comprehensive inspection. Then address safety issues and poor workmanship from the past. You have an opportunity to do your due diligence and improve a property. That is a good thing. Some things may be grandfathered in, even if not up to current new building code.

A friend of mine had a rental house and the tenant messed with both the electrical and the plumbing when trying to hook up his large RV to the house utilities. Unfortunately, because he compromised the electrical by spicing newer wire into the old aluminum wiring and messing with the electrical panel, the entire house had to be rewired and brought up to code. Also, a good portion of the plumbing had to be redone too. If the house wiring had been left intact, even though it was aluminum wiring, the city would not have required the rewiring of the entire house.

If a property is disconnected from power for a period of time and the utility company notices something unsafe when attempting to reconnect power, that could trigger an inspection or repair order too. 

Also, some banks and some insurance companies require an inspection, which may result in finding something that necessitates the need to rewire and/or replumb.

What specifically is your current situation?

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :

Your father-in-law may be right, depending on your local building codes. If certain remodeling is done or certain components of a system are replaced, it can trigger an inspection and/or a requirement to bring the entire house up to code.

When purchasing a property that is new to you, be sure to do a comprehensive inspection. Then address safety issues and poor workmanship from the past. You have an opportunity to do your due diligence and improve a property. That is a good thing. Some things may be grandfathered in, even if not up to current new building code.

A friend of mine had a rental house and the tenant messed with both the electrical and the plumbing when trying to hook up his large RV to the house utilities. Unfortunately, because he compromised the electrical by spicing newer wire into the old aluminum wiring and messing with the electrical panel, the entire house had to be rewired and brought up to code. Also, a good portion of the plumbing had to be redone too. If the house wiring had been left intact, even though it was aluminum wiring, the city would not have required the rewiring of the house.

If a property is disconnected from power for a period of time and the utility company notices something unsafe when attempting to reconnect power, that could trigger an inspection or repair order too. 

 Where would be the best place to find information on when you need to bring your house up to code

There is no actual situation at this point. It was more curiosity of things that could become a problem on a future property. My father in law was just giving me his 2 cents on things that can go wrong 

I have replumbed almost every house I've worked on. Have rewired or done extensive electrical work on almost all rehabs as well. If you pull permits the inspectors are going to want to see it up to code. Some things they'll let pass since it's "grandfathered." Electrical wise our city has been big on getting all smokes hard wired in, gfci's, etc. If you're working on a house built in 1980-now its generally not a big deal and easy to deal with though as these are prettt modern. Anything older you should you look into thoroughly. 

Originally posted by @Christopher B. :

I have replumbed almost every house I've worked on. Have rewired or done extensive electrical work on almost all rehabs as well. If you pull permits the inspectors are going to want to see it up to code. Some things they'll let pass since it's "grandfathered." Electrical wise our city has been big on getting all smokes hard wired in, gfci's, etc. If you're working on a house built in 1980-now its generally not a big deal and easy to deal with though as these are prettt modern. Anything older you should you look into thoroughly. 

 Are you mostly buying auction houses or are you seeing this on regular deals also ?

Originally posted by @Nate Wightman :

If you had a really old house with knob and tube maybe if you pulled permit to renovate you Might have to redo... not sure.  I think the short answer would be no not normally.  some vacant houses get stripped of copper wire and copper drains... that would require a redo.

 "Might" have to replace knob and tube wiring? That stuff is very dangerous and not built to handle modern electrical needs. I highly recommend everyone who remodels a house with knob and tub or even aluminum wiring to do a complete electrical update. Passing off an outdated house with new paint as "rehabbed" is unethical and taking advantage of the future homeowners

@Jordan Lagrassa You can contact your local code enforcement office for specific information. Also, I find talking with folks at the home and garden shows to be helpful. Often the local utility companies will have a booth and loads of real life stories about what they have encountered over the years. Good idea to know what to look out for before buying, so you can calculate the impact on your time and budget.

Originally posted by @Jordan Lagrassa :
Originally posted by @Christopher B.:

I have replumbed almost every house I've worked on. Have rewired or done extensive electrical work on almost all rehabs as well. If you pull permits the inspectors are going to want to see it up to code. Some things they'll let pass since it's "grandfathered." Electrical wise our city has been big on getting all smokes hard wired in, gfci's, etc. If you're working on a house built in 1980-now its generally not a big deal and easy to deal with though as these are prettt modern. Anything older you should you look into thoroughly. 

 Are you mostly buying auction houses or are you seeing this on regular deals also ?

 I haven't bought any houses from auction yet. We don't shy away from larger rehabs, moving floorplans, etc though. The older and crustier a house is the better so it naturally leads to the replacement of most if not all major mechanical systems. 

@Jordan Lagrassa Why are you questioning a 40 years of experience? Yes it happens, and it is only a matter of when.

@Christopher B. I am wondering why your statement implies that you NEED to change knob and tube wiring, and it is UNETHICAL? Really? I am not an electrician, but changing things that do not really need changing is absurd. I highly doubt that changing a whole wiring system will pay for itself or increase value. If something is old, it doesn't mean that it will fail.

@Manolo D. , I think that @Christopher B. was referring to claim a property has been rehabbed and leaving old knob and tube wiring would be unethical.  I and most would agree on that.  When you claim a property has been rehabbed the clear implication is it has been fixed up to good shape.  As a fireman I have been to my share of electrical fires.  Rod and tube have many issues and most are not able to handle modern electrical demands.  Then of course as you know that having GFIs on rod and tube wiring is useless, you need the ground wire to activate them.  I have seen that kind of wiring work for over 100 years, but romex and GFIs are way safer.

For the most part, you don't have to rewire or plumb a house even if it's old. But of course, there are exceptions. Usually we'll replace old galvanized plumbing, especially if there's low water pressure. But otherwise, we only change it out if it's missing or there's a problem. With wiring, it's harder to tell. Old knob and tube wiring is something we like to get rid of. And we always swap out old fuse boxes. But usually, unless the power isn't working for whatever reason, we don't go so far as to completely rewire the house.

@Jordan Lagrassa I have an example of needing to rewire my own home. About a year ago we got under escrow for our home I had my dad(a contractor) do the inspection with me, though we had waived the inspection contigency since the house, built in 1837, had been maintained really well over the years, and we got an amazing deal! We found during our inspection that the barn had knob and tube, but we didn't didn't find any sign in the main house. Our insurance company required that we have the knob and tube removed, so after closing I got my electrician in to do the work. As it turned out the knob and tube snuck its way into the main house and we ended up having to rewire the entire second floor. The lesson I learned is that if I find any knob and tube, there is likely more hiding somewhere else.

Originally posted by @Manolo D. :

@Jordan Lagrassa Why are you questioning a 40 years of experience? Yes it happens, and it is only a matter of when.

@Christopher B. I am wondering why your statement implies that you NEED to change knob and tube wiring, and it is UNETHICAL? Really? I am not an electrician, but changing things that do not really need changing is absurd. I highly doubt that changing a whole wiring system will pay for itself or increase value. If something is old, it doesn't mean that it will fail.

 Yes, you absolutely NEED to change knob and tube wiring. A fireman just explained to us all why. It is absolutely UNETHICAL to leave knob and tube wiring in any house in my opinion. If you leave it there and disclose that to the buyers and they're cool with it then that's on the them. However, I strongly believe it is our responsibility to remodel houses that will function properly and be safe for the future users. Leaving outdated, 100yrs old electrical that wasn't designed to handle modern electrical needs, that has been proven to be high risk for fire and does not pass any codes is not the responsible or ethical thing to do. It's also not possible to remodel a house with knob and tube wiring and not change it, if you're pulling any permits at least. 

@Jerry W. @Christopher B. while I agree with replacing it is safer for the new buyer, I still don't have the grasp on why you need the system needs a re-do. I might be looking at it in the wrong way, legally even if you pull a permit, grandfathered items are your choice either stay or change, I am only saying you don't have to. Safety wise, it is not, cost to benefit value, it's a matter of opinion.

@Jordan Lagrassa  so, Jordan   knob and tube wiring is very old... it is called this because they would run single wires thru spaces and attach the wire to a porcelain knob so it wouldn't contact the wood for the most part and when the wire came up to a wood member to pass thru it they would drill an oversized hole and slide in a porcelain tube kinda like a mouthpiece on a trumpet....kinda and then run the wire thru this tube.  the wires were typically insulated and none of this is a really big deal... however when they would splice into this wire they would strip off some insulation and just twist a second wire onto the original... this is problematic.  if a house has knob and tube you can almost always see it in the attic or crawl space.  lots of times it would be associated with a fuse panel instead of a breaker panel... little screw out fuses little smaller than a golfball.  

Now aluminum wiring started in the 40s or 50s??  if you look in the breaker panel you can tell it is not copper.  probably in several million homes??  I believe the current fix is to crimp on pigtails to all ends and replace the old switches and outlets... varies but think it is running $2500 to $5500 per house to correct... aluminum vibrates when it gets a little loose causing resistance and then heat.. hence the problem.

lots of homes have black pipe or steel pipe water lines used a lot in older homes and it is OK but it rusts inside and then as the corrosion continues the pipe gets weak at the joints mostly and often can fill up  and restrict water flow

all this being said I have seen extension cords run behind finished walls,  I have heard people removing 40amp breakers and replacing with 50amp breakers because the 40amp keeps tripping.  Just be aware of what you have and if you don't like knob and tube then don't buy it.. if you don't like lead paint then don't buy it.  Vermiculite insulation bad then don't buy it. 

if your house has knob and tube wiring and a cracked chimney tile you may want to fix the chimney tile before worrying about the knob and tube.. 

some people are OK speeding by schools and some of us are not.  some are ok driving with bad brakes and no tread tires  and some of us would rather not.  risk and ethics are similar and personal. 

hope this has helped but not so sure it answers your questions. keep laughing and be a good human.

Originally posted by @Manolo D. :

Jerry W. Christopher B. while I agree with replacing it is safer for the new buyer, I still don't have the grasp on why you need the system needs a re-do. I might be looking at it in the wrong way, legally even if you pull a permit, grandfathered items are your choice either stay or change, I am only saying you don't have to. Safety wise, it is not, cost to benefit value, it's a matter of opinion.

 Local governments operate differently. Here in Knoxville, TN, if I did anything electrical wise to a hourse that has knob and tube they would have me bring it to modern code. They're trying to get the housing stock up to current codes. If I moved nothing and just replaced recepticles I may be able to pass code due to it being grandfathered but I wouldn't buy a house with old electrical like that unless it is cheap enough to replace it all. It's just how I operate. Now I've remodeled houses that had copper wiring but not the grounds that you see in the 50' and 60's houses without doing rewires. To pass code we put gfci breakers in at the box for all bathroom, kitchens, etc. This is substantially cheaper and just as safe imo. Heck, I did it on my personal, 1950's home 6yrs ago.

This is really a question for your local plan review/permitting department.  Set up an appointment with them so you can ask when bringing everything up to code is required.

If you touch any electric, they are going to want to see GFCIs in the kitchen and bathrooms.  Apprently in Austin they are now requiring AFCI as well.  I assume that may affect you as well.

Check out a book on home inspections and see what they look for and report....or the home inspectors forum online.
Three issues...all previously mentioned. You may limit your insurance choices, you may be forced to bring some items up to code if you do any work on the house and lastly, if you flip you will have the buyers inspector weighing in...and buyers imagine the worse sometimes.