Should we re-do all the old electrical wire in a Philly reno?

6 Replies

My partner, a GC, and I are involved in our first flip in Philly (Girard Estates area) and we're trying to decide whether we can keep the some of the old wiring in the house or whether we need to completely re-do it. It's old cloth-bound wiring, I'd guess from when the house was built in the 1920's. Right now, everything works just fine. An electrician we trust said that as long as the wiring looks to be in good shape, and is working, we can keep it as long as it's holding only 15 amps and we re-distribute heavier loads to new wiring (like in the kitchen, for example). That would certainly be helpful as a lot of the wiring is currently behind plaster walls.

My question is this: if we keep some of the old wiring and it one day causes problems after the sale of the house, are we liable for any damage? Is old cloth wiring something we would need to disclose before the sale of the house? Any other considerations we're missing here?

You probably would need to disclose it and my understanding is that if you open the walls you may need to rewire in order to get permits.  I do not know PA law for sure so look up your local regulations

You aren't liable for old wiring so long as it's clearly shown on the seller's disclosure.

Older wiring will almost certainly affect the resale value, possibly so much so that a buyer would back out of the purchase after the inspection or request a substantial discount, so it really depends on what your plan is with the property. If you're doing a full gut or semi-gut renovation anyway, and trying to sell near the top of the price point for the area, then yes it's definitely a good idea to spend the extra money to redo the wiring now. If you're only putting in some basic cosmetic upgrades, and leaving older plumbing and mechanicals otherwise, and asking a low price for the location hoping for a quick sale, then you can likely get away with leaving it.

I believe that most buyers in the Girard Estates area of Philly (higher priced homes) are going to be looking for a final product that has updated wiring. Especially because older wiring can affect the buyer's ability to get insurance coverage.

I agree completely with @Ethan Giller . It sounds like you intend to keep some of the original pieces of the home, perhaps you are just going over the older walls with new drywall? Either way definitely disclose the wiring clearly and perhaps get something from your electrician stating that he inspected the old wiring's condition to put buyers at ease. I have seen old wiring kill deals though, so if possible have it replaced.


Thanks for all the input everyone. Doing a complete re-wire sounds like the move. 

@Ethan Giller We are definitely looking to go near the top of the market for the area... it's my instinct too that buyers will be looking for new wiring at that price point.

@James Brand , Yes we are keeping some of the original features: the plaster walls, which are in great shape, will get a new skim coat, and there are original pristine hardwood floors in the living room. We're also debating keeping the radiator system instead of installing HVAC, and we're debating keeping the hot water heater as the current one looks to be in good shape, but everything else will be new.

Hey @Nikki Taylor ,

I agree with everything that was written above, if it were a rental property in the area you probably wouldn't lose much value, if any, in your rent but since it is a flip and you are trying to hit the high end of the comps I would absolutely recommend updating the wiring. Although, if you are keeping the radiators, original flooring, and water heater then the wiring might not make much of a difference, either way, check the date on your water heater, they are good for 10 years. 

My advice would be to update the HVAC and the wiring or neither, your house will first be judged more on the overall vibe versus the details in most situations. 

@Nikki Taylor If you're going for top value at top price point in the area, upgrade the wiring at least. I'd also take a look at comps - did they have new hvac at your price point? Do the current houses for sale have it? If they have it at a similar price, you'll likely need to update it, unless your property will have them beat in other upgrades.