I’ve used the car analogy before when discussing rewires so apologies to regular readers but I do this as I think it is a great way to demonstrate the point that a rewire is the equivalent of scrapping your old car and starting all over again with a new one.
There are many alternatives to the all-out scrapping our car approach, such as getting individual parts replaced before it no longer becomes economically viable to keep doing it. Rewiring a house is the same concept. There are alternatives to rewiring a house that can be looked into before we decide enough is enough and scrap the old wiring altogether.
There are many alternatives to rewiring a house, such as having the fuse box changed, swapping out the old electrical accessories or even having just a partial rewire of the faulty circuits. All these options come with good and bad points that should be taken into consideration.
Get A Condition Report Carried Out By An Electrician
The first port of call when thinking that a rewire may be on the cards is to employ a qualified and licensed electrician to carry out a thorough inspection of the electrical installation. In the Uk, we call this an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR for short)
I’m sure it goes by other names in various parts of the world but the premise is still the same. An electrician will come to your home and over the course of about half a day, they will complete a non-obtrusive (ie we won’t start banging holes in your walls or lifting floorboards!) to check on the overall safety of the electrical installation.
Once this report is carried out, a certificate is issued with the electrician’s recommendations for improvements that should be made to make the electrical systems safe. This report will inform both the electrician and the homeowner if a rewire is necessary.
Although there is a cost for this report, it is the only way for a homeowner to know what actually needs to be done to bring their home up to the latest regulations. In the same way, an MOT is an in-depth check to make sure our car is safe for continued use the EICR checks our electrical wiring and systems are safe for continued use.
Some electricians will not carry out a rewire or fuse box change without carrying out this report first to see if a rewire is actually required. Although the report costs money, throwing thousands of pounds at an unnecessary rewire costs far more.
It’s important to listen to the advice and experience of the electrician carrying out the report so finding a local one you trust is important.
If an electrician has tested the house and has advised that a rewire is required you have the option to get a second opinion from another electrician. Worth remembering though, that this second test and opinion comes with the expense of having the work done again and if both electricians have the same standard of professionalism it should yield the same results.
Once we have the report in place we can look with the electrician if there are options for improving the electrical installation beyond the all-out send the old installation to the scrap yard approach of a rewire.
Fuse Box Change
Upgrading a fuse box to a modern consumer unit can have a great benefit on the electrical safety within the home. Modern consumer units have safety functions such as RCD and anti-surge protection not found on older style boards.
Fuse box changes typically take around a day to complete and when finished the electrician will issue a test certificate to demonstrate to the homeowner and the local government that the installation complies with the current regulations.
The wiring within the home is not changed during a fuse box change so the original wiring buried in the walls and above the ceilings will need to be certified safe for continued use by the electrician carrying out the work.
Electrical Accessories Changed
Electrical accessories cover items in the home such as socket outlets, lights and switches. Having all the electrical accessories changed can bring a fresh look to the home. Be warned tho, that the wiring will need to be up to scratch otherwise we are simply sticking a plaster over a wound rather than fixing the problem.
As with a fuse box change, after changing any accessories the electrician will need to issue a test certificate stating that the wiring is safe. They are only going to carry out accessories changes if the problem is purely cosmetic (like wanting to swap white plastic accessories for shiny metal ones)
A partial rewire can be a good alternative to rewiring a house if the original circuits being kept comply with safety regulations
For example, if the upstairs lighting has been certified and recommended for a rewire, but the electrician has certified that all the other wiring within the home is ok, then it can make sense to only have the upstairs lighting rewired.
Partial rewires like this are often carried out when there is a fault on the circuit that is hard to track down or get access to. A vermin infestation may have chewed through the cables in our loft space so rather than putting lots of joins in the cable a safer and more professional option can be to rewire the circuits from scratch.
Can I Avoid A Rewire?
Avoiding rewiring a house is possible as long as a qualified electrical is able to carry out a condition report on the installation and sign it off as safe for continued use. Some homeowners jump to worst-case-scenario thinking that they need a complete rewire before even getting an expert in to have a look.
For months my car was making a terrible noise every time I went over speed bumps. As the car is getting on a bit I convinced myself that at the next MOT inspection it would be the end of my faithful VW Polo. Once the mechanic got it up on the ramp he discovered it was just the shock absorbers (a reasonable fix costing a few hundred pounds) and the Polo lived to fight another day.
This highlights how with no real mechanical knowledge I’d convinced myself of a worst-case scenario outcome before a professional had even looked at it. I was just guessing what the fault was and wasn’t aware of any of the options available to fix it.
This blog post is designed to give readers an idea of the options available as alternatives to a rewire. It is in no way a substitute for getting a local electrician to test the property and give their expert opinion in person. Electrical safety is a serious matter and must be handled in person by a qualified expert.