Can You Rewire One Room At A Time? (And Is It Even Worth It?)

I got a phone call this week which made me stop and have a think. The person on the other end was a friend of mine looking to ‘pick my brains.’ The friend in question has undertaken a big house refurb so I’ve become accustomed to having my ‘brains picked,’ over all matters electrical.

This week’s question was, can you rewire one room at a time? Although he’s not asking me to go and do the work (I work as an electrician for a company and have no interest in taking on major side projects) I wanted to make sure that I still gave him the best advice I could.

This post is my thought process about the good and bad of rewiring a house one room at a time and on balance is rewiring one room at a time a good road to go down.

House being rewired
Rewiring a house can turn a home into a construction site

Let’s jump to the quick answer then we can delve a little deeper into the topic.

Can You Rewire a House One Room at a Time?

You can absolutely carry out a rewire in a house one room at a time. However, the implications in terms of additional time, mess, and expense may mean that biting the bullet and getting the whole house done in one go is the better option.

For what its worth, my opinion is that when choosing to do a rewire room by room, homeowners are opening themselves up to a drawn-out process of disruption, dust (so much dust!), and additional expenses (it takes many repeat visits to rewire this way which leads to higher electrician costs).

I don’t want to get too into the weeds about why it is tricky and takes longer as I have a bad habit of bamboozling readers, but the below example may provide some insight for those interested. A simple explanation is that when we do a complete house rewire on a vacant property we turn the power off on day one and it doesn’t need turning back on again until we finish.

This gives us the advantage of being able to remove the old circuits and wire in the new circuits in one complete go. When doing one room at a time it is a juggling act. We now must keep the power running to the rest of the house whilst installing new circuits into each room one at a time. Then connecting them up. It all gets a little tricky. Definitely doable but more tricky.

I recently discovered battery-powered wifi routers, like this one on amazon, that seems like a great way to maintain consistent internet during the times when the power must be turned off. A great solution for working at home during project.

As mentioned at the start, rewiring a house one room at a time is possible and the right electrician will be able to take on the work. However, as it throws up additional challenges, the time and costs are going to be higher.

It’s also worth noting that finding an electrician to carry out the work may be a tad tricky. My advice is that you would want to find someone you know and trust to work well alongside you. Give and take are going to be required by both parties to make it all run smoothly.

To sum up, the answer to the big question is that if I’m ever in a position where I get to buy a house (if the prices in this city weren’t so high!) and that house needed a rewire I would live in the house whilst I was doing the work. I would break the rewire down into separate rooms, perhaps grouping a couple together at a time or maybe a whole floor.

The thing to remember though is that this is my hypothetical house and my hypothetical project. I can put up with the disruption and time it would take. If I’m being honest I’m not certain I would want to keep returning to a customer’s home over and over again to do the rewiring in sections.

Can You Rewire Just Downstairs?

A major rewiring project

It is possible to rewire just downstairs or even just one electrical circuit downstairs, for example, the socket-outlet circuit. Although the rewire is only downstairs it’s worth remembering that many of the cables need to be accessed by removing the upstairs floorboards.

Having a downstairs rewire still affects the upstairs rooms. The carpets will need pulling back and floorboards lifting (floorboard lifters such as this one on Amazon are a lifesaver for this task) to access the cables that run between the downstairs ceiling and the bedroom floor. This area of the house is like the highway for cables. It’s usually the main route that many cables travel along before taking exits towards their final destinations as sockets or switches.

When asked to do a downstairs rewire, I usually point out that it can make economic sense to rewire upstairs as well at the same time. If the downstairs sockets are being rewired and the cables run below the upstairs floorboards, then it is only a small leap to run the new cables to the upstairs sockets as well.

Even though this extra work will add extra costs and disruption, whilst the carpets and floorboards are lifted it’s worth taking into consideration at least.

Can You Rewire Just Upstairs?

It is possible to rewire just upstairs and in many ways, this is easier than rewiring downstairs. The carpets and floorboards can be lifted to access the cable highways running below the floor, and the open loft space is used to crawl around in and access the lighting circuits.

Loft spaces are excellent places for electricians to route cables. Whilst no electrician enjoys crawling around in amongst the insulation that is up there (why is it always so itchy!?) the advantage of being able to quickly clip the cable onto the wooden roof beams is a huge advantage.

Rewiring upstairs usually has little impact on the downstairs rooms, unlike the reverse situation of a downstairs rewire which does affect the upstairs rooms (see above). Even so, it may again be worth having a discussion with the electrician carrying out the work to see if it makes economical sense to do the downstairs at the same time (perhaps a great opportunity to get those living room downlighters you’ve always wanted)

How Long Does It Take To Rewire One Room?

The timescale required to rewire one room depends on the type of installation method used and the number of electrical outlets required, but 2 to 3 days would be a good estimate for rewiring one room as a general guide, not including the plastering afterward.

If the circuits are to be chased into the wall and then plastered over this takes much longer than using surface mounted containment methods that are available, such as mini trunking. Surface rewires as they are known are quicker, hence why many local authorities opt for this type of rewiring on their tenanted properties.

The downside with surface rewires is that they don’t look anywhere near as nice as having the cables neatly buried in the walls. Chasing and concealing the cables may take longer (can be substantially sped up by using chasing machines such as this one on Amazon) but the vast majority of homeowners want it done this way. For example, I personally would have a surface rewire in a garage but not in my living room.

Can You Rewire a House in Stages?

Rewiring a house in stages is a good way to continue living in the house whilst the work is carried out. Although the rewire will take longer than completing it all in one go, and the disruption is greater than most homeowners expect, rewiring a house in stages is an option.

Chasing walls can be a little messy at times

Rewiring in stages is a good option if you need time in between to save for each section of the project. I’ve spoken a lot about the additional labor costs when rewiring a room at a time, but the costs of the materials themselves are not cheap and shouldn’t be overlooked. Copper prices are at near all-time highs so spreading the material costs out in stages can be prudent.

Even though rewires can be done in stages they are messy. If at all possible the quickest and simplest way is to move in with friends or family for a week or two and get it all done in one go. It’s easier to do a rewire in one hit, for example, furniture can be moved to the middle of the room and left there for a few weeks nicely protected with dust sheets.

What Is a Partial Rewire?

A partial rewire simply means rewiring one or more sections of a house or commercial building. For example, rewiring just the kitchen could be referred to as a partial rewire. When having new kitchen cabinets fitted it often makes sense to rewire the circuits buried in the walls whilst they are accessible.

A partial rewire doesn’t even need to be an entire room. If I were to rewire all the socket outlets but leave the lighting circuits alone, we could refer to this as a partial rewire.

A partial rewire can be recommended when rewiring the circuit is simpler and more cost-effective than trying to hunt down a fault. Rewiring means that the new circuits will comply with the latest regs so rather than sticking a plaster over the fault we are doing the full operation to solve the problem once and for all.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve ever heard the expression you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs, this applies perfectly to rewiring a house. Some homeowners cant cope with seeing their house turned into a construction site for the few weeks it takes to carry out the rewire.

In my opinion, these personality types are much better of having the rewire done in one go whilst they stay with friends or family. They can leave on Monday and return on Friday to a clean tidy house.

On the other hand, if you are the type of person comfortable with living around some disruption, perhaps your renovation is an ongoing project you’ve been living around for years, then having a rewire done room by room is a good option for you.

Dave Nicholas

I have worked as a professional electrician for many years and like to use my experience to help others in any little way I can.

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