Restoration Guide - Electrical Overview

Shannon Lee

Editor's Note: This is article 2 of 8 in Chapter 7: The Electrical Guide of Old House Web's Home Restoration Guide. This guide was developed and edited for old homes from original materials in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rehab guide.


When working with home restoration and preservation of an old house, electricity should be of utmost concern. The electrical systems in the house must be reliable, efficient, and above all, very safe. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 400 homes are damaged by electrical fires every day, and some of those fires cause serious injury or death. Careful electrical work can help prevent your old house from becoming a statistic.

In many old houses, the framing and plumbing system are the oldest components, while the electrical system is relatively new in comparison. Over the years, electrical systems have become much safer, and each time remodeling work was done on your old house, chances are the electrical wiring was updated.

In fact, one good rule of thumb for any home restoration or remodeling work is this: if it is touched, it must be brought up to code.

Before you start any electrical work, talk to your local building code official. The National Electric Code (NEC) was developed in 1897, when electricity was in its infancy. It is a set of electrical safety requirements published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and sets the guidelines for insurance inspectors, building inspectors, and electrical contractors. Though it has no legal standing of its own, the NEC is often adopted by cities and towns, and additional requirements might be added to local building codes.

Keep in mind one of the most important parts of the NEC: Appliances or equipment on an electrical circuit must be "listed" or certified by an independent testing laboratory. If you have ever seen the "UL" mark for Underwriter's Laboratory, you've seen a listed product. The testing done by the independent laboratory makes sure that the item is safe for use. Without the listed certification, your installation might not pass the required electrical inspection.

This rehab guide provides an overview of electrical systems, materials, and techniques. In addition to information on home restoration and preservation of existing electrical systems, an overview of new products is included. All you need to handle electrical systems in your old house is discussed in this guide.



About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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