How To Rewire a House Without Removing Drywall
Often times, when builder-owners plan to rewire a house, it is to protect the drywall from fire hazards. Things get slightly complicated, however, when builder-owners are faced with the thought that they may have to remove drywall. You don’t need to worry, because you can rewire a house without removing drywall, and it’s easier than it sounds.
Be sure to shut off the power to the circuit you are going to rewire, then remove the old wiring as a safety measure to avoid shock. When you remove the old wiring, it may cause slight drywall damage that you’ll need to patch later. Now, feed the new wire into the drywall using the same path as the old wire towards the necessary outlet.
As you finish every room, turn on the power to see if it worked. Don’t worry about patching any damaged drywall until you are down rewiring each room. Every house varies in layout and build, but you can generally rewire a house without removing or damaging drywall.
Let’s get into what it takes to rewire a house without removing drywall.
Can Old Wiring Cause Fires?
Yes, it can, and that is why many builder-owners rewire their houses. If wires become exposed due to accidental damage or pests chewing on them, it puts your drywall at a fire risk. This is even truer if the drywall itself is quite old.
If your drywall meets fire safety codes in your area, you can rewire without removing it. However, rewiring a house can pose a fire hazard if you don’t turn off the circuits before working.
Can You Rewire a House Without Removing Drywall?
Yes, you can rewire a house without removing drywall, however, there are some limitations. The biggest problem homeowners run into when rewiring without removing drywall is that you can’t staple into the studs. It is common to secure wires along the studs and staple them in, but you can’t do that if you aren’t removing drywall.
You could work around this by removing a small amount of drywall to access the studs and patching it. Otherwise, you could simply feed the new wire through without securing it to studs, it would just be less secure.
Related Guide: Can You Rewire A House Without Removing Drywall?
Rewire House Without Removing Drywall
Before you can do anything, it is critical that you turn off the power to the circuit you are working on. When rewiring an entire house, turn off the circuits, and turn them on after each room to check your work. You can calculate how much wire you need by measuring the path of the wires from circuits and fixtures.
Once you know how much wire you need, you can purchase it and prepare for installation. It should be noted, however, that rewiring without removing drywall is easiest if you have a crawl space or attic. That leaves you with more pathways for the wires between circuits and fixtures.
1. Clear Insulation Obstructing the Path
Chances are that there is insulation getting in the way of your pathway for wiring. Check the crawl space, attic, and behind all of the walls to see if there is insulation in the way. Remove any obstructing insulation and pay attention to where the old wires are located.
This is also a great opportunity to check and make sure that your drywall is in good shape. Never rewire your house if the drywall is brittle or falling apart without replacing it.
2. Carefully Remove the Old Wiring
Assuming that you already turned off the circuits, remove the old wiring. Since you aren’t removing any drywall, you may have to leave some old wiring in the wall. Especially if there is wiring stapled to studs that you cannot reach without removing drywall.
If you are unable to remove certain sections of wires, cut the wires so that they aren’t attached to anything. You can even attach new wires to old ones if they are not attached to the circuit. As long as you remove all exposed wires, the sections buried within the wall will be safe.
Carefully pull any old wires that are not buried, and if you damage the drywall in the process, patch it later.
3. Begin Rewiring
The first thing that you need to do when rewiring, is to remove a small section of the wall. It needs to be a 4”-5” opening so that you can place electrical boxes wherever necessary. Now, you can drill the hole to run the wire through.
Drill a hole that is ¾” to 1” wide so that you can feed wires through it. It is best to drill the hole directly below the opening of an electrical box. Now, you can run wires through the hole.
If you are running wires through an attic or your crawl space, it gets trickier. That is because there may be less room to grab the end of the wire after feeding it through. Also, sometimes it is simply more difficult accessing those pathways for the wires.
4. Run Wires to the Proper Outlets
Continue this process while making sure that the wires are going to the correct outlets. You can double-check to make sure by turning the circuit on after finishing wiring an outlet. First, make sure that there are no exposed wires, then restore power to double-check.
If all is well, turn the circuit back off, and continue feeding wires working outlet by outlet. Take advantage of the rafters in your house; your drywall will thank you. Since you likely cannot access studs to staple wires along, instead, attach the wires to rafters.
5. Keep Track of Your Work
This final step is extremely important: keep track of your work. Write down the placement of circuits and outlets, and how the wires run into them. If you keep track of the new wiring configuration, it can save you or the next owner of your home trouble later on.
How do I know if I have enough wires?
If the length of wires matches the distance of the wire path between circuits and fixtures, you likely have enough wires. However, it is a good idea to go with a little extra wire in case mistakes are made, or you wind up needing slack since you cannot use the studs.
Can you rewire a house without removing drywall alone?
Technically, you could, but it is not recommended. You generally need an extra helper that can either feed or catch the wire when running it through the wall. Another pair of hands also helps to make the process go by faster.
How do you patch drywall if you accidentally damage it while rewiring?
You can patch small holes in drywall by covering it with paper joint tape, then a joint compound. It takes 30-60 minutes for the joint compound to dry.
What Did We Learn?
You can rewire a house without removing drywall by carefully removing old wire and utilizing rafters. Always shut off power to the circuit before doing any electrical work. Drill a hole that is at least ½” to feed new wires through.
If you cannot remove old wires without removing drywall, leave them buried, but cut the wire so that it is inactive. Enlist the help of someone that you know so that they can help feed or catch new wires as you install them room by room. Good luck rewiring your house without removing drywall!
Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.
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