Well, what can I say. A rewire is something that you don’t want to do unless you have to – and you’ve guessed it, we had to! On the estate agent’s description of the house, a rewire was recommended so we did know that an update would have to be carried out. However, we didn’t know how hideous and destructive a full rewire was. I mean, we were complete novices! I thought it was just a matter of changing the ancient light switches but I was sadly mistaken. My electrical knowledge is pretty basic here, so I am no expert but what I want to do is talk through our experience. How much we were quoted, what we did and why we did it etc. This may not be the same for everyone who gets a full rewire but this was our ‘interesting’ experience.
Let’s Talk Money!
As I’ve said in a previous blog post, we gave ourselves the challenging (some may say unrealistic) timetable of having all the big messy work done and dusted (excuse the pun) in 6 weeks. Therefore, I had 4 electricians lined up to come in the day after we got the keys. The quotes were quite the range – I couldn’t believe it. The first electrician estimated £4,500, he couldn’t start for a few weeks and that our move in date would have to be pushed back to the end of August (not ideal). The last electrician said he could start straight away and it would be approximately £2,700. The other two electricians were in the middle of both of those quotes but you can guess which one we went with! Now, you have to take into consideration the area. The prices here in South Wales will be substantially lower than they would be in London, for example. We also spoke to the electrician about doing the chasing ourselves to save more money but it was only a difference of £300 or so, so we decided to pay the extra and have it done more professionally and let’s face, far more quicker!
The Old Electrics
The picture to the right is the consumer unit when we got the keys. We were told that the electrics in our house had never truly been updated; the silver box in the photo is the 1930s consumer unit. We actually learnt, not long after moving in, that the gentleman, Andrew, who owned the house previously, had been a bit of an electrician. So he had done all the updating himself. Let’s say that Andrew was a Jack of all trades. As much as the electrics worked, they weren’t exactly safe. Over the years, he had added sockets onto the skirting boards in each room. They were so low to the ground, I couldn’t even plug in my iPhone charger! This needed changing ASAP.
Firstly, our electrician was brilliant. He was on the ball! He was always checking to see where we were up to, what rooms he could work in that week etc. So if you’re reading this in South Wales contact me and I will send you his contact details. I cannot sing his praises enough. Because we wanted the work done quickly, the easiest way to do this was to remove the ceilings. We had some lovely sagging parts in some of the downstairs ceilings where the laths had given way, so this wasn’t exactly a problem. We were warned by the electrician though that it was highly likely that our original lath and plaster was made with ‘black ash’. Now, we had no idea what this meant but it wasn’t long until we got the full picture! It turns out that in 1930’s South Wales, they mixed the plaster with coal ash. It was beyond awful.
We decided to only remove the ceilings from the ground floor. This was partially because of the tight timeline we were on but it was also because the ceilings were in reasonable condition upstairs. We weren’t sure initially because all of the upstairs’ ceilings were covered in polystyrene tiles – I know, how lovely – but they were okay once we removed them. Maybe we’ll come to regret it in 20 years, who knows! We really wanted to save the skirting boards but because they had been damaged by having sockets placed on them, and some were further damaged by removing them. Ultimately, we decided to replace all the ones that were removed (which was most of them).
The Rewire Itself
The first fix took about 5 days to complete. We had lots of other work going on at this time as well as builders and plumbers were in too. Nick then filled the chases (another new skill to add to his collection) and we had a partial second fix as we had actually moved into the property. Once the ceilings were down, we worked out where all the new sockets and switches would go in the house. This is the nice part of the rewire because you are able to actually chose where sockets will go but it’s also quite difficult as you need to make decisions about where to put all your furniture. When you’re standing in a shell of a room that is covered in a soot like substance, it really is tricky to imagine where your bedside tables are going to go.
Additionally, if you want certain light fittings, these are also something you want to consider beforehand. We knew in the kitchen that we wanted want lights above our island, therefore, that was something we had to consider early on. We also wanted a socket on our island because it’s just so handy! Overall, we’ve been pretty spot on with where we placed our electrics but on reflection, there are a few things we wish we had have added here or there etc. But you know what they say about hindsight!
I know some people are fussy about where the spot lights are placed. I wasn’t. I knew I wanted them in the kitchen/diner and running along the hallway to the front door. So I asked our electrician to place them where he thought was best and he did a brilliant job. He also chose daylight coloured bulbs, which are the best colour and I’d totally recommend. At the same time, we also asked the electrician to place spot lights in bathroom and I’m so glad we thought ahead about this as we are leaving the bathroom as it is for now really.
The Switches and Sockets
I had all these big dreams about have brass sockets and switches in each room but the electrician said that he completes rewires with plain white sockets and he could come back to update. This was something that I didn’t know. It turns out when you’re renovating a whole house on a budget, white sockets and switches are ok! It is something that we say we will update down the line and I hope we do but I think sometimes you need to say ‘that can wait’ and prioritise other jobs.
I think I have discussed the big things involving the rewire but if I have missed anything, please pop any questions in the comment section.