Electrical update, retrofit or....

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Bobomo
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Electrical update, retrofit or....

Post by Bobomo » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:07 pm

I am in a smaller house (900 sqft, 84m^2) built in the 1950's in need of some electrical updates: adding grounds, adding a circuit or two, adding receptacles and cleaning up mystery junction boxes. The site conditions are a very tight crawl space, low hip roof over an attic filled with mountains of lovely blown insulation (the fiberglass type). So I anticipate much of the work would be in the house, cutting holes in the drywall for access. The drywall is not in particularly good shape to begin with - lots of patchwork already.

If that was it, I'd just hire some brave soul to do the work and be done with it. But I also need wall insulation, not only for comfort, but to score a rebate from my energy utility on a new ductless system.

So if I were thinking about these jobs separately, I would have the electrical done, have a drywaller come in and do patches and repairs, then have cellulose blown in the walls.

What I'm trying to figure is if I gain anything by just dropping the walls, letting the electrician work freely, install batt insulation myself, and have the drywaller come in and close everything in. Seems like a ton more work, not sure about money, and not sure if the final product will be noticeably better. This is a pretty standard house for the area, so I don't expect to see increase in resale value for something like this, should I sell - it's mostly for piece of mind and comfort.

As a House Improvements fan, I'd like to think I could do a bunch of stuff myself, but realistically, the demo and insulation is what I could handle.

Would very much appreciate your thoughts!


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emtnut
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Re: Electrical update, retrofit or....

Post by emtnut » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:29 pm

Well, the electrical can be done with or without the walls there.
You'd save quite a bit on the electricians labour if the walls were open, so it really depends on how much of the electrical needs updating.

I'd suggest getting a quote for the electrical work, for both fishing in wire, and with the walls exposed.
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Aaron
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Re: Electrical update, retrofit or....

Post by Aaron » Mon Dec 10, 2018 11:27 pm

It's hell opening walls up as you're still living in the house. If the house were vacant and you could rip the walls everywhere, just imagine: rip out all the old wiring, old plumbing, run your ductless plumbing, new NM cables for all new electrical, new PEX tubing for water plumbing, new PVC or ABS for DWV plumbing. Run ethernet everywhere. Full tight insulation and vapor barrier. If the house has a chimney you could bust it apart and take it out giving you more space.

Alas. Unless it's a complete overhaul like that, I find for electrical it best to just leave the old circuits be and install new circuits in addition to the old. Use the old for low wattage applications only.

Bobomo
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Re: Electrical update, retrofit or....

Post by Bobomo » Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:58 am

emtnut wrote:
Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:29 pm
Well, the electrical can be done with or without the walls there.
You'd save quite a bit on the electricians labour if the walls were open, so it really depends on how much of the electrical needs updating.

I'd suggest getting a quote for the electrical work, for both fishing in wire, and with the walls exposed.
Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I'm just trying to get some sense of whether the savings on electrical + the savings by purchasing and installing insulation myself is greater than the difference between patchwork and full drywall. I can reasonably pay a bit extra for the superior end result, but it all ends up hidden behind walls...

Thanks for the advice.

Bobomo
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Re: Electrical update, retrofit or....

Post by Bobomo » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:07 am

Aaron wrote:
Mon Dec 10, 2018 11:27 pm
It's hell opening walls up as you're still living in the house. If the house were vacant and you could rip the walls everywhere, just imagine: rip out all the old wiring, old plumbing, run your ductless plumbing, new NM cables for all new electrical, new PEX tubing for water plumbing, new PVC or ABS for DWV plumbing. Run ethernet everywhere. Full tight insulation and vapor barrier. If the house has a chimney you could bust it apart and take it out giving you more space.

Alas. Unless it's a complete overhaul like that, I find for electrical it best to just leave the old circuits be and install new circuits in addition to the old. Use the old for low wattage applications only.
Oh I can imagine! It's like my This Old House fanatasy come true!

I have definitely considered this issue. One idea I had was to do this one or two rooms at a time. Of course I then lose some of the "economy of scale" by having to have someone come in several times instead of once.

We have been considering building an accessory unit on our lot for rental income (the local municipality is encouraging this with some fee waivers) and so we might have that as a temporary dwelling while work happens on the main house.

I appreciate your thoughts, thank you.

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Aaron
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Re: Electrical update, retrofit or....

Post by Aaron » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:55 am

Yeah, the problem doing it piecemeal is that you can't easily eradicate old stuff... because you're using the old stuff as you're living there. So, you do what you can...

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Shannon
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Re: Electrical update, retrofit or....

Post by Shannon » Wed Dec 12, 2018 8:05 am

My take is that by stripping off drywall you will for sure in the end spend more money but have a much better finished product. You will save some labour from the electrician for sure and you will get a much better insulation and air seal for an over all more comfortable home. Also you mentioned that the drywall is in rough shape already so adding more patches is not going to help. Adding blown in insulation generally does not do a great job because you never truly can fill every cavity, it tends to bridge up on wires or get stopped by fire blocking and such and some areas are still left with nothing. If there is existing batt insulation in the walls you will not achieve any more R value.
Will this be a much bigger reno...YES, will there be more mess...YES, Would I do it this way ABSOLUTLY! Unless you are seriously thinking of selling I would strip a couple rooms at time and go for it. Also I would only fully strip walls needing insulation, interior walls can be fished for electrical more easily so those I would leave if you want .
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Bobomo
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Re: Electrical update, retrofit or....

Post by Bobomo » Wed Dec 12, 2018 10:07 am

Thank you for the advice, Shannon, I appreciate it. There are certainly other advantages to dropping everything, including upgrading attic and crawlspace insulation as well as some seismic upgrades (no one knew the Pacific NW was an earthquake zone in the 50's when our houses were all built). And like Aaron mentioned, access to plumbing, etc, would be great.

I have seen though a blown in product called "dense pack" which isn't like the home center rentals. They get a tube jammed up in the cavity and really stuff it in there. I'm sure it still settles, but I don't think it's as bad as the DIY stuff. But obviously having everything open and in front of me would be best.

Thanks again.

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