Question for an electrician

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by rangercat, Feb 11, 2004.

  1. rangercat

    rangercat Well-Known Member

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    This may be impossible to answer without more specifics, but here goes... My husband and I are considering buying a house from an Amish family. At one time there was elecricity in the house but I am sure the wiring is very old and would need to be replaced. Originally we were not going to put electric in but the reality of the extra work involved of living without it has set in. I am keeping my job in the "city" and will have an 1 1/2 hour commute and don't think I will be able to keep up without it. The house is 3,000 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 2 baths, with a coal stove. Aside from the wiring, I would like to put in an electric baseboard heating system as a back-up for the coal stove. There is a pole within 20 feet of the house. How much should I anticipate in spending on this work? Thanks in advance.
     
  2. I am not an electrician but I can give you some information based on my recent remodeling project. It would really depend on how “open” the walls are inside the house. If you intend to gut the house, wiring becomes an easy job. If you intend to keep the existing walls intact, wires must be pulled behind the walls with wire snakes. This job can be very time consuming (time is money) and may be impossible to do in some of the rooms, forcing some demolition. I just had a 2500sf 1890 farmhouse “rewired”. The kitchen, master bedroom and bathroom(s) were gutted, 4 other rooms left intact but rewired to code (codes can be a real pain in the bum!). The electrician bill came in at $13000.00. That did not involve wiring for electric heat or running wires from the street. You can probably figure on another $3000 for the electric heat and $500 to $2000 for the street wiring (depending on if you want to put the wires underground or above ground). This is assuming you can find someone who is interested in rewiring an old house. In my area of the world, electricians and plumbers are as scarce as hen’s teeth. Most are too busy building new homes to bother with the problems associated with rewiring an old home. You are probably going to half to look for a “hungry” electrician. Good Luck
     

  3. BeckyW

    BeckyW Well-Known Member

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    As the wife of an electrician I can tell you that you haven't included enough information for an answer. My suggestion is get at least 3 quotes (if you don't know anyone in the area, stop in an electrical supply store and ask for their recommendations with this lead "if I were your sister whom you dearly loved, which electricians would you recommend who are fair and do excellent work to work on my house?" They will usually smile, and then say, "if you my sister who I dearly loved, I would tell you to call ___________ or _______________."
    You won't have to wonder whether you're talking to the right guys. Top general contractors in your area can be asked the same question. Ask around -- the same names will keep being mentioned. Then have them come out and give you estimates.

    Good luck!
    BW
     
  4. Oregonsparkie

    Oregonsparkie Well-Known Member

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    Hey there rangercat,

    I am an electrician in Oregon. As far as the baseboard heating is concerned, the cost will depend on if you do it yourself, if you have an electrician friend to help, or contract it out. Naturally doing it yourself is cheaper but I can tell you from experience that what you want to do is not an easy chore but it is possible. It will also be easier if you remove the wall covering to expose the interior wall.

    As far as getting electricity to the house you will need to speak with the local power company and have them come out and tell you what there cost will be.

    Since the house had power then you will probably need to upgrade the service( meter and panel)

    You can figure that 1/2 the total cost will be labor and the other half will be material.
    Unless you have the knowledge to do the work then I recommend having a electrical contractor come out and give an estimate.
     
  5. If your talking Amish as in Penn Dutch, Lancaster area?? Labor rates are high for anything in Mid-Atlantic.
    Get a quality easy to understand book on wiring and have at it with your husband. Wiring is EASY!! As long as you know what your codes are, the standards you must meet. I firmly believe a circus monkey could wire a house. Connecting your boxes and so on, really it will not be as hard as you may think and you will save A LOT OF MONEY. Wire everything up MAKING SURE to leave it exsposed so it can be inspected. Then you will be forced to pay the elect company for hook-up but you will have saved so much you will not care! If you pay for it all I would say 15,000-20,000 If you are in Lanc PA area
     
  6. big rockpile

    big rockpile If I need a Shelter

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    Can't help! But once again I'm glade my wife does all our wiring,even from the Pole. :D

    big rockpile
     
  7. rangercat

    rangercat Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all so much for your responses. The house is 150 year old stone farmhouse in the Lancaster PA area. Being a home owner in central NJ I am all too aware of the high labor costs in this area. I would get numerous estimates prior to any work (BeckyW: loved your method!) and a full inspection from an engineer prior to purchasing. I am not looking for a money pit! My husband and I are handy (he was a carpenter in the area we are considering moving to and still has some connections) but have no electrical experience. To be honest, we are both a little afraid of it. I think the circus monkeys may have one up on us in this scenerio. The asking price is very reasonable (yes, that should make me nervous). I was guestimating 20K for the work. My husband saw the property yesterday and fell in love with it. I am going out on Saturday and wanted some input before hand so my glasses wouldn't be so rose-tinted.
     
  8. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Any stone or brick is going to make the job more difficult.

    It is much easier to put track wiring on the walls, but rather unsightly.

    I'd be afraid of electric heating in a house of that size. Might need a 2nd town job to afford the electric bills! :) What is the insulation like on the place?

    --->Paul
     
  9. BCR

    BCR Well-Known Member

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    Rangercat--what about a natural gas or propane fireplace or wall units for backup?
     
  10. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    One of the nice things about older houses is the walls tend to be open, but often are not on standard widths so you have to fudge a little. What we did in our old home on an electric rewire was to handle the first floor from the basement. Was pretty easy to fish up wires for the first floor. For the second floor we found an out of the way wall that could be trashed and pull all the second floor up through that wall and feed the second floor down from the attic. This way you have very short distances to fish and even my amateur wire fishing skills were enough.
     
  11. Case

    Case Well-Known Member

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    Whatever wiring's in that venerable house is probably the ancient nob and tube, some of which may still be usable for existing circuits.

    You CAN rewire that house and you'll save a small fortune by doing it.

    You can do it from the information in the first two books listed below. Buy them both. They're excellent and cheap.

    They'll also recommend some electrical tools and testers you'll need. Don't hesitate to buy what you need. You can well afford some good equipment considering the money you're saving.

    Two must-have items are a multi-tester and a Wiggy circuit tester made by Square-D, both available at Home Depot, Lowe's or any good home improvement center.

    Keep the Wiggy always handy. NEVER touch a wire until you've tested it. Even with a circuit breaker off, someone may have got creative and somehow fed current to part of it from another circuit. NEVER trust a wire not to be energized.

    For electrical panels and breakers I'd use nothing but the Square-D brand. It's readily available everywhere.

    Buy GOOD outlets and switches -- the Levitons that cost a couple of bucks or so. Avoid the 49-cent cheapies. Remember: You're saving big bucks here by doing it yourself. Go first class and top-of-the line on everything.

    For lighting circuits, 14 AWG (American Wire Gauge) wire used to be standard. It no longer is. Use nothing less than 12 AWG wire everywhere.

    Avoid aluminum wiring like the plague. It's a building-burner. Use nothing but copper.

    TIGHT CONNECTIONS, REALLY TIGHT -- the most important aspect of electrical wiring. Electricity heats wires and causes expansion and contraction, which will eventually loosen an improperly tightened connection to the point it begins arcing, which causes uncontrolled amperage and will burn down your house.

    The books:

    Wiring a House by Rex Cauldwell. Paperback. 245 pages. ISBN # 1561585270 - $17.47 from Amazon.com.
    It has excellent illustrations, is well written in straight-forward, easy-to-understand language and will explain house wiring from the power company, through the transformer at the pole and all the way through a house. References in this one are to the 1996 National Electrical Code (NEC), but the information is universal. Check out the used ones in hardback.

    Wiring Simplified - Residential and Farm by H. P. Richter, et al. Paperback. 243 pages. ISBN # 096032948X - $8.76 from Amazon.com
    This is the greatest bargain of all wiring books in existence. It packs more pure, solid information into 243 pages than any other electrical book I've ever seen. It's a handy size, too -- large enough not to be hard to read the print, yet small enough to fit in a toolbox. First published in 1932, it's a classic now in its 40th Edition. Great illustrations. Based on the 2002 NEC. I paid 99 cents for my first copy in a hardware store more than 20 years ago.

    Practical Electrical Wiring: Residential, Farm, Commercial, and Industrial by H. P. Richter, et al. Paperback. 678 pages. ISBN # 0960329498 - $59.95 from Amazon.com.
    The author of this and "Simplified..." is no longer living, but faithful followers, master electricians themselves, have kept his works alive. This classic is now in its 18th Edition and is based on the 2002 NEC. This one is expensive and covers industrial wiring methods, which you don't really need. Everything you need to know should be covered in the two books above. Just mentioned this one because for a BIG BOOK on wiring it's excellent.
     
  12. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Another good and simple to read book is the Black and decker wiring book. Most home and garden stores have it. It show how various ciruits are wired.
     
  13. I'd agree with many of the others here... wiring is not that difficult, even on an older home. It may be time consuming and somewhat frustrating at times, but very doable. $20,000 for even 10 rooms seems a bit crazy to me, even with a new service. Obviously you'll have the new service installed, new breaker panel installed... but the wire pulling part I'd do myself... even if you have the electrician make the final connections.

    Even if you could find an electrician (perhaps the same one which will install the service) to spend a few hours with you to "layout" the grunt work, you'll save a fortune.

    cheers,
     
  14. SteveD(TX)

    SteveD(TX) Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like you've gotten some sound advice here. I recently built a boathouse on my property that is 600 ft. away from the elec. pole, and the utility co. can't put one much closer. Just got the estimate back to wire it - $5800 if I did the trench myself. Nope. Gonna learn lectric stuff myself!! I've already educated myself about voltage drop - gonna take #2 wire for that distance.

    Hey CASE - would those books help me too? Or should I forget it and just go solar?
     
  15. Case

    Case Well-Known Member

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    Steve...

    Those first two books will tell you just about everything you need to know for your project.

    Actually, Wiring Simplified alone will, and includes a section on special considerations for farm wiring. But I'd get both. Cauldwell's book is so well written and illustrated it's well worth its low price.

    The various Black & Decker electrical wiring books mentioned by Gary aren't bad at all, but I think they often oversimplify and don't tell why certain things are done the way they are. But they do have beautiful illustrations, which alone might make their additional purchase worthwhile.

    People save soooooo much money doing their own wiring, they can afford to invest a few bucks in books.

    Your project is fairly simple and straightforward -- especially if you have a disconnect/breaker at the pole between the meter and your service cables.

    Just flip that breaker and you've shut off the power to your entire property. That box should also contain lugs for additional service leads to barns, other outbuildings and, in your case, your boathouse.

    Otherwise, you'll have to have the power company pull the meter so you can connect into it with another circuit.

    All this is made easier if you only have to deal with the electric company and not a building department, whose inspectors usually consider the National Electrical Code some sort of holy scripture. This is not to say you should cut corners on safety, but simply that certain code regulations are simply silly and unnecessary. I'm sure licensed electricians will take vigorous exception to that statement, but that notwithstanding if you follow the instructions in those books you'll have a safe installation.

    Besides tight connections, another general and major consideration in wiring is proper grounding, which in the event of a short circuit will route the errant current back to the transformer through the ground wires instead of you if you come in contact with it.

    And proper grounding is even more important in a boathouse installation, where dampness and water are involved. Outlets in a boathouse also should contain Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), which provide an extra margin of safety in damp environments and are explained in the books.

    The major cost in your project will be the 600-foot service cable to the boathouse. What size that wire should be will depend on what maximum amperage you foresee using at that distance.

    You could go with Type USE (Underground Service Entrance), which is very expensive, or you could use a Type NM (non-metalic) and put it in PVC conduit perhaps cheaper. Any cable should be buried two feet deep.

    You might find two sizes larger of aluminum cable is even cheaper than copper, which would be okay for a service entrance so long as all the connectors are CO/ALR or CO/AL rated.

    And the amperage you'll need will depend on whether you plan on having only lighting or perhaps enough for, say, an electric boat lift or other motors.

    Can't help you on that. You'll have to study the books and maybe pick the brain of someone at the electric company. Those people are usually willing to help you any way they can.

    Whatever service cable you use should be three-conductor with ground, which will provide for two current-carrying conductors, a neutral (return) and a ground.

    And voltage drop isn't the only consideration in that cable. The other is what is going to protect the cable itself in the event of a dead short somewhere downstream.

    That's why you probably shouldn't depend on books alone but should also get some advice from someone knowledgeable.

    Basically, your project simply consists of running a properly sized service cable from the electric pole underground to a breaker panel in the boathouse, from which you can run separate circuits for lighting, outlets and whatever else you need.
     
  16. SteveD(TX)

    SteveD(TX) Well-Known Member

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    Case -
    Thanks for the tips and advice. Just so happens I just now returned from Lowe's and I bought the Black and Decker "The Complete Guide to Home Wiring" book for 20 bucks - 300 pages from "basic projects to advanced projects". Ordered the other two cheaper ones you recommended last night from Amazon. I plan on educating myself before I begin this project. Out of 3 electricians to come out and look at my place, only 1 has even given me an estimate. My needs are:
    -3/4 hp. elec. boat hoist at 105 amps; possibly 1 hp. at 135 amps;
    - about 6 double lighted incandescent floodlight fixtures along the wooded trail to the lake;
    -2 lights at the boathouse and 2 outlets;
    -cut off switch at the meter, plus trail lighting controls at each end.

    I will run underground in sched. 40 min. 18" deep. The recommendations from experts on the net are to run 2, #2 or #4 wires, with a #8 for neutral plus a ground; gfci in the boathouse, out of a 60 amp sub-panel at the boathouse or next to it, all grounded of course. Since the run is 600 ft. and the wire comes in 500' spools, a junction box at 500' will be necessary. The main panel/meter where it's feeding from has 200 amps. I may run some type of x-10 security cameras out there eventually but I think I can go wireless on these.

    I'm thinking about getting an electrician to design the system for me in detail, educating myself on the how-to's and don't do's, and doing the labor myself, then get the electrician to come back out and hook-up and double-check my work. Hopefully he won't charge an arm and a leg for that. No inspectors to deal with out here unless I really want someone to come out. Whadayathink?
     
  17. rangercat

    rangercat Well-Known Member

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    What great advice! I am feeling confident that I may be able to do some of this work myself. I will be hitting the library/bookstores this weekend. I am meeting with the realtor in the morning and am very excited knowing that I may be able to handle some of this myself. Thanks to you all!!
     
  18. Dreams30

    Dreams30 Lady Rider

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    Steady there and be careful. Check the laws in your area. In some areas the electricians run the show and it is ILLEGAL to do your own wiring. It's all about the $$$. Of course if you have one or 2 lights that are already hooked up and you pay an electrician to do the box & meter who knows what other outlets might grow up overnight in the house. :rolleyes:

    It is easy. It does save a lot of money. ANYONE can do it. You do need to do it right to be safe. (Some elves in our house had to FIX the few outlets the electrician put in.) I had to consider it this way, we are living in the house, we care greatly if it burns down or not. The guy who comes out and leaves at noon to go have a beer is NOT someone I will trust with my family's lives. :no:
     
  19. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    Steve

    I did an almost identical job for a Doctors boathouse last fall. Lots of rich folks with their getaway homes in a gated development next door. He thought he was wiring it properly, I was going to just check on his connections...he had a 400' run, and was using 14# wires...woefully underpowered of course. Told him I wasn't licensed, but would guarantee my work. Got the contract. Afterwards he wondered if I couldn't build his getaway home on the lake. His brother, another doc, has the lot next to it, with a boathouse in the 70k range, and a weekend home in the 350 - 400K range.

    He had his trench dug already. Sent him back to town, used the large gray underground...think it was 2 gauge. Except for the main wire, I did the whole job plus materials, turnkey from the underground connection all the way to his boathouse for 900. Only problem I had was with the gfci circuit breakers on the boathouse...the guy who built the boathouse miswired the ceiling fans, shorting out the circuits.

    I wouldn't pay 4000... :waa: ..NOW, if a mule kicks you in the head, you give me a buzz and I'd come do it for less than that :haha:
     
  20. Case

    Case Well-Known Member

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    Steve...

    I think I'd go with nothing smaller than the #2 cable. At a full 30 amps draw you'd have 5.7 percent voltage drop and only 3.8 percent at 20 amps, which is likely the most you'd ever use at one time and that only when using the hoist.

    The heavier cable would allow you to perhaps add something else later. It's always a mistake to size wiring for exactly what you have in mind because it never fails that later on you want to add something.

    You only need the GFCIs on the outlets.

    (In Florida I was around boats, marinas and boat houses constantly and never saw a GFCI. I knew a few people to get blown up when a battery sparked and set off fumes in the bilge of their boats but I never knew anyone to get electrocuted from a non-GFCI outlet. I used to stand in the water building docks and running an electric drill that wasn't even connected to one. But I'm not very bright either.)

    You'll find a handy voltage drop calculator down the left menu on this page:

    http://www.electrician.com/indexold.html

    You can get a straight-through gasketed plastic junction box for your heavy-cable splice. I'd also smear a lot of silicone caulking around the edges of the box and anywhere moisture could possibly get in.

    Use brass split bolts to make the splice and wrap them good with electrical tape.

    And don't buy that cheap generic electrical tape you see in bulk bins around the store. Spend a little more and get Scotch 700 commercial grade tape.

    I'd probably go with the 1 HP motor on the hoist. You never know when you'll get a bigger boat.

    I have a tendency to overdo everything at least slightly because it's a lot easier to add onto later, and the need to never seems to fail.

    If you've got a 200-amp panel to connect your service cable into that makes it even easier. Just put it on a 50-amp double-pole breaker and you're good to go. You'd never use 50 amps at any given time -- or ever, for that matter.

    I'd also very seriously consider driving a 5/8" ground rod somewhere near the boathouse and running an additional #6 insulated ground wire to it from the boathouse subpanel's grounding bar.

    And by the way, that WILL be a subpanel in the boathouse, so you'll need a separate grounding bar installed in it. In this instance you will NOT install the bonding screw through the neutral bar in the subpanel.

    This is because the neutral (return) wires have potential to carry current back to the transformer and a grounding wire would never carry current unless a short occurs. This gives you a dedicated grounding wire. The extra driven ground rod would be connected to that grounding bar, making for a more positive ground in that damp environment.

    My favorite little subpanel is a 100-amp, six-space/12-circuit Square-D QO6-12L 100S. The indoor model is about $20 and the outdoor watertight about $35. You can get a grounding bar kit that screws right into it for about $5.

    I mention these things here only to call them to your attention because they might not jump up and yell at you during your study of the books.

    And it will be very good if you can find a friendly qualified electrician to help you along with your project and check your work.

    And remember: TIGHT CONNECTIONS. REALLY TIGHT. Very important.