ARTICLE Libby Shultz
If you’re renovating an average-sized 3-bedroom home, you can expect to budget somewhere in the vicinity of $7,500 - $9,500 for rewiring, a new switchboard, and new LED lighting throughout.
If you have budget to spare, you might want to add a multi-room AV system, and dip your toes into some basic smart-home technology.
Are there dangers with DIY?
The first rule about electrical work is that it’s no job for amateurs. The high-stakes risks include causing a house fire, or electrocuting yourself or someone else.
Local laws may allow you do to some electrical work yourself – but you most likely finished work tested and connected by a licensed professional, or you could be prosecuted if things go wrong. It could also void your insurance.
For most electrical work you’ll need to engage a professional that holds a current practicing license.
For extra peace of mind, you might choose a Master Electrician. If there’s a problem relating to the quality of work done, the national body ECANZ will guarantee to remedy defects up to the value of $10,000.
What do professionals cost?
Most registered electricians charge somewhere between $40 - $85 per hour. They may also employ an apprentice, who will be charged out at around half that. Specialist jobs, such as high-level automation programming, can cost up to $130 per hour.
If it’s a larger project, your sparky will of course provide a quote or cost estimate. However, this may have to be adjusted, sometimes quite substantially, depending on what they discover ‘behind the wall’.
Never ask your electrician to provide a quote over the phone – they will need to do a thorough site visit first. And given the many possible variables, you may choose to go with an hourly charge-up. That way, you’ll only pay for the work done.
For most jobs, your sparky will need to issue a Certificate of Compliance (COC) or an Electrical Safety Certificate (ESC); you should keep copies of these in a safe place. Any high-risk work – involving new underground mains, a new switchboard, or anything to do with metering – will require a Record of Inspection (ROI).
Will my home need rewiring?
How do you know if your house will need rewiring?
As a rule of thumb, any house built before the late 1970s is likely to need rewiring; while most houses built from the mid-80s onwards will be okay. The older homes were not designed to support our modern lifestyles – with our multiple appliances and heavier lighting loads.
Aside from not having enough capacity, those old wiring systems used outdated materials. You may have seen the old porcelain re-wirable fuses, and the black rubbery cable known as VIR (Vulcanized Indian Rubber). There’s also fibre insulated cable, which was run inside steel conduit or even timber capping in very old houses.
If you have any of these old materials, you’re sitting on a time-bomb and they’ve definitely got to go. They could perish at any time, and potentially could cause fire or electric shock.
Apart from the legal and safety considerations, another upside of getting your house rewired is that your insurance company may offer a reduction in your premium.
What costs should I consider?
Although most homes can be completely rewired within one week, the cost can vary considerably. It largely depends on the age and size of your house, and the condition of the existing wiring. Fixing up old work can be the worst, says Matt Slater of EAV Ltd.
“The most costly jobs are where there has been some dodgy work done previously, or the home-owner has attempted to do their own wiring.”
Access behind the walls is another big factor. Will your electrician need to cut into the walls to run wires, and if so, how much?
“The cost will depend on the time and labour it takes to run a cable from A to B,” says Jim Gleeson, a Refresh Renovations home renovation consultant.
“An electrician who has a lot of experience in the renovation market can usually do this quicker, with less damage.”
What if you’re just renovating one room, like the kitchen or bathroom? Will you need to rewire the whole house? It depends what your renovation has unearthed, says Matt.
“If your current wiring meets the standard, you can run a new feed just for that room. But if you discover electrical problems or old wiring, you’re best to do the whole house. If your electrician finds something that is a significant risk, they are duty-bound to take it out.”
How much does a new switchboard cost?
You may need to factor in the cost of a new switchboard panel as part of your electrical makeover. To meet current electrical safety regulations, all new electrical work needs to be protected by a Residual Current Device (RCD).
“The minute you extend the circuit – by adding a powerpoint or extra lighting – the new work has to be protected by an RCD,” says Matt.
“About 50% of the time, due to the age of the switchboard, it’s cheaper and safer just to replace it.”
You can expect to pay around $950 for a modern flush-mount board, plus labour.
Jim Gleeson says a typical renovation for a 3-bedroom house might involve adding new circuits to service your new outlets and lighting, upgrading your switchboard, and replacing your electrical outlets and light fittings. Any feature lighting would be additional.
How much does it cost to create a home theatre?
Perhaps it’s also time to upgrade your TV and sound? These days, creating a home theatre or getting quality sound throughout your home doesn’t need to cost a small fortune.
For example, Matt Slater says EAV completed a recent job to supply and install a 4-zone multi-room audio system - complete with a sleek wall-hung TV – for less than $7,500.
And if you’re keen to join the smart home revolution, there are plenty of cheap and cheerful options to play around with. Wireless home security systems, for example, let you monitor your home from your smartphone. Or Philips Hue is a cost-effective way to have some fun with lighting automation.
If your budget allows for you to spend a bit more, a mid-range budget can help you start incorporating smart home features and upgrading your media. A top end budget allows you to achieve innovative home features only thought possible in futuristic films.
This project estimate article featured in Issue 018 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.
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*Costs are rough estimates and are subject to change. For a fixed-quote accurate to your specific project, please consult your local Refresh Renovations specialist. All Refresh Renovations franchises are independently owned and operated.