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Are there any alternatives to rewiring a house?

(12 Posts)
stirling Tue 26-Apr-16 09:50:21


I've recently become a single mum and needless to say finances are very tight.

My 8 year old DD goes to bed every night in tears because of a fear of a house fire during the night. This anxiety began before her dad moved out. I try to reassure her that it's unlikely as we don't smoke / use candles/ fry with oil etc but when it comes to electrical safety, I'm worried myself.

Can't afford to have the whole house rewired. It's a 1930s semi. Not sure if previous owner(old man) had wiring done but the sockets and light switches look old - they're cream coloured. One light fitting occasionally flickers and the hallway light switch sometimes crackles as I'm turning it on.
We had an electrician come out to test the wiring before purchasing the house and he said it was OK - although I do recall the owner being there too and making the electrician feel intimidated.

Is there a way to make my house electrically safer without rewiring? And how do I find an excellent HONEST electrican? Don't want someone turning up and quoting a huge job if unnecessary.I live in North west London.

By the way I switch off all the plugs before going to bed.
Thanks for ANY advice

TremoloGreen Tue 26-Apr-16 10:35:13

An electrician can come out and do a safety test it will take him about half a day for a three bed house, a full day at the most. If they issue you with a basic certificate or report they will not commit anything false into writing. It's possible that you won't need a full rewire but they may be e.g. sockets that need replacing or parts of circuits that are not earthed. What type of fuse box do you have? A modern one with breaker switches? We had a partial rewire on our 30s house and it cost £ 150 for the initial report then £1200 for all the work and parts but we put in loads of new sockets, new appliances in the kitchen, a new spur for underfloor heating to the bathroom. We found our electrician via our builder who we found from the which trusted trader scheme. The other electricians I got to quote I found by asking for recommendations on my local facebook site. I know it's a lot of money but worth it for peace of mind even if you have to save up a while or ask the electrician to prioritise so you can get some essential bits done now and some bits later.

akkakk Tue 26-Apr-16 10:40:38

as above - one of the best options maybe an up to date fusebox (which has an RCD breaker on each fuse) - then in theory if anything happens it turns itself off... well obviously a device can still catch fire - but should help

stirling Tue 26-Apr-16 10:47:26

Oh this is really helpful! Thank you both and tremologreen that is a very insightful reply. Didn't know a partial rewire was possible. I'll look at the box.
Thanks again

peggyundercrackers Tue 26-Apr-16 10:59:28

why do you think the house needs rewired?

cream sockets are fine, they are probably just a bit old and are discoloured - it doesn't mean theres anything wrong with them though.

socket crackling - change it if it makes you feel better.

light flickering - change the bulb before it blows.

specialsubject Tue 26-Apr-16 11:08:58

get the crackly socket fixed/changed.

get the flickering light fitting fixed/changed.

both are DIY jobs with research and common sense.

if you had the place tested by an electrician it is fine. No professional gets intimidated by an owner, in the nicest possible way that is a daft idea.

fit smoke alarms and show these to your daughter. They are your guardians in the unlikely event of a fire and may help to deal with her anxiety, which really does need some professional help.

PigletJohn Tue 26-Apr-16 11:18:24

Nobody is obliged to bring an old house up to modern standards. If they were, Hampton Court would have been demolished and rebuilt with cavity walls and plastic windows. So you are not obliged to change everything just because it is "not to current standards."

A crackling switch is probably just worn out (spring weak) and can easily be replaced with new. The same with sockets, especially if they show any sign of brown discolouration.

A 1930's house is pretty sure to have been rewired by now, most likely with square-pin sockets and PVC cable. If it was done prior to 1970-ish, the lighting circuits may have no earth connection, so for safety you must only use plastic (not metal) switches and light fittings. Earthing, main bonds and supplementary bonding are probably poor and should be upgraded (fairly simple).

The main problem I anticipate is that you will have too few socket outlets, and may be tempted to use adaptors and extensions. Trailing multi-way sockets are quite good in, say a bedroom or round the TV, where the load is very low. You should not use adaptors or extensions for a washer, drier or dishwasher. If you have an immersion heater the switch is likely to be brittle, so are old light fittings as old filament (incandescent) bulbs used to get very hot. Again they are cheap and easy to change.

Any electrician must (should) be a member of a self-certification scheme (and not be just a "Domestic Installer" which is the lowest grade of qualification). Look on one of the Competent Person websites, which maintain a register of qualified people, searchable by postcode. NICEIC is one example.

Beware of people who offer free surveys. Obviously they have to make a profit and recover the cost of all their free surveys by charging well for any work they find necessary.

An experienced electrician will often know within two minutes of walking through the door if you need a full rewire. But unless it is that bad, it should take about half a day to test and inspect. You want a written report of findings and recommendations. You should expect to pay the correct rate. You can ask for the cost to be allowed against the cost of remedial work that is done shortly afterwards by the same person (ask in advance).

If you have a new consumer unit, all the circuits connected to it will have to be brought up to standard. This may be expensive. I would suggest having a new CU, with RCDs or preferably RCBOs, which is big enough for the whole house, but only connect to it new work, such as a new kitchen circuit, or a new electric shower, or new outdoor lights. That way it is possible to upgrade the installation piecemeal. A recent change requires all new consumer units to be non-combustible (e.g. metal). If anyone offers to sell you a plastic one, show him the door, but you can carry on using an existing one.

stirling Tue 26-Apr-16 21:42:46

I've just tuned in and found your brilliant replies. Specialsubject, I take on board your point about DD needing help - I'm going to look up child psychologist as her excessive fear is worrying... We have 2x the amount of fire alarms and test regularly.
Pigletjohn, you're right there are certainly not enough sockets and yes I'm using extensions in each room but ones that say 'surge protection ' on them. And at most only have 2 things plugged in. Your post has certainly calmed me down but I'm going to have to reread it to fully understand it. A lot of terms going over my head! But at least I can relay this to prospective electrician.

Any idea of how to find a good electrician? Trust a trader? Or Which as suggested by first poster? Thanks again

PigletJohn Tue 26-Apr-16 21:55:57

Must be a member of a Competent Person scheme such as

Personal recommendation is good, if the recommender has some way of knowing a good electrician from bad.

stirling Wed 27-Apr-16 22:24:10

Ah - many thanks pigletjohn smile

MrsFlorrick Thu 28-Apr-16 13:39:49

Stirling. If you're in Kent I could recommend someone. This one is NAPIT registered which is similar to NICEIC just a different organisation but same type of qualification.

Just because the light switches look old doesn't mean the wiring is that old.

Some people deliberately install reclaimed or copied period items for a period feel.

Sometimes (it will if it's done after 1985), there will be a sticker with an installation date on the consumer unit. However that doesn't necessarily tell you about the wiring just the age of the consumer unit. However it's likely a rewire was done when the consumer unit was last replaced.

If you can get the circuits tested hopefully it will put your mind at rest.

stirling Sun 01-May-16 15:01:21

Many thanks Mrs Florrick, not in Kent but NW London...

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