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Advice for redoing the electrical wiring in a 40 year old cabin!

mrmarbles's picture

Since the 40 year old fuse box in my cabin is humming & popping when I turn on appliances, I’m thinking it’s time to install a breaker panel and redo all the wiring (instead of repairing what I have now) since it’s been on my mind to do so anyway.

Before I contact an electrician I’d like to know as much as I can about how this should be done.

It’s a 22 x 24 foot cabin on stilts, with all the wiring running underneath (through holes drilled in the joists), none of it in conduit. There’s a ground wire connected to a pole sticking out of the ground. There are 9 electrical plugs and 3 light switches in the cabin.

My questions are:

  • Given that the wires are exposed to the outside and I’ll have to deal with mice in the walls possibly nibbling on wires for the next 40 years, what type of wire & conduit would you recommend?
  • Should I replace the sockets & switches also?
  • Due to mouse concerns: should I get special sockets that offer extra protection within the walls? Should I make sure the conduits run within the walls as well, not just under the house?
  • I will definitely get an electrician to make the actual connections, but I’m interested in saving money by removing all the old wire myself, running all the new wire, so they'd just install the new panel and hook up all the wires to it, and make the socket connections as well. Should I use the old wire to snake the new wire to the various end points?
  • I'd like to add 3 or 4 convection heaters (220V), so there will be some new holes/wiring to run as well... which I guess will be the hardest part since I'd need to drill new holes in the floor and into the dry wall.

I’m at the starting point with this so any insight would be greatly appreciated!

First off, 40 years old is (post #214974, reply #1 of 5)

First off, 40 years old is not THAT old, in electrical years.  IF (that's a big IF) the wiring was originally to code it should be in pretty good shape.  Should already be plastic-covered grounded cable and 3-prong grounded outlets everywhere, etc.  I THINK that the most relevant code changes since then that you'd need to worry about are in the area of GFCI/AFCI protection for wet areas and bedrooms

I don't know what the "official" word is, but some years back I was installing wiring in Puerto Rico, and they used UF (underground feeder) cable in the homes, due to the rat problem.  (But note that UF is a PITA to work with, as it doesn't strip easily.)  Also, because of the rat problem they avoided running cables along the bottom of a stud bay -- rather they kept the cables up a foot or so from the base plate. 

How you place the wiring is highly variable.  I would not count on being able to use old cable to "snake" new stuff -- in fact, it's highly unlikely that that would work, in the general case.  (But note that there's no clear reason that all the old stuff would need replacing.)

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Thanks, Dan. Great point. The (post #214974, reply #2 of 5)

Thanks, Dan. Great point. The reason why I'm interested in replacing it all is that it's exposed to the outdoors and the protective outer layer is frayed in some places. There's one spot with exposed metal wiring. Plus, I have no idea what it looks like in the walls. It could be that I'm overreacting, but I'd feel pretty dumb if I left it as is and then lost the place to an electrical fire. But again, I'm open to suggestions.

MC cable is your friend (post #214974, reply #3 of 5)

In situations like this I would suggest MC cable. It is similar to the old BX/AC cable but has the internal ground wire so you avoid the corrosion problem that can affect the grounding if you are using the metal armor as your ground.


Thanks, Greg. Do I need (post #214974, reply #4 of 5)

Thanks, Greg. Do I need special MC cable for outdoor, sheltered, above ground, non-terminal use? (Will it rust on me?)


edit: Looks like mc with a layer of pvc is the way to go! Thanks!

MC is listed for a damp (post #214974, reply #5 of 5)

MC is listed for a damp location