How to Wire Additional Electric Circuits to an Older Home Without Tearing out Plaster


During the course of remodeling an older home, it is often necessary or desirable to add electric outlets and circuits to existing rooms. In many cases, there are existing electric lines that will be abandoned, but to run new wires through the old holes would require the removal of a large amount of plaster or drywall. The following steps will show how to run the new electric wires without tearing out or damaging the wall.

Things You'll Need

  • Flat bar
  • hammer
  • compressor
  • brad nailer
  • chisel
  • electric drill with 5/8'' spade or boring bit
  • shop vac
  • The first step in running electric to the room is to prepare the layout. Decide where the circuit will enter the room and what walls will have sockets or switches. Place a mark on the wall above the base trim for any area you plan to install an outlet. Remove all base and door trim in areas that will have electric run through.

  • The next step in running electric to the room is to find a proper entry point. If you are working upstairs and running conduit to hold your electric lines, find the most direct path from the conduit to the room you want to begin. You can use the attic or sub floor if accessible or go through a closet into an adjoining room. If you are coming in from the ceiling pick a spot near the door to the room. Drill a hole from the room into either the attic (by way of the door header) or into the floor (between two joists if possible. Use a fish line if necessary as you run electric wire from the breaker panel to the entry point in the room.

  • Now that you have a starting point, create a path for the wire to go. Bring the wire from the entry point to the first socket and cut it so that there is at least 8'' worth of slack wire. Cut the next section so that there are at least 8'' worth of slack at each end between the first and second outlets. Continue throughout the room until all wires have been cut and laid out.

  • Now that you have your wires ready, tuck them into the bottom edge of the wall underneath the plaster or drywall. If there is not enough room for the wire to fit use a hammer and chisel to cut a proper path. Do this throughout the room and then place the wire into the path. Use 'U' nails if necessary to keep the wires in place.

  • The next step is to install outlet boxes. For this project you will want to use shallow plastic remodeling boxes. Measure and draw out a pattern on the outside of the base trim for the size and shape of the box laid horizontal (in the middle of the trim). Use a jigsaw or sabre saw to cut out the pattern and install the box. Use small wood screws to firmly attach the box to the base trim.

  • If the outlet box is deeper than the trim, you will need to chisel out an area of plaster or drywall large enough to fit the box. Pull the wires through the knockouts in the electric box so that all slack is on the outside of the box. Press the trim back against the wall and making sure to nail only in the top area of the trim, reattach the trim with finishing nails or brad nailer. Be very wary of nailing into your wires and possible use steel nail guards or a shielded wire section to insure that no damage will occur. After all of this has been done you can attach your outlets and breaker switch.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are putting two rooms on the same circuit, run a line through the closet wall or through the door trim.
  • If you plan to use a quarter round trim at the bottom of your base trim, try chiseling out a path for your wiring in the center of the base trim, or be sure to use shielded wire.

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