A Guide to Electrical Wiring Costs in an NYC Home Remodel

Planning a home remodel in NYC? Don’t let unexpected electrical costs zap your budget! Upgrading your home’s electrical system is crucial for safety and functionality, especially in older buildings with outdated wiring. Understanding the process and potential expenses can help you avoid costly surprises and ensure a smooth renovation.

New homeowners and prospective buyers in NYC often learn that electrical upgrades might be needed for a decade- or century-old apartment or townhouse. “Electrical work,” though, is a vague term that ranges from installing a light fixture to replacing a building’s internal wiring. So you’re wondering: what does it cost to replace electrical wiring in a home? Sweeten offers some tips and expert advice about electrical work and potential costs.

Because electrical magic happens behind walls, forecasting the scope of additions and costs to update electrical wiring can be challenging. Those cost estimates are also crucial if you’re budgeting for a renovation or for a new home purchase.

How do I know what kind of electrical work a place needs?

Analyzing the existing electrical

Contractors will first examine the electrical panel (or “box”) to determine circuit load capacity. In other words, what more can the existing wiring handle? Experienced contractors can generally tell by looking at the circuits what can and cannot be done. That is, do you need to add more capacity to the existing system? Or, upgrade to a larger panel because slots for breakers are full?

Electrical needs for older homes

Pre-war apartments that haven’t been updated in decades often need significant electrical re-wiring and additional wattage to support modern electrical demands. Many NYC buildings constructed through the early part of the twentieth century were multi-layered with older wiring systems. Some have ungrounded systems that lack code-approved grounding conductors. Others have metallic insulation materials like aluminum or copper wiring that may actually increase the chances of electrical shock or fire. These older wiring systems, typically with 60 to 100 amps of service, violate current electrical codes. They also fall short of the standard minimum of 200 amps generally needed to power a home.

According to N.Y.-based Sweeten general contractor Frank, “I’ve done a lot of new services, and I recommend having new electrical. When you spend X amount of dollars on the apartment renovation, you need everything to be working.”

Ultimately, the electrical code determines what’s required, and it’s highly detailed. Each room must have a light fixture, for example, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors must be hardwired. (This is because battery-powered models are not allowed.) This evaluation of your system is part of your walk-through with your general contractor.

What if I just want to install new appliances?

Installing appliances like air conditioners or entertainment systems in older homes may seem simple, but it can easily overload the electrical system. Think of your home’s electrical load capacity as a giant surge protector. Overloading it can trip breakers, blow fuses, and cut off power. If your electrical system isn’t equipped to handle the increased demand, what seems like a simple appliance installation could turn into a major project requiring a new electrical panel or rewiring.

Take air conditioning, for instance. General contractor Frank explains, “For homes without central AC, each room with a wall or window unit needs its own dedicated electrical line.” This doesn’t apply to kitchens and bathrooms. Each dedicated line runs directly from the AC unit to the electrical panel without sharing power with other devices. This can mean a lot of new wiring to meet safety codes, and it’s not optional. Whether you install AC or not, the entire electrical system must be up to code.

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The cost of this project varies widely, depending in part on whether your electrical panel has the capacity for new circuits. Frank estimates that a dedicated line can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000.

How does rewiring work? 

The electrical rewiring process

If your place is in for a full electrical upgrade, you need to plan and budget for a labor-intensive and disruptive process. Your electrician will temporarily shut off power and your contractor will open up the walls. Since wires are attached to framing within the walls, rewiring can be very invasive. Your team might completely demolish entire walls to access all the old wires and replace them. 

One type of surprise for homeowners, said Sweeten general contractor Mohsen, who is based in New York, is framing changes. Bringing older homes and apartments up to modern standards may require adjusting the existing framing to accommodate new equipment.

“What is behind the ceiling? Do we have enough space for recessed lights?” he said. “Do we have enough space for the fan? Choosing a fan that doesn’t fit the space may require reframing. Sometimes dropping the entire bathroom ceiling for the fan can also be a surprise,” Mohsen added.

How much will electrical wiring cost?

Budgeting for an electrical overhaul

To finish, the walls are plastered and painted. The electrician connects the remaining switches and outlets, closes up the new electrical panel, and installs light fixtures. The full electrical wiring cost of this kind of project, with demolition, permits, labor, materials, construction, and painting can cost from $15,000 and up depending on the size of your space and extent of work. If you are gut-renovating an entire home, a full electrical overhaul might represent somewhere around 5% of your total budget. If your renovation is limited to a particular room (like a kitchen), a full electrical overhaul may end up matching or exceeding the total cost of the project you’re planning. The costs to update electrical wiring in a home involve more than just electrical work.

Rewiring aside, what else might I need for electrical work?

Contractors assess electrical needs and costs for clients based on a series of questions:

1. What is already in place vs. what you are trying to accomplish?

Identify what kind of light fixtures or electrical systems are in place and what’s not there. If you want to install lighting, put in a security system, or run a phone line in a particular location that doesn’t have existing wiring, contractors have to perform an electrical “rough-in.”  That is the preliminary step to lay out the basic wiring to proper specifications before connections and insulation are completed. The rough-in cost is generally calculated by the length of the wiring lines installed (linear feet running from the circuit box to the point where outlets and switches are mounted), the cost of materials, and the labor rate. Rough-ins might also be charged at a flat rate of $250–$400 per junction box, outlet, or switch. 

2. What type of light fixtures and finishes do you want and how many do you need?

Contractors charge labor costs that include running cables to devices and connecting wiring to circuit boxes based on the number and type of fixtures you want to install. Generally, swapping an old light fixture for a new one comes in at around $100 per fixture or at an hourly fee. Installing new fixtures like pendants and recessed LED lights comes in at around $200–$400 per fixture and larger, heavier fixtures like chandeliers cost in the range of $500–$800 per fixture.

3. How much amp service does your electrical panel hold?

Most electrical panels in NYC have a 200-amp capacity. If your service falls short of that, you may lack the power or space in your circuit box to handle new demands. In that case, you’ll need an electrical panel upgrade, which can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 or more for a new box.

If your existing panel has room for new circuits, but you’re planning renovations that include energy-hungry appliances, consider adding a new circuit breaker to handle the increased load. Each new breaker typically costs between $300 and $800. Adding a new circuit also allows for more outlets, which usually run around $100 to $300 each.

Older homes with outdated service can present unexpected challenges. General contractor Frank recently worked on a project where the existing 80-amp service was insufficient and had to be replaced with a new 200-amp line. This involved the electric company burying a new line to the house, requiring trenching in the yard and a new concrete sidewalk. The cost for this work alone reached $5,000 before Frank could even begin the interior electrical upgrades.

Permits and processes for electrical work

For anything other than a fixture swap or a straightforward appliance installation, you will need an electrician licensed by the Department of Buildings who must first file an electrical application and pay permit fees in order to conduct electrical work. Once a permit is obtained, an inspection must take place, and a certificate is mailed to ensure that the work was properly completed and inspected.

The cost to replace electrical wiring is hugely variable. Balancing current wiring with future needs while meeting code is complex and requires a competent professional electrician.

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 Post your project on Sweeten to connect with a trusted contractor in your area and turn your house into a space you’ll love.

To help you plan your renovation, we’ve also published articles on different design inspirationsprocesses, and cost guides to ensure a smooth and successful project.


Before starting a renovation, declutter the space, protect furniture and belongings, arrange for temporary living arrangements if necessary, and communicate your plans to your general contractor.

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