So you’ve found your dream property and your moving date is set. There’s just one thing you need to do before you book the removal van. In an old property, it’s highly advisable to check the state of the electrics.
If you don’t, and there’s a problem, the best outcome will be a failure of the system and a lack of power. The worst-case scenario could be fire, injury or the unthinkable: a fatality.
It’s not always easy to check the electrics in a property visually, simply because so much of the system is tucked away, so you’ll need the help of a professional electrician. In this article, we’ll run through some of the things your electrician will assess.
Tell-Tale Signs of Ageing
Some of the features of old electrics stand out, and any homeowner will spot them.
- While you may not be able to see the wiring behind the walls, you can tell something about the state of the electrics from the sockets. If you see any sockets with round pins, it’s a sure fire sign that your house is in need of urgent electrical TLC.
- You might also spot ageing cables with a fabric coating: they were phased out 50 years ago and have no place in a modern home. Similarly, your fuse box shouldn’t have a wooden back, and lighting cables should never be braided.
- Remember: you should never see a socket in a skirting board, and sockets have no place in a bathroom either. Likewise, light switches shouldn’t be placed inside bathrooms unless they’re pull cords.
- Finally, use common sense: older systems are more likely to have suffered wear and tear, so look out for cracks in perished plastic. Also, listen for telltale sounds like fizzing and crackling, and learn to recognise scorch marks that could indicate overheating.
What to Do About Old Electrics
First of all, it’s very important to stress that we don’t recommend prodding old electrical sockets or cables, and you should never, ever attempt a DIY replacement of old equipment in the home. This is true for everyone, but particularly relevant if you’ve identified signs of damage and decay. Electricity kills – it’s not worth cutting corners.
If you see any damage, don’t touch the socket or switch and don’t be tempted to investigate further. Turn off the power and contact a professional to have your wiring checked.
Replacing an entire system might well be expensive, and you might be reluctant to spend the money if you’re in the middle of buying a house, a process that’s expensive enough already. But when you consider the potential dangers of old wiring, calling an electrician to improve the safety of your home suddenly feels like very good value.
There are obviously practical benefits to replacing an electrical system or wiring as well. In a modern installation, all outlets will have double sockets (except in some rare situations, such as where a double socket would not fit). The more sockets the better in a family home.
Things to Remember
When you call a professional to work on your electrics, ensure they issue a certificate to say the work is complete. And your installer should be a member of NICEIC and Trustmark so that you benefit from a 6-year guarantee on the work.