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I'm stripping my small 950 sq. ft. 1950's-era home to the studs -- walls and ceiling -- so that I can install a vapor barrier and insulation in the walls and ceiling. While I have the studs available (exterior and interior walls and ceiling), what other projects are worth pursuing? I've thought of the following:

  • Add outlets -- the home is old and doesn't have the number of outlets needed by today's standards.
  • Install wired security alarm system
  • Install speaker wires for TV
  • Block and wire for a wall-mounted TV

What other projects are worth doing as long as you have access to the studs?

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Technically, this is NARQ because of the open ended nature, but it's a good fit for the site. Perhaps it should be converted to a wiki? –  BMitch Nov 6 '12 at 16:28
    
The home is in the Seattle area. –  Trevor Nov 6 '12 at 16:38
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@BMitch I agree, should be community wiki. –  Tester101 Nov 6 '12 at 17:37
    
You can buy this stuff to spray on the wood to prevent termites and bug infestations. May be worth doing. –  staticx Nov 6 '12 at 17:44
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7 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Here's some things:

  • Install cat5e cabling for network connections and telephone wires to every room. Run them all back to a central closet (head end). Wireless connections are fine, but wired connections are better quality
  • Replace all your old wiring with new wiring, your old wiring will have degraded by now
  • Inspect all studs for rot. Check all the joints and maybe add some braces if necessary
  • If you are in a hurricane or tornado-prone location install hurricane straps, providing you can reach the roof plate
  • Inspect all your piping, make sure everything has the correct fall, replace or upgrade anything that looks like it won't stand the test of time
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Why just install cat5 cable? Be "future proof", and install medium diameter conduit so you can easily pull new cables as technology advances (don't forget to run a piece of string/rope to each location, to make future pulls easier). –  Tester101 Nov 6 '12 at 17:35
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Running some RG-6 (coax) to a few spots is also not a terrible idea, useful for satellite/cable tv. Keep in mind too that Cat5e/Cat6 (and RJ45 connectors) can be used for analog telephones as well. Running Cat5e to a location (or two) in rooms where you might possibly put a desk, TV, or phone is a good idea. –  gregmac Nov 6 '12 at 17:42
    
@Tester101 If you're going to run conduit, don't run the cables in it - leave the conduit empty and run the cables beside it. It's sometimes difficult to run new wires inside a conduit that's already used, and there's also almost no value in used wiring (except maybe as scrap copper) so you might as well leave it in place (and it looks like Cat5e will continue to be useful for the next decade or so, at least). Only exception is if the conduit has value (maybe just in certain spots) in protecting the cable, then use an additional conduit (at least for that spot). –  gregmac Nov 6 '12 at 17:45
    
It's better to have data and phone cabling in conduit, protects them. You could run 2 conduits, but that's a bit overkill. –  GdD Nov 6 '12 at 17:46
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@GdD I think it's usually overkill to protect them in conduit, other than if they're exposed and in danger of being damaged, or so close to the drywall surface that they could be punctured putting up pictures. If you're not also putting your high-voltage cable in conduit, the logic of putting low-voltage in conduit escapes me: if a low-voltage comms cable is damaged, it just doesn't work. If a 120V cable is damaged, it can electrocute someone or start a fire. –  gregmac Nov 6 '12 at 18:39
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  • You'll need to install hard-wired smoke alarms to meet current residential code. This requires three-strand+ground wire run to the necessary locations -- one in the hallway leading to the bedrooms (carbon monoxide and smoke) and then one smoke alarm in each bedroom.
  • Seal any wire penetrations between the heated envelope of your home (such as where pipes and wires penetrate the top or bottom plate) with spray foam.
  • Remediate any insect or rotten wood or air sealing problems. Watch for dirty insulation as you pull any existing insulation out.
  • You might need to replace your fuse box with a modern circuit breaker box.
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If the electrical is more than 20 years old, I'd consider rewiring everything. It's so easy when you're down to studs. Put in plenty of circuits (even new houses seem to suffer from a woefully limited number of distinct circuits).

As others have said, networking and low-voltage wiring is good. However, I wouldn't go and wire up every room but instead run smurf tube to outlets and drop in a fish line. That way you can upgrade much easier when the time comes.

Before putting up the wallboard, take photos of EVERY WALL. This is so useful for both you and any future owners.

And then, just for fun, hide a time capsule or two in a couple of the walls.

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Love the time capsule idea. Bravo! –  Trevor Nov 7 '12 at 22:48
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Add a subpanel in a key location. The exact size & placement of the subpanel will be specific to your house layout.

It will make it easy to add short-distance circuits in the future.

It will also make it possible to add a big outlet for a high-current, 240V device at that location, without running a long cable. Some repair job might benefit from that in the future.

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Jay, we've got to give you a nickname. Unfortunately, Jay "the subpanel, yurt, compost toilet, all around cool guy" Bazuzi is a mouthful. :) –  BMitch Nov 6 '12 at 22:48
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Many old houses have electrical wiring with out safety grounds. If this is the case in your house then this should be a major incentive to replace all the electrical wiring if you need more of a reason than the fact that it is just old.

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How about improving the fire safety of your house.

  1. Seal all gaps/cracks (hvac/plumbing/electrical) between floors with fire-stop caulking
  2. Install fire resistant insulation around key areas
  3. Install firestop blocking
  4. If you have a basement and the studs are not directly against the wall, install fire block behind the top plate and vertically as required by your local code (every 10' I think)

Already mentioned but I'll include again is hardwiring smoke detectors

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In addition to things already mentioned (Cat 5E, Coax, sealing cracks, etc.), consider insulating any hot water pipes in your walls or ceilings. Also, inspect any visible plumbing for signs of corrosion (especially if unlike metals are in contact). If you have fixtures a long distance from your hot water tank, consider installing a return loop that would allow a circulating pump to bring hot water to the fixture without waste.

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