Replacing fuse panel with breaker. Thoughts?

Long time lurker here. I’ve been following a lot of you from the redfin forums where you’ve helped me before.
We recently bought a fixer upper SFH in Cupertino. I will create topics for all the things I know will need fixing in the house. This thread will be about the electricals.
The house has a fuse service panel and a circuit breaker distribution panel. See photos.
The inspection report and my contractor both indicate that these panels are outdated.
What and how should this be fixed? What are the permits I will need ? Should the wiring happen first and then the panel upgrade or vice versa ?
What should the panel amps be? Is 125 sufficient ? Is 200 amp overkill ?
Other things to consider: house has a gas cooking range, central gas-driven heating.
Electric appliances used will be: large LED TV, microwave, washer/dryer, dishwasher, central A/C.

My contractor has quoted $6000 to rewire the house and do a panel upgrade. Parts are extra.
Does this quote sound fair? Please PM me if you know electrical contractors who are reliable ( not necessarily cheap ).


Sounds fair…For a complete rewire…How many sf?
But what about drywall repairs and paint?

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House sq ft is about 1100 sq ft. Contractor did say he will remove drywall, repair and close. I dont know if he is biting off more than he can chew. House has crawl space too but funnily enough living room has no attic.
Paint is extra. He is asking $6000 to repaint the interior of the whole house which I think is a bit much.

Interior paint should be $2k

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Thanks elt1. I will try to counter with my contractor on the paint.
Another question about the wiring - This is an old house from the 1950’s. Right now a cable runs from the electrical pole at the corner of the lot and terminates on my roof. Will this delivery method still work or will PG&E require me to put this wire underground when i do the panel upgrade ?

The building department will determine whether you have to go underground. …Are your neighbors all overhead?

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yes all the neighbors are overhead.

Dont worry about the overhead…Find a different contractor for painting. .Electricians aee expensive, painters are cheap…

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Electricians charge $110/hr - $125/hr and hard to get their time. He may be good electrical handyman, I really doubt he is full electrician. With whatever you stated, he is quoting best rate with the turn-key work. He will get the necessary permit. You can go for 200 amp panel. It is better to do panel work/wiring with good electrician.Make sure he is good electrician.

Thanks elt1.
Jil - he is bonded ( liability insurance ) and licensed and has done this before. I will go for 200 amp panel. Thanks.

Regardless I will walk to Cupertino City Hall seeking a permit. Paint cost has risen a lot and inside is harder. I guess $3500 for paint labor and materials. More for dry wall, Some painters can not do drywall. You may want to stuff insulation batts behind. My guess is it will cost close to the original $6K.

On electrical the price sounds reasonable by a licensed contractor,

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Ah yes. The insulation is a great idea. I will check what’s in the walls now. Thanks

Well, the following just as a data point.

I own a SFR in Cupertino where we are in the process of legalizing an in-law unit/ apartment. Total house is about 2080 sqft, inlaw portion is 480 sqft.

The existing service is 100A overhead.
They try to force me to 1) upgrade to 200A and in the process, 2) convert to underground.

We’re trying to prove with load calculations that 100A is sufficient. Issue is, the 2nd unit will be electrically heated… trying to find a low-energy heat pump now and then update the load calculations.

Also, I can confirm that this city has increased their fees big time this year.

As another detail that may be useful to know for some: the City of Cupertino no longer allows “inlaw units”. They are now “official units”.
Meaning, my property will be a duplex with 2 separate addresses. This came as a surprise. Suddenly (after applying to legalize an inlaw unit), I got a letter that the new address has been assigned and will be effective 10 calendar days from the date of the letter (which was 7 days ago).

Is it a negative to convert SFR to duplex? Duplex seems to sell for less money.

I would agree that a 2080 sqft duplex (1600+480) would sell for less than a 2080 SFR that has a legal inlaw unit.

That’s why I was a bit upset when they (without ever giving me a warning) created that second address. I found out after the fact!!!

On top of that, because of the creation of a new address, Public Works got involved, I think they charged a $5000 fee or something in that ball park.

If we end up going with the 200A panel, and underground, I am guessing these fees:

5k Public works
9k Planning
1k Building
5k PG&E for new service
No sqft was added… no school fee for that reason.

And then there is a bit of actual work to be done inside the unit, e.g. replace regular outlets with AFCI, firewall in attic to separate the 2 units, new house number to be installed, new smoke detectors to be hard-wired with battery backup and linked of course… I am guessing the actual work will cost $5k?

So… $20k to the City / PG&E and $5k to contractors… I do not like that ratio.

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If you just upgrade the circuit box to 200A from 100A, is there any city/PGE fees other than a permit fee of $200? I guess those $20k fees are from the secondary unit mostly?

What’s the zoning of the house? If the zoning is for SFR, most likely your house is still SFR, they just give you a separate address for the in law unit. I think Cupetino prefers SFR and it would be really hard to convert a SFR to duplex.

Yes, most of the 20k was for the 2nd unit. Which will not have a separate meter. The duplex will have only 1 electric meter.

But I suspect that when you upgrade from 100A to 200A, you may be forced to go underground. I don’t think that the neighbor’s service matters. On our property’s street, plenty of people have overhead service. The majority, I think.

When you go to PG&E and ask for underground service, they will charge you for the “engineering”. I was just guessing that it will be $5000. I used to pay $8000 for upgraded gas and electric for 1 single house, but that was 2010. PG&E has dramatically increased their charges for their engineering as well. [In 2014, I paid $40k for 4 houses’s services and in 2016, $100k for 6 houses.]

I think you should just go and ask at the building department and also ask PG&E. They have a service center at Blaney x Homestead where you get these questions answered.

Busy office, but very helpful people.

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Thank you for your replies. Very useful. I will go to the Blaney office tomorrow and enquire.
The fees are outrageous. I wanted to upgrade to 200A but now having 2nd thoughts. Will I have to jump through the underground hoop if I am going from 60 to 100 amp ?

Our lot is R1-10 and we were most certainly going to add an in-law unit in a year or 2. Now if the SFR is going to become a duplex ( with lower price appreciation ) that is a major issue. I might as well build some extra footage and rent it out on Airbnb instead. When I asked the planning office about Airbnb rules they asked me to wait till early 2017.

I am not sure that this type of duplex automatically means less appreciation. When you look at the house from the street, it looks just like any other rancher SFR with a 2 car garage.

Cupertino is quite strict on AirBnb… this particular property was rented on AirBnb… turned out to be a code violation as the City of Cupertino allows it only in primary residences, cannot have more than 2 guests at any time, owner needs to live there full time, cannot rent out room by room to multiple parties, etc etc.

Wanted to report back here. I got this work completed finally. Here is the sequence:

  1. I found a contractor who removed the fuse box, replaced it with a circuit breaker panel for 200 Amps. He also moved the old distribution panel outside. So everything is now in one place. This contractor was bonded, licensed and did the work with permits from the city. All of this along with some other interior electrical work cost ~4500$
  2. The city approved everything and filed a notice with PG&E
  3. I was crossing my fingers and hoping PG&E would not ask for more. PG&E asked for 75$ and replaced the old wire drop. As of last week all work has been completed.
    Just a note, if you move your old panel from one place on the exterior wall to another PG&E will make a fuss as they don’t want it to be close to bedrooms, etc. Luckily my new panel is in the same place as old and I was able to prove this with old and new pics.
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