Fix it if it isn't broken

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  #1  
Old 12-22-02, 07:49 PM
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Phonetek
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Fix it if it isn't broken

In a house I purchased earlier this year I have come to realize that this place really needs an expert of all trades. I have redone most all the plumbing, telephone and cable. That was all pretty simple since everything was easy to access for the most part. I didn't have to get too creative either. The one thing that bothers me the most is the electric. First of all the previous owner installed a "200 amp" breaker box but the incoming feed is #3 cable. Obviously not enough. Not to mention the panel really isn't grounded properly. That much I can do no problem. This place is 75 yrs old and the wire throughout the house is this stuff with paper inside and cloth sheath. Some is 16 ga. and some is 14 ga. Just the looks of this bothers me. Something about cloth, paper and voltage just tells me this place should have been a pile of charcoal years ago. Also, it is very strange the way they ran the circuits. It seems that everything feeds to the ceillings and branches out from there to the recepticles and switches. Well I must say that it was fun hanging a remote controlled ceilling fan with that ball of doo-doo in the one gang box. Funny thing is that right now I have as many christmas lights on as the Grizwalds and I have yet to trip a single breaker or have a single problem at all. My question is, do you think that even though I haven't had any problems should I still condsider replacing the existing wiring? When it comes to knocking out plaster I am not shy one bit nor does pulling cable bother me. I'm actually thinking of doing it in conduit as well. Should I not fix it if it isn't broken or do you think it's a safety hazzard? It will not be something I will be doing until next summer if I am physically able but I figure I would see just how big my project will be.
 
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Old 12-22-02, 10:57 PM
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In some cases leaving things alone is a good idea but not in electrical. If you are the least bit concerned call in a professional to take a look at the place and give you his opion. From the sound of it if you have undersized wires feeding the service and improper grounding that is reason enough to call in help.
Substandard wiring can be very dangerous if you pocess the skills and desire many of these problems you can do yourself and only have a tradesman repair what your not sure of, many times by doing some of the grunt work you can save a great deal on the project.
 
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Old 12-23-02, 05:00 AM
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Are you serious about some of the wires being 16 ga? If so, what size fuses are on these circuits?? I have never heard of anything less than 15 Amp for household circuits which requires at least 14 ga wire.
 

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Old 12-23-02, 05:58 AM
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The reason everything feeds to the ceiling is probably because when the house was built it didn't have electicity. If this is single story house going up to the attic and then down walls is a good way to avoid cutting the walls open. It probably means that wires are not fastened inside the walls and can used to pull in the new wires like a fish tape. I pulled wires all the way up to the second floor of my sisters house this way.
 
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Old 12-23-02, 08:17 AM
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I think lyou may find the wires are #14 not #16 even though they look so much smaller. Years ago the wire for some reason was a different diameter don't ask me why but I ran into some when I was an apprentise and thought the place had been wired in #16, my journeyman had me search the place until I could get a spot where I could read the size on the wire and it was #14. He thought I'd remember it better if I wasted a few hours and learn not to assume something on a quick visual inspection only. Hunt and make sure.
 
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Old 12-23-02, 09:12 PM
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Phonetek
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Wow, so many people to reply to!

Gard: I think lyou may find the wires are #14 not #16 even though they look so much smaller.

When I was repacing recepticles I tried using the #14 portion of my wire stripper and it just slid right off the wire without putting so much as a dent in the insulation. #16 worked perfect without dinging the copper. If it is #14 its a thinner version, maybe 75 years ago 14 was smaller. Hehee.

To reply to the your first post, I will be doing all the work myself with the exception of pulling the meter while I change the feed to the breaker box. I will be putting in conduit because Romex just bothers me, it may work fine but I feel better about pipe. Not to mention if I'm knocking out the plaster anyways, I might as well do it right. I have other reasons for knocking out the plaster so this isn't the only reason. I need to do some reducting for heat and A/C and I think all the blown in insulation now settled behind my walls. It feels like the only part of my walls that are insulated is about the first two feet up from the floor. It's going to be a long process but one room at a time I guess.

Thiggy: Are you serious about some of the wires being 16 ga? If so, what size fuses are on these circuits?? I have never heard of anything less than 15 Amp for household circuits which requires at least 14 ga wire.

Currently most of the breakers are 15-20 amp. I do not know what the home previously had when it was actually "fuses" way back when. Originally the home had 60 amp fused service. It was then upgraded to 100 amp breaker. The last owner upgraded it again to 200 am breaker but as I said he didn't change the incoming feed which is #3 which will only suppy about 100amp anyway. So it is still 100 amp feed with a 200 amp breaker. If the wire is 16 gauge I am not surprized since it seems that there have been alot of creative doityourselfer's who had lived here but they weren't doitrighter's.

Joed: The reason everything feeds to the ceiling is probably because when the house was built it didn't have electicity. If this is single story house going up to the attic and then down walls is a good way to avoid cutting the walls open. It probably means that wires are not fastened inside the walls and can used to pull in the new wires like a fish tape. I pulled wires all the way up to the second floor of my sisters house this way.

I'm not sure why they did it this way but my stepfather (an electrician for 40+ yrs) said that the wiring was commonly done back in the era of this homes construction. He said it was the old way of thinking. I hope so because it creates a mess and it's difficult to troubleshoot unless of course pulling light fixtures down is fun. (My case its ceilling fans) I hate putting them up or pulling them down then back up. As far as using the old cables to pull new wire it would come in handy but since I'm putting in pipe it won't help much. At least it will be easy to pull out.


Thank you all for your replies!!
 
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Old 12-24-02, 09:53 PM
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re: Phonetek

Well it sounds like from your username you are fully capable of knowing how to fish wires into existing walls, not to mention the excellent source of knowledge that you have from your Stepfathers experience. If I was taking on this project, I would be concerned about the age of the service itself. You stated that it was originally a 60 amp, which was eventually upgraded to a two hundred amp breaker. If the panel itself has never been changed out there is no time better than the present to install a completely new service. I would also tend to shy away from installing conduit as a wiring method for your house. Eventhough I have always wanted to wire a house with conduit, but the time and extra work to do a quality job would far outway the hesitation that you have about installing romex. This is considering that romex is an acceptable wiring method for your local. Joed, replied earlier about the ease of fishing wires, again he is on target. ( He must be a wireman). I would suggest using romex and spending the money you will save on purchasing spec grade devices and Nylon coverplates. The best advice anyone could give you would be to buy your stepfather a great Christmas present and stock up on steaks for the barbie. Good luck on your remodel.
 
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