old wiring

Old 02-04-04, 05:39 PM
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old wiring

We are trying to buy a 1909 craftsman foursquare, we had an inspection done. The inspector wrote that it has 200amp service, 240 volts with circut breakers. He also wrote that some wiring was romex and some was copper or aluminum or knob and tube. Should we hire an electrician to look it over? We are having problems finding insurance for the house and are not sure what to do next. Thanks.
Old 02-04-04, 06:40 PM
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Apparently these days, insurance companies are avoiding K & T, or knob and tube, like the plague.

I notice you say the house has Romex and some was copper or aluminum or knob and tube.

Does that mean it might have all copper Romex? Or some aluminum Romex? And it may or may not have K & T? I would ask this inspector to clarify his findings as the word "or", at least to me anyway, means it may or may not have these certain types of wiring.

Also, ask him what the extent of these wiring methods are. How much K & T is in there? Is it in accessible areas where it could easily be replaced with copper Romex cable? Basically get as much info as you can from the inspector. Post back with any more details or questions.
Old 02-04-04, 06:41 PM
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The insurance company may want the aluminum wiring and/or knob and tube wiring replaced.

Find out if this is what the insurance company is balking about and go from there.
Old 02-04-04, 07:47 PM
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All I know right now is there is an addition on the back of the house that was added in the 50's, the owners were remodeling it and it had the romex in it. Not sure what kind. The outlets in that part of the house were grounded though. The rest of the regular outlets were not grounded or were reversed polarity (not sure what that means), There was a conduit running in one of the closets upstairs and it has 220 written on the junction box. Some of the switches upstairs were the old push button kind and I saw a cloth covered cable coming out of a fixture in one closet. I will contact the inspector tomorrow and ask him some questions.

Also, how do you go about re-wiring an old house? If anyone has a good book or books you would recommend that would be great.
Old 02-04-04, 08:13 PM
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Okay, so it sounds like the majority of the house probably makes use of K & T wiring. The addition on the back probably has some newer type Romex cable.

The reverse polarity indicates that the hot and neutral wires may be switched at some of the receptacle outlets.

Re-wiring an old house can be easy or it can be difficult depending on the type of construction and the amount of wall repair/replacement you are willing to do. If you are tearing out the walls, then it is relatively easy. Keeping the original plaster intact requires considerably more time and effort.

If you've got a basement, re-wiring the first floor is fairly easy. You can come up through the floor into the wall cavities for your receptacle outlets. The hard part will be the light fixtures since you don't have access from above.

On the second floor, if you've got an accessible attic, you can easily re-wire the light fixtures and drop your cable runs into the walls for your receptacles.

One nice thing is the service panel is already done and you've got 200 amps there. That will save you about $1500-2000.

I recommend you pick up "Wiring Simplfied" and "Your Old Wiring". Also, "Electrical Wiring Residential" by Mullin, and even the Home Depot book isn't bad. Basically read as many electrical books as you can. Check your library and local homecenters. A big job like re-wiring a house requires lots of knowledge.
Old 02-04-04, 10:08 PM
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Thank you very much for all the info. I will check into the books you mentioned.
Old 02-05-04, 08:02 AM
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I'm in the process of rewiring a 1905 twin I just bought. As mentioned it can be either really easy or really difficult. It will probably involve some light demolition i.e tearing into some walls, and pulling up some baseboards. So far I've been pretty lucky with my deconstruction efforts. Finding the logic behind some of the wiring runs can be maddening. And it's also a good bet that none of your wires will be labeled hot or nuetral either.
I started out by removing the covers and inspecting how every outlet in the house was wired. More than half was unlabeled and ungrounded K +T . And about half of the switches and light fixtures were as well. The previous owner/owners had wired most of the first floor from the basement with a combination of Romex and shielded metal cable. So I had at least some of the work down for me. Having some grounded outlets that you can use for testing purposes should be one of the first things you do. With unlabeled wires you need a grounding path to find which one is hot. I use a long extension cord plugged into a grounded outlet. If you plan to abandon the K+T in place it will be less important to identify the hot feed because you'll have a new wire and hopefully a new circuit and it'll be labeled. It's still something I like to do anyway.
The next thing I did was begin to systematically replace each outlet and fixture with new wiring. Once I can verify everything that consumes power in the house is on a new circuit, I plan to abandon the old wiring in place (disconnected at both ends of course).
I began my project with very little knowledge of electricity. I bought a few books on the subject and read them and then started with what I felt comfortable with, like replacing a few outlets. Start small and build your knowledge and confidence base from there. If you like the house a lot (like we did) and aren't opposed to putting a little work into it (demolishing something you just payed $200K for can be a little disheartening at first hehe) then having K+T wiring isn't the end of the world. On the plus side wiring materials like Romex cable, switch and outlet boxes, etc. are pretty inexpensive. By the time everthing is said and done I'll have spent about $1000 on rewiring a 2000sq ft 3 story house and that includes all the tools I had to buy as well.

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