old house wiring

Old 04-07-04, 03:42 AM
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old house wiring

Some advice please.. I recently bought a home that is about 90 years old. while changing some light fixtures and a few broken switches I noticed that the cloth covering of the wires is very delicate, to the point of crumbling in my hands. I can see why the wires would be fragile at the fixture and switch ends,(rough treatment by too many inexperienced previous owners) My question and fear is.. are the wires inside the walls going to be in the same condition? Although the system has been up-graded with a new circuit breaker box, It is very obvious that the house wiring is orignal. what should I do? how worried should I be about them?


Old 04-07-04, 07:15 AM
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The insulation of your wire is natural rubber, with an outer covering of natural cloth. These materials decay pretty rapidly when exposed to air and heat, at points of connection etc.

I've pulled older wire like this out of conduit and found it as clean as the day it was installed, but where it is installed in free air, it is often decayed, worked on by rodents, etc.

As a good general rule, this type of wiring is going to be damaged by the time you get to it, and the wiring system in a house of that age is probably woefully inadequate for modern use. I would give serious thought to adding circuits for all your common heavy loads rather than loading up the homes existing wiring.

I'm sure you paid quite a bit of money for the home, IMHO if you spend a few thousand more to make it electrically sound it's well spent.
Old 04-07-04, 09:25 AM
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My house is 10 years newer than yours, but had plenty of the old wiring you described. I have spent 3 years now remodeling, and each time I start working on a room, I replace the old wiring.
It means punching a few stategic holes in your walls and ceilings, but it is easily worth the effort. You can use the old cable to pull through a snake, then pull back the snake with new wire. Lubicant is a must.

I have also added several outlets, as my house averaged 1 per room and I also added wall switches as much of the hosue relied on pull switches from the lights.

I have brick walls on the exterior which make the job all that much more challengeing. If you do too, you will need a hammer drill.
Finally, if you don't replace your wiring, there is a great book, "old house wiring" (I think that's the name) that is full of ways safe ways to deal with old wiring. It also has several chapters on the basics and great safety info. I made my wife read the safety chapter so she would stop nagging me about hiring an electrician.

Hiope this is helpful

Old 04-07-04, 09:43 AM
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I found myself in exactly you situation a few months ago. Having the old knob and tube wiring made me very uneasy. Aside from the worn loom (thats the cloth and rubber coating) on a good portion of the wiring, I had very questionable connections in a lot of places and a woefully inadequate amount of receptacles. In my house the wires in accesible locations had the most wear and were in poor condition, some but not all of the wires inside walls were in fair condition. I had several locations were arcing had obviously occured (scorch marks etc). I'm in the process of changing it all out now. A lot of your wiring may be safe and people will tell you that if the circuit has been largely undisturbed you shouldn't have much trouble. I'm in the same situation as you are and I'm upgrading. You have a new circuit breaker box so that makes it a bit easier (I did as well). As mentioned you'll have to knock some holes in your walls, as a bonus you'll become a master plasterer by the time your done ! I've been adding most of my outlets into the baseboards as in a lot of places its the most logical place to do it. Fishing wires in finished walls is not easy. It becomes even more difficult as you go up in floors. I didn't have a straight shot from the basement to the third floor and getting a wire up there was very difficult. If I were you I'd rewire though. It'll take some time and money (supplies and tools to do it aren't really all that expensive though) but it'll give you peace of mind and that's really all that matters.
Old 04-07-04, 11:37 AM
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Old house wiring

Thank you folks for all of your replys.. It's comforting to know that I am not alone in this situation. I guess I had better get to work on it.. but I'm kicking myself in the ass for doing all the plaster skimming and painting that I have already done. Live and learn!

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