Grounding and rewiring old house.


Old 05-11-05, 09:10 AM
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Grounding and rewiring old house.

I just bought an older house built in the 1960s. Here's the state of the current wiring:

- Kitchen & Laundry rooms are grounded. 1 outlet in basement and 1 livingroom are grounded (wired to the air conditioner and kitchen respectively). Rest of outlets are ungrounded.

- Wiring is a mess. The livingroom itself is being supplied by 4 different circuits. Some circuits supply outlets in different rooms on different floors. No real rhyme or reason for the design of the circuit.

- Wiring is old. Older green cloth sleeved wire coming from service panel. One brown cloth sleeved cable is blackened (burnt?). There's also a flat cable (looks like an atenna cable) that may also be coming from the panel... not sure what that's being used for. I'll get specs of the cables and possibly images later tonight.

- "Creative" wiring in spots. Two outlets are reversed polarity. Bathroom GFCI is wired ahead of the lights on upper floor. So when GFCI trips, the lights go out. Some outlets are 3-prong, but not grounded.

So here's what I want to do to fix the wiring...

- Rewire circuits to be more logical (i.e. one circuit for livingroom instead of four circuits).
- Add updated romex wire with ground to all outlets.

I know it's going to be a lot of work. Do you think this is worth doing? Should I take the easy route and just put GFCIs instead grounding the outlets and live with messy and old wiring? Should I just keep the existing topography of the circuit and just upgrade the wiring on it?

- Jon.
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Old 05-11-05, 10:05 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
There is nothing wrong with having a room served by various circuits. Some people like this, other don't. It is not correct NOW for certain rooms to be shared (such as bathrooms and bedrooms), but it may have been at one time. However, if you do modify a circuit, then you need to bring that circuit up to code.

There is nothing wrong with old wiring, as long as it is in good shape. Clearly if a wire is burned, it needs to be looked at and possible corrected.

Reverse wiring of a receptacles easy to correct, just make sure that you don’t reverse downstream receptacles in the process of fixing the original one.

Switching the GFCI protected lights to the line side of the bathroom GFCI receptacle is also an easy fix (in most cases), as is replacing the ungrounded three prong receptacles with two prong ungrounded ones.

Before going further, I would investigate the entire wiring setup at your house. Make sure that what you think is grounded really is (and properly), and figure out the entire layout of the existing wiring.
Old 05-11-05, 12:18 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Trying to make the circuits more "logical" is, in my opinion, a waste of time. Make is safer, make it grounded, get modern wire, put in GFCI where indicated, get more power where you need more power, but don't waste time making it "logical".

Four circuits in a room is not a problem, GFCI ahead of lights is a minor problem at worst, reversed polarity is a small problem that is easy to correct, and 3-prong ungrounded non-GFCI-protected receptacles is a technical code violation.

Set your priorities. Address the largest safety issues first. And frankly, your house doesn't sound all that bad. We've certainly seen a lot worse.
Old 05-13-05, 06:43 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 194
I would rewire this house. Looks like someone before you didn't know what they were doing.
Old 05-13-05, 09:01 AM
Mr Fixit eh's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 94
As Racraft and John have hinted, your wiring is probably in pretty good shape, and not hard to improve in a few areas without a lot of $ and time. You might want to consider having a licenced and well-recommended electrician come in to inspect your wiring and make a recommendation.

He/she should physically inspect the cable and open up a few device boxes around the home. The recommendation will most likely be to add a few GFCIs where required, and maybe put in a few new circuits to high-power-use areas like the kitchen.

The only reason to pull all-new cable and completely re-wire the home is if the cable insulation (not the cloth stuff you see, but the plastic stuff enclosing the conductors) is all brittle and falling apart -- not all that likely on a house of your vintage. If the recommendation is to completely re-wire, I also think about get a second opinion before you proceed.

You can probably do alot of the upgrades yourself, if you're DIY-minded, or you can pay a pro. If you decide to do the work yourself, spend some money on education--go to your nearest HomeDepot or bookstore and pick up a book on DIY home wiring with lots of pictures. Black n Decker has , "Basic Home Wiring." HomeDepot has "Wiring 1,2,3." And there's a book called, "Wiring Simplified."


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