KNOB & TUBE Home Inspector


Old 01-25-06, 05:50 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Delaware County PA
Posts: 118
KNOB & TUBE Home Inspector

I am selling a house that has some knob & tube. The home inspector said it needs to be replaced because it does not meet todays standards. Ok so it should be replaced. RIGHT? ( homeowners)
The house is aproxx 80 yrs old, plaster and lathe. The problem I see is replacing the K&T at the switches & outlets. I also don't see a chase that runs to the basement from the attic. The house is a 3 bedroom twin w/ attic & basement access. Any ideas of cost or the easiest way to handle this project?
The main box has been updated.
Also - are wire nuts permitted inside the main panel?

Media Pa

Last edited by rfellmanjr; 01-25-06 at 06:06 PM.
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Old 01-25-06, 06:49 PM
pcboss's Avatar
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Location: Maryland
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What documentation can the inspector show you that requires the wiring to be replaced? This sounds more like an opinion. As long as it met the standard when it was installed the wiring method is grandfathered. Call your building department and ask them.

Yes, wire nuts can be in a panel.
Old 01-25-06, 06:56 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 149
Any wiring installed to code remains to code no matter how the code changes afterwards. That is, properly installed k & t wiring is within code. Home inspectors and insurance companies don't like it, and prospective homeowners are going to listen to them. My personal opinion is that it is not inherently dangerous, but it is inherently insufficient for today's electric loads.

Now if the k & t has been altered in anyway, it could be non code compliant.

I got 3 bids for rewiring my 1200 sq ft home (old nm) - low was just under $5K, high was around $8K. These bids included a service upgrade. Your bids will most likely be much different. I decided to do it myself - and I'm nearly done - after 6 months... I imagine your house will be much more difficult.

The thing is, that it seems that home buyer's today want a "brand new" old house. And bottom line is that the rewiring is negotiable - Are you prepared to negotiate? Are you prepared to spend thousands of bucks to correct what a home inspector may have mistaken for "not to code" wiring? Are you prepared to walk away from the sale? All of these things factor into what you want to do.

Yes, you can use wirenuts in the main panel... just looks tacky and draws attention. Now what the wirenuts are used for may not be permitted!!! What is it that you want to do? Or drew the attention of the home inspector?
Old 01-25-06, 07:04 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,973
The home inspector is full of himself. Nothing needs to be replaced. If it was installed to code it is still at code.

Now if it has deteriorated or been covered by insulations or something like that, then yes it needs to be replaced.

Either way, you need not do anything until and unless the buyer wants you to do something. Then you negotiate with the buyer for an equitable solution. If you think you will get other offers at the price you want (or at least at more than this buyer wants to pay) then you say you won;t negotiate. If, however, you haven't had any other hits and you need to sell quickly, then you negotiate.
Old 01-25-06, 07:36 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Denver, CO area
Posts: 221
K&T is a touchy subject. Some K&T that had a good installation job is still in good shape and the only reason to replace it is often because of insulation installation (attics, outside walls). Some of it is in bad shape and should have been replaced years ago.

There is a lot of wiring that isn't up to todays standards, but it was installed correctly when it was put in and is "grandfathered", that is, as long as the circuit isn't changed (extended) it's perfectly acceptable to keep using it, code wise as well as utility wise. The disadvantages to this is that there is usually no ground wire.

Often, GFCI protection on receptacle circuits is enough to have a reasonably safe installation, and AFCI breakers offer additional protection. Cutler Hammer in particular make an AFCI breaker that is also rated as a GFCI device so you can have the best of both devices.

So, do you HAVE to replace it? Depends on the general condition of the wiring. SHOULD you? Depends on why. If you can get the costs back or move an unsellable property by doing so - probably. I tend to view the wiring in a house somewhat like the plumbing and believe it needs to be replaced every so often. What else do you have that you keep without replacement for 25, 50, 60 years?

Hard to estimate costs sight unseen but a reasonable rstarting range would be $5000-$15,000 depending on the area and your particular house.

Yes, wirenuts are permitted in main panels, just like any other box.

Old 01-25-06, 11:34 PM
bolide's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: PA
Posts: 1,909
K&T was still a valid wiring method under the NEC Article 394 up until a year ago.
So it probably is still current in many jurisdictions.
It could be used to extend existing installations.

Existing installations are not prohibited or even recommended to be replaced.

Your local code code be different from the National Electric Code.

But the wiring must not be covered by thermal insulation or in contact with anything but the insulators (knobs and tubes).

As to whether it needs to be replaced, that depends on the condition of the wire, what loads it serves, and such.
If it just runs a few lights, no big deal.
But if one circuit feeds most of the house and has a 25A fuse stuck in it, that says there is a big problem and new circuits are needed.

If the inspector wants to fail it, ask him to cite the code that is followed in your jurisdiction.
Old 01-26-06, 12:30 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 137
as I have recently learned, K&T is best kept not talked about. If insurance comapanies learn of the K&T, they will not want to inure the home. A buyer who can not get insurance is no good to you. I talked to our local inspector and he said the K&T was acceptable but if I wanted to upgrade the service panel from 60A that is has, that I wold then need to upgrade teh K&T, but only what is visible (attic and basement)

I learned this only because I am in the middle of buying a home that I originally thought was using k&t but found out it is inactive

Good Luck
Old 01-26-06, 09:22 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: CA
Posts: 2,041
This home inspector really showed himself up for what he is: untrained and uneducated. Previous posts have clearly covered the issue of codes and grandfathering.

Now, if the inspector has said something like: "The building wiring appears to be original to the building. I suggest having a qualified electrical contractor inspect the system and make recomendations." I couldn't fault him for that. He does have to show that he at least recognizes the age of the system . But he didn't see any unsafe conditions, and should not have implied that it was unsafe.

As an aside: Does NEC or any of the national building and trade councils make any recommendation about the life expectancy of building systems, such as the wiring, water supply and drain, etc. ? It does seem that 80 year old wiring probably merits a very close consideration as to replacement.
Old 01-26-06, 10:01 AM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: us
Posts: 385
In most states home inspectors are not regulated. They are there to protect the buyer interests. In most cases, their report is legally only an opinion of the property.

So while your not required to replace it, it will definitely impact your potential buyers. In my area, you are hard pressed to find a mortgage and insurance on a K&T house. Although it can be found for a premium.

When I bought my house (built in 1989), I used a VA loan and they required the seller to add GFCI outlets to all the near water outlets. So, while the electric was legally up to code, the financiers often demand and require more.

If I was a home inspector I would certainly point out the K&T wiring. I would acknowledge its legal, but could have serious performance and financial implications to the buyer. I would be also recommend it be brought to modern standards for safety and performance sake. The key word there is "recommend", the buyer is paying for my opinion. What the buyer does with my opinion is up to them.
Old 01-26-06, 10:43 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 257
I live in PA and happen to know a home inspector.

The only purpose of a home inspector is to look for things in a house that your average person would not think to look for. They make suggestions to buyers so that the buyers have leverage in a transaction. They have no right to tell you what you need to do.

I have a perfect example:

When we purchased our house it looked great to us. I hired a home inspector to take a closer look at it. The furnace was bad (leaking CO and natural gas at various places - 20 year old furnace, not maintained).

We gave the sellers 3 choices.
1. Replace the furnace and we give you the agreed upon price.
2. Give us $3000 cash and we will replace the furnace and we give you the agreed upon price.
3. Take $5000 off the agreed upon price of the home.
4. Do nothing and the deal is off.

The point is that you have choices.

It might be better if you took some cash off the purchase price and let a future buyer deal with it. Most buyers I think would hire someone (home inspector) to snoop around.
Old 01-28-06, 04:49 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 21
I live in Ontario Canada.

I lived in my house for 10 yrs with K & T. And then one day I receive a letter, I was TOLD to replace my K & T by my insurance company. They would not insure my house unless it was all replaced.

So I decided to get another insurance company. The problem is , that it was nearly impossible to find one. The ones that would insure wanted close to 3 times more in premiums.

Now I am in the process of replacing all the K & T on my own . It is a rewarding job and this forum is the best place for advice.

Last edited by chris2000cms; 01-29-06 at 08:28 AM.
Old 01-28-06, 04:59 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Don't blame the home inspector. He would be negligent if he failed to mention the presence of K&T wiring. The home inspector's report is not governed by codes, but rather by anything that might be of concern. All K&T is of concern.

Having said that, it would probably be rare that the seller would agree to replace the existing home wiring as a condition of sale. Buyers of older homes have to be realistic, and accept that unless it has been substantially renovated, everything in it is old.
Old 01-29-06, 10:31 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 198
If I were buying an older home, it would be because I want to do the renovations myself. But it may be likely that most buyers don't want to do that, at least not for things like electrical. I'd rather buy such a home without any electrical renovation so I can end up modernizing it the way I want (especially if I expect to live in it). For example, I may want to have more outlets than the minimum required by the 6 foot rule because the minimum usually ends up with outlets in inconvenience locations (behind difficult to move furniture, for example). I may want a different level of circuit separation. I may want 20 amp where 15 amp is legal. I may want cleanly installed 240 volt outlets in certain locations. I may want dedicated circuits where they might not otherwise be required. Paying a homeowner a premium for modernized wiring that I end up having to at least partially redo is actually more expensive. But the average buyer may well not care (and may well not know anything about, hence the role of the private home inspector).

K&T? For me, no problem. I would be tearing it out or otherwise deactivating it despite knowing that it can very well be safe if left alone. But I know I do want more circuit capacity than what was typical when K&T was permitted, and I want the ground wires everywhere. If I would be renovating an old home, I'd have to really be tearing into the walls to put in what I want, so I might as well replace (or at least deactivate) the K&T right then to give the wiring another 100 years of life. And I'll also likely be stuff in a lot of new insulation to keep this old house warm. So the K&T would be in the way.

However, for grins, I might well carefully remove the K&T and re-install it as external wiring in obvious living locations, and activate it with some low voltage. Imagine seeing a room modeled and decorated circa 1890, with an old rotary light switch and external wiring going from it to pendant lighting ... while what is really going on is that this wiring is carrying a 6 volt control signal that engages contactors to power the lights with 12 volt higher amperage power supplied by hidden NM wiring. Anything to make electrical inspectors cringe
Old 01-29-06, 07:31 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Delaware County PA
Posts: 118
Thank you everyone for your time & comments. I have decided to tell the potential buyers that I am not replacing the K&T. I will offer to install GFCI's ( non grounded labeled) & take it from there. I have allready prepared the walls where I will fish the new wires if they buyers decide to walk. I am also getting estimates from 2 Licensed Electricians. I would prefer to run the wire myself and have them hook everything up and certify the work.
Does Code require installing new outlets every so many feet if I update the wiring?

Thanx again
Old 01-29-06, 07:47 PM
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
If you rewire the house, you're going to have to conform to all the modern codes. This is not simple, and not inexpensive. And many electricians will refuse to connect cabling that you run, because they have no way to verify if you did it correctly, and they'll end up responsible if anything goes wrong. So be sure to talk to the electrician before proceeding.

I wouldn't change the wiring unless you determine that there's no way to sell without doing it.

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