questions on older wiring

Old 05-27-07, 07:46 PM
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questions on older wiring

Ok Im looking to buy a fixer upper that was built in 1912 and it looks like the electicals in bad shape some outlets have three prong but I know there not grounded. How hard is it to do your own wiring for a whole house like this.
Also what should i look for as far as electrical when going through the house before I actually buy it.

Old 05-27-07, 08:10 PM
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In a house of that age and being a "fixer" it is best to assume that the entire electrical system needs replacement.

As for how hard is it? That depends upon your skills. There is nothing magical about electricity and how to wire a house can be learned by any reasonably competent person willing to read several books, ask questions and get dirty. Of course a beginner needs to have someone check his/her work and a community college class (or classes) on building technology and residential electrical work will do wonders to improve one's knowledge.

If you "Do-It-Yourself" it will take many more hours than if you hire it done but you will have a satisfaction that can only come from the sweat of your brow and dirty hands. The knowledge you gain will stay with you forever.
Old 05-27-07, 08:15 PM
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I would want to go in assuming the worst: Assume that all wiring is in bad shape and needs to go. If it is a single story house with crawl space underneath and attic above, a complete rewire is realisticly possible to do, if needed. If it is multi-level, things get more difficult.

Hopefully, you will find some wiring in reasonable condition, and a complete rewire is not essential.

Here's what I'd look for:
--Panel Box: If there is a breaker box, there's been an upgrade done as breakers were not around when the house was built (at least, I assume there were no breakers then). It is probably fuses rather than breakers. If so, see if the fuses are mostly 15A or 20A. If you see lots of higher Amp breakers (25A, 30A), then there are probably over fused circuits...a fire hazard. If you see a fuse box, it's probably safe to say it ought to get upgraded (though some will argue this point). If there are over fused circuits, plan to rewire those circuits as the condition of the wires is likely poor due to excessive amperage draw (thus over heating the wires and breaking down the insulation).
--Knob and Tube wiring: Google it if you don't know what this is. Inspect the wiring in the attic...if there is knob and tube covered with insulation, you have a fire hazard.
--Three prong recepticals: Good chance they are not properly grounded, unless upgrades have been done (and done correctly). Get one of the three prong testers (looks like a plug and has three lights) and test three prong recepticals with it. Expect to find open grounds.
--Inadequate wiring: Let's face it, when this house was wired, they didn't have all the gadgets we have now. You want a REAL grounded circuit for your computers, you want TWO ground fault protected circuits for your kitchen counters, you want ground fault protection in your bathrooms, garage, outdoors, etc. An old house is not required to meet todays code as it is "grandfathered", and that means it's wiring is likely inadequate for todays lifestyles.

Go ahead and pick up the $7 green book titled "Wiring Simplified" in the electical section of your local big box store and start reading. If what you read makes sense to you, consider DIY electrical, if not, well...don't.

Edit: One thing I'll add: Check the local restrictions to ensure that a home owner is allowed to do their own wiring, and what inspections will be required. A call to the AHJ (Authority Having Juristiction, aka, electrical inspector) before you start is a good idea. Ask them what years NEC Code they use and whether there are local amendments/restrictions.
Old 05-27-07, 09:17 PM
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thanks for all the input so far. Im going to be going back to do a better walk through of the house this wen. Im going to pick up a tester. I am also going to see if they will let me pull an outlet and a switch. I am also going to check and see if its a fuse box or not. That part totally slipped my mind.
This house is huge its 3 levels with 3 kitchens. The way its set up is way crazy. I am looking forward to having this project.

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