Removing old school light switch that goes nowhere

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Old 08-08-12, 10:51 PM
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Removing old school light switch that goes nowhere

Bought this house about a year ago, it was built in 1904. Electricity has been updated, some before we moved in and the rest after. There is an old rotary style light switch in the hallway on the second floor that controls nothing. We've tried every outlet and light. The switch itself still has old live wires coming into it. What's the best way to go about removing it? Is there any good way to trace the wires backwards through the walls without tearing out plaster or flooring? I would leave it but it was placed through the original woodwork around a door and is just an eyesore.
 
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Old 08-09-12, 04:04 AM
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Welcome to the forums! I would find the circuit breaker that controls that switch and remove the power from it. You really should find the other end of the wiring as it may be just capped off and stuffed back into a wall cavity, which is not code compliant. As with most switches, they are looped, meaning the power can go to the end outlet (light, etc.) and then loop to the switch. Is there an attic or basement area where this old wiring is evident? Any junction boxes that could contain the remnant wiring?
 
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Old 08-09-12, 05:58 PM
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There is an old rotary style light switch in the hallway on the second floor that controls nothing. We've tried every outlet and light. The switch itself still has old live wires coming into it.
If the old switch still has hot wires connected to it, it is very likely that is old knob & tube wiring that is still hot. There is also a very good possibility there was never a box for the switch to be mounted in. I would agree to get rid of the switch, but I would also recommend you research how much K&T wiring you have left and make replacing it a priority. What part of the city are you in?
 
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Old 08-10-12, 01:03 AM
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hidden surprises

Thanks for the quick responses. This is where all the wiring in this house gets tricky, in all areas where wiring is visible (mainly basement) its all brand new wiring and brand new breaker box. Only one panel for the whole house. When we moved in an opened up kitchen ceiling and walls we got a huge surprise to find it was still knob and tube wiring that was illegally pigtailed to new romex to run down to the breaker/service entrance. Since we were already removing plaster from 80% of the walls and ceilings on the main floor we took the opportunity to have an electrician update everything he could get to without having to remove entire walls on the second or third floor (we figured we'd deal with any remaining old wiring when it was time to renovate those areas since we need somewhere to sleep and bathe in the meantime). I am in the city of St. Louis, not county.
 
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Old 08-10-12, 05:43 AM
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You did test with a real meter not a non-contact tester didn't you? What voltage did you get? Was it a digital multimeter? How were the voltage readings made? Usually in an ungrounded switch box with no neutral (typical of K&T wiring) there is no reliable wayto determine if it is hot with out using an external reference.
 
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Old 08-10-12, 05:32 PM
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I am in the city of St. Louis, not county.
Yea, that's what you said before. I was just curious what part of the city; Carondelet area, St. Louis Hills, Soulard?
 
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Old 08-10-12, 10:35 PM
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When we moved in an opened up kitchen ceiling and walls we got a huge surprise to find it was still knob and tube wiring that was illegally pigtailed to new romex to run down to the breaker/service entrance. Since we were already removing plaster from 80% of the walls and ceilings on the main floor we took the opportunity to have an electrician update everything he could get to without having to remove entire walls on the second or third floor (we figured we'd deal with any remaining old wiring when it was time to renovate those areas since we need somewhere to sleep and bathe in the meantime).
Undamaged knob-and-tube wiring can still be used, but safely integrating it into an updated service can be a challenge. That said, if the old turn switch doesn't control anything - not an attic fan or light, for example - and you want to remove it, you will need to trace the wires back to a point where you can mount an accessible metal box, trim the wires to enter that box through two separate "Romex" connectors, wrap the old wires with friction tape where they will be clamped, cap the wires with wire nuts inside the metal box, and cover the box. I would label the cover too, and include the circuit number.
 
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Old 08-15-12, 01:34 AM
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Thanks for all the help!

Casual Joe, I am actually in the Central West End on Mcpherson- typical sad story of a beautiful house converted into 3 (illegal) apartments at some point in the cheapest possible (and almost always wrong) way. Just to give you an idea of how bad- prior to buying the house a year ago on August 29, 2011 there hadn't been any permits obtained for work on the house as far back as city records go. Thats a scary thought- no one checking the half-assed work done in the past 40 years... We had a central, load bearing wall removed between the kitchen and LR/DR and our contractor was dumbfounded to discover that at some point when central HVAC ducts were run through the house 2 joists were chopped off to allow for the duct work to run up through the wall and were left completely unsuported. They had to jack the joists up over 2" before reinforcing and installing the header.

Another quick question on the electrical- the electrician that worked on updating our first floor told us that with knob & tube wiring the wires could be safely cut and removed even when the wires were still 'live' due to the fact they were originally run through the studs/joists separated from one another. Is this not the case? Also, if I am able to trace the wires all the way back to somewhere in the basement ceiling where they connect to new wiring can I remove them up to this point and place an electrical box at this point on the basement ceiling?
 
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Old 08-15-12, 01:38 AM
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Fogot to mention

I forgot to mention, no I did not test with anything other than my non contact voltage tester. I have a pocket size multimeter but am completely and utterly confused/unfamiliar with how it works.
 
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Old 08-15-12, 06:26 AM
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You could place a box either at the far end or just cut them off at the end where they receive their power.

A multimeter needs to test for power between 2 points. You may need to check for power using an extension cord plugged into a grounded receptacle. You would place one probe on the end of the bare conductor and try to the other conductor or the ground prong on the cord. Repeat for the other wire at the switch.
 
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Old 08-15-12, 08:29 AM
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I forgot to mention, no I did not test with anything other than my non contact voltage tester.
Piece of junk. You may be chasing wild geese. Check with the multimeter as outlined by PCBoss.
 
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Old 08-15-12, 06:43 PM
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Casual Joe, I am actually in the Central West End on Mcpherson- typical sad story of a beautiful house converted into 3 (illegal) apartments at some point in the cheapest possible (and almost always wrong) way.
There are some very beautiful old homes in that area, I wish you all the good luck in the world on your renovations. What happened to those grand old homes reminds me of what also happened to the Lafayette Square area turn of the century homes as well. You'll find some really knowledgeable folks (and some smart fellers too) who follow this forum who can really help you so don't be a stranger if you have any questions at all.
 
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