Disturbing Old Connection

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  #1  
Old 01-09-14, 10:40 AM
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Disturbing Old Connection

I wanted to freshen up a painted room with new switches. Everything appear to be working correctly however, I hesitate to open all the wiring in the box because the wiring is very old (60 years).

There are soldered and friction tape connections and the switches are vintage 50's. I am finding similar connections elsewhere in the house and I am leary to touch them too much in fear of breaking a wire or loosening one of the old connections.

Should I be opening everything up and remaking these old connections? Or would you just replace the switches and call it good? Or don't disturb them at all... if it aint broke don't fix it?
 
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  #2  
Old 01-09-14, 10:47 AM
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If the connections are indeed both twisted together and soldered, they will not come apart when you pull the old switches out of the box and replace them. Put new (not from an old roll) electrical tape around the soldered connection and it will be good.

Wires simply twisted together and could be peeled apart are not good enough without wire nuts to hold the ends in place. If you find one wire with a bare spot in the middle and a second wire twisted (only) around the bare spot then you would untwist the second wire, cut the bare spot in the middle, and have 3 ends to hold together with the wire nut.

But if the insulation (cloth or plastic) flakes off of the wires then you will have to replace the wires.
 
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Old 01-09-14, 11:05 AM
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You will need to be careful not to crack any insulation off the wires while pulling or pushing the devices into or out of the boxes. If it cracks off you will need to slide heat shrink tubing over the bare spots to repair the damage. Ceiling connections are where you would have the most concern. Also some dimmers cannot be used with the older wiring due to insulation ratings.
 
  #4  
Old 01-10-14, 01:38 PM
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What about the old soldered connections? Should they be changed or can I assume they are sound?

Do you feel its opening up a can of worms messing with real old stuff that otherwise is working?
 
  #5  
Old 01-10-14, 02:47 PM
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(Properly) soldered connections will absolutely outlast the house they are in. If no wires pull out of the joint, then you can safely assume it's proper. No need to be concerned with them other than re-taping what you disturb.
 
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Old 01-10-14, 04:18 PM
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Retape them, really? If I am going to disturb them enough to pull old tape off them, shouldnt I just be cutting them and wirenutting?

As far as them being "properly" soldered.... I can only assume they have after being in service for over a half a century...

can of worms, old wiring... surely someone can comment.
 
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Old 01-10-14, 06:51 PM
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can of worms, old wiring... surely someone can comment.
This is an area governed by judgement not absolute rules. In an ideal world you would replace all the wire, especially if knob and tube but in reality if it looks okay and no problems you leave it.
 
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Old 01-10-14, 06:53 PM
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Pulling off the tape will not disturb a properly soldered connection which looks as if it were welded together or with a smooth blob of solder encasing it.

An improperly soldered connection has the solder balled up or caked on.
 
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Old 01-10-14, 08:10 PM
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Originally Posted by rards View Post
Retape them, really? If I am going to disturb them enough to pull old tape off them, shouldnt I just be cutting them and wirenutting?

As far as them being "properly" soldered.... I can only assume they have after being in service for over a half a century...

can of worms, old wiring... surely someone can comment.
Retaping is only suggested because there is a good possibility that the friction tape has begun to rot away, and will come off when you move the joint. If it still feels sticky and isn't falling apart, don't even bother with it.

That said, the soldered joints are mechanically stronger than any wirenut will be. There's no reason to cut them off and re-do them unless you have to add wires. Solder/tape IS still an approved method in NEC. Nobody does it anymore because it's very time consuming.

As far as the can of worms goes, there's really no reason to go there unless the insulation is rotting off the wires.
 
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Old 02-14-14, 11:31 AM
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hi sorry to rekindle this old thread but I ran across a few more soldered connections today.

It seems someone serviced them in the past and removed the tape and put a wire nut on the soldered splice. When I was done I used new wirenuts on the twisted soldered splice.

I just wanted to confirm that's its OK to use wirenuts on a soldered connection? Since I had to add a fixture wire to the splice, I figured that was the proper way.
 
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Old 02-14-14, 01:54 PM
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Wire nuts should be fine. Was the connection secure when you were finished?
 
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Old 02-14-14, 02:29 PM
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Wire nuts should be fine. Was the connection secure when you were finished?
It was secure when I was done, you could tell the wires were neatly twisted before soldering. I just layed the fixture wire next to the splice, firmly attached a nut and tugged on the fixture wire and the nut.

You say 'should' though.... is there a preferred method when dealing with soldered splices?
 
  #13  
Old 02-16-14, 01:52 PM
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So I "disturbed" some more wire today. Taped splice like the rest of them. So I thought. I peeled back the old tape and the twisted wires were NOT soldered. So now I potentially I have these suprises in the house.

How much of a hazard is having splices only twisted and wrapped in cloth electrical tape and what should I do about this? Im a little freaked out now but don't want to open up every box and start unwrapping joints?
 
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Old 02-16-14, 06:41 PM
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How much of a hazard is having splices only twisted and wrapped in cloth electrical tape and what should I do about this? Im a little freaked out now but don't want to open up every box and start unwrapping joints?
Not really all that bad if the splice was tight. Just put a wirenut on it and be done with it.
 
  #15  
Old 02-17-14, 02:40 PM
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Was it ever acceptable practice to make splices with just twisting and friction tape? Just on light circuits perhaps?
 
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Old 02-17-14, 02:46 PM
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Was it ever acceptable practice to make splices with just twisting and friction tape?
No, and though I often saw friction tape only used on splices when I was growing up it was never intended as insulating tape. It was intended as protection for the rubber insulating tape.

Just for giggles here is what you use to need to make those splices.

Name:  old-reliable.jpg
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Just imagine the fun of crawling in an attic with a gasoline fueled blow torch.
 
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Old 02-17-14, 06:25 PM
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Was it ever acceptable practice to make splices with just twisting and friction tape? Just on light circuits perhaps?
I'll not address whether it was ever code compliant because the code changes so frequently, but I can tell you I used to see it pretty often many years ago. The only difference was the tape was vinyl and not friction tape.
 
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