Wiring in my old victorian


Old 09-26-01, 05:18 AM
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I recently bought a 125 year old victorian and have several questions.

First; The basement has a nice workbench in one room that would make a good workshop for my woodworking tools. Having seen some of the other "do-it-yourself" work in the house I decided to check the power with a circuit tester. The result was reversed polarity. I have always been under the impression that this usually meant that the hot & neutral wires were reversed at the receptacle, however since I changed the wires, it now shows an open neutral, what does that mean?

Secondly; I only have a 60 amp service with NUMEROUS fuse boxes and would like to upgrade to at least 100 amp, preferably 200 amp (if I can afford it) and one breaker box. After I have this done I would like to replace the wiring in the house. I have run new wiring many times, but have never pulled old and replaced it. What are the basic steps to that? How do you deal with j-boxes, staples, etc. without tearing out walls?

Thanks in advance
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Old 09-26-01, 07:42 AM
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I suspect that you misread your circuit tester. Look and see if this circuit is without the bare equipment grounding conductor having only the black and white wire in that circuit. This is called and existing ungrounded branch circuit. The circuit tester should react saying an open ground. Circuit testers are often misread. If you black is on the fuse and the white is on the neutral bar and in your receptacle the black is on the brass screw and the white is on the silver screw the polarity is correct. Reversed polarity will expose the neutral conductor to contact with shells of lamp sockets and associated metals, etc. This would be a shock hazard, if indeed you have reverse polarity in that branch circuit.

As for advise on a rewiring project, in order to give you a proper explaination being the question having such a broad depth in subject, it would take a large article or small book just to properly answer that question in detail. I don't have that article available at this time for your use.

If you have specific questions such as how to fish wires, whether to do a partial rewire or a total rewire, etc. then we may be able to answer those specific questions as they arise for you. But to give you a proper answer to such a large broad question it would take a book written just for that subject.

Try and be more specific on the subject point in question and we may be able to help you more.

Old 09-26-01, 09:04 AM
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I would like to do partial rewires a bit at a time. ie. one branch at a time. My question is how to pull old wire when I would think there would be j-boxes, etc. to contend with. How do I pull the old wire out/new wire thru without tearing out or at least breaking into walls?
Old 09-26-01, 09:08 AM
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As for the polarity problem, yes it is an ungrounded circuit. The tester I used is one of the plug-in types and it most definitely read reverse polarity first and then open neutral after I reversed the wires.
Old 09-26-01, 02:43 PM
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Does your circuit tester have two prongs or three? Does the receptacle you are testing have two holes or three?

If the answer to both of the above is three, then you do not have an ungrounded circuit.

If by "reverse polarity" you mean "hot/neutral reverse", then there is no way a tester can detect reverse polarity on an ungrounded circuit!!

My little tester doesn't actually have anything labeled "reverse polarity". My tester has a "hot/ground reverse" and a "hot/neutral reverse". Is your tester the same? If so, which indication did you get?
Old 09-27-01, 02:15 AM
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I'll check and post ASAP.
Old 09-27-01, 09:49 AM
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Oldvictorian, I understand that you want to do a rewire approximately a room at a time. If this is what you have in mind what condition is the home generally? Are you planning also to install new mechanical and plumbing and possibly refinishing a few walls as you go room for room in this home? When you are done are you planning to have a completely rewired, replumbed, with new heat system with a new look type project? At this time do you have cracks in walls and ceilings or spot damages in walls and ceilings? Answer to this will help us get a little closer to your master plan.

Old 09-28-01, 07:32 AM
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Tester has three plugs, outlet has three plugs, j-box he tapped into has no ground coming from the fuse box(old cloth wrapped 2 wire).

The tester is the type that has three lights on it. The readings were definitely "reversed polarity" at first and then "open neutral" after I switched the wires. It's really not that much wiring, I have half a mind (no comment) to just pull it out & re-wire it all.


Plumbing is pretty new all the way around..pvc & copper and I have already reworked almost all the walls, so I'm not keen on tearing any out. I have patched & repaired the plaster in all but one room and have torn out the drywall & repaired the plaster behind it too. I'm looking to stay original/restore to original as much as possible, with a few modern conveniences. Just replaced the furnace and some ductwork last year and plan to put in the central a/c unit next spring. Really, all I have left to do to make me happy is get the old wiring out, replace the fuse boxes and maybe add on in 10 years or so.

Old 09-28-01, 08:28 AM
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I wish we could have talked while your walls were open, would have saved you a lot of fishing, time and labor, and provided you with more wiring options at that time. Sounds like now you have a fish remodel style job ahead of you.

If you have a two story or more level house then we have more thinking to do on the above floors. The main floors should allow you a total rewire if you like without having to tear up your walls.

What I would concern myself about first is service size. The following links should guide you through getting an idea what minimum size service you need for your dwelling;


Then the next link should give you an idea of loads and desired heavy branch circuits needed such as receptacles in the kitchen, dining, nook, pantry, laundry, bathrooms.


Then the next loads you might want to think on is large appliances such as furnace, ovens, ranges, water heaters, water pumps, hot tubs, etc.

All the above should be considered needing to be updated due to the large amp loads applied by those appliances.

When if comes to receptacles for general use your main concern is providing a hot, grounded leg, and equipment ground where you can for these general use receptacles.

When you have an area that can not be with new wiring without tearing out wall coverings, you might consider the GFI protection option using the new three prong receptacles and having the GFI protective device serve as a possible replacement of the equipment grounding conductor. GFI is a weak replacement of the equipment grounding conductor but sometimes only option.

Do you have a basement, or crawl space available throughout below your entire lower first finished floor? This would be nice!

While you are looking, do your have a false ceiling used for your first floor ceiling, or do you have high ceilings where you can frame in a lower ceiling creating a chase to wire your second floor? Also look for a set of closet, or strage rooms that are stacked above each other where you can use a wiring chase to move from basement, or crawl to second floor attic.

Catch up to us on the above thoughts, then one of us will pipe in with more ideas on the how to what to, etc.

Good Luck

Old 09-28-01, 08:34 AM
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How do I pull the old wire out/new wire thru without tearing out or at least breaking into walls?

it is a skill in itself, not impossible to learn but there are many tricks that help. much depends on the construction of your home.

U sound like your thinking right, address the trunk, then the branches , metaphorically speaking
Old 09-28-01, 01:25 PM
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"Reversed polarity" means that the tester detected:
  • Voltage between the wide slot (the silver screws) and the "D" hole (the green screw).
  • Voltage between the narrow slot (the brass screws) and the wide slot (the silver screws).
  • No voltage between the narrow slot (the brass screws) and the "D" hole (the green screw).
"Open neutral" means exactly the opposite of all three of the above. I.e.:
  • No voltage between the wide slot (the silver screws) and the "D" hole (the green screw).
  • No voltage between the narrow slot (the brass screws) and the wide slot (the silver screws).
  • Voltage between the narrow slot (the brass screws) and the "D" hole (the green screw).
If you have a voltmeter, you can confirm the operation of the tester by duplicating the above tests yourself. Do you get the same results with your voltmeter???

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