Doorbell mystery


OK, so a new client has a very puzzling problem. Their doorbell stopped working. I went underneath the house to find the transformer and wiring: found *nothing*. Nothing in that crawlspace but phone wiring and some (new, Romex) power cabling. Oh, and some old thermostat wiring, but that's it.
The house is wood-framed stucco, built somewhere in the 1920s-30s, very standard construction, mostly one story but with several levels (on a hillslope). It's a quality-built home with nice architectural features.
I looked inside the one crawlspace opening into the attic, which is at the back of the house: it goes basically nowhere. There's a wall directly in front of the opening that prevents me from getting into the section of roof where the doorbell wiring might be. The rest of the crawlspace is too small to even get into, unless one is a midget.
Which leads me to believe that, since I cannot see *any* wiring below the house, everything associated with the doorbell--transformer and wiring--must be above the ceiling of the living room, which is where the front door and the doorbell are. But there is absolutely no access into this space, either inside our outside the house. The closet right behind the doorbell has nothing in it, except the alarm system which was added a long time after the house was built. The doorbell itself is original, so I'm assuming the doorbell wiring was installed when the house was built.
I always thought that doorbell transformers needed to be accessible, both for safety reasons and for possible replacement. But if this is true, this one can never be replaced, at least without tearing open the ceiling.
I'm advising the client to just get a wireless doorbell for now. But this bugs me. Has anyone else here run into a similar situation?
--
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David Nebenzahl wrote: ...

I've run into them being in a cavity in the wall behind the interior box. It's also quite possible somebody closed up an access point over the years, of course.
A) Did you verify it isn't just the push-button failed?
B) Did you verify there isn't power?
C) Did you look to see where the wires go behind the unit (assuming that doesn't show you the xfr in the wall behind it?
D) Whatever would occur onsite that doesn't in front of crt...
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On Wed, 22 Sep 2010 12:19:01 -0700, David Nebenzahl

I have a more expensive version of this tool, and I have used it to follow wires in walls and ceilings many times.
http://www.harborfreight.com/general-merch/electrical/cable-tracker-94181.html
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On Wed, 22 Sep 2010 12:19:01 -0700, David Nebenzahl wrote:

I would assume the electrical code wasn't too stringent back in the 20's - 30's. Not a surprise to me that the transformer could have been entrapped forever where it couldn't be located, possibly unintentionally. Should be a snap for the average handyman to redo it with an accessible power source.
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On 9/22/2010 12:42 PM A. Baum spake thus:

[snip]
Please explain; what do you mean by "accessible power source"?
Sure, I have easy access to power underneath the house; that isn't the problem. The problem is gaining access to the doorbell button (and the doorbell, which the client likes and would like to keep). I don't see any way of accessing either of these two existing devices without opening up walls, which the client would rather not do. Hard to fish wires when you can't get inside the walls ...
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On Wed, 22 Sep 2010 12:55:31 -0700, David Nebenzahl wrote:

Power source = doorbell transformer. However make certain that you've eliminated the other two possibilities, the bell and the push button.
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David Nebenzahl wrote the following:

basement, but my house is 50-60 years younger.
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Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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On 9/22/2010 12:57 PM willshak spake thus:

Well, that's where I would expect to find it.
My experience with houses of this age is that the transformer is usually under the house (or possibly inside the house), either near where the doorbell and chime are, or near the fusebox/breaker panel with the wires from those devices brought out to it.
--
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David Nebenzahl wrote the following:

--

Bill
In Hamptonburgh, NY
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David.. Get access to the push button. Use AC voltmeter. Read across the button terminals. Should show voltage because you are reading through the complete circuit. If there is voltage, shorting the wires together will operate the bell. If voltage is there and bell won't work, bell is bad. If bell will work, button is bad. If no voltage then Bell or transformer or wiring is bad. WW
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It is not all that large a mystery...
The advice offered by the first reply here is the best...
You need to obtain a toner/probe set and trace the wiring...
As far as the rest of the story, if the button is bad, its gotta go no matter what your client says... Same with the bell/chime/buzzer...
~~ Evan
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I have a house a just few years newer. My doorbell transformer was attached to a junction box of a pull chain light in the basement between the chime box (above the door to the basement stairs) and the doorbell button. I'll bet yours is similarly located - the first available junction box between the chime and button where a transformer could be hung. I realize you have no basement, but I'd still concentrate my efforts in the zone between the button and the chime. I'd also use the fox and hound set Salty and others mentioned. I use it at least once a year in this old house, sometimes quite a bit more.
-- Bobby G.
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On Thu, 23 Sep 2010 07:29:31 -0400, "Robert Green"

Just a couple of thoughts. I have seen the whole top of small closets push up to access the attic. Usually tongue and groove siding was used around here so it is easy to spot.. Also look inside the electric panel. It is not proper to have the transformer in the panel but it was done.
--
Mr.E

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