Is Knob-and-Tube *Always* Dangerous?

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One problem with K&T is that whatever the condition of the original material, it's seldom properly connected to more modern wiring:
http://www.codecheck.com/images/CCWe18.gif
and every incorrect junction is a potential problem.
Another is that users may overload K&T circuits - a single K&T circuit often serves potential loads that would be split between multiple circuits in a more recenly installed system. In my area it's not unusual to find a single K&T circuit powering all the lights and receptacles in three or four bedrooms and a bath on a top floor, but power demands have increased (no window ACs back then!) and users many be tempted to "overfuse" such circuits in an attempt to supply sufficient power to loads at multiple locations on a single circuit.
So depending on the situation, when you have electrician throughly inspect a K&T installation and identify existing defects you will often find it's also desirable to pull additional circuits to meet modern demands - in which case it's likely not all that much more expensive to bypass the K&T with new circuits entirely.
Michael Thomas Paragon Home Inspection, LLC mdt@paragoninspectsDOTcom 847-475-5668
.
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MDT at Paragon Home Inspections, LLC wrote:

buried in walls where they cant be inspected and may catch fire under a long list of possible reasons.
insurance has good reasons for their rules...........
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

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Tekkie

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Tekkie® wrote:

hey insurance wants to minimize payouts and make money, statistics show K&T has more troubles and how many people really WANT a house fire?
Its risks injury and death, let alone the mental part of your home burning, losing a place to live, and possesions.
We had fire victims here for over 7 months, the whole thing mnessed them up
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

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Tekkie

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posted for all of us...

I'm sure that the insurance companies are just considering the age of K&T wiring when the consider it for insurance purposes. If K&T is used, it is pretty darn old. Since it is so old, it has probably been messed with. ..........
Bob
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Tekkie® wrote:

if it wasnt a problem insurane wouldnt care...
this does everyone a good service since the home that burns might be one you are visiting.
the poster who mentioned blown in insulation made a excellent point thats a bad combo that can lead to overheating.
middle of the night once I turned on a bedroom light and got a shower of sparks on bed, geez did I wake up fast.
bad wire insulation in light socket.
I replaced every single fixture like that! not worth the risk, since at the time they were about 45 years old.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

insurance agent stated basically "it depends" Insurance co's determine their own ratings and the FACT that some WILL insure it blows your OPINION out of the water.
Please note ALL your postings involve opinion and you never quote facts. When you are called on it or corrected you ignore or change the subject.
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Tekkie

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fact is many insurance compnies wouldnt cover K&T that you cant deny.
some appear to cover it, probably at higher rates.
think about this.....
what does homeowners coverge cost maybe 500 bucks ours is less and we have full replacement coverage
Have friends with home fires just smoke damage can cost 20 grand, that was my next door neighbor his car caught on fire in his driveway, caught a window on fire with brick home, 20 grand how many policies do you have to sell to make a profit?
insurance is oing all of us a favor, and while your asking me what type of wiring in YOUR HOME?
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Properly installed and maintained K&T is quite safe, though it would be a good idea to install GFCI outlets (properly labeled "no equipment ground").
The problem comes if it either wasn't a great installation in the first place, or if it's been tampered with or damaged.
A good solder joint will last a century or longer, but a bad one can get worse over time, e.g. corrosion from leftover flux, a cold joint developing increasing resistance, etc. Depending on the age of the house, the wiring may have been soldered using irons heated over a fire, which made cold joints more likely since the iron didn't maintain a constant temperature.
Many times you'll find amateurish additions to K&T systems, I've seen Romex twisted on and wrapped in duct tape for added lights or outlets.
Some homeowners have blown insulation over wiring that was fine in open air, but gets too hot without air circulation.
My own house was almost entirely K&T when we bought it, mostly on one breaker (and a Zinsco breaker at that), so the insurance inspection was more detailed than usual, and the inspector asked about what appliances were going to be used in which rooms so he could get a better idea of whether the wiring would be safe as we were using it. No trouble once it was inspected and approved, but not every insurance company will accept K&T.
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snipped-for-privacy@phred.org is Joshua Putnam
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Joshua Putnam wrote:

Now that sounds like a real dumb insurance company. I can understand why insurance companies have issues with K&T and may choose not to cover homes with it. But any insurance company that has inspectors running around asking homeowners which appliances they are going to use where, is surely stupid. Homeowners move appliances around all the time. Also, someone doing anything from carpet cleaning to a contractor doing home repairs can plug in various loads. Either the wiring is safe with the fusing in place or it isn't.

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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net says...

Most homeowners use their kitchen appliances in the kitchen, not the bedroom or the bath, so it does make sense to ask what kitchen appliances a family uses. If we used a big microwave or other high- draw plug-in appliance, that would pose more of a risk of overloading a shared circuit than if we had no microwave.
Similarly, people who own high-wattage hair dryers tend to plug them in. People who don't, don't.

Good points -- until we rewired, contractors were only allowed to use two outlets in the house, and one outdoors, all 20A grounded circuits on separate breakers.

Well, since we had an old Zinsco breaker box, probably *no* wiring would have been completely safe with the fusing in place.
Some insurance companies that accept higher-risk properties charge them all the highest-risk rate, others attempt to differentiate among levels of increased risk, which requires a more detailed evaluation of the home and how it would be used. The policy we had is available for either owner-occupied or rental homes, but some of the conditions that are acceptable for an owner-occupied home are not acceptable for a rental.
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snipped-for-privacy@phred.org is Joshua Putnam
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Joshua Putnam wrote:

Sure it makes sense. Like 2 years later someone won't buy a microwave and plug it in where you didn't have one when the inspector looked? Or buy a freezer and put it in the basement? Or your kids won't plug a hair dryer in God knows where? Or add a window air conditioner?

Yeah, right, that's a good way to determine if a place is safe to insure. Try to figure out where they or a guest might plug in a hair dryer.

Then I not only wouldn't insure it, as an owner, I'd get it fixed.
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Knob and tube is not by nature dangerous. The problem comes when adding outlets to it, or when using it as a clothes line, whatever, to hang stuff from in the basement :-) I just had my old place rewired to bring it up to code. Why ... it's now a requirement in order to get insurance ... and to be honest I feel safer. The existing circuits were probably at full capacity. I had had a new panel put in, and had put in a few new circuits to the basement and 1st floor to ease that a bit, but the time had come to have all the old wiring replaced. And since an insurance company was involved, a certificate was required ... easier to just hire an electrician to do the remaining work (in my case) and to call in the inspector for that certificate.
Get some estimates ... it may not be *that* costly depending on what all needs doing and the layout.
Having said that, the walls will likely end up with a few full holes here and there for running the wiring ... and to be patched/painted. If that's not a problem (diy), not much of an additional expense. Consider patching/painting in that estimate. I still haven't finished all my patching ... maybe next winter :-)
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the four 110v fused outlets were being used. I ran a line from the empty(freezer) outlet to the kitchen as a temporary fix. When I got a new entrance panel in and started replacing the wiring found that almost all of the wall outlets, and the furnace, were on the same circuit. The old entrance panel was on the back porch. The wiring on this circuit wrapped all the way around the house and ended about 10' from the entrance panel. The last outlet was where we had the coffeemaker and toaster. The refrigerator had been near the end too, until I added the line. The old wiring is 16 gauge! Probably 50-60' of it.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

PL2002:
In a word, no. However, there are many variable factors and you need to hire a competent electrician who knows K & T to look the wiring over.
Involve the insurance company no more than necessary. Those bastards are already insuring millions of miles of the stuff, in houses that were 'rewired' by replacing the visible stuff and heavily loaded circuits (kitchen etc.) with modern wiring, maybe even the whole 1st floor which is easy to do from the basement, but leaving the inaccessible K & T to feed ceiling lights and general lighting outlets. What they don't know won't hurt 'em, and they know it. Their prohibition on K & T is as asinine as their dislike of fuse boxes; I'd much rather have a nice 60A fuse box feeding K & T in good order than an obsolete FPE 100A circuit breaker box feeding rusty BX cable or old-school ungrounded NM without a solder joint or wire nut in the place...but what do you think the IC would want, hmm? :(
I would ten times rather have K & T with nice, soldered, splices in the cool open air, covered in molded rubber tape and friction tape, than early ungrounded NM jammed 6 cables at a time into 3 1/2" round metal boxes, twisted together and insulated with friction tape or bandage tape or whatever else the 1940s DIYer had laying around. Ick. Now, that early NM was tough stuff when new -- very well protected by rubber, cambric, fiber wrapping, and its braided jacket -- and its copper wire is beautifully soft and workable compared with the modern stuff, but its insulation actually seems less durable than whatever it was (gutta percha?) that the earlier K & T had.
Modifications are usually the problem. Properly installed K&T with correctly soldered joints and suitable fixtures, and additions made with other methods done following all the rules for K&T is safe. Often, though, you find K & T buried in insulation: not good, cool air can't reach it, and water leaks can saturate the insulation leaving a niiiice current path. K & T in insulation is not a total write-off, but I don't like it, and you must take special care not to overload it. I suggest, actually, using it well below its design load, since it has no air circulating around it. One all-too-common evil is where NM was attached by wrapping the wire around the stripped K & T with one layer of tape, a perfect recipe for a poor connection and heating.
Advice: Hire that electrician. Have the heavily loaded circuits (kitchen, bath, outlets for window ac or elec. heaters) upgraded one by one. Treat the old K & T as it was meant to be treated: carefully. Use it for lighting and light loads, and it will serve you well. And let the insurance co. do the burning.
Cordially yours: Gerard P.
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iF INSURANCE required k&t removal and the homeowner cheats by just replacing the exposed wiring leaving K&T thru the less accessible areas and a fire occurs expect insurance to disown you...........
one of the troubles with K&T is that you cant easily examine the sloder joints since they are buried in the walls....
wiuth no boxes
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

the loss. An insurance contract is a "contract of utmost good faith." Once you collect a premium you must pay any covered loss. Information that was concealed from the insurer only voids the contract if it concealed the cause of the loss.

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Tom Horne

Well we aren\'t no thin blue heroes and yet we aren\'t no blackguards to.
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My wife likes to imply that MY knob is dangerous !!!!
On 25 Jul 2006 03:35:24 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

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posted for all of us... I don't top post - see either inline or at bottom.

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