Knob & Tube and Cloth Shielded Wiring

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John F. F. wrote:

In your case, since you are selling, some lending institutions (such as government backed loans) may require a minimum 100 amp service. Something to be aware of anyway, not that you should have it done now for that reason, but at least it won't be a surprise should it pop up during the sale. Many realtors have electrician's in there pocket just for such and prices tend to be higher simply because they know it's holding up the show and many people will just say "do it." Take the electrician who quoted you $1500(US) for an upgrade. IMO, for a 100 amp service, the bid is about $500 too high. In my area, for $1500 one can get a 200 amp service.
Additionally, if you decide to upgrade, I would recommend no less than a 125 amp service because, should electric central heat or air be desired in the future, the service calc. usually comes in over 100 amps.

Upgrading the service will also allow new circuits to be added. The old fuse panels are usually only a Main/Range and 4 (circuits). K&T circuits are usually limited to 15 amps. Even with gas appliances, the kitchen should have a minimum of two 20 amp circuits. Window air conditioners sometimes create an overload situation on 15 amp circuits. With K&T/fuses the usual tendency for homeowners/tenants is to throw in larger fuses. Not good. In fact, electrician's are required by NEC to install Type "S" fuse adapters if they see evidence of fuse tampering.

No, that's the purpose of running the green wire, upgrading. An NEC accepted alternative is to install a GFCI at the first outlet, feed through it downstream and install regular 3 prong outlets on the rest of the circuit, marking them with the stickers that come with the GFCI receptacle as "no ground."
IMO, it's a waste of time to install just a green wire. Whatever it takes to install Romex is going to be the same as installing just a green wire. You'll be glad that you spent the extra $300 for the Romex, plus you will be able to get in some needed kitchen circuits.

A good point made by another poster, if you have blown-in insulation, it results in a serious code violation with K&T....something many people are not aware of and salespeople tend to say nothing about. Also, you might want to take a peak in the attic and/or basement to see if the old cloth covered cable was spliced into the K&T without using boxes, another serious code violation.
I know that you don't want to hear it, but IMHO, K&T and cloth covered cable has had it's day and the "phase out" has been extended by NEC long enough.
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around here pittsburgh area all K&T is boxless:(
it was spliced inside the wall with no boxes, then covered over by wood lathe and plaster so a overheated connection can cause a fire, and insulation just makes it worse.
NOTHING lasts forever and what else do YOU own that lasts over a 100 years?
people think nothing of a new car every 5 years, for dependability and safety. that would be 20 vehicles in a hundred years. at a very consertive 10 grand a year $200,000..........
meanwhile some get upset over spending a few grand........
I had a friend shopping for a home, it was a $100,000 but the K&T HAD to go to get a mortage. the seller refused the 5 grand credit and my friend bought a different home.
the housing market cooled while the home went thru three realtors.:(
the home finally sold for 85 grand, clearly the seller made a bad choice.. cost him over a year and 10 grand.
I HOPE the OP gets his price and a quick sale........
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Everyone knows, or should know, that K&T is boxless everywhere. Back in those days there was a keen awareness of the hazards of bad connections so the joints were made by highly skilled people with great care, soldered and taped with something besides Jap wrap. Original K&T needed no boxes for that reason. Somewhere along the line somebody installed cloth covered cable in the OP's house and _those_ were the connections to which I was referring. Any connections made to the original K&T were very likely made with wire nuts, if that, and need to be in a box. This is only one of the many types of abuse that K&T has suffered over the years.
It's sometimes hard to find, but seeing an original installation of K&T that hasn't been butchered by bad splices and destroyed by overloading/overheating is a thing of beauty.

I believe that K&T has withstood that test of time with flying colors. It's the hacked and abused wiring that gets the bad rap, and yes, insulation makes it much worse.

The wiring in milions of homes. K&T is pushing 100 years and still hanging in there. The insulation in today's wiring will last much longer, installed properly. Also, the plethora of today's electric codes will help ensure that today's wiring will not be overloaded and abused like K&T was.
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Thanks to you for the point by point reply and RBM and all . I will check the points you make about splices and such but I haven't seen any evidence of it. John

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John F. F. wrote:

Smart man! :) It does nothing truly useful although it _might_ have a cosmetic effect of influencing a potential buyer simply owing to the new look, particularly for an individual with little or no technical knowledge or first-time owner. OTOH, there are a lot of folks who buy houses essentially on nothing more than whether it just appeals to them.

My suggestion would be to first, ignore hallerb's ranting about absolute uninsurability -- he brings this windmill out to joust against at every opportunity. There _may_ be a problem in his area, but I frankly would be surprised that even there it would be nearly as widespread as he wants to make it appear and there probably was some specific issue behind the anectdotal "evidence" rather than a full proscription. But, that's also conjecture on my part, based on what is the general rule here. None of the houses in the local "Old Town Revitalization District" project have been denied homeowners' insurance nor mortgages for existing K&T wiring that met (grandfathered) code requirements and was otherwise not defective. I know something of this having served on the OTRD board the last several years. In fact, as someone else noted, in only an instance or two am I aware that underwriters even asked for more than the basic square footage, frame/brick, wood/composition/other roofing, etc., kind of checklist questions and a general overview of the house condition for full coverage.
As for adding grounded outlets, again I'd suggest doing nothing unless a prospective buyer wants to make it a condition, and then consider it a negotiating point. Someone else w/ electrician credentials already noted in another response the use of a GFCI outlet as the first on a circuit -- that would be my suggestion of how to proceed if really were interested in doing it as a preemptive strike sort of thing.
As for disclosure, every state has its own rules on what must be disclosed, and some localities may have additional as well, but those are documented by statute and there will be forms available that meet those legal obligations. Beyond what is specifically listed on the forms I would not venture. I don't recommend trying to "hide" anything, but there is no obligation, legal or moral, to make a problem out of a molehill or to create the impression of a deficiency or defect where none exists. That K&T wiring is obsolete for new construction is _NOT_ the issue and to confuse that with the requirement to be open and complete in disclosure is simply a case of comparing apples and oranges for a common metaphor.
Also, remember that real estate agents are not really, fundamentally, working for you -- they're actually working for the buyer in most transactions. Again, disclosure and rules of representation vary by state and locality and in some instances even with the actual title with which the agent represents him/herself. Be sure you are aware of those rules so that you understand the motives and obligations driving the agent -- you may find yourself surprised by what the rules actually say in that regard. In this case, it does sound as though you found one who was going out to make a better bargain for her prospective buyer in order to try to close a deal and get the smaller commission sooner rather than hope for a few hundred dollars more later with more time invested on her part. Similar caveats hold for inspectors, of course, and I would be particularly wary of those brought in by a realtor in behalf of the purchaser -- they are beholden to the realtor and are not working in your behalf.
I'll throw in another -- someone else already mentioned the _independent_ appraisal, I'll add it could be worthwhile to get an inspection done on your behalf as well to have as a comparative standard for potential buyers or, if provided it up front, some potential buyers might even accept it. In doing this, of course, you'll want to ensure up front that the inspector you hire doesn't have a personal bias against K&T as some I've run across have seemed to have been taught from the hallerb school and simply check it off as a "problem" as opposed to actually inspecting it for condition/compliance, etc.
And, lastly, never go into a major obligation/transaction without getting legal review of documents if there's anything whatsoever that seems suspicious regarding clauses of responsibility or other riders other than a clean transfer of deed. Some buyers recently are attempting to attach all sorts of strings on hidden faults, etc., that can spring up even years later -- you want to be certain, particularly on an older home, that "when it's gone, it's gone." For this reason, again, be sure you disclosures are full and complete and meet the letter of the laws in your jurisdiction but make no representation beyond that, either good or bad.

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Sorry WRONG agents work for the SELLER unless they are specifically retained as BUYERS AGENTS and in that case a different agent has to represent the seller.
Amazing how much confusion on this.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Actually, I did word what I intended incorrectly by using the phrase "real estate agent" as that does have a specific connotation. What I intended was simply "agent" as there are buyers' and sellers' agents as you note. However, it is not true that in every locale a different agent must represent seller/buyer -- there are many jurisdictions for which that still isn't a requirement although as far as I know, they are required to reveal that (although in TN as one example, the disclosure was pretty much hidden in the fine print and you had to dig through all the contract "legalese" in order to get to it -- it wasn't required to be "disclosed" as an upfront listing of "how I am paid" kinds of things as in a disclosure form.

That's true, and the key thing is that every state has laws and rules that are not the same everywhere so there is an understandable reason for the confusion -- it is very easy to take one's experience from a particular place and assume it is applicable elsewhere, but that just "ain't necessarily so"...
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dpb wrote:

nearly everywhere the agents comission comes out of sellers proceeds, and in PA all agewnts work for the seller unless otherwise specified.
Reality is agents skirt a fine line to get as many sales as possible, since the depend on comissions....
selling a home today is the pits, what with home inspectors, demanding buyers, pushy mortage companies, many people with poor credit, the list in endless.........
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Just so you know the K&T insurance issue is true heres a paste from another board discussing it. I have NO connection with anything there, and put some of this up as a reference to insurance rules today!
As you can see insurance has become picky recently....
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Homeowners Insurance and Knob-and-Tube Wiring... clip this post email this post what is this? see most clipped and recent clippings Posted by Jerry_in_OC_MD (My Page) on Tue, Nov 8, 05 at 16:55
We had the home inspection on the 1920 "Dutch Colonial Revival" that we are in the process of purchasing. The Inspector had a lot of concerns about the knob and tube wiring in the house. Some, but not all of the electric is updated. He recommended that we (or preferably the seller) have the wiring inspected and safety tested by an licensed electrician before we take possession of the house.
He mentioned that it might be tough to get a homeowners policy with the electric in it's current state. Has anyone else had difficulty getting an insurance policy for their home because of knob-and-tube?
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Posted by homemaker (My Page) on Tue, Nov 8, 05 at 18:11
Here in Ontario, if you have an existing policy, most insurers will cover a newly purchased home with knob & tube wiring, and give you 30-60 days to disconnect and replace it. This is a fairly recent change, for a couple of years, it was nigh on impossible to get insurance for any house with knob & tube unless it was with a high risk company.
First time home buyers are having more luck these days, but it often means wearing out your dialing finger. Having an electrical certificate stating that the wiring is safe and adequate and also advising what percentage of the wiring is knob & tube may help.
If you have home insurance now, check with your current broker to see how your company deals with knob & tube issues.
Hope this helps.
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Posted by joed (My Page) on Tue, Nov 8, 05 at 19:00
Here in Ontario I know of at least one person who was forced to replace their K&T or their insurance would not renew.
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Posted by homemaker (My Page) on Tue, Nov 8, 05 at 21:49
I should have been clearer. Most insurers here will not take on a home with knob & tube, or keep an existing property with K & T unless it is disconnected and replaced within 30-60 days. The only exceptions I know of have been elderly folks who really don't use much power and tend to have no computers, VCR's, microwaves, and who live much more simply than those of us with all kinds of fancy appliances and toys. Electrician's letters advising that the wiring is safe and adequate for the senior have satisfied many insurance companies. Makes it tough for those buying the house if it's sold though.
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Posted by bas157 (My Page) on Tue, Nov 8, 05 at 22:06
When I bought my house, USAA (insurance company) wanted to see the home inspection report, which pictured some knob and tube wiring. They wanted it replaced until I showed them better pictures which clearly show the wiring was just a few pieces and the knobs, obviously hooked up.
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Posted by kennf (My Page) on Wed, Nov 9, 05 at 14:21
Other than insurance, the other problem with K&T is that you aren't supposed to insulate over it. So if you want to insulate the attic better than 1920s standards, you may be out of luck.
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Posted by Vermonster (My Page) on Wed, Nov 9, 05 at 14:45
We were unable to get homeowners insurance with knob and tube energized. Agreed to de-energize circuit and update. Policy is through Vermont Mutual. VT
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Posted by NancyLouise (My Page) on Thu, Nov 10, 05 at 8:01
We have a 100 year old home. When we recently switched insurance companies, during the inspection one of the first questions the inspector asked was if there was any K & T wiring. Luckily there wasn't. It is a very real safety concern. I believe it may be more difficult to get insurance because of it. Perhaps you can have monies taken off the asking price of the home to get the home's wiring up to code. It can't hurt to ask. NancyLouise
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Posted by Mom1993 (My Page) on Thu, Nov 10, 05 at 15:00
We own a 1920's house, had all original K&T wiring. Amica (who we have used for 15 years) wouldn't insure the house - Fireman's fund would. We are replacing almost all of the original electrical...Good luck!
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Posted by athomein1914 (My Page) on Fri, Nov 11, 05 at 20:36
Our house was almost entirely knob & tube when purchased and we had no trouble insuring. (Allstate) We've since rewired to code and insulated the attic. There was zero insulation when we purchased our home.
Another insurance issue we've run into is insuring for replacement of the historic home we have as opposed to a flat rate per square foot. I find there is tremendous variation among insurance companies, and among policies, and every so often I call around to update myself and my home. You can insure beyond the "standard" to protect your not-so-standard home.
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Posted by terryr (My Page) on Sun, Nov 13, 05 at 16:44
We have Grange Insurance on an 1896 house. They didn't ask us about knob & tube, only about fuses vs. circuit breaker. We had 90 days to upgrade to a CB.
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Posted by Bella_Design (My Page) on Mon, Nov 14, 05 at 23:23
I have a 1918 house in TN. It has some K&T in it as well. The main breaker had two 100 amp fuses in it and was able to insure it with the condition that I replace the fuse box with a circuit breaker, but none of the wiring was a problem. The thing I had the most problem with was that it is partially asbestos sided. Try Erie Insurance if they are available in your area.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote: ...

That may be so in PA and where your "nearly everywhere" covers, but not so here -- generally the commission is paid by the buyer although it is typically a first offer request by a prospective purchaser for the seller to pay it instead. That, of course, is also occasionally dependent on whether the listing agency/agent finds the prospect or whether the prospect comes from a MLS agent. Whether the seller accepts the offer to "eat" the commission is their call -- some will to close the deal, some won't as they think they've set a fair market price, some will offer to split the difference.
Here, the side of the fence the agent is on depends solely on what the contract says -- and they may, under certain circumstances, act as brokers for either/both. Bottom line is, need to know what the local laws are and read every contract word carefully, as they aren't the same everywhere by any means.
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wrote:

Cheap house for sale

Men used to have knobs but not no more. Men are knobless wimps these days, and none of them use tubes anymore either.

Dont light that fuse

This message is too long........ Fuggitt

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