Old Electrical Outlet

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I live in an old building (1920s) in New York City.
I recently opened up 2 electrical outlets that had been covered up for at least 30 years. Behind the outlets were 2 wires covered in cloth braid. At first I thought this type of cabling might be K&T, but a voltage test showed that the box was grounded, so I guess the wiring is metal conduit or armored cable.
What is the composition of the cloth braid of these old cables? The cloth braid looked and felt like cotton, but could it have been asbestos or another substance?
Thank you.
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wrote:

brittle. If you plain to continue using it, you should not disturb it anymore than you have to.
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Its called loom wire. Most of it in the twenties used rubber also. It will be very brittle and next to impossible to work with. The general rule is "You touch it, you replace it."
Tom
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Sometimes they ran a type of cloth covered cable inside of black pipe, and early steel cable like "Sprague" had a waxy cloth sheath over the conductors. The conductors themselves are probably covered with rubber and more cloth, and as the others have said, move them as little as you can

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you sure its grounded? some idiot might have connected box to neutral....... can you see a ground wire?
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If it's connected to a steel conduit or cable it doesn't require a "ground wire" to be grounded

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redbrickhat wrote:

Sounds that ye old Knob and Tube stuff. I used to own a house that was full of it. It looked like 18 gauge black cloth or paper wrapped wires. The wires were run through ceramic tubes where they went through a stud or joist and were suspended off of the wood surfaces with ceramic blocks that were nailed down.
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Yeah my hunch too, I asked about grounding since I helped a friend. Turned out she had K&T and it APPEARED grounded:)
The trouble was a former owner connected grounds and neutrals together. We found this opening a wall after a fire.On the outside a nice box with 3 prong outlet. Buried in wall K&T grounds and neutrals tied together.
The homes wiring was a patchwork quilt of bad stuff it was all replaced.
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The OP said that he lives in New York City where BX (armored cable) was required in the 1920s (and still is today). Cloth covered wires with armored sheathing is standard in older building in NYC. This is not knob and tube. It is BX and it is grounded (although some may question whether the armor provides an adequate ground.
--
Peace,
BobJ

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Marilyn & Bob wrote:

So if the cabling is 2-wire BX and the cloth braid is not asbestos, would it be safe to cut some of the old braid off?
Thanks
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It's safe to cut it even if it is asbestos. Just don't snort it up your nose or eat it for 20 years in a row.
--
Steve Barker



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Steve Barker LT wrote:

I ask the question because I might have to remove a large portion of the braided cloth to add a new receptacle.
So: did the old-style BX cables for residential apartments generally use cotton braided cloth around their wires?
Was asbestos braided cloth used mainly for high-temperature applications?
Thanks.
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I think the point is that asbestos is not cyanide, You're not going to die from occasional incidental contact

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The best thing to do is just do what you have to do. And quit worrying about the freakin asbestos. Like I said, you'd have to breathe the dust for 20 years before you MIGHT display symptoms 20 years after that.
--
Steve Barker


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Yes, mainly in electric ranges and the like.
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Steve Barker LT wrote:

I ask the question because I might have to cut a large amount of the cloth braid to add a new receptacle.
So: did the old-style BX cables for residential homes generally use cotton braided cloth around the wires?
Was asbestos braided cloth used only for high temperature applications?
Thanks.
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I can't speak for the BX, but the old cloth romex I'm pulling out of my house appears to have a wrap of asbestos in it. After burning it (to recycle the copper) in a very hot fire, there is what appears to be a white ribbon spiraled around the copper. I can only assume it's asbestos put there for pulling strength.
--
Steve Barker



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On Fri, 8 Dec 2006 20:28:30 -0600, "Steve Barker LT"

They had cloth romex? I thought the start of romex was after cloth insulation.

Asbestos doesn't burn, aiui, so that makes sense that it's still t here. I didn't know it had pulling strength, or tensile strength in general (if there's a difference).

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I was just guessing at the reason it was there.
--
Steve Barker



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mm wrote:

Can't speak for railphotonut, but the house I bought last year has a ton of cloth "romex". The wire itself is insulated with a plastic like material, possibly an early vinyl, definitely NOT rubber. It clings to the copper conductor, and leaves a sticky coating on the wire after it is stripped. Each conductor is wrapped with tar cloth braid, they are bundled with a brown kraft paper "string" (think old grocery bag), a wrap of paper, and another wrap of tar cloth. Where and when ever possible, I am pulling new ROMEX into place using it as a pull tape. In those instances where it isn't possible to pull it out, I handle it as little as possible, though the insulation isn't brittle. It does make a filthy mess no matter whether removing or reusing it. I believe it was installed in the fifties, as some of it was plastered into the pink flamingo bathroom walls. The only reason I know that is I had to completely gut the bathroom for other reasons. Luckily I found it without hitting it with a saw, drill, or nail... Some has a silver-blue outer wrap, other has black. The internal cloth is all black in the black, and color matched to the wire in the silver-blue. They both have the white wire covered with white inner insulation.
I also have a lot of that old BX with the cloth wires. Thank goodness the house was originally built in 1890, before electrification. All of the upgrades were done later, so there isn't any knob and tube. My grandmother's 1902 built house in Buffalo wasn't so lucky. Because of the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, builders were doing K&T installs in new houses even though electricity was still new and not widely available. I was still removing K&T in the eighties, and I think I got the last of it abandoned in 1989 when we built a new dormer and completely split the upper apartment from the lower. Prior to that the upper always included utilities even though there were two meters. After that, the upper was no longer cross wired with downstairs, although there were two outlets in the lower living room that no longer worked after that. I just never got around to going in the crawl space and rewiring those two, as I didn't want to disturb all the abandoned asbestos steam heating pipes under there. Just goes to show that it is sometimes better to be late to the game than to be an early adopter...
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