Older house wiring puzzle

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Have a client with a house built in the '20s, originally knob and tube wired but (partly) converted to more modren wiring methods. Basement ceiling is exposed and where the majority of the house wiring is. Lots of strange, non-standard and some clearly improper wiring exists there: "flying" splices between K&T wiring and NM or armored cable (no junction box), and one place where someone just ran a single insulated wire (THHN or whatever) as a neutral from one place to another. Plus exposed K&T runs going everywhere, one right next to the hot-water shutoff valve.
So I've figured out pretty much what goes where and how to replace it (mostly with runs of Romex, since it's not an occupied space).
But there's one thing about the old wiring that's puzzling to me. Usually K&T runs are done with pairs of wires (Hot & neutral) running alongside each other, and in most cases that's followed here: a run up into a wall will have a pair of wires going up into the subfloor.
But there are a couple of places where a *single wire* is routed up out of the basement into the house above. In these cases, the wires are all hots. No corresponding single neutral wire anywhere nearby. Presumably the neutral side of the circuit is tied to the neutral of another pair of wires.
This, of course, makes it difficult to map these circuits, since I can only assume that the neutral connection is made to the neutral wire corresponding to the hot wire. That's my operating assumption, anyhow: my plan is to simply replace these single-wire runs with Romex, using only the black wire. (Hmm, wonder if they make 12-1 Romex w/o ground? Probably not.)
Anyone ever seen this situation in an older house?
--
Found--the gene that causes belief in genetic determinism

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You need to ring it out and see where that conductor goes. It's probably going to a switch, who's return takes another path. Check outside lights, hall lights, or things like the oil burner , that may have an emergency switch in the main house
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

I'm pretty sure you can't run a single wire.
"All conductors of the same circuit and, where used, the grounded conductor and all equipment-grounding conductors and bonding conductors shall be contained within the same raceway, auxiliary gutter, cable tray, cablebus assembly, trench, cable, or cord, unless otherwise permitted"
If you google appropriate portions of the code quoted above you can learn more, including the rationale.
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On 9/10/2009 5:09 PM Mike Paulsen spake thus:

I believe you. However, think about it: the only way to rectify the situation so as to bring it in line with the current code would be to rip out the existing wiring in the walls of the house and replace it.
I can tell you that ain't gonna happen in this case.
What I plan to do will make it safer than it is now and satisfy the client, plus make it possible for them to insulate under their floor (which can't be done now since K&T wiring cannot be embedded in insulation).
By the way, in answer to another respondent, I have figured out where that single hot wire goes: I cut it, and found that most of the lighting in the front part of the house quit working.
--
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

In the town I went to college in (long before they tore them all down to put up 4plexes for rich yuppie kid students), there were lots of older K&T era houses split up into student slum housing. Most common approach was to disconnect and abandon the K&T in place, and rewire the house with conduit and/or raceway on the walls.
Is this a viable temporary workaround in your situation? A conduit riser in the back of a closet to small subpanels, and then out like a spiderweb into the rooms? Not pretty, but livable, and a lot cheaper than opening walls.
Oh, and on that single wire? By any chance, was the house old enough that it originally had gas lights? I have seen once or twice, a cheapjack conversion, where they used the old gas lines as the return path....
-- aem sends...
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On Thu, 10 Sep 2009 16:43:09 -0700, David Nebenzahl

Typical "ring wiring" In the low current requirements of years gone by it was not uncommon. The first house my folks bought in 1958 only had 2 circuits. All K&T, and the "live" was connected to the fuse at both ends. There had been NO modifications made in over 50 years (house was 85 when we got it) and my dad, being an electrician, rewired EVERYTHING within the first 6 months to a year.
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On 9/10/2009 7:34 PM snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca spake thus:

Apparently this house has a couple of partial "ring" circuits in addition to more conventional (by U.S. standards) wiring.
--
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On Thu, 10 Sep 2009 19:47:25 -0700, David Nebenzahl

What you soon learn working on old K&T houses is there is no such thing as "conventional"
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does the clients homeowners insurance know they have K&T?
The home really needs a complete rewire bringing up to current code
once you muck with this a future fire can see you on the hook for damages and insurtance company can go after you.........
K&T is very obsolete and what of attic insulation? as you said you cant imbed K&T in insulation and the roof is the largest loss of heat in a home......
you say client, are you doing repairs there?
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bob haller wrote:

their insurance, like mine, probably couldn't care less.
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GUARANTEED they will if theres a fire. you having been the last to work on the wiring will be on the hook. are you insured? liability if theres a fire? are you a registered electrician?
besides TODAY most insurance companies wouldnt take on new customers with K&T
insurance is risk adverse
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Mudslides, hurricanes, and such will make a big comeback.
--
Christopher A. Young
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When I changed insurance companies, the questionnaire asked if the house had K&T wiring. I have no idea what they do with the information if they get a yes. They also asked about swimming pools, fences, roof, etc.
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The key, IMO, it that you get your insurance from an independent agent rather than applying directly to a company.
The agent will spread his clients around several companies and, thus, spread the risk. An insurance company may be willing to have a few K&T homes on its rolls but it doesn't want to ensure every house in some antique town.
Our agent never asked about wiring. The insurance company is licensed to do business in the state (VA) and, thus, we can rely upon getting paid if the house burns down. We don't worry and the insurance company doesn't have excessive risk in one town.
The only difficulty we had with the insurace was because we got a LOT of house for not much money (repro.) The carrier sent someone by to see with his own eyes that the house was as big as we claimed. Our insurance will pay "replacement" value so they don't want to be set up.
When a company sells a policy through an agent, it is in part using the agent to screen clients. When they sell direct they don't get that protection and they may not be willing to write on any but plain vanilla type properties in sub-divisions.
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John Gilmer wrote:

My agent is a one company man. And he represents that company 100%. So that blows that theory out i guess.
s
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On Sep 13, 1:42�pm, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

add detroit to the low priced homes are the median price of all homes sold in detroit now down to about $12,500... down from 90 grand a few years ago.
If you have a worthless home then why buy insurance? but to get a LOAN you MUST HAVE INSURANCE.
and in any case once the OP mucks with the wiring, espically if he isnt a registered electrician he is on the hook if theres a fire., let alone the horror of possibly causing someones death, espically a child!
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does the OP description sound SAFE???
paste from his first post:(
Have a client with a house built in the '20s, originally knob and tube wired but (partly) converted to more modren wiring methods. Basement ceiling is exposed and where the majority of the house wiring is. Lots of strange, non-standard and some clearly improper wiring exists there: "flying" splices between K&T wiring and NM or armored cable (no junction box), and one place where someone just ran a single insulated wire (THHN or whatever) as a neutral from one place to another. Plus exposed K&T runs going everywhere, one right next to the hot-water shutoff valve.
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bob haller wrote:

The only links I remember on K&T (originally posted by Phil Munro) are: http://www.waptac.org/sp.asp?idq90 is a report to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs on adding building insulation around existing K&T wiring. No record of hazard was found in the large number of K&T installations that had insulation added around them. (Larry Seekon, whose comments are quoted, was head electrical inspector in Minneapolis.)
<http://web.archive.org/web/20040825060154/http://www.maine.gov/pfr/ins/hearing_2003-13680.htm or http://tinyurl.com/297uk7 is the record of a complaint to the Maine state Bureau of Insurance by a homeowner against an insurance company. The insurance company denied renewal of a policy based on K&T wiring. The insurance company was ordered to renew the policy because the insurance company "provided no justification for its position that knob and tube wiring per se automatically provides grounds for nonrenewal".
In my opinion insurance rejection of K&T is the latest version of redlining.
And if I remember right, the electricians in this newsgroup think K&T is not significantly more hazardous than other wiring methods. If it has been abused it can be a problem, as can other wiring methods.
--
bud--

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On 9/11/2009 9:27 AM bud-- spake thus:

>

<http://web.archive.org/web/20040825060154/http://www.maine.gov/pfr/ins/hearing_2003-13680.htm
Thank you very much for those useful links, which are a good antidote to the previous poster's paranoia.
I must say, though, that as comforting as the findings there are (that insulating around K&T wiring poses no dire threat), I won't do it. When it comes to wiring I always like to err on the side of caution.
But yes, the previous poster's shrieks of alarm are unwarranted. Properly done K&T wiring in good condition (as the wiring in this particular house is) is no less safe than modren wiring methods.
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David Nebenzahl wrote: ...

Indeed... :(
But, it's his personal vendetta it appears despite chastisement and demonstration that he's simply just generally wrong on numerous previous occasions as well...
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