Older house wiring puzzle

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On 9/11/2009 10:48 AM dpb spake thus:

>

Plus he's one of the few posters here with the annoying habit of never quoting previous replies (small point, but not in his favor).
I will say that I think exercising due caution when doing electrical work is important. I cringe when I see the numerous news reports of houses burning down, just wondering whether it was an electrical fire that was responsible. I don't *ever* want to be the cause of such a fire.
But that doesn't mean one has to be a total Cassandra about it either ...
--
Found--the gene that causes belief in genetic determinism

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On Fri, 11 Sep 2009 11:11:28 -0700, David Nebenzahl

My younger brother's old house (old crappy farm house) burned down due to an electrical fault. The house had a LOT of K&T wiring - but it wasn't K&T that caused the fire. The old "shack" had a sagging summer kitchen - and the ROMEX wire going from the main house to the addition had a "shear failure" due to movement between the 2 parts of the building. The wires rubbed through the insulation enough to cause heat without blowing the breaker/fuse. (Think it was the stove cable).
Anyway, it got him a new house.
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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

WOW! you mean he actually was able to insure it?>? HELLOOOOO Bob buddy, this guy got insurance on a K&T wired house!!!! HELLO???
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On Fri, 11 Sep 2009 20:32:26 -0500, Steve Barker

The house burned down 15 years ago last week. Long before the insurance companies became "extremely risk adverse"
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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

i doubt it was from the wiring unless it was improperly fused. (or not fused at all) I've seen that.
s
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On Sat, 12 Sep 2009 19:52:00 -0500, Steve Barker

It WAS from wiring, and the short where the wire was damaged was not a good enough connection to draw enough power to trip the overcurrent protection on the stove wire. 15 amps on a 220 circuit is3200 watts - and that is a LOT of heat to be created in a small area. Definitely enough to start a tinder-dry timber structure on fire. It takes 50 amps to blow the circuit protection on a range receptacle circuit. That's over 12000 watts.of concentrated heat.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

That's a fact jack. And covering it with insulation does nothing to it either. Well, it might keep the mice and squirrels off it. LOL! As for being a fire hazard, well a 14 ga wire on a 15a breaker is not going to get hot, and it is almost always at least 10" away from it's partner wire, so there's not much chance of a short, so I would go so far as to say the K&T wiring methods in many ways are much safer than the practices we use today.
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David Nebenzahl wrote:

I think the phrase "once you muck with this" is the key. It doesn't matter whether you (in theory) do or do not make it any worse than it is now. Once you touch it you may be held responsible for it.
Does local code/law require you to be a licensed electrician to do this work? Does your liability insurance cover electrical work you perform? Does the locale require permits? Will the owner's policy cover them if non-permitted or non-inspected work results in damage?
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I asked state farm my homeowners carrier about K&T the agent reported we cant write new policies for it.
A few years ago A friends homeowners company wenty out of business, he HAD to have his home rewired since no other company would insure K&T
He also had to have a railing installed on some outside steps, repair some cracked cement walk areas, dispose of debris stored under his porch.
homeowners insurance has changed dramatically in the last 10 years
I really dont care what anyone does to their home. but a contractor or home handyman should be very careful. its probably impossible to prove who did what when to the wiring the OP admits was hacked repaired.
so there could be another unknown fault he doesnt know about but might end up in legal trouble over that he didnt even do.
if theres a fire the wiring will be looked at carefully, legal defense even if OP wins can easily cost thousands.
you were warned
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I think all the above are very good questions. I would be damn careful what I did to patch up or improve old K&T wiring which is already a mess. And I would be certain to know the code, pull any required permits and get any required inspections.
Just because a customer wants something done on the cheap doesn't mean as a professional you should do it. If someone gets electrocuted or the house burns down, you could very well be sued. And for a professional the courts generally take the view that YOU are the expert and should not be doing something half assed or on the cheap that isn't really the right thing to do just because a client wants it.
Also regarding the debate about insurance and K&T, a simple google for "knob tube insurance" brings you lots of hits that say there most certainly are issues of insurability with at least some insurance companies.
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On Fri, 11 Sep 2009 10:29:29 -0700, David Nebenzahl

EXCEPT it is not designed to handle the current requirements of today's average home.
In a LOT of ways, it is actually SAFER (electrically) than current wiring practices as the live and neutral are widely spaced. Pretty hard to drive a nail through a wire and cause a short.
However, MANY older homes with K&T have NO BOXES. Therefore no "fire enclosure" if a faulty device (switch , receptacle, or lamp base) should start on fire. That's where the underwritters start having fits. Particularly if there is flamable insulation around those wires.
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On 9/11/2009 2:53 PM snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca spake thus:

Yabut, the K&T circuits (3 of them) are all on 15-amp breakers, so they're well within their ratings. No danger there.

This was stated elsewhere in the thread, and I agree with it.

I've seen lots of houses with K&T wiring, but *none* with "no boxes" as you describe. (On the other hand, I have seen *lots* of wiring added later that should have in boxes but wasn't.) All devices (switches, outlets and lighting fixtures) have proper boxes here.
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Heck, if anything, it is safer.
It takes a lot of care to initially install K&T wiring as compared to just slapping down some romex and putting in a few staples. K&T doesn't depend upon the insulation of the individual conductors to prevent a short. The knobs and tubes are made of a ceramic.
K&T wiring doesn't have a separate ground conductor and until GFCIs became available, that increased the risk of shock from appliances and in wet areas.
Powering a section of K&T from a GRCI breaker creates a very safe situation.

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On 9/12/2009 8:25 PM John Gilmer spake thus:

I think you meant to type "GFCI", no? I don't think my client wants to pay for them fancy newfangled GRCI breakers ...
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On Sep 13, 12:04�am, David Nebenzahl

Yeah why bother installing something that saves lives, bet they want to save bucks on their new vehicle by deleting safety belts? and why not remove and sell off the air bags too.
hey wonder what the courts would say if dave here did some remodeling in kitchen or bath and didnt install GFCIs.
later a hairdryer drops in the tub and a child dies.
happy go lucky dave losses everything he owns.........
would he be criminally liable? but he did save the custmer a few bucks....
I service machines for a living and have seen lots of safety hazards.
I REFUSE to work on a machine that has a gross safety hazard unless the customer approves my correcting that safety issue as part of the service....
what other things are installed so long ago without being replaced for newer safer items. please name some I am interested?
Around here K&T has no boxes unless they were added at a later date.
the wires are soldered on and buried in walls where connections cant be seen:(
if the solder joint detoriates for whatever reason it can overheat and since its not in a box cause a fire..
plus K&T homes are lucky to have one outlet per room, which leads to lots of trip hazards, idiots puttng extension cords under carpets and overloaded circuits most K&T homes have very few seperate circuits.
lack of grounds is a biggie for me. a ungrounded but GFCI outlet can cause computer troubles:(
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bob haller wrote:

Maybe if you learned to read you could figure out what John and Dave said.

Another item you have been challenged on in the past. In years of doing service work I never saw a solder joint that "deteriorated". I saw 2 that failed that were "cold joints" when they were made. One was K&T.
Anecdotal evidence (clare's younger brother) proves the real hazard is Romex. I am confident you will now demand removal of all the hazardous Romex wiring out there.
It is certainly as strong as your anecdotal evidence.
Or has an insurance company come up with actual casualty data?
--
bud--

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K&T typically has one outlet per room, necessitating lots of extension cords. beyond the unsafe stuff the OP admitted on post one and ii pasted, do you still think K&T is safe and effective?
90 year old anything is elderly, all sorts of wierd stuff happens when something is that old.
how many roofs has a 100 year old home had? how many plumbing upgrades?
how many vehicles have you had in a lifetime?
nothing lasts forever despite how much you protest
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bob haller wrote:

The number of outlets in a room has nothing to do with whether K&T is safe. My house, originally wired with rigid pipe, had one or two outlets per room when it was built.
The anecdotal evidence in this thread (clare) clearly indicates Romex is unsafe.

Still missing - the insurance casualty data that shows K&T is unsafe. An insurance company did not present any such data in one of the links that was posted.
The only links that have been posted do not support your crusade against K&T.
I believe the electricians in this newsgroup do not agree with you.
--
bud--

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yeah sure obsolete wiring thats been hacked repaired admitted by OP in post number one so old the insulation is falling off, no GFCIs, no arc fault breakers, no grounds, with lots of extension cords run around.
Yep totally safe and effective, heck its so great it should be the standard.
all those required NEC safety codes are totally unnecessary, and state farm is out to lunch refusing to insure homes with K&T/
heck high steps with no railings, its just a scam to sell railings.....
those defending K&T are just attempting to defend their refusal to upgrade their homes.......
..
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bob haller wrote:

>>

The NEC still has a section on K&T. Among the limited applications is reconnecting in a rewire. Why is it still there?

In Minnesota, State Farm put a surcharge on houses that did not have the service replaced in some time period (don't remember what it was). They were reversed by the state insurance regulator. I remember there was no insurance casualty data that supported the surcharge.
In one of the links provided, an insurance company that was challenged "provided no justification for its position".
As I have said, K&T is probably the latest redlining technique.

The house I live in has never had K&T.
The links provided do not support your fetish.
I don't remember anyone else who did either. Why don't you get any support???
Still no insurance casualty information that shows K&T is a problem.
--
bud--

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