Upgrading Electrical.

I just purchased a 1905 Victorian.
The PO's had the panel replaced, all the upstairs electrical re-done, and the kitchen and laundry downstairs redone. There are a bunch of outlets (10 or so) downstairs that are still 2 prong, with knob and tube wiring (except in one room, which is armor clad bx with 3 prong outlets, but very poor ground - tester barely lights up, at least 20 years old, probably older).
All of these outlets are either cut into the hardwood floors (facing up), or into the baseboards, and the wiring runs under the floors of the house. It's definately not up to today's code, but was up to code when it was installed, and was probably done to avoid damaging the lath and plaster.
We'd like to upgrade at least one of these outlets (by running a completely new circuit, new wire) for use with home electronics (tv, tivo, etc.), and we want to at least put gfci's on all the in-floor outlets.
But we do want to keep them in the floor for now -- we're not ready to go back to studs quite yet. Would an electrician even consider doing this for us since it still wouldn't be up to code?
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Hallow wrote:

Your best bet is to have an electrician take a look and make a few suggestions. Hopefully there are a number of older homes in your area and the electrician will have the experience of working on them.
Most electricians will be able to take care of the problem and you may be surprised at some of the suggestions. It may be better and easier than you thought. He may make the suggestion of upgrading a few other things at the same time. Some due to safety concerns and others because you have have then done for little additional cost if you do it now.
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Joseph E. Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
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Hallow wrote:

If someone has access to the NEC, article 210-51(a), should answer your question. From what I gather on the web, floor outlets are not prohibited in residential construction (I still see them in commercial offices). If they are installed to comply with the 6' rule, they must not be more than 18" from a wall. However, local electrical codes may be more stringent than the NEC.
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<< we do want to keep them in the floor for now -- we're not ready to go back to studs quite yet. Would an electrician even consider doing this for us since it still wouldn't be up to code? >>
You and your electrician should consider visiting the distributor where he buys his supplies and look over the kinds of code approved floor outlets that are available. This ought ot be your first step in making an overall plan to further upgrade your home. He needs your input on the kinds of outlets that you find acceptable, and you need his input on what is achievable and cost effective. Expect to pay for his time, take notes, respect his expertise and don't sweat the $$. You'll be wiser, safer and more secure. HTH
Joe
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I worked on a house like this, likely the BX armor ISN'T grounded at all. Basically, there isn't a ground to connect it to. K&T is a two wire system, what today would be a 220v 30amp circuit.

Start at the main box, big it up to (or at least close to*) code. You need to insure there is ground connection to connect the new circuits to.
From there, connect up new circuits that are up to code.
*By this I mean you can connect the old circuits up to a new panel so that it works, and isn't any less safe than it is now, but an inspector wouldn't sign off on it permanently.
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Funny that someone would rather damage a hardwood floor, versus damaging plaster... the latter is much easier to repair! It could be for another reason, e.g. if these are exterior walls, perhaps there's plaster over brick and really no easy way to install an outlet on the wall other than surface mounting.
Rather than putting GFCI's on all the in-floor outlets, it would be cheaper and easier to use a GFCI breaker for that entire circuit. Of course you still need to upgrade the wiring to something with a ground. Floor outlets are not necessarily out of code, but you would be well advised to use some kind of removable cover plate that can securely close off the outlets that are not being used. This will also prevent dirt & debris from entering the outlets.
Since these are on the 1st floor, it ought to be a pretty simple matter (assuming your basement is not fiinshed).

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If you make the string GFCI protected, you don't need to install grounds - just put the little "protected by GFCI" stickers on the two prong outlets.
This would be a simple upgrade until he decides what to do with the outlet placement.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
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Thanks for the advice all, I'll definately be calling an electrician this week to come out and take a look. I need to get ahold of the local phonebook, probably have to borrow one from a neighbor. Mine won't be in until next week (it's a whole new area for me, moved an hour away to the small town of Crewe, VA - there's *a lot* of old, beautiful houses out here).
I don't know why they put the outlets in the floors. I've come up with 3 guesses.
Apparently it was the thing to do at one time so furniture could be right up against the baseboards/wall.
There are several places where the floors are pretty badly stained from the old radiator system, and it seems to be in those areas where this was done (just make the hole bigger and install an outlet?). We're going to be working on the floors next spring. Nice 5/4" oak, ~2" wide strips downstairs *beautiful*, one of the things that sold us on the house, but needs some tlc.
There's also drywall up over the lath & plaster in most of the house, covering up cracks and old wallpaper for the most part, but due to the age there's also the potential for lead paint on the walls underneath too (not very likely, but still a possibility, one of the reasons we're going to wait a bit before any major deconstruction).
Fortunately other than these few areas, all the other wiring in the house (and the panel) is less than 5 years old.
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wrote:

i would worry about knob and tube. so will your insurance company. if you dare, ask them. but be sure you can afford to have all the wiring upgraded professionally and inspected. in ontario, knob and tube means no insurance (at least in my admittedly small experience). much work/money to have an electrician crawl around in the attic and fish wire thru walls. ...thehick
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In the US (and in VA,in particular) insurance for an older home is basically "don't ask, don't tell."
It's up to the insurance company to decide whether to inspect the wiring or not. But when a house has made it to nearly 100 years old without burning down, the odds or that the wiring isn't going to self-destruct next week (or next year!) If one insurance company doesn't want to insure a neighborhood of old but partly restored homes, another company might see it as a opportunity.
It has been considered quite proper to use GFCIs on outlets without a ground.
If you have safety concerns because of the lack of a ground, put in GFCI's on your two pin outlets. You may find it hard to "fit in" the GFCI and might have to your a "box extender" which might not fit into your decorating scheme!
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John Gilmer wrote:

basically
wiring or

burning
week (or

neighborhood
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John Gilmer wrote:

basically
wiring or

burning
week (or

neighborhood
Actually, my insurance company knows and has no problems with it. Well, at least my agent knows. We actually gave him a copy of the inspection early on to get an estimate of what the insurance would run - I'd heard horror stories about folks having to go through Lloyd's of London, and paying out the rear (more than the mortgage) for insurance on older homes. It's of course a big chain insurance company, but he's been my family's agent for everything for like 25 years.
He managed to upsell me to a higher coverage policy, but at least with that if something happens to the house we could afford something of similar size closer in to Richmond. (Try finding ~3,000 sq ft for under 130k within 10 miles of the city... heh).
He was glad we didn't go for a couple of other houses in the area that had all American Chestnut floors, trim, all the woodwork, as apparently that would have be near impossible for him to insure.
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Hallow:
H > Thanks for the advice all, I'll definately be calling an electrician H > this week to come out and take a look. I need to get ahold of the local H > phonebook, probably have to borrow one from a neighbor. Mine won't be H > in until next week (it's a whole new area for me, moved an hour away to H > the small town of Crewe, VA - there's *a lot* of old, beautiful houses H > out here). H > H > I don't know why they put the outlets in the floors. I've come up with H > 3 guesses. H > H > Apparently it was the thing to do at one time so furniture could be H > right up against the baseboards/wall.
Or if the outlets were further out in the center of the room so people would not trip over the cords. When I was growing up the neighbour across the street had holes bored through the table legs so they wouldn't see the lamp cords!!
H > There are several places where the floors are pretty badly stained from H > the old radiator system, and it seems to be in those areas where this H > was done (just make the hole bigger and install an outlet?). We're H > going to be working on the floors next spring. Nice 5/4" oak, ~2" H > wide strips downstairs *beautiful*, one of the things that sold us on H > the house, but needs some tlc.
We'll be reading some of your questions in the near future then! :)
H > There's also drywall up over the lath & plaster in most of the house, H > covering up cracks and old wallpaper for the most part, but due to the H > age there's also the potential for lead paint on the walls underneath H > too (not very likely, but still a possibility, one of the reasons we're H > going to wait a bit before any major deconstruction).
Too many projects going on at the same time will probably end you up on "In a Fix"! <g>
H > Fortunately other than these few areas, all the other wiring in the H > house (and the panel) is less than 5 years old.
Back to the wiring, definately work with your electrician and "think big" ==> plan ahead for any future possibilities but also the restrictions. Let's say there's a two-prong outlet in the floor (or wall -- doesn't really matter in the example) wired via K&T and it's located in a window seat alcove. Would you ever put a television, audio system or computer there? Probably not. Would you put a table lamp there? Possibly. Assuming the wiring is in good condition there is probably no need to update that particular run.
Your electrician can probably run new outlets and update some of the others by running conduit through closets and possibly some surface- mount. A friend's aunt had her house wiring updated many years ago. In some areas they ran conduit at the top of the baseboard. It's painted the same colour as the baseboard so doesn't stand out too badly. I probably would have had them make a bit of a hollow in the wall and cover the conduit with trim or something.
- barry.martinATthesafebbs.zeppole.com
* Nothing can go wrong now, go wrong, gow rong, grong!
--
RoseReader 2.52 P003186
The Safe BBS Bettendorf, IA 563-359-1971
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