So me and my wiring instructor buddy are down in the basement clipping the
romex that powers the basement. I'm about to rewire the whole thing and add
an additional circuit - so we shut off the breaker and clipped the wires to
make demolition easier.
Anyway we get to one notorious section of my basement where the empty but
powered light sockets hang down from the splice in the wire. My buddy is
curious about how the splice was done, and taking a knife proceeds to unwind
the electricians tape from the splice. Turns out the original installer
simply stripped a section of the original hot wire of insulation - about 4
inches worth, then wound the hot wire of the socket around the bare wire -
and covered it with electricians tape. The same was done with the neutral
wire. Keep in mind, he didn't cut the wire, he simply removed the
insulation (how I don't know). The socket wire, strand type, was only
losely wound around the bare copper wire.
He did suspend the wire from the wall by using a bent finishing nail (and
nicked the Romex in the process). I'll be grateful when the rewire is done,
all it would take is for one spider to call that place home and that'd be
all she wrote.
I guess this is why the inspection process is so important, and one of the
reasons why I'm having mine inspected before closing up the wall. No need
to leave the next owner a ticking time bomb.
I can't believe they would have endorsed something like that. Wouldn't it
have been far easier to simply twist the wires together with a wire nut?
Not being an electrician, that's what I would have done. If I was really
concerned about it I would have taped the nut to the wire insulation to seal
Notice in the link, from a Navy electricians manual of unknow vintage,
the splice is soldered. A soldered tap splice like that was standard and
safe in knob and tube wiring. Open splices were never standard with
Romex. Connections, after knob and tube, had to be made in accessible
boxes. Wire nuts didn't exist for knob and tube. Soldering was still
used after connections were required to be in boxes.
The tap was probably made in an existing running wire where you couldn't
cut the wire and just resplice it with wire nuts adding the light.
That type of junction was considered a good practice back in "the day"
before standards evolved to what they are today. Back in the days of
"friction tape" (anyone remember that stuff). I believe back then that
cuts/splices/junctions were considered bad and should be avoided to the
The T was also used for communications lines, like phone lines, so you
could work without breaking the circuit. You could wire it "hot", if
need be. That's always fun.
They also used to have a "Western Union" connects for when stress or
strain was going to be on a junction. Think about that one for a
Things like that worked really well. Here you are working on circuits
that are approaching 100 years old and they are fine, the junctions are
good, etc. etc. Let's hope wire nuts stand up that well.
A previous owner of my current house did some similar "quality" work. He
happened to work for the electric utility too, kinda figures they
wouldn't have a clue how to wire a house. I've replaced pretty much all
of it along with the panels in the shop and house all with top grade
materials and done properly. No inspections here though as I'm outside
I'm outside city limits too, but for me the dangers of bad electrical work
are too dire to not have the inspector brought in. At least I don't have to
pay for a permit - all I'm doing is updating existing circuits.
Relax; I've seen a *lot* worse.
Like the restaurant I did some wiring for a few <cough> years ago; I
discovered a circuit in the kitchen that ran directly to the service
panel outside, with *no* breakers or fuses, just the service disconnect
You probably could have lived with your tapped-light socket circuit for
many years with no problems.
Just as McDonald\'s is where you go when you\'re hungry but don\'t really
care about the quality of your food, Wikipedia is where you go when
Maybe the guy was used to working on new construction, where this is
often done for temporary lighting? Either way, it's not code.
Somewhat related but not as dangerous, I have found in my old house
several instances where two switches share a wall box. It seems that
it must have been common practice to take the "hot" wire, strip about
3/4" or so of insulation, and wrap it around the terminal on one
switch, then terminate the end of the wire at the other switch. Not
sure why this was done, perhaps large size wire nuts were not available
at the time? (late 40's) apparently wire nuts were available as I have
found several that appear to be original splicing the neutrals
together. In cases where I have found switches arranged as I describe
above, I have replaced this setup with a pigtail of new wire and a red
or yellow wire nut as appropriate.
Friends home had fire, little insurance. I was demoing a wall and found
a romex line running between floors joined about halfg way with a knot
and wirenuts, it was hanging in the wall. no box no nothing...
yes sir short on wire just tie a knot:(
found most romex wasnt anchored to box at all, house filled with K&T
some visibly singed and connecftions and solder melted. electrician had
been there earlier supposedly safetied things. homeowner touched wall
and sparks flew. seems someone had papered over box she had lived there
for years and didnt know a box was there.someone blew in cellouse in
cavities with K&T:( the list was endless..
I installed a temporary service to all 3 floors with one master light
switch and plenty of outlets on 4 20 amp breakers and cut everything
else clear...... I cut the wires off short so no bozo would reconnect
them! homeowner kept saying well reuse this. here I will clean this box
so it can be used, straighten this romex cant you use it over there?(
by this time the homeowner had fired the fire restoration copany, what
Homeowner had home COMPLETELY professionally it still amazes me the
hoiuse fire and its 130K in damage wasnt started by wiring, a cat
knocked over a lamp:(
Chuckle. Found one of those in the bathroom in this place when I rewired it,
running to the GFCI near the sink. Butt splices, not wire nuts. Ungrounded
and switched to boot. I managed to steal grounded power from a bedroom
outlet in the same wall to power the GFCI, so the outlet is actually hot
with the lights out now. The ungrounded string now just feeds the vanity
lights, since there was no painless way to string switched power to it.
Because I am systematically going through and replacing all of the
receptacles in the house, because a significant number of them don't
hold a plug securely and/or show sogns of cracking or burning. I
realize that has absolutely zip to do with switches, but when I
explained this to She Who Must Be Obeyed, she expressed a preference
for white receptacles and plates, so all of the switches are getting
replaced as well. Since this is 60-year-old cloth covered wire, I
figured that adding pigtails so the next time I need to poke around in
that box I'm not flexing the cloth covered wiring might prevent future
In SWMBO's defense, the previous devices were a schizophrenic mix of
ivory and brown and nothing basically matched, and the white does look
better against the walls in the house which are basically very lightly
tinted pure white. (one room is pure white with a faint green tint,
another is a faint blue tint, etc... I would have never thought to
paint a house like this, the previous owners picked the colors and I
have to say it does maintain an open, airy feel which is important with
small rooms without falling into the trap of painting everything
What IS it with wives and white electrical devices? But that's a
debate I'll never win...I can't even convince her that the advantages
of a room-light switch within reach of the bed would outweigh the
negative aspects of 'looking like a hotel'. Of course she's not the
one who has to get up and switch the light off. :)
I actually like the white switches better, they don't look like they have
been exposed to 40 years of ozone like the off-white ones do. But, then
again I was talked into replacing worn out switches with those flat decor
style switches - I must have been high when that deal went down. God they
I prefer white. Not enough to replace working switches and receptacles
just for that, but I choose white for all replacements. Ivory looks
like it's constantly dirty.
As for the Decora, I see no reason to consider them "looking stupid".
The switches have a larger area, making then easier to use. I see no
advantage for receptacles. I have used them because the receptacles
and switches use the same shape cover plate, making it easier to find
the combination you need (you just might want to put a switch, a
receptacle, and a GFCI in the same 3-gang box).
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