Someone I know has a 2 story house from around the 1930s. There is a
room with a wall switch, but no overhead light, and he knows at some
point the celing was redone in plaster. He suspects the ceiling light
socket is there, but not sure of the exact location and does not want
to tear up the plaster looking for it. Is there any way to
determine? I suggested a stud finder, but they don't work well on
this plaster cause it is textured and the thickness varies so much.
Thanks in advance.
I would try a metal detector. Doesn't need
to be fancy or expensive; a kid's toy model
might work, especially if the box/hanger
is still there.
If that doesn't find anything, you can go for
something more hi-tech.
There are stud finders with a "deep sense" position. If you use that
feature with a 1/2 inch styrofoam spacer between the sensor and the
ceiling, it will make the plaster thickness variations have a much
smaller effect and yet you should still be able to sense some metal
behind the plaster if it is there.
The switch controlling a floor outlet is also a very strong
posibility. It may just control one of the two outlets in a duplex
Without invasive action (cutting, drilling, etc) the only way to locate the
wires is with a test probe. An amplified test probe is the most convenient
model but none are cheap.
Such test equipment is used heavily in the telecommunications industry,
particularly in legacy telephone facitilies to locate a single pair in a cable
or enclosure containing many hundreds or thousands of pairs. The probe SHOULD
reveal the location of wires as long as they are connected to a working (or
workable) circuit, energized or not. Disconnecting the wires at their source,
then adding a locating signal, might improve locating success.
A good metal detector SHOULD work to locate the BOX from which the original
fixture hung as long as it is still there.
If this house was indeed wired in the 1930s, it is reasonable to expect that
every room had a ceiling fixture generally dead-center of the room with the
possible (though unlikely) exception of the living room. It is surprising,
however, that when the ceiling fixture was abandoned (if it indeed existed),
the box was not simply covered with a blank plate. It is unlikely there would
be switch-controlled wall outlets from that era. Of course, that possibility
should be investigated. Good luck!
A house that old may have had 'knob and tube' wiring which you wouldn't
want to use even if a light box is there. Pull the switch out and see if
it has modern 'Romex'. in the box. (Plastic insulation on wires vs cloth
like fiber). Even that though won't tell you what if anything is in the
Most probably the switch controls an outlet in the room. Usually it is
the closest outlet to the switch but does not have to be. When I wire
switches to outlets in a room I usually run the switch wire to all
outlets and wire 1/2 of each duplex on the switch. That's addition to
an overhead light.
FYI - I believe the NEC code states that minimum a room must have either
an overhead light or a switched outlet.
Knob and tube wiring, if installed properly, not modified improperly and
behind proper overcurrent protection, is perfectly safe and useable.
Second-floor and/or inaccessible (hidden) K&T wiring should be of no concern.
yep anything thats 80 to 100 years old and older is perfectly safe:
( after all it was approved when installed, and code 100 years ago was
certinally safe and effective.
lots of bad things can occur with wiring thats 100 years old.........
Uh, like what? (Please constrain your examples to within my previously-listed
Some days ago, in a different thread, I said that I thought that your words
were usually worthwhile. I was mistaken and humbly apologize. I was thinking
of another regular here. You, on the the other hand, are surely a charter
member of The Tin Foil Hat Society.
Before Romex came BX. Two or three insulated wires in a 1/2? inch
metal coil. I don't think anyone will remodel a light circuit that
isn't being used at the time, and living room ceiling lights were iirc
passe before Romex was invented.
I too don't think this is likely in a house this old. The first time
I saw a wall switch controlling an outlet, I thought it was the work
measure and find the center of the room. that's where the ceiling fixture
used to be. I'd almost bet on it. We rehabbed one house that they had put
a false ceiling in the front room. Not only were the wires still there, the
damn fixture was still attached to them. They just left it ontop the new
sheetrock and went on.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.