I own a small second home (market value about $40,000) that I'm
looking to sell It was built where knob and tube was apparently used as
well as ungrounded cloth shielded cable . Appliances and hot water are gas;
fridge and washer are electric. The house has a fuse panel with 4 circuits.
An electrician hired by a potential buyer said : "to correct the ungrounded
wiring to the existing receptacles and removal of the knob and tube wiring a
complete rewiring of the residence would have to be done which would also
increase the size of upgrading the electrical panel to 200 amps to
accommodate more and newer circuits." No estimate was given for that work.
This house is 900 sq. ft plus a full basement that is not useable due to
moisture problems but gives easy access to the entire first floor. With 200
amps I can do the neighborhood! The electrician also told the buyer for
$1,500. he would upgrade the current 60 amp fuse panel to 100 amp circuit
breaker panel (I assume that would mean changing the house entry cable). The
buyer wanted me to foot the bill for the new panel and the other work. I
cancelled the contract. Numerous questions come to my mind: does this mean
nothing in the house is grounded? What is the point of upgrading to a 100
amp circuit breaker panel if all the old wiring is still there and nothing
is still grounded. And I guess a big question is can the existing k&t
and/or the cloth cable somehow be grounded. Could I run a ground wire
from each outlet (there are only 7) for example to the basement below and
connect them to the incoming city water line All your knowledgeable input
and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks all.
IMO, I would just leave it as is, and let a buyer do whatever he wants to
upgrade it. The existing wiring was legal when installed and K&T is still
recognized by the NEC. Clearly the service and wiring should be replaced,
simply because of its age, but by the person who needs it done.
PS, to answer your question, you can run a ground wire from a cold water
pipe to each outlet, but I take exception with the phase " to correct the
ungrounded wiring, there is nothing to correct. It wasn't incorrect. It is
obsolete, but as long as the outlets are non grounding type, there is no
Thanks for super prompt reply. I'm a bit confused about your comment that
as long as the outlets are non grounding type. Does that mean just two
prong outlet with no ground hole? If I wanted to replace outlet with 3-prong
is that a violation then and is that when I would run a ground wire to the
water line? Thanks again. John
The NEW owner probably couldnt get homeowners insurance and ANYONE you
try selling too is going to have the same issues. Plus you now MUST
disclose this problem to all perspective buyers!
You would of MUCH better off discounting the home price by the cost of
rewiring and selling the home. This isnt just a problem for THIS BUYER
its now a problem for all buyers!
Incidently the marginal cost between a 100 amp and 200 amp service
upgrade is VERY little....... I once went from 60 to 100 amps and now
need a 200 amp upgrade:(.
That difference is likley only a couple hundred bucks.......
What was sale price of home? What was rewire cost?
Sadly you cant fix K&T to make it insurance OK............
Sate farm will NEVER insure a home purchased today with K&T I asked my
How does insurance know what type of wiring is in the house? When they
inspected my 1935 house they only took pictures of outside and measure
square footage outside. They never came inside.
There are huge variations in insurance inspection requirements depending
on your insurance company, the age of your house, and the type of
insurance you are applying for.
When I insured my house a couple of years ago, because of its age (100+
years old, which is unusual in Washington State) and apparent condition
(previous owners hadn't painted in decades), it got an inside-and-out
inspection by a senior loss adjuster from the insurance company.
He not only verified that the house had mostly K&T wiring, he inspected
the condition of the wiring where it was reasonably accessible, the
attic, the crawlspace, etc., and pulled a few outlets to inspect them in
the kitchen and bath, since those are locations that tend to be
overloaded with modern appliances in older homes.
After confirming that the K&T was in good shape, and addressing some
other issues, he had no objections, and our insurance went through just
I'm far from alone in that, I know personally at least a dozen homes
insured in the last year with K&T wiring.
email@example.com is Joshua Putnam
That varies by state, there are parts of the country where getting
insurance for K&T isn't a problem; in other parts of the country it's
quite difficult. In Washington State, for example, I didn't have any
trouble insuring my home with K&T, but it did make the insurance more
K&T isn't a defect per se, it's simply outdated. I wouldn't suggest
hiding it from buyers, but I wouldn't intentionally scare them with it,
If I were selling, I'd at least get a quote for a rewire, to decide
whether to take care of it before selling or to sell the house as-is.
I'd also do a bit of insurance shopping, and if I found an insurance
company that would insure the house without rewiring, I'd invite them to
write a letter to that effect that could be shown to prospective buyers.
If you're in a location where the wiring really will prevent anyone from
insuring the house, that could greatly depress the selling price,
because without insurance they also won't be able to get a mortgage.
If you're in an area where K&T just means a few hundred dollars a year
in higher insurance premiums, I'd find a good insurer to refer buyers to
and sell as-is.
firstname.lastname@example.org is Joshua Putnam
This is REALLY bad advice. You cannot use cold water pipes as your ground.
Unless the buyer does not need any sort of loan to buy, the wiring will have to
be replaced. If they need financing, they will also need insurance, and that
won't happen with Knob & Tube wiring.
There is nothing inherently bad about K&T wiring if it is in good condition, but
there isn't an insurance company anywhere that I know of that will write a new
policy for a house wired that way. 200 amp service is pretty much the minimum
standard these days for good reason, and the difference between rewiring for 100
or 200 amps is not enough to quibble over.
I agree. DO NOT use the water pipes. You could run a green wire to
all the outlets, but DO NOT use the water pipes. Running the green
wire may not be up to code in many areas, although it will work
perfectly well. That wire needs to start at the main panel and
connect to the ground (where ground rod connects in the panel).
Depends on the state. Some states dont disprove it from what i know.
When I worked with an electrician, the city did not ban K&T. It was
actually a very safe system.
The best bet would be to replace the old fuse panel with a 100 or 200A
panel, then run new wiring and outlets to the kitchen appliances and
washing machine area, and maybe the heating system. Leave the
lighting wiring alone, as well as outlets in bedrooms and such. If
you must replace outlets in those rooms, use the no-ground type.
Lighting really dont need grounds, and most outlets in bedrooms,
living room, etc are just used to plug in vacuum, radio, tv, hairdryer
etc. These things usually dont have a ground anyhow. The bathroom
should have a GFI installed.
I'll not humor you by providing proof. All I can tell you is there are
literally hundreds of early 1900's homes in the town i live in with K&T
wiring and I'll bet a dollar they're all insured. My wife and I have looked
personally at about a dozen as investment possibilities, and about half of
them had all or some K&T wiring. The one we ended up buying had remnants of
it, but none in use.
Believe me, i'm not uninformed on the subject. Perhaps i just live in an
area that not so ANAL about shit that don't matter.
It is illegal in all 50 states to use cold water pipes for ground. That has been
true for many years. Cold water pipes should be bonded for safety, but they are
not allowed as a point for grounding wiring.
When "because charlie morgan says" becomes the bible on electrical wiring,
I'll listen to you, but until then I tend to go by the "National Electric
Code", which backs up my statements in the section referenced
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