One question, when re-wiring an outlet, for instance to replace the old
useless Romex with clipped grounds, with fresh new 12/2 - how do you tell
where the wire goes? I mean how do you tell without hacking chunks out of
In my house it looks reasonable that the Romex goes from the attic and drops
down to the outlets, so in this case it would be stapled to the studs going
up - but what's the easiest way to determine that without major destruction
of the wall? For all I know it could be threaded through the studs (or
worse in front of the studs as was done in a few spots). I guess you could
use a stud finder or the like, but old Romex is pretty heavily shielded and
it'd be easy to lose the run among the studs.
If I'm looking at demolishing the wall, I might as well remove the entire
wall in one sheet - at least then I can put up insulation while I'm there
and clean out the buggies.
Depressing news: In my previous house, built in the 1940s, the Romex was
stapled every which way. Goodbye, walls, at least for the part I rewired.
But, when we got estimates for redoing the kitchen, 3 electricians said they
were comfortable snaking new wires in existing walls, even though it meant
the wires couldn't be fastened to the studs. How they expected to do this, I
have no idea.
If you are replacing your romex because it has no grounds, there are
2 ways to fix this without snaking new wires. You can put a GFI
outlet on the first outlet of the circuit, which then protects
anything downstream of the outlet, or you can protect the entire
circuit with a GFCI breaker. In most jurisdictions, code permits this.
You are protected against shocks.
Well I guess that's an option. In that case I'd only have to do the outlets
and the panel.
Both responses that I've heard so far, yours included, tell me that I'd
either get used to GFCI outlets or break out the crowbar and start knocking
holes. If it comes to knocking holes, I'm replacing the whole drywall sheet
and putting up the insulation might as well kill 2 birds with one stone.
I'll also probably halt my painting, no sense painting the walls if I have
to rip it out anyway.
I so much want to do this the "right" way, and not fall back on GFCI
outlets - but time and money talks.
Sheetrock is cheap, and the insulation will pay for itself quickly. As you
said, time's the issue. But, with home projects I've never done before, I
find that once I figure out how to do things efficiently, the second room
usually goes quicker than the first. Usually.
If the wire comes from the attic, go up there and determine where
it drops into the walls. If that cooresponds to the same stud space
as the outlet, you can drill a new hole near the old one, and run a
wire puller down to the box, and pull a new wire. Or, you can use
a flex drill to drill from a box hole in the wall up into the attic or
down into the basement. One way or another, it probably can be
done without trashing walls. Things like insulation can make it more
"Nonmetallic-sheathed cable shall be permitted to be unsupported where... the
cable is fished between access points through concealed spaces in finished
buildings or structures and supporting is impracticable."
[2005 NEC, Article 334.30(B)(1)]
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
My understanding is that is only for new construction, to prevent damage
from the drywallers and carpenters.
Obviously you can't staple new wires in existing wall, neither is there a
I haven't checked this in the code, so you might want to do that before
A good way is to go on the roof and pull your shingle up and drill your hole
from here. Also use a piece of furnace chain to attach to the wire it will
hang straight down. Two tips I have used many times over the years as well
as using a coat for a drill bit next to a baseboard to locate a receptacle
box from the basement for TV wires
Well having been thru this myself:(
Had a outlet that the incoming wire was dead, never did figure out
where it came from:( plaster walls no obvios signs a real mess.
I just ran new line, left old line in box capped of with tiny note
capped off line appears dead, dont know what breaker its on. so you
run a new line connect it to whatevers convenient of the same gauge
I had a box with a outlet hot neutral reverse wires too short box too
small to pigtail:( Removed outlet left wires with wire nuts, installed
Added new outlet a foot away feed from convenient nearby receptable in
Obviously you cant attach wires to studs buried in walls its old work,
make CERTAIN romex is attached firmly to box, I found a home once
where ome jerk saved money didnt use any cable clamps:(
The short review is abandon the existing outlet, remove receptable,
wire nut wires, perhaps note which breaker inside box for future
owner. Install blank cover!
Install new outlet nearby, get book wiring simplified.
Buy electricians bit up to 6 feet longer longer with extensions drill
down from attic or up from new hole cut in wall, run new romex. I
leave a central attic workbox for additions, makes life easy when we
really need outlet over here! Bit has hole in end to attach string to
then pull wire:)
Its challenging but FUN to snake wires thru walls No DEMO needed!
Why do you *care* where the old cable goes?
Run the new cable however you can, or however you must, to get it to where you
need to get it. Disconnect the old cable at both ends and abandon it in place.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
There are a few reasons why someone might care. One it's sloppy
construction, but that's not a big deal to me. Two, I would like to recycle
the old wire. Three, it would be nice to be able to use the old wire to
pull the cable run for the new wire - which is why I care where it goes.
There's nothing "sloppy" about leaving abandoned wires inside walls where they
are not visible.
You haven't thought that one through very far.
Even at current copper prices, it's not worth the trouble. The copper in 12/2
NM W/G weighs about an ounce a foot -- IOW, the scrap price *after* you strip
the jacket off the cable, and strip all the insulation off the conductors, is
going to be *at*best* about eight to ten cents per foot of cable. Less if it's
14ga wire. Still less if it's older NM with de-rated grounds (14ga ground in a
12ga cable, 16ga ground in a 14ga cable).
In case you're thinking about recycling the cables without stripping the
insulation first... I suggest you call a recycler, and find out how much they
pay for cables in that condition. You'll be lucky to get much more than a
penny a foot. Hardly worth the trouble of pulling the cables out, and
definitely not worth the cost of the gas to drive to the scrap yard.
And that's assuming that you could even pull the old cables out of the staples
inside the wall cavities anyway. You can't. Not unless you open up the walls,
and pull the staples out of the studs. And if you do that, I promise that it's
going to cost you a *lot* more to repair the walls than you're ever going to
recover by recycling the copper.
Yeah, it would be nice if you could do that -- but you can't. See last
objection to #2 above re: staples.
All of which is why you really *don't* care (or shouldn't care, anyway) where
the old cables are.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Fishing a new cable into an existing box is routine for old work
electricians. There are a lot of ways to do it. If you have attic access you
can try pulling the old cable out but it is pretty unlikely to work. A small
sash chain dropped down and a long wire with a hook will work most times.
You can get a little access around the box where the repair will be covered
by the plate. The best thing is a friend who has experience as an old work
I got one of those (friend who's done lots of old work electrical). I
watched him pull his old aluminum Romex at his place and replace it with
copper - so it can't be useless or impossible to pull the old stuff like
Miller is claiming. It wasn't easy though and he did need to punch a few
holes in the wall. I guess I'll wait then, he doesn't fly back into the
country until May'ish.
Yeah the old wire is basically valueless, after you go to all the
removal work and strip all the insulation and patch the excess holes
you will HAVE to make.
Far easier to bag groceries, and pay will be better
You know that's NOT what you said when I asked a similar question back a
ways. Google "Saving Romex" and I see you name with a response, very
helpful response too, and I see your response here and it's (in my mind)
totally at odds with what you said some 6 months ago. What gives?
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