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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    4

    Default 1920's home with knob & tube...replace?

    We're considering making an offer on a beautiful old American Foursquare home built in 1920. We currently are selling our 1924 bungalow to relocate to a more rural area.

    Where we live currently (Chicago suburbs) we were required to replace ALL knob & tube wiring before we could even get homeowner's insurance. This was a mess, but a "doable" mess considering it's just a single floor so it was under a week's work with a well-known electrician.

    What we're wondering is, in this rural area (town of 7,800 people...I mention this because they're more lax on obtaining insurance), how important it would be safety-wise to completely re-wire the home we're interested in purchasing? There are currently no GCFI's anywhere, and no grounding wire. The panel has been replaced with 100 amp service to host the central a/c and new furnace. The exposed k&t wiring in the attic shows no fraying and the insulation is in remarkable shape. Should we feel it necessary to completely rewire the home despite having no problems obtaining homeowner's insurance? Or should we just install some GCFI outlets around sinks, etc.? Would it be prudent to install a GCFI to the home office where my husband works full-time (in hopes that his computer/external harddrive (i.e. livelihood) would not be fried?) I'm assuming a vast majority of the older homes in the area do not have updated wiring.

    Thanks for any input.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,558

    Default Re: 1920's home with knob & tube...replace?

    Personally I would rewire. Remember the insurance companies are not rural corporations and the same standard my not be required by code most insurance companies have at least statewide standards.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Columbiana, Alabama
    Posts
    623

    Default Re: 1920's home with knob & tube...replace?

    Quote Originally Posted by baristacat View Post
    We're considering making an offer on a beautiful old American Foursquare home built in 1920. We currently are selling our 1924 bungalow to relocate to a more rural area.

    Where we live currently (Chicago suburbs) we were required to replace ALL knob & tube wiring before we could even get homeowner's insurance. This was a mess, but a "doable" mess considering it's just a single floor so it was under a week's work with a well-known electrician.

    What we're wondering is, in this rural area (town of 7,800 people...I mention this because they're more lax on obtaining insurance), how important it would be safety-wise to completely re-wire the home we're interested in purchasing? There are currently no GCFI's anywhere, and no grounding wire. The panel has been replaced with 100 amp service to host the central a/c and new furnace. The exposed k&t wiring in the attic shows no fraying and the insulation is in remarkable shape. Should we feel it necessary to completely rewire the home despite having no problems obtaining homeowner's insurance? Or should we just install some GCFI outlets around sinks, etc.? Would it be prudent to install a GCFI to the home office where my husband works full-time (in hopes that his computer/external harddrive (i.e. livelihood) would not be fried?) I'm assuming a vast majority of the older homes in the area do not have updated wiring.

    Thanks for any input.
    You didn't say whether you had a fuse panel or breakers or if you have in fact purchased the home in question.

    K & T wiring is still an approved wiring method today (NEC Art 394)and is still approved for "extensions of existing installations".

    It is not approved for "Hollow spaces of walls, ceilings and attics where such spaces are insulated by loose, rolled or foamed-in-place insulating material that envelops the conductors.

    If none of the exceptions (above)are found, there is a breaker panel and you actually own the home, you could install AFCI and GFCI breakers to make the home safer. As you mentioned grounds could be run to the electronics circuits to protect them.

    You might call the local inspectors for a courtesy inspection to see what they suggest.
    Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
    Maurice Turgeon, Hidden Content

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,558

    Default Re: 1920's home with knob & tube...replace?

    Being NEC allowed and being insurable is two different things.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: 1920's home with knob & tube...replace?

    Thanks for both of your input. We have not purchased the home. We are considering putting in an offer but it's listed high for the market and its condition (needs new roof on home and garage immediately, porch floors need rebuilt, the paint is in awful shape, as well as the wiring concerns). In other words it has not been maintained since the current owner purchased it in 1990.

    There is a new panel in the basement.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    235

    Default Re: 1920's home with knob & tube...replace?

    My house was almost completely ungrounded when I bought it, but not k&t. A quote to ground the house properly came in just a bit below the quote to rewire the whole darn thing.
    Adding a grounding line wont be much less work than rewiring your home, just use less cost in wire.

    You are probably looking at adding up to, and maybe more than 1000ft of electrical line plus a ton of labor.

    Please do take the comments about the home being uninsurable to heart. Just because the agent is local and friendly doesn't mean the underwriter is, and the underwriters have regional guidelines that do not care if the house is in a town with a population of 4k or 4million.

    Be on the lookout for asbestos lining on original ductwork(if any) as well as the other issues you already know about. Some ***wagon left some original ducting hidden under insulation when my HVAC was last upgraded and my inspector missed it, leaving me with a 20ft piece of galvanized wrapped in fiber and asbestos in my attic with no way to get it out but cut it.
    It's this old house, not this built after your dad was born house.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    4

    Default Re: 1920's home with knob & tube...replace?

    Thanks for your reply. Beyond being concerned about insuring the home I'm even more concerned about safety. What I'm taking away is that it'd be wise to completely rewire. About what I expected!

    Old homes are not for the faint of heart!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    235

    Default Re: 1920's home with knob & tube...replace?

    Quote Originally Posted by baristacat View Post
    Thanks for your reply. Beyond being concerned about insuring the home I'm even more concerned about safety. What I'm taking away is that it'd be wise to completely rewire. About what I expected!

    Old homes are not for the faint of heart!
    Any home inspector worth his/her weight in water will be able to address the safety of the k&t very fast, looking for the issues with insulation mentioned above.
    Outside of that, k&t in good shape is actually good stuff, and in some ways better than NM(Romex) wire since it dissipates heat well.

    One more thing to think about, depending on the size of your house, that 100amp panel might be inadequate. A/C condenser, dryer, oven/stove, fridge, dishwasher, microwave plus the demands of a family in the US and you may be better served with 150 or 200amps. That leaves the consideration of the cost of a new panel, which will not be cheap(and the codes may require you have all electrical up to code when the panel is replaced, but I am not a code expert so ignore that if I am wrong).
    It's this old house, not this built after your dad was born house.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: 1920's home with knob & tube...replace?

    Thanks again for your reply. A lot to think about! It's unlikely we'll be able to get this home due to all the updates required, but this old home is truly worth it. At least I'd have SOME comfort if we were able to purchase the home and not rewire immediately, somehow, if we were even able to get the insurance!

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