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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    21

    Default Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    Our "new" 1957 home has most all of its original wiring and an updated breaker panel. With only a few exceptions, the main circuits are all 14ga 2 conductor wire with a braided sheath running to metal boxes. This means most of the circuits are not grounded. I have already installed GFCIs in the kids bedrooms for some added safety.

    As we start in on our remodel with insulation, wallpaper removal, a new closet, etc. I'm asking myself if I should bite the bullet, rip out all the drywall, run all new electrical, insulate, and install new drywall, or if I should blow-in fiberglass or inject foam into the walls with the drywall up and leave the wiring alone. The bathrooms have already been re-wired on their own circuits with 12/2 grounded romex. The kitchen will get gutted to the studs sometime in the future and get new electrical. So we're only talking about the bedrooms, living areas, and general lighting here really.

    As I think about this, I wonder if there is really much value in replacing the wiring. First off, it isn't knob-and-tube and the wiring is in good shape and was installed well originally. Second, a grounded circuit is only beneficial to the inhabitant if the device plugged in is grounded, and honestly, most are not. Laptops, lamps, phone charges, even large flat screen televisions - all 2-prong plugs. There is some added safety to the electrician working on the metal boxes if those were grounded, but that would be me, and me isn't who I'm worried about there. Third, the main value the grounded circuit brings is to avoid energizing the body of a device. Having added the GFCIs, even though the body of a device could still become energized, no significant damage could be done to an inhabitant before the circuit was tripped. While the GFCI would not protect from injury should an inhabitant insert themselves between hot and neutral.... a grounded outlet wouldn't help protect against that either.

    Finally, let's talk load. One major motivation for replacing wiring had typically been load. As I already said, the bathrooms and kitchen will get new circuits, so hairdryers and 8 bagel toasters are covered! As for the rest. While it used to be that modern living added a lot of load to the lighting circuits as we add can lights or install higher wattage bulbs... by using LEDs we can increase lumens by 5 times or so before we start to increase the load on those circuits. As for the devices we use, they are becoming more and more battery powered (phones, tablets, laptops) and those that are not are using much less power than they did even 10 years ago (LCD/LED screens instead of CRTs, laptops instead of desktops, etc.).

    So with that, my current thinking is that there is little to no value in replacing all the wiring with 12/2 just to add a ground and increase the amp rating to 20A. Where I do need grounded power, such as my office, the media centers (debatable) and the garage (big power tools), I can run a couple dedicated circuits. Everything else.... I think I'm going to leave alone.

    Anyone care to challenge my logic? Have I overlooked something?
    Last edited by dvhart; 10-08-2013 at 12:49 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    South*East
    Posts
    1,220

    Default Re: Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    Talk to your insurance company. Some will not insure a home with braided wire.
    John

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    New London County, CT
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    Our "new" house was built in 1959. I am experienced enough in residential to feel comfortable with all that needs to be done. Like you we had mostly ungrounded outlets, some cases of fixture without boxes and a new 200A panel.

    We have been here two years and almost all the issues are behind me. All circuits have been identified and a document posted in the panel to describe each one. Where needed GFCI's were installed, this means if I cannot easily ground a circuit and it is near water, the outlets or circuit get upgraded to GFCI.

    All lighting now has boxes where needed and is some type of florescent or LED. Any room fans are mounted on fan compliant boxes. The propane service is properly grounded with #6 copper to the panel. New outdoor outlets are GFCI. Kitchen lighting, originally one bulb in a fan fixture, is now four plate LED's in J boxes. It is bright, good color and uses almost no power.

    Last year I changed insurance companies after 10 years. The new nationally know company sent an inspector and while they did not tell me what any issues were the price held on that policy.

    We added a new addition with permits. I did the baseboard heating, electrical, plumbing, floors, finish work and painting. The job was inspected several times without issue.

    I think you are on the right course, make changes along the way, repair what you can and replace if needed.

    Good luck.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    I'd rewire but I can do it myself. Breaking the project into room by room (dedicated circuits for each) and lighting as a separate circuit, you'll find it a much more manageable task. The kitchen will be daunting and usually reserved for when the kitchen is remodeled. Baths are easier.

    FWIW, without a ground wire the GFI's are useless. <-- this is wrong, I stand corrected.
    Last edited by HoustonRemodeler; 10-10-2013 at 09:47 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    21

    Default Re: Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonRemodeler View Post
    FWIW, without a ground wire the GFI's are useless.
    Why do you say that? A GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupt) measures the current differential between the hot and the return wire. If it detects a variance in the current, it interrupts the circuit. This means if the current finds another route to ground (presumably through a person), the GFCI will trip before an injury occurs. The ground wire is not involved with this mechanism.

    I can confirm that this does indeed work as described as the load off one of the GFCIs I installed fed a .... creative 4-way switch which had a separate return path after the third switch. Took me a while to sort that one out :-)
    Last edited by dvhart; 10-09-2013 at 12:50 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    21

    Default Re: Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    Quote Originally Posted by johnjh2o View Post
    Talk to your insurance company. Some will not insure a home with braided wire.
    Good tip, will do (and report back). We are currently insured of course, but best to ask now rather than after a fire!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Pacific Northwet
    Posts
    1,661

    Default Re: Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    Surge suppressors work best with a ground to shunt excess voltage. However, if they have hot-to-neutral surge supression, you may be fine without the ground. Fancy surge suppressors with noise reduction circuits probably do require a ground.

    The wiring in your 1957 home is probably rated at 60 degrees Celsius (that's the temperature above which the insulation begins to fail). Newer wiring is 105 degrees Celsius. For most parts of the circuit 60 degree wire is not a problem, but the wires in a ceiling J-box can be subjected to higher temperatures when a fully-enclosed light fixture is directly mounted to the J-box.

    The NEC now requires that all light switch boxes contain a neutral wire, even if it's not going to be used. This is to support energy efficiency initiatives which often specify motion sensor switches which require a neutral wire. The idea is that somewhere down the road, someone may want to add an electronic switch. You won't be required to replace existing wiring unless you modify it. Most building departments require bringing all parts of a remodeled area up to current codes -- if you remove the wallboard and expose the wiring, you most likely will be required to upgrade the wiring while it is accessible.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    21

    Default Re: Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    Fencepost, great information, thank you. I hadn't considered the heat issue. I am planning on installing can lights which will replace the original ceiling box in the bedrooms (as well as the wire of course). The surge protector comment is also appreciated. I'll be using those primarily in the media distribution panel, the media centers, my office, and my wife's craft space. Of those, only two are lacking grounds currently and I am planning on adding one.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    2,203

    Default Re: Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    I like the idea of a re-wire, not so much that it's really needed, but as with it you will be somewhat safer and you can add more outlets. Most of the older homes are lacking in that department what with so many electrical do-dads like we use today. My rule-of-thumb is that you can never have too many outlets but you can have too few.

    Even if you just do it room-by-room, it's better to be 'one and done' than to have to go into the walls later. While you're in there cable TV boxes and CAT5 networking cables are something to think about, and with the walls open you get to inspect any plumbing in there for even more peace-of-mind. But if you don't want the extra work what you describe should be OK, just a bit limited compared to what we're used to having today.

    Phil

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Columbiana, Alabama
    Posts
    738

    Default Re: Should I rewire my 1957 home?

    Quote Originally Posted by dvhart View Post
    Our "new" 1957 home has most all of its original wiring and an updated breaker panel. With only a few exceptions, the main circuits are all 14ga 2 conductor wire with a braided sheath running to metal boxes. This means most of the circuits are not grounded. I have already installed GFCIs in the kids bedrooms for some added safety.

    As we start in on our remodel with insulation, wallpaper removal, a new closet, etc. I'm asking myself if I should bite the bullet, rip out all the drywall, run all new electrical, insulate, and install new drywall, or if I should blow-in fiberglass or inject foam into the walls with the drywall up and leave the wiring alone. The bathrooms have already been re-wired on their own circuits with 12/2 grounded romex. The kitchen will get gutted to the studs sometime in the future and get new electrical. So we're only talking about the bedrooms, living areas, and general lighting here really.

    As I think about this, I wonder if there is really much value in replacing the wiring. First off, it isn't knob-and-tube and the wiring is in good shape and was installed well originally. Second, a grounded circuit is only beneficial to the inhabitant if the device plugged in is grounded, and honestly, most are not. Laptops, lamps, phone charges, even large flat screen televisions - all 2-prong plugs. There is some added safety to the electrician working on the metal boxes if those were grounded, but that would be me, and me isn't who I'm worried about there. Third, the main value the grounded circuit brings is to avoid energizing the body of a device. Having added the GFCIs, even though the body of a device could still become energized, no significant damage could be done to an inhabitant before the circuit was tripped. While the GFCI would not protect from injury should an inhabitant insert themselves between hot and neutral.... a grounded outlet wouldn't help protect against that either.

    Finally, let's talk load. One major motivation for replacing wiring had typically been load. As I already said, the bathrooms and kitchen will get new circuits, so hairdryers and 8 bagel toasters are covered! As for the rest. While it used to be that modern living added a lot of load to the lighting circuits as we add can lights or install higher wattage bulbs... by using LEDs we can increase lumens by 5 times or so before we start to increase the load on those circuits. As for the devices we use, they are becoming more and more battery powered (phones, tablets, laptops) and those that are not are using much less power than they did even 10 years ago (LCD/LED screens instead of CRTs, laptops instead of desktops, etc.).

    So with that, my current thinking is that there is little to no value in replacing all the wiring with 12/2 just to add a ground and increase the amp rating to 20A. Where I do need grounded power, such as my office, the media centers (debatable) and the garage (big power tools), I can run a couple dedicated circuits. Everything else.... I think I'm going to leave alone.

    Anyone care to challenge my logic? Have I overlooked something?
    Sounds like you have a good grasp of electricity and the pros & cons.

    If it were me I would do a real good analysis of how good the existing sheet rock really is, will I be plugging in any electronics that does require a ground, how lightning prone is your house, will the 15A circuits really satisfy your needs until you're ready to re-rock?, would you recover time & money expended by ripping out the rock and insulating?

    GFCI's actually work without a ground wire. But, if done to Code gets very expensive and if someone got hurt because you forgot to protect a circuit you might have a hard time sleeping.

    2014 Code requires AFCI protection in every area of a house except the bath and garage and GFCI everywhere in a garage, outside, crawl space, un-finished basement, dishwasher, clothes washer, kitchen etc.

    For economic reasons alone you may want a total upgrade to 2014 Code. And, install Cat 6 for phones/data, extra ground rods for lightning etc. Some home lenders, insurance and appraisers folks would tear you apart with what you have.
    Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
    Maurice Turgeon, Hidden Content

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