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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    2

    Default Knob & Tube Wiring

    Hello! My husband & I are property virgins and we recently made an offer on a 114 year old home in PA. We love the house! The seller disclosure did mention that some knob & tube wiring was in the home but that it was not in use. The home was upgraded to 200 amp service at some point. During our home inspection today, turns out, most of the outlets on the first & second floor are not grounded and still using the knob & tube wiring. This is a concern for us, as we have small kids & want a safe home for our family. We are also concerned about homeowners insurance. The house is approximately 2300 square feet. The 3rd floor attic was converted to a master suite & that floor has new wiring.
    we are wondering how much something like this could cost to update & the amount of time it takes. Not sure if the sellers will be willing to fix or give a credit so we could repair after closing. We're going to see if we can get some quotes but we don't have much time to respond to the inspection so any information is appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Boston
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    1,004

    Default Re: Knob & Tube Wiring

    you do have time. because of your inspection you now have the power to renegotiate. you have your agent tell them that the home inspector found live knob and tube wiring. as a result of that, you are still interested in purchasing the home but not until the problem has been solved. tell them that you want them to get an estimate or two from an electrician and you want to get one or two of your own estimates. based on those estimates you should be able to find a happy medium that both of you can agree upon.

    i would want to have them have the issue fixed. there are some insurance companies that will insure a house like that but they are very few and far between. you might not even find one. if that's the case, the mortgage company might not even approve a mortgage without the insurance.

    at the very least, if you decide to move forward with these people, you can tell them that any live knob and tube wiring has to be disabled prior to closing on the house.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    7,093

    Default Re: Knob & Tube Wiring

    I am of the opinion that the house is what it is, it is neither the sellers responsibility to upgrade it to your standards, nor is it your responsibility to accept a home that is less than what you're looking for.

    Reality is, it's a 114 year old home, it's going to have issues, be it wiring, plumbing, sewer, roof, siding, foundation, whatever. You either love the house and buy it as is, or you don't and move on. This is not to say that you don't question the quality or safety of the home, but don't expect the seller to bend over backwards to sell it to you.

    Do you feel the same right to demand that a used car seller put new tires on the car, new paint, rebuild the engine, etc.? No, it's a used car, you make your best guess, negotiate a reasonable sum, and either make the deal or walk away. Buying a house is no different.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    New London County, CT
    Posts
    120

    Default Re: Knob & Tube Wiring

    I would replace outlets with the tamper proof type & switch as many circuits to GFCI breakers as you can. This will give you better protection than a ground and make the outlets as child proof as possible.

    As time passes & you update the house consider wiring updates as part of the work.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: Knob & Tube Wiring

    I'd start by speaking with the insurance company. If they will insure you at normal or inflated rates. Don't know until you ask.

    As pointed out; its an old home. If you want modern wiring, buy a modern home. It hasn't burned down yet, and lots of folks (myself included) grew up just fine in homes with knob and tube wiring. The sky isn't falling.

    If you have ideas of remodeling sections of the house, that is the time to re-wire, re-insulate, re-pipe the house. Plus you'll find a bunch of stuff hidden in the walls. My preference is to put each room / appliance on a separate circuit, keeping the lights for the whole house separated from the outlets. That way when you blow a fuse you don't put yourself in the dark. Plus lighting circuits rarely blow.

    You have some muscle to negotiate a lower price. Don't give that up.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Pacific Northwet
    Posts
    1,629

    Default Re: Knob & Tube Wiring

    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonRemodeler View Post
    I'd start by speaking with the insurance company. If they will insure you at normal or inflated rates. Don't know until you ask.
    Wise advise. If you can't find an insurance company what will insure the house at a cost reasonable to you, then you will have grounds to rescind your offer.

    As pointed out; its an old home. If you want modern wiring, buy a modern home. It hasn't burned down yet, and lots of folks (myself included) grew up just fine in homes with knob and tube wiring. The sky isn't falling.
    True, it hasn't burned down -- yet. But I think you know as well as I do that the insulation on knob and tube wiring is a type of rubber that by now is brittle and falls off the wires at the slightest touch. Bare wires is a cause for concern, both for the risk of fire and for electrocution.

    If you have ideas of remodeling sections of the house, that is the time to re-wire, re-insulate, re-pipe the house. Plus you'll find a bunch of stuff hidden in the walls. My preference is to put each room / appliance on a separate circuit, keeping the lights for the whole house separated from the outlets. That way when you blow a fuse you don't put yourself in the dark. Plus lighting circuits rarely blow.

    You have some muscle to negotiate a lower price. Don't give that up.
    I'm not going to tell the OP to run away from this house. If they have the same DIY spirit you and I do, it might be a wonderful project. But it's good for them to know what they're getting into.

    And to the original poster, there is no way anyone on this forum can even give a ballpark guesstimate what it's going to cost to repair the wiring. There are so many variables, from the going rate for electricians in your area, to the quality of installation, to the electrician's skill in rewiring with limited collateral damage, to the how the construction of the house lends itself to ease of rewiring. When you do get estimates from licensed electricians, be sure to inquire on how they would propose to do the job. Their explanations will give great insight into justifying the cost, and beware that some electricians may give a lowball estimate without understanding the scope of what they're getting into.
    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.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
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    2,969

    Default Re: Knob & Tube Wiring

    I replaced all the knob and tube in my house as the squirrels had eaten away the insulation and I largely had bare wires running through the house. Bought the house knowing it. Took my time over 5 years replacing it.

    What fencepost said is still true .

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Pacific Northwet
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    Default Re: Knob & Tube Wiring

    P.S. -- Even if you plan on doing most or all of the work yourself, it's a really good idea to get estimates from electricians (or plumbers or carpenters or whatever specialty trade) as that will give you bargaining power.

    Personally, I would plan to do repairs myself (local laws allow me to), but I'd still get the estimates.

    Keep this in mind about insurance: when you move into a new house, your existing homeowner's insurance policy may cover your new house until it expires, at which time the policy will need to be rewritten. Or, the insurance company may cover you for a limited amount of time, say 30 to 120 days. However, they will likely expect you to effect certain repairs before they will continue coverage past that point. If you're doing it all yourself, you may find it's not enough time to do all they want.
    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.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    El Paso, TX
    Posts
    34

    Default Re: Knob & Tube Wiring

    In its day knob and tube was considered a safe wiring method because the neutral and phase conductor (the hot wire) were separated by a stud so they couldn't touch. I was working on a house just last month and the knob and tube wire was in good condition. In my experience the craftsmanship used in installing knob and tube was good. That aside it needs to be replaced.

    In the meantime replace all outlets with either two prong receptacles or GFCI receptacles. Don't try to install GFCI circuit breakers since neutrals are shared with some of these circuits and GFCI circuit breakers do not work when a neutral is shared.

    As stated it is not a good idea to leave the wire in place permanently because the insulation does deteriorate and solder joints, which were used instead of wire nuts, begin to go bad after 50 years and some of these joints may be buried behind walls.

    Rewiring the house is going to be expensive and not just because all the wire and tube circuits are being replaced but also because the wiring must be brought up to the most modern code and that means running additional circuits, installing AFCI circuit breakers (no shared neutrals) and installing tamper proof receptacles. Further walls may need to be opened up requiring patching and painting. In addition the inspector may want all the shared neutral circuits replaced even if the wire is new because of the required AFCI circuits. In other words just replacing the knob and tube may not satisfy the inspector. I wouldn't be surprised if the house were to need a complete rewiring. I would get several estimates and go with the highest after checking all references. If the home owner doesn't like it then walk away. He has a white elephant and you want to make sure it doesn't become your white elephant.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Northern Virginia
    Posts
    1,185

    Default Re: Knob & Tube Wiring

    It's 2014, you have the right to expect grounded outlets! 100% agree on checking the Homeowner's Ins. thing; most will not cover a fire caused by K&T, or if you have K&T and they trace it to an electrical source of any type, you'll be screwed by their att'ys.
    Asold as it is, it may have been wired after construction, and if so, you can retrace the electrician's steps when you rewire as long as you use the same switch & outlet locations; I did this in my house, using the old wire to pull new wire through the old holes; in a retrofit there are no wire staples! You will discover floor boards upstairs that were removed 100 years ago to run wires to the ceiling lites on the 1st floor; these floorboards come right back up with a bit of prying (I used a stiff putty knife to get them started, then Japanese trim bars) Second floor light runs exposed by taking up some attic floor boards. Ist floor outlets either from the basement, or like the second floor outlets (in the baseboards) wires run from outlet to outlet, home runs went up to subpanel in attic, very simple to figure out; Retrace their steps, it's very easy, just really dirty and labor-intensive, frustrating at times. Worst problems were the subsequent "improvements" from the 60's thru 80's, like new buried junction boxes behind the bathtub!!!
    Casey
    Remove not the ancient landmark, which your fathers have set.

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