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  1. #1

    Question A house full of old sockets . . . how to fix it?

    I need some sage advice. . .

    The background: we're in a 1905 rowhouse in downtown DC. we've got loads of work to do, and not a lot of money or time to do it (and have to live there with two small children and a dog while we do most of the work, so obviously can only do bite-sized pieces at a time). we will eventually be ripping out a couple walls, re-laying floor, gutting kitchen and bathroom, new windows, new roof, oh the list (and cost!) goes on and on.

    But in the meantime, there are nowhere near enough outlets in the house - and indeed, many of the ones that do exist are in wierd spots or don't work at all. Even worse, most of them are run on the outside of the wall (rather than behind the walls)- the walls are plaster. I'm assuming that this was a cheap way to do it whenever it was done (correct me if i'm wrong) but it is really unattractive.

    So, here are my questions:

    1) I assume that it makes sense to have the sockets placed properly set back in the wall before we go on doing other work on the walls, correct? How big of a job is this? How expensive? (not a big house, and i'm just looking for ballpark)

    2) On a slightly different topic, one day I tried to replace a dining room light switch that was malfunctioning, and when i took the plate off to look inside, i noticed that, as i was looking around and giggling the connections, the lights in the kitchen (the next room) flashed what does this mean?

    obviously, i'm fairly clueless. . . any advice is appreciated!!!!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    62

    Default Re: A house full of old sockets . . . how to fix it?

    It sounds like the wiring has quite a few problems, and people have just tacked stuff onto it over the years. Surface wiring is a cheap and easy fix, but if it is just spliced into the existing wiring, it may very easily overload the system. Also, if you were working in one switch box replacing a switch (I am assuming that you turned the power off to this switch??) and other lights are flickering, that could spell trouble. It could mean a large number of things, but loose connections are definately present, and several circuits could be present in that one box. Since you might be looking at a complete re-wire of the house, and I am afraid that is not going to be inexpensive, my best advice for you at this point would be to hire a home inspector and/or an electrician to scope out all of the issues, and then go from there.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    The Great White North
    Posts
    4,045

    Default Re: A house full of old sockets . . . how to fix it?

    Yep ... this sounds to be a scary situation that was discussed in this other posting :
    http://advice.thisoldhouse.com/showthread.php?t=6556
    "" an ounce of perception -- a pound of obscure "
    - Rush

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Lakeland ,MN
    Posts
    356

    Default Re: A house full of old sockets . . . how to fix it?

    Quote Originally Posted by JEWEATHER View Post
    It sounds like the wiring has quite a few problems, and people have just tacked stuff onto it over the years. Surface wiring is a cheap and easy fix, but if it is just spliced into the existing wiring, it may very easily overload the system. Also, if you were working in one switch box replacing a switch (I am assuming that you turned the power off to this switch??) and other lights are flickering, that could spell trouble. It could mean a large number of things, but loose connections are definately present, and several circuits could be present in that one box. Since you might be looking at a complete re-wire of the house, and I am afraid that is not going to be inexpensive, my best advice for you at this point would be to hire a home inspector and/or an electrician to scope out all of the issues, and then go from there.
    I worked in DC are as a electrician. I agree with the poster above but I would like to add to what he said.Most row homes in that era the walls that are common between the other houses have the plaster right over the brick. So putting a outlet within the wall might not be possible. Also homes in that era has a wiring called knob and tube. That wiring is very dangerous if disturbed as the insulation just falls off. I suggest a electrician to do your work that is Liscensed to do that work
    Harry

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