Bosley Realestate

Knob And Tube Wiring

June 12th, 2012 | Healthy HomeReal EstateTales Of Upper Hillsborough

Like so many property owners doing renovations, we were surprised to find old knob and tube wiring throughout parts of our triplex when the home inspection completed as part of the due diligence for our purchase a few years ago listed all the wiring as ‘upgraded’.

Sadly, this isn’t the least bit unusual for owners of vintage homes across North America.

Nor was it really our home inspector’s fault, given all inspections are strictly visual, limited only to those building components you can see. We need x-ray vision!

 

 

Like so many old houses, wiring upgrades to our late 1800s dwelling have been completed piece-meal over the years. In our property, new wiring was located at the electrical panel, and new outlets with attached new wiring were in most of the rooms’ walls, but we discovered as the wiring snaked through the ceilings and walls it ‘tied into’ old knob and tube wiring in hidden junction boxes.

 

 

 

Knob and tube wiring was an early standardized method electrical wiring in buildings constructed from around 1880 through the 1940s. The nick-name is derived from the ceramic knobs that are employed to insulate and secure the wiring runs and the ceramic tubes employed to protect the wires where they pass through potentially abrasive materials (primarily wood joists and studs). Unlike subsequent wiring systems where all the wires in a run are enclosed in a cable, the two wires run separately and only come together at a terminal (switch, receptacle, or junction box).

Knob and tube wiring does not provide a third wire for grounding and is therefore considered unsafe in kitchens, washrooms, laundry rooms and outdoors. In other areas, knob and tube wiring that is in good condition with the sheathing intact, property protected from damage, and that hasn’t been subjected to extended periods of overloading which can cause it to become brittle, should not pose an increased safety risk. However, many property insurers will not place an insurance policy on dwellings with knob and tube wiring, citing safety issues regarding the lack of a grounded conduit as the mitigating reason.

Knob and tube wiring was eventually displaced from interior wiring systems, not due to any risk, but because of the high cost of installation compared with the use of power cables, which combined both power conductors of a circuit in one run as well as grounding conductors. Furthermore, as an antiquated system, it doesn’t sufficiently meet the electrical requirements of most households today, given our love of electronic gadgets including multiple appliances, home computers, and media-equipment and security systems.

Fortunately our renovation is so substantial we're in a position to replace all the old knob and tube with new wiring without any great inconvenience. Beyond the added expense (It's always something!) and a slight delay on our completion date, we're happy to know this deficiency will be taken care of and our property will soon be in top condition.

One of the concerns about knob and tube wiring was that the circuits were prone to overloading which can cause it to become brittle. However, it should not pose an increased safety risk. That said, many property insurers will not place an insurance policy on dwellings with knob and tube wiring, citing safety issues regarding the lack of a grounded conduit as the mitigating reason.

Knob and tube wiring was eventually displaced from interior wiring systems, not due to any risk, but because of the high cost of installation compared with the use of power cables, which combined both power conductors of a circuit in one run as well as grounding conductors. Furthermore, as an antiquated system, it doesn’t sufficiently meet the electrical requirements of most households today, given our love of electronic gadgets including multiple appliances, home computers, and media-equipment and security systems.

Are you addressing insurance issues with respect to knob and tube wiring? Read this post too called On Property Insurance.

Stay tuned for more Tales On Upper Hillsborough, where urbaneer.com shares our renovation experience first hand!

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- Steve

Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage - (416) 322-8000

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