Buying a home is a milestone in life. It’s one of the biggest purchases that a person will make in their lifetime. Some people purchase new homes, build their own or purchase old homes. With building your own home, you are more likely to know the products and the workmanship that goes into your home and if you are buying a new or fairly new home, there is still some mystery to all the workmanship, but you still know that it is newer products in the house. When I buy a home, I would love to have an old home, to me they just have so much more character and the craftsmanship is usually so much better because there was time put in the home, not just thrown together. With any home that you would purchase, make sure that you have it inspected by a reputable home inspector and make sure that the electric is up to date. Most insurance companies will not insure a home that still has knob and tube wiring in it due to the high risk of fires. I’m going to outline some tips in knowing what to look for in your home or a home that you are looking at, so that you are less likely to be blind at what could be hiding behind your walls.
What is knob and tube wiring?
Knob and tube wiring is a electrical wiring method that was used around 1880 to the 1940s and is contains wiring that is insulated with a span of 4 to 6 inches between the neutral and hot to allow room for heat to escape the wires. The wiring systems are normally in places that they have room to breathe, being suspended by a porcelain knob and when passing through wood, the wires go through porcelain insulating tubes.
Many of the issues with knob and tube wiring come when the system is old and the cloth that insulates the wire becomes damaged over time by age or critters. In attics, when people add insulation to lower their heating costs, if not careful, the insulation can suffocate the wiring, making a very hot situation that can lead to fire due to the system needing room to breathe to release the heat.
These systems typically allow more amperage than the newer wiring systems since the neutral and hot lines are separated, but since there is no grounding conductor with these systems, it makes it a greater risk for electrical fire. These systems also do not allow three pronged appliance. We are currently in an era where we use electric more and more, we have more gadgets to plug in, more appliances that need use of electric and most of these use a three pronged plug. The knob and tube wiring was not made to handle a vast amount of electric chugging devices, so these systems in the modern era can be overloaded quickly, creating an easy environment for fire.
Modifications can create damage to this system and many times this system is spliced improperly with more modern electrical systems, when done right, these systems can be safe, but done wrongly, it’s a higher chance of fire.
When purchasing an older home, remodeled or not, always have a certified electrician check the whole house to make sure that there is not any bad wiring, whether knob and tube or not. Make sure that you have allotted an amount of money to redo the electrical system just for the chance that either the previous remodel was done wrong, or the house just has faulty wiring. It’s better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best and when purchasing a home, you never know what could be hiding behind the walls. If there is due to knob and tube wiring, the homeowners insurance might not cover the loss or the insurance might not even write the policy on the home until the system is updated since there is a fire risk with the older wiring. The more you know!