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Should Knob & Tube Wiring Be Replaced?

knob-tube-wiringOlder homes have a feel and personality all their own. Buying an older home brings with it a handful of considerations from the electrical side of things. One of those considerations is the presence of knob & tube(k&t) wiring. Houses constructed prior to the 1950s came with k&t installation as a standard, but as electrical materials became more mainstream, k&t wiring became a relic of the past. One of the questions we get a lot is whether a homeowner should replace their k&t wiring with standard insulated cables. Before we can answer that, we should explore k&t installation a bit more.

What Exactly IS Knob & Tube Wiring

The name comes from the ceramic tubes that are usually inserted to run through the walls or floor joists and the knobs that keep the wires separated from the wooden areas they might come in contact with. If you inspect the knob & tube wiring, your house has, you’ll notice that the live and neutral wires are run separately, and are a few inches apart from each other. New electrical installation has the insulated cable made up of the three wires, neutral, live, and ground, all held in one insulated tube made out of plastic. The insulation in k&t wiring is rubber, and it lacks a neutral wire altogether. It’s here that the danger with k&t installation starts.

Why Is It Dangerous?

Arguably, if knob and tube wiring is kept up to standard and isn’t abused, then it isn’t much of a hazard. However, it lacks crucial safety features that modern electrical installations have. The lack of a neutral wire means that it can’t accept three-prong plugs, and is an electrical shock hazard for anyone plugging in a new appliance. Additionally, the insulation in knob & tube tends to overheat or become brittle after years of use. This degradation can translate into a fire hazard, especially in homes that have a lot of wood.

knob-tube-wiringConsiderations for Knob & Tube Wiring

In the early days of electrical wiring, there was no such thing as an electrical code, so installation happened without any standards or regulations. When original knob and tube wiring was put in, over time, the circuits needed extending. Many of the electrical circuits in houses were done without professional guidance, and several of them may suffer from poor connections or damage. Additionally, if the insulation of the wires become brittle or start to retain hear, they can be dangerous. Knob & tube wiring should be inspected to know if any of these issues exist.

electrical-worker-carrying-wiresNext Steps

Getting a professional electrician to trace the wiring can help you to map out issues within the house’s circuits. If any problems are found, then replacement may be deemed necessary by your electrician. Additionally, many home insurance providers may refuse to cover the house if it still has knob and tube circuitry inside it, as they assume it’s a fire hazard. If you want to be insured by these firms, replacement may be a necessity.

The issues associated with knob and tube wiring isn’t something that an electrician or team that doesn’t have experience in dealing with older circuitry can detect. Luckily, LiveWire has experienced teams of professionals that know what to look for when inspecting knob and tube wiring. Give us a call today, and let us ensure that your home is safely wired and conforms to code!

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