Since Corey`s doing his electrical apprenticeship, we had the luxury of saving on the costs to update the electrical. During our home inspection, our inspector found one circuit of knob and tube. This, along with a section of galvanized pipe, are big red flags for insurance companies.
Our company gave us one month to remedy both issues and so they have both been on Corey's list over the past few weeks. Considering our other renovations, one month is not much time to remedy plumbing and electrical issues, but Corey worked hard (I stayed out of his way) and we met our deadline.
Side note- Can you believe we moved in one month ago today? It feels like we've been living here for ages!
Corey even used something called a 'fish tape' to feed the wire through holes in our wall so that he didn't bring down our whole ceiling. The end result was a series of holes instead of total chaos. Brilliant! Thank you, Corey!
One question I've been researching and asking Corey about is: What's the big deal about knob and tube wiring? I know that "knob and tube" is almost a dirty word in the housing industry but our inspector didn't seem too concerned about it.
So here's what I learned about knob and tube wiring. Please keep in mind that this is my own very basic understanding. Always consult a professional!:
If you need help following along, check out this handy glossary of electrical terms.
What is it?
It's an old system of wiring where wires are strung through porcelain knobs, cleats and tubes which are nailed in to joists and wall studs. Here's a picture taken from a website that offers a good basic explanation:
What's so scary about it?
In theory, it's actually not that bad. Your mind is blown,right? It's true that it isn't grounded but think of all the items we use all the time: lights, vacuum cleaners, power tools etc. that are not grounded.
When knob and tube wiring was first installed, it was actually probably pretty safe. The connections would have been soldered together and each circuit had its own neutral wire.
The problem arises when, through time, (or more commonly, diy renovations) some of the wires become loose and rub against the wooden joists. This can pose a fire risk. Also, sometimes people "update" their electrical work and run multiple circuits back through the same neutral. This is also a fire risk.
Carson Dunlop has a great article explaining why the main issue with knob and tube is not actually the original wiring, but the modifications home owners have made to it over the years.
Knob and tube wasn't originally bad but many homeowners are foolish (Mike Holmes has taught us that!) and have created unsafe circuits.
Insurance companies (I assume) look at statistics when assessing risk so there have obviously been some fires resulting from knob and tube.
As a buyer, you may purchase a house with knob and tube but a lender is not likely to give you a mortgage without insurance. There are companies that insure houses with knob and tube but most will do something similar to what our company did and provide a time limit for removal.
Remember, if you don't have an electrician in the family, this is expensive. For the right house, many buyers don't mind budgeting for the work though. For us, while Corey was able to do the electrical work, we were willing to consider another large expense (installing ducts) in order to get the right house but it's important to enter a purchase with your eyes open.