Will Rewiring My Old House Mean Holes in My Walls?
LESLIE: Vincent in Pennsylvania is dealing with some vintage electricity. What’s going on over there?
VINCENT: I have an old house; it’s about 100 years old. It has knob-and-tube wiring and we’ve lived in it for about eight years. We took all the major appliances off the – they have their own line, like the A/C and the refrigerator and the stove, but we’re still getting – we’ll just be hanging out in the bedroom or in a room or whatever and the lights will just kind of get bright and then dim and then normal again for no apparent reason. And we’re wondering if we should be concerned about that. It seems to be happening more than it used to.
TOM: Well, it certainly could be tied into a default in your electrical wiring. It could also be tied into a problem with the transformer outside the home. But if you are on knob-and-tube wiring, I would encourage you to get off of all the knob-and-tube circuits. The problem with knob-and-tube wiring is actually several.
First of all, it’s not a grounded wiring system, nor is it groundable, so that makes it potentially unsafe. And second to that, you know, the reason for the knobs and the tubes is to sort of string that wire in midair. You can’t insulate around or over knob-and-tube wiring because it becomes a fire hazard. It’s designed to be always out in the – have air circulating around it to keep it cool.
So I would tell you to get rid of all of the knob-and-tube wiring. It absolutely has to be done; it’s just not a safe wiring system.
VINCENT: Is that – I mean all the house, we spent a lot of money on wallpaper and how – and what does that entail?
TOM: Well, you certainly can rewire your house without tearing your walls up, if that’s what you’re concerned about. First, you’re going to disable the knob-and-tube wiring and then you’re going to run new circuits through those walls. Electricians have ways of snaking that wiring up through those cavities with a minimal amount of disturbance.
VINCENT: OK. So they don’t have to punch holes in the wall?
TOM: Yeah. In a minor way. You may have some repairs to do but it’s not like they’re going to go in there and tear all your walls open to do this job.
VINCENT: Right. And is that – that sounds expensive.
TOM: Potentially. But at least you could make a dent. Maybe do a little bit of the house at once and then sort of try to break the project up. But knob-and-tube wiring is just not a safe wiring system.
VINCENT: Oh, OK.
TOM: Sorry I can’t give you better news but it’s just not safe.
VINCENT: Alright. Well, thanks anyway. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.