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Old 02-21-2012, 03:12 PM   #1
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Cloth covered Romex WTH?


Hi, I just moved into this house. A large part of it is wired with something I've never seen before. It can best be described as Cloth covered romex. Not only is the jacket cloth covered, but so are the individual wires.

It appears to be 12-2 w/o ground. I'll be replacing some of it a circuit at a time, because of the no ground thing. I have some experience in electrical, so I feel that the job is within my skillset.

But, what's the deal with this wire? Is it good, bad, horrible, or a fire waiting to happen?

As I said, I never saw it before. The house was built in 1946.

Thanks in advance

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Old 02-21-2012, 03:50 PM   #2
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_wiring

Cables</SPAN>

Wiring for extremely wet conditions
Armoured cables with two rubber-insulated conductors in a flexible metal sheath were used as early as 1906, and were considered at the time a better method than open knob-and-tube wiring, although much more expensive.
The first polymer-insulated cables for building wiring were introduced in 1922. These were two or more solid copper electrical wires with rubber insulation, plus woven cotton cloth over each conductor for protection of the insulation, with an overall woven jacket, usually impregnated with tar as a protection from moisture. Waxed paper was used as a filler and separator.
Over time, rubber-insulated cables become brittle because of exposure to atmospheric oxygen, so they must be handled with care, and are usually replaced during renovations. When switches, outlets or light fixtures are replaced, the mere act of tightening connections may cause hardened insulation to flake off the conductors. Rubber insulation further inside the cable often is in better condition than the insulation exposed at connections, due to reduced exposure to oxygen.
Rubber insulation was hard to strip from bare copper, so copper was tinned, causing slightly more electrical resistance. Rubber insulation is no longer used for permanent wiring installations, but may still be used for replaceable temporary cables where flexibility is important, such as electrical extension cords.
About 1950, PVC insulation and jackets were introduced, especially for residential wiring. About the same time, single conductors with a thinner PVC insulation and a thin nylon jacket (e.g. US Type THN, THHN, etc.) became common.
The simplest form of cable has two insulated conductors twisted together to form a unit; such unjacketed cables with two or three conductors are used for low-voltage signal and control applications such as doorbell wiring. In North American practice, an overhead cable from a transformer on a power pole to a residential electrical service consists of three twisted (triplexed) wires, often with one being a bare wire made of copper (protective earth/ground) and the other two being insulated for the line voltage (hot/live wire and neutral wire). For additional safety, the ground wire may be formed into a stranded co-axial layer completely surrounding the phase conductors, so that the outmost conductor is grounded.

But, what's the deal with this wire? Is it good, bad, horrible, or a fire waiting to happen?

It is what is, there are plenty of houses that have it and never have any problems.


Writer’s information is for discussion purpose only and should be confirmed by an independent source.

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Old 02-21-2012, 04:01 PM   #3
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Cloth covered Romex WTH?


The most problems that occurs with wire of this type is when people start using too large a breaker or fuse and overload it. Good connections and proper OCPD in place will help a lot.
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Old 02-21-2012, 10:30 PM   #4
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Thanks everyone, for the information. The plan is to replace this stuff as I touch different circuits.
I am well prepared.

I have a 250' roll of 12-2 w/ground, and my OCPD is my friend.
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Old 02-21-2012, 10:53 PM   #5
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IMO this wire is more dangerous than the older K&T as you don't have the distance between conductors when the insulation disintegrates.
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Old 02-21-2012, 11:20 PM   #6
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Quote:
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IMO this wire is more dangerous than the older K&T as you don't have the distance between conductors when the insulation disintegrates.
Thats exactly the reason I love knob/tube wiring.
Most troubles I ever come across with any kind of wiring are caused by wanna be contractors and guys who read books or watch too many tv shows,id feel safe going out on a limb and saying most fires and accidents are caused by substandard repairs/modifications rather than actual issues with the materials themselves
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Old 02-21-2012, 11:55 PM   #7
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Cloth covered Romex WTH?


Are you sure the wire does not have rubber insulation on it?

My house (built in 52) has cloth covered wiring....black...feels like it has tar in it....then a layer of paper....each wire also has paper but there is normal rubber/plastic around each wire.

As long as the individual wire insulation is not damaged...the stuff is fine.
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Old 02-22-2012, 12:03 AM   #8
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I still have two branch circuits that are knob and tube. The 2nd floor and first floor ceiling lights. I don't loose any sleeep over it either. I plan on replacing the knob and tube on the second floor soon. If I had the romex with cloth I would not lose sleep over it either.

Last edited by Hardway; 02-22-2012 at 12:07 AM.
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Old 02-22-2012, 12:22 AM   #9
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Cloth covered Romex WTH?


Replaced some of that im one of my parents homes and it was pretty tough stuff. Was able to use it to pull my fish tape through the wall to pull new wire.
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Old 02-22-2012, 01:32 AM   #10
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Has the panel ever been up graded?
How many amps is the main breaker.
A house that old most often will need the incoming wire from the pole up graded, and a new panel. That way you have a properly grounded panel and enough amps to run the new wire to.
Your going to need a permit to do all this work, if your not in an area where you have an inspector then you at least need to know what the codes are.
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Old 02-22-2012, 02:08 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaption View Post
Has the panel ever been up graded?
How many amps is the main breaker.
A house that old most often will need the incoming wire from the pole up graded, and a new panel. That way you have a properly grounded panel and enough amps to run the new wire to.
Your going to need a permit to do all this work, if your not in an area where you have an inspector then you at least need to know what the codes are.
Who was this directed at or too?
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Old 02-22-2012, 04:11 AM   #12
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Cloth covered Romex WTH?


Romex® first came out in 1927. It was developed by General Cable in Rome NY as an Experimental cable and the name stuck.

The Romex trade mark is now owned by Southwire Company.
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Old 02-22-2012, 04:42 AM   #13
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Cloth covered Romex WTH?


And what about BX?
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Old 02-22-2012, 06:30 AM   #14
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Cloth covered Romex WTH?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardway View Post
I still have two branch circuits that are knob and tube. The 2nd floor and first floor ceiling lights. I don't loose any sleeep over it either. I plan on replacing the knob and tube on the second floor soon. If I had the romex with cloth I would not lose sleep over it either.
I agree with you guys. I have the tendency to post short replies with not enough information. Let me add that as long as the wiring is not disturbed it will remain safe in most cases.
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Old 02-22-2012, 06:34 AM   #15
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Cloth covered Romex WTH?


Quote:
Originally Posted by joecaption View Post
Has the panel ever been up graded?
How many amps is the main breaker.
A house that old most often will need the incoming wire from the pole up graded, and a new panel. That way you have a properly grounded panel and enough amps to run the new wire to.
Your going to need a permit to do all this work, if your not in an area where you have an inspector then you at least need to know what the codes are.
Yes, the panel was upgraded to 100Amps before I bought the place. While I'm glad it's don, I wish they'd gone to 200 Amp. I have a new box, and plenty of empty slots.
No problem on the codes. my employer sent me to a two day Electrical safety course. The take-away was the copy of NEC 2005. I'm trying to get them to send me again, so I can get the upgraded copy. I was happy to see the link here for the codes online.

Ddawg16 - No, I'm not sure if it's got rubber insulation, but I'll know in the next few days. My first circuit is the basement lighting. The previous owner removed a fixture, cut the cable to it, and left the cable hanging in free space . On closer inspection, it does look like they disconnected it at the junction box, but it still is unacceptable.

Bobelectric - What about BX? I've worked with it, but don't see the need to replace romex with it. I have a couple places where BX will need to be used, but largely, romex should do fine.

well time to head for the salt mines. Thanks again for everyone's great input.

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