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JessicaGus 09-22-2009 10:08 PM

Cloth Wiring - Replace?
My mom recently bought an old farm house built in the late 1800s, and the majority of the house has cloth wiring. I'm concerned this is a major safety hazard. I don't kow if the wiring is in good condition, but I can guarantee the wiring is decades old. The house is in northern Illinois, so the wiring is exposed to humidity and extreme cold, so I can't imagine it's in the best condition.

Can someone please let me know if cloth wiring is a huge safety hazard? Would it be extremely expensive to replace all wiring in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath house? Thank you in advance for your help.

Scuba_Dave 09-22-2009 10:30 PM

Are you sure it's not knob & tube?
Is the insulation on the wires near connectors brittle?

JessicaGus 09-23-2009 09:35 AM

No, I'm not positive if it's cloth wiring or knob and tube. To be honest, I've never hear of knob and tube. I had electricians install GFI outlets in the bathroom, and they referred to the wiring in the rest of the house as "cloth wiring". I'm not sure if that's just a generic term or if that really is what the wiring is. I know that the rooms that have the "cloth wiring" are not grounded if that makes a difference.

kbsparky 09-23-2009 09:54 AM

Look in the attic -- do you see white insulators (knobs) or porcelain sleeves (tubes) with the wiring?

Most knob-and-tube wiring was "cloth" insulated

Whether it's knob-and-tube or not, most likely there are no ground wires present. If this is the case, then replacement would be a good thing.

You stated you are in Northern Illinois. Many areas in and around Chicago require all wiring to be installed in metal conduit systems.

Be sure to check your local requirements before replacing your wiring with "romex" :huh:

Scuba_Dave 09-23-2009 10:43 AM

This is an example of knob & tube wiring
There will be ceramic insulators & 2 distinct wires running into a device instead of one

Cloth covered wiring will look much like todays wiring
I have cloth wiring in my house - no problem
Where I have renovated I have taken it out
So 2nd floor & basement are all new wiring
1st floor still has cloth, some of which I will replace
Kitchen is almost all new wiring

J. V. 09-23-2009 11:01 AM

I can tell you from experience. Replace everything including the service unless it has been recently upgraded. When buying an old house like you and I did, this is the time to get it right. You are going to have repair and upgrade investments in an old house like this. Why not make your first major investment the electrical system? It's sooner or later friend. I opt for sooner.

Usually cloth cable has a rubber core. It's generally not dangerous in itself. It will have no ground wire so you should not have any 3 prong receptacles in the house.

Scuba_Dave 09-23-2009 11:09 AM

Maybe my wire was not "cloth" covered then
I only had one basement lighting run that did not have a ground
Everything else had a ground, some had a silver colored jacket, other stuff was black or near to it (after 50+ years)
It feels & looks like cloth.....

House built in the mid-50's

220/221 09-23-2009 05:29 PM


Would it be extremely expensive to replace all wiring in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath house?
It will be less than a moderately priced funeral.

CAll 3 local contractors.

Daniel Holzman 09-23-2009 05:50 PM

I have a house built in 1959. A number of the wires in the house were cloth covered, typically 14/2 with ground. As noted previously, the cloth covered wires typically had a rubber cover under the cloth and over the wires. Some of the wires had a silver cloth type cover.

I have replaced some of the wires with Romex 12/2 with ground, however, there was actually nothing wrong with the cloth covered wire itself, the cloth was a bit frizzed, but the wires were in general fine. I just didn't like 14/2 wire, so I put in 12/2.

Gary in WA 09-23-2009 06:45 PM

Some helpful reading:

Your insurance company will want to be informed of any up-grades. Some will not insure knob and tube with out compensation or stipulations.
Be safe, Gary

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