Fixing multiple attic electrical issues before blowing in insulation
We decided to blow in cellulose insulation, because there was only 3" of insulation in the attic. While preparing for the job, ran across several electrical spots that scared the heck out of me. Decided to remove existing insulation, to make sure I found everything that was wrong. Glad I did. Need to get this fixed ASAP so I can get the insulation in before there's snow on the ground!
Took a few classes in electrical and robotics in high school, but no real practical experience. Able to follow directions extremely well, and want to get this right.
Don't know what's actually a problem and what can be left alone, and want to make sure the fix is properly done.
I realize there's quite a few questions in here. I appreciate your help very much!!! I'm so worried I'm not going to get all this done before snow's on the ground.
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Ceiling light and bathroom fan enclosures
Question 1 - As marked in picture, can see exposed copper wire underneath one of the ceiling light boxes. How should I seal underneath before insulating? I have a bunch of GreatStuff Fireblock already, but wondering if I need to use high temperature rated caulking.
Question 2 - Should I build an enclosure around boxes like this, so there's quite a few inches of air, preventing cellulose insulation from touching these boxes?
Question 3 - Most of the other boxes look decent, except two look like the wire is a tiny bit frayed as it goes into the box. Do I do anything here?
Electrical going into wall cavities
Question 4 - I assume since it's a solid electrical wire that going through a hole drilled in the wood is OK. Am I correct here? To air seal this, GreatStuff Fireblock - or high temperature caulk?
Electrical in open cavity above basement stairway
Question 5 - I'm going to be closing off the open cavity above the basement stairway. I see some loose hanging, free floating, connections down in there. Does this need to be fixed? (If so, the back wall of our close hallway will give me easy access, because it's quite a few feet down from where I can get in the attic.)
Question 6 - Does the un-attached wire that dangles down from a rafter need to be changed?
Question 7 - I think this is an easy one. The ceiling light enclosure you see no longer has a light. Someone moved it about 4 feet away. Looks like they snipped the electrical wire that was there, and spliced in an extension. This was hanging out under the existing insulation. Put this in a box, right?
Question 8 - Looks like someone spliced in an electrical wire, but it runs about 6 feet, then is capped off. No idea what its purpose was. I really can't tell what the ball of mass is at the splice. Doesn't quite look like electrical tape. All this was hanging out under the existing insulation. Do I put the splice point and the capped wires in a box, or should I remove the splice and put that spot in a box?
Yet another splicing
Question 9 - Ugly-looking extension, that leads to a bare cutoff wire, that's not even capped. Unsure this wire's live, of course treating it like it is. Should I cut at the splice, cap the ends, and put in a box? This was of course hanging out under the existing insulation.
I have bad news for you! All the items that you have shown, tell me that someone who had no idea of what he was doing, has been buggering around.
What we see is only the tip of the iceberg. It makes me wonder what other surprises are waiting in store for you!
If you have an electrician come in, he will take one look and tell you that you need a total rewire.
If your insurer becomes aware of the state of your wiring, they will likely cancel your fire coverage.
Worse still, you and yours are facing a threat of serious injury or perhaps even death.
You really, really need to have somebody who is qualified to come in and repair everything properly.
We have a non-existent budget. Haven't been getting a paycheck for a while, and have been getting by with family assistance from family members whose budgets are all running red, too.
To give me a general idea of magnitude, what would we expect something like this to cost? I'm not looking for an exact figure, but I don't know if it's more like $500 or $5,000. (EDIT: $500 would be very painful, but possible. $5,000 I just don't see how we could do it. It's going to be more like $5,000, isn't it...)
The person who we bought the house from said they had an electrician re-do the home's wiring. I don't know whether this means they replaced everything but the attic, had an unlicensed person do it who didn't know what they were doing, or completely lied about it.
I don't know when we're going to be able to pay for this. Although I realize it's not optimum, if you or someone else could let me know what to do myself for now if the estimates come in out of budget, I'd appreciate that.
Blimey what a mess !
But If money is tight,
you have to do what you can,
All joins should have proper j boxs and proper connectors.
J boxs are not expensive.
Make sure all cables are adequate size and in good condition.
Any chaffed or damaged cable ends should be cut off and
reterminated ( assuming there is some slack left in cable ).
Any burned looking cables should be reterminated or replaced.
If cables are hard against sharp metal surfaces use cable glands
or grommets to protect cable.
Any unused cables checked and removed or at least fit j box.
You can do most of this yourself.
But you really should get an electricain when and if you can.
Cause its a real mess !
Wow... that's some REALLY ugly stuff.
You may want to speak to an electrician. I had a guy in to quote the work in my house (just as nasty as some of yours), and he gave me an hourly rate and said that I could help him. That meant I would learn, that the work would go faster, and he would have an extra set of hands. It wouldn't hurt for you to do the same - just have someone in to look it over and give you prices. Ask at your local hardware store - not HD or Lowes - if they have anyone they recommend.
But a few things to start - all wire connections should be in junction boxes. No wires should be connected by electrical tape. All wires going into boxes should be secured from movement by a connector that prevents the wire from moving around and wearing away. Loose wires should all be secured by heavy staples. Those things you can do on your own if you work carefully.
Testers are not expensive, and they are essential for safe work. I usually just turn off all the power to the house, and be done with it. And no "licensed electrician" who knew anything did that work. :wink:
Yea....that is some bad looking stuff.......BUT.....it sounds like you have an idea of what is right and wrong.....
I'm going to go on a stretch here and say that I think you can fix a good majority of it yourself. Now, my disclaimer....like Wildie says, this may only be the tip of the iceburg.....but.....if you don't see any wall patches, then there is a good chance you see the majority of it.
A lot of it is pretty easy to fix. Nail the runs that are loose....install strain clamps where needed....make sure there are no exposed wires....etc.
Also note, there is code and then there is safe. Yes, all connections have to be in a box....but if money is tight and you don't plan to ignore it....wire nut it...tape it...and make a note to install boxes later....personally, boxes are cheap....$2 ea? Install them and get those splices in a safe spot.
I'm thinking less than $50 to fix a majority of your problems.
More importantly.....time to check everything else.
Wow - pictures in original post are in reverse order
Oops. Too late to edit the post, now. My headings go: Ceiling light and bathroom fan enclosures, Electrical going into wall cavities, Electrical in open cavity above basement stairway, Tapped-in extension, Another splicing, and Yet another splicing
But the pictures are in the exact reverse order, being: Yet another splicing, Another splicing, Tapped-in extension, Electrical in open cavity above basement stairway, Electrical going into wall cavities, and Ceiling light and bathroom fan enclosures.
That might make my post make a bit more sense...
If anyone could give a quick response to each of my 9 questions
I know it's a lot to ask for on a free forum. I built in a lot of questions into one post.
I'm going to call a few electricians to get estimates on, but I'm pretty sure it's all going to be beyond what we can afford. I think I'm going to have to go with learning as much as I can and doing the best job I can. I appreciate everyone's responses.
If anyone could give a quick response to each of my 9 questions (keep in mind I posted pictures in reverse somehow), I'd appreciate it so much. I know it's not much at all, but if I'm allowed to under the terms of this site, I'd be glad to send the person who does this $10 through Paypal. Just send me a private message on this forum with your Paypal email. Definitely not enough to cover the worth of the advise someone would be giving, but a nice thank you nevertheless. :)
dmxtothemax - Thanks for your response/pointers. Somehow, there's nothing that looks burned at all.
mnp13 - Thanks for your response/pointers. That's an awesome idea. I'll see if there's anyone locally that can do that with me.
ddawg16 - Thanks for your response/pointers. I think I do have an idea of what's right and wrong, and generally know what I don't know so I look into it a lot before doing it. Money's very tight, but I'm in a position to afford the kind of parts we're talking about. $2 boxes won't be a concern. Want to get this done right. I'm not sure what the significance is if there's wall patches or not, but there aren't any. I'm definitely going to check everything else that I can. I know the circuit breaker box was replaced just before we purchased the home. Going to check on all the electrical on first floor and basement. (No second floor, just attic.)
I'm on my phone, not my computer, so can't easily format all this. Most of your questions were along the same lines though. All splices should be in boxes, connected by wire nuts with a cover on the box. Anything loose should be secured.
The significance of wall patches would be that stuff was done in the walls and then covered over.
Get a bag of the connectors in my picture and start re-doing what's there.
I can respond based on personal experience. When we bought our house 20 years ago, it had similar problems. The previous owner was a "handyman" who did a lot of work, not well, not to code. His electrical work had similar problems to what you show, splices with tape, not in boxes, frayed wire, improper strain relief etc.
It took me about a year to repair everything, mostly I replaced the cable with new runs from the panels (there were two panels, both fused, the upstairs panel lacked an equipment ground). I replaced both fused panels with new panels with breakers.
I did not keep track of my cost, but the major items would have been the two new panels at about $200 each with breakers, new 12/2 with ground wire, I must have used over 400 feet, at least $250, probably 25 switches at about $3 apiece, 25 boxes at about $3 each, 20 20A outlets at about $5 each (contractor grade 20A outlets), and half a dozen GFCI outlets at about $15 each (contractor grade 20A). The major cost was the hidden cost of my time, which must have amounted to over 200 hours all told, mostly spent fishing wire in ungodly places.
It is certainly possible to fix everything yourself, if you know what you are doing. You are going to need some tools. Personally I found a cordless drill invaluable, plus the usual set of electricians tools (wire stripper, diagonal pliers, needle nose pliers, several other types of pliers, digital multimeter). I probably have $300 of electrical tools, if you count the cordless drill, which I use for lots of other things.
Based on my experience, it may be better to totally replace an obviously defective cable than to put in a J box and splice it. In my case, there was no slack in any of the wires, so splicing would have been a pain. Although it took more time, total replacement was the better choice. Plus you never know how bad the wire is in the wall. I found some taped splices inside the wall when I pulled out the wiring, pretty scary. The best thing about total replacement is that you know you have a good line when you get done, if you only fix the visible damage you never know what you left behind.
All of the flying splices should be in boxes, any connection that does not have a nm/se clamp, needs one. As for the cost, a spool of 1000' of 14/2 romex runs around $175.00 from Lowe's, 1000' of 12/2 runs $268 in my area. Other stuff like wirenuts, switches, outlets, breakers (afci & gfci), etc. will raise the cost. As for the time, it depends on how valuable your time is. Check with your local church's to see if they have a men's ministry, they may be able to help you out in the labor portion. You would need to make a small donation in either your time to volunteer at the church, or money.
The worst thing as a homeowner to not have, is the funds for upkeep, due to older homes will keep you busy. I have probably spent over $12,000 in time and materials in working on our 70+ year old home. They are not cheap, but old homes have good bones, and will be around a lot longer than the homes they build these days, if they are well maintained.
Also, before you blow any insulation in, seal all openings around boxes, vent stacks, and wires with DAP foam in the can.
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