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Old 01-23-2011, 11:05 PM   #1
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Hints for pulling new wire through old wall?

After moving into my new wife's house, I have come across a myriad of electrical issues. Most are minor (more along stupid), but some are pretty serious.

So far, I have found the following:

Living room's ceiling fans and lights were wired ungrounded with the beginning of the circuit wired to a 3 prong plug, which was plugged into an ungrounded 3 prong receptacle in the attic, which was then wired to a 20amp breaker (all wire was 14/2 with the ground wires cut). The junction box was uncovered, and was full of insulation. I could literally unplug the lights and ceiling fans in the attic...

I traced a 12/2 ungrounded wire in the attic to find it had been cut off and laid into the insulation, still hot from the breaker.

I discovered that one of the 3 way switch's metal cover plate in the hallway gave me a little "buzz/vibration" when I ran my finger over it. I found that from the cover plate to ground was 125 volts. After investigating, I found that the hot wire's insulation had split in the metal box when the last owner had replaced the switch, and was pushed into contact with the box. Can't tell you the sinking feeling in my gut when I found that one, remembering a few times very recently I've seen my 8 year old son flip that switch the last few weekends he's been here.

The kitchen's light is on 2 3-way switches, and the person who installed the light someone wired the switches to where you have to turn on 1 switch to energize the other switch in order to turn the light on.

The receptacle for the washing machine in the garage was wired into an old 2 wire receptacle (literally was wired in behind the cover plate) about 5ft away, rand through 1/2 pvc water pipe, ungrounded, and sitting right next to the dryer which IS grounded.

Ungrounded 2 wire receptacle less than a foot away from the bathroom sink (and my wife LOVES to lay her hair dryer and curling iron on the edge of the sink).

I've already started fixing those things the proper and safe way which includes running new 12/2 wire to the above problems, installing GFCI receptacles and GFCI breakers.

SO, now to my question. Are there any good tips/tricks to pull new wire to the old receptacles (replacing the receptacles as well) to the ones that I can not get to overhead like the ones underneath windows or outside wall? I'm trying my best not to have to cut out any drywall and add even more expense to this already growing project?


Last edited by bcarl; 01-23-2011 at 11:09 PM.
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Old 01-23-2011, 11:30 PM   #2
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welcome to the true finesse of electrical work after drywall. There are lots of tricks that one picks up after working in the trade. Best case scenario is to have a unfinished attic or crawlspace. fishtape/fishsticks weighted string and drill bits are your friend


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Old 01-24-2011, 07:17 AM   #3
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Make a list, and write down on a map of the house locations and breaker # for that switch/outlet. If you do this, you should have no problems keeping tabs on where you start and stop. Just attack it one room at a time. Now, worst case scenario, you may end up having to pull out all of the old, and do a complete proper rewire. This would mean GFCI's in "wet" spaces, and AFCI in the bedrooms.
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Old 01-24-2011, 07:41 AM   #4
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I faced a similar, though less dangerous, situation in my house. It was 1959 construction, and none of the upstairs circuits had an independent equipment ground, plus I was on fuses, so I wound up doing a lot of rewiring, new panels, new circuits etc. My house has lath and plaster, so I had to fish a lot of wires through walls. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

1. I have an unfinished attic. For a number of circuits, it was easiest to run from the basement up a pipe chase to the attic, then back down to the room.

2. I have a variety of electrician's bits, which are long (minimum 18 inch) spiral cut steel bits with a small hole in the end of the bit so you can attach a small string to pull the tape back down the hole you drilled. I have a 3/8, 1/2 and 5/8 inch diameter bit.

3. For cutting holes through joists, nothing beats an Irwin speed bore bit. I typically oversize the holes, I like to use minimum 3/4 inch bit through joists, nothing more frustrating than having minimum clearance and building up friction from a long run.

4. My ceilings have lath and plaster, it was essentially impossible to pull wire across the joists above the ceiling without cutting out a section of plaster on the pushing and receiving end. I got reasonably good at patching from all the experience.

5. Wirenuts are good, but I really like the push in plastic style (Ideal makes them). They come in 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 hole format, I usually use one with at least one extra position, never know when you need to add another wire.

6. When running your wire, leave a loop with several extra feet in the line somewhere accessible, you never know when you will need the extra cable, and nothing is more frustrating than being 6 inches short of a good connection.

7. I have an electricians snake and a plumbing snake. Sometimes the electricians snake does not work as well as the plumbing snake, since the electricians snake is pretty stiff, and can't get around corners. The plumbing snake seems to work well up walls for about 4 feet or so, then it tends to wander. I have been told that in cases where you need to make a corner, you should use two electricians snakes, and hook them at the bend point, but this has never worked for me.

8. If you have the money, there are steerable drillbits available. These go on a flexible shaft, and some really high end models have a small video camera on the end so you can see what is going on. I don't have the money for such a toy, but some day I am going to get one. This would work really well where you have to get through diagonal bracing, firestopping, or other wall obstructions.

9. Just a guess, but if your wiring is so screwed up, you may need a new panel. I suggest getting one with twice as many positions as you think you need, doesn't cost much more than a smaller panel, and you will probably fill it up eventually. Everybody likes electricity.
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Old 01-24-2011, 07:53 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman View Post
you may need a new panel.
You know, oddly enough, the panel itself is a fairly new Square D, and was actually correctly installed (which leads me to believe an electrician did it, instead of the person who previously owned the home).

Seems everything going in and out of the box was goobered. Including the one leg of 110 that was jumpered to both sides of the box. The house had been running off only one leg of the electrical feed from the pole, which meant dimming lights everytime something came on.

I had never thought about using a plumbers snake, but, the fact that it is so flexible makes sense.
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Old 01-25-2011, 11:09 AM   #6
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I'm running two new 20A GFCI circuits out to my garage (the previous owner had one GFCI that also included the lights and door opener ) but luckily I have an unfinished attic so I can come up pretty easily though a partition wall on the first floor. I had a lot of luck using my fiberglass chimney sweeping rods that I use to clean the woodstove chimney. They bend a bit (not too much) and they come in 4' lengths with threaded ends. I located the wall, drilled up through the floor, and threaded three lengths of rod up into the wall. I had my wife stand in the basement and tap the rod on the top plate of the wall while I stood in the attic with the drill. Once I had a good idea of where it was I drilled and wasn't too far off. She wiggled the rod around and eventually it came through. I taped the wire to the rod and she pulled it down-wa'la!


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