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Old 05-08-2012, 10:41 AM   #1
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Home Inspection Concerns - Old Wiring


Hi. I am new here and new to home ownership. My husband and I are in the process of buying our first home but we are wondering if our inspection report poses a deal breaker. The majority of the house is run off of knob and tube wiring and a 60 amp fuse box. In order for us to even get a loan, the fuse box has to be updated to 100 amps (which the seller has agreed to take care of). The kitchen is remodeled, so all major appliances run off a newer box, but I am curious as to how knob and tube works with a 100 amp box and whether this should be a huge concern right away. I am starting to think it may be a deal breaker for me unless the seller agrees to upgrade the wiring. It is a very expensive process and we already have one expensive fix (the central air unit needs replaced). Of course with the knob and tube comes no GFI outlets so all of those would need replaced also. The rest of the house is great. 1 year old roof, 2 year old heater and water heater, remodeled kitchen, original wood floors, nice sized yard, two story play house built just last year that would be PERFECT for my kids. I am just worried about this major electrical issue, home insurance concerns, etc.

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Old 05-08-2012, 10:53 AM   #2
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Home Inspection Concerns - Old Wiring


Knob and tube works perfectly well with a 15 ampere breaker for each branch circuit in your new panel. If there is an older fuse box, a single Romex cable up to the size of the old feed for that fuse box can be run from there to the new panel, with a breaker or breaker pair in the new panel that matched the cable size, for example 50 amps for #6 wire.

It is best to bring loose individual K&T circuits into a junction box and use modern cable (Romex, etc.) for the final run into the new panel. If you combine two branch circuits at a junction box with a single cable to the panel, the breaker has to be sized for the smaller of the two (e.g. just 15 amps.)

Ground fault interrupters, either as GFCI breakers or GFCI receptacles, can be used with K&T. For the GFCI receptacles the outlet box has to be big enough, usually more than 3 inches deep while older metal boxes are usually smaller.

Some insurance companies wil not do a policy if there is K&T wiring. Contact insurance companies in advance of closing. If you can't find an insurance company the bank will provide the insurance at a greatly increased cost, like 3 times the cost of normal insurance policies. It is not farfetched to get a price reduction that reflects the increased cost of insurance for a year or two if you are able and willing and allowed to do the wiring yourself.

The sales agreement should have a financing contingency such that if the mortgage does not go through even as late as closing day then the deal is off, including if unavailability of insurance at acceptable cost is the reason. You the buyer should not do work on the house prior to closing day.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 05-08-2012 at 11:48 AM.
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Old 05-08-2012, 10:57 AM   #3
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Home Inspection Concerns - Old Wiring


The insurance factor is what I fear most and the cost of replacing it of course.

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Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Knob and tube works perfectly well with a 15 ampere breaker for each branch circuit in your new panel.

It is best to bring the K&T into a junction box and use modern cable (Romex, etc.) for the final run into the panel.

Ground fault interrupters, either as GFCI breakers or GFCI receptacles, can be used with K&T. For the GFCI receptacles the outlet box has to be big enough, usually more than 3 inches deep while older metal boxes are usually smaller.

Some insurance companies wil not do a policy if there is K&T wiring. Contact insurance companies in advance of closing. If you can't find an insurance company the bank will provide the insurance at a greatly increased cost, like 3 times the cost of normal insurance policies.
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Old 05-08-2012, 11:29 AM   #4
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Home Inspection Concerns - Old Wiring


Beginning this year, every insurance company in my area has adopted a policy of requiring removal of all K&T wiring as a prerequisite to getting any homeowners insurance. At least that is what I've heard from a few of the regulars at our shop. Best to check with your insurance company.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:54 PM   #5
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Home Inspection Concerns - Old Wiring


Get three quotes for upgrading the knob & tube and the panel. How do you know 100 amp is the right size for this house? If you have electric appliances and are going to make this your home for awhile, you might want to consider a bigger service. Always make room for future expansion. Hot tub? On demand water heater? Outbuilding? Down the road you might realize the 100 amp panel was a mistake. So think about this now. Maybe you can work a deal where the HO pays half of the COMPLETE upgrade? I would see about this before I did anything. I would NEVER upgrade to 100 amp. I would go 200 if I was going to do it at all. I am not saying you need 200 amp. I am saying you might in the future. So look at this now! 200 amp is the standard upgrade for most homes.
One more thing. Is your house all gas or electric or a combination?
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:01 PM   #6
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Home Inspection Concerns - Old Wiring


i'm suspecting the 100A is the minimum panel size dictated by the insurance company? +1 to what jv said. any competent electrician can perform the service sizing calcs to determine the actual requirements. and keep future expansion in mind. demand load may come out to, say, 99 amps, such that a 100 amp panel would suffice but the minute you increase the oven size, add an addition, etc., the panel is now undersized.
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:31 PM   #7
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It wouldn't be a problem to upgrade to 200 down the line, but I am starting to think the knob and tube might be a deal breaker. I will get some quotes. The inspector does electrical work and gave us an "estimate" and is supposed to be typing up a quote for us. No outbuildings or hot tubs. Just your general appliances. The kitchen was completely redone and runs off of a different breaker box. The only things we would be running through the knob and tube would be a couple window unit air conditioners, lights, computers and televisions. The dryer, range, heater and water heater are run by gas.

We are definitely going to put in the inspection response something about the seller upgrading the wiring. If he doesn't do it, then we will try splitting the cost, but I have a feeling it will have to be done before the bank even approves us. We are going through USDA and they seem to be a little more strict about things. Also I am worried about the cost of insurance with this type of wiring in the home. Plus I am scared to even use the hair dryer.

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Originally Posted by J. V. View Post
Get three quotes for upgrading the knob & tube and the panel. How do you know 100 amp is the right size for this house? If you have electric appliances and are going to make this your home for awhile, you might want to consider a bigger service. Always make room for future expansion. Hot tub? On demand water heater? Outbuilding? Down the road you might realize the 100 amp panel was a mistake. So think about this now. Maybe you can work a deal where the HO pays half of the COMPLETE upgrade? I would see about this before I did anything. I would NEVER upgrade to 100 amp. I would go 200 if I was going to do it at all. I am not saying you need 200 amp. I am saying you might in the future. So look at this now! 200 amp is the standard upgrade for most homes.
One more thing. Is your house all gas or electric or a combination?
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:30 PM   #8
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Home Inspection Concerns - Old Wiring


Way back in 1996, my insurance company refused to insure my first house, with its 1938 wiring. It was all run in flex conduit, so it was a major step up from K&T, and had a 4-fuse box.

I had to live with it for a year or so before I could afford to upgrade the wiring, move the service line, etc. During that period I was paying some other insurance company through the nose for coverage.

K&T will be more problematic, since you cannot simply pull new wires through conduit, like we did. But if it is a one story house with accessible attic and basement, it will be fairly easy to run new wires.

I updated my panel when I moved into my new place, and 200 amp seems to be the standard upgrade these days.

So I'd do what the others suggest, get some estimates, and not just from the inspector, and go to the seller to see if they will reduce the price or split the cost with you.

By the way, an inspector who also offers to repair what he finds seems like a conflict of interest. Maybe not, but it kind of seems that way.

Last edited by M3 Pete; 05-08-2012 at 02:34 PM.
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:43 PM   #9
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Home Inspection Concerns - Old Wiring


What kind of market conditions exist in the property's area. Sellers or Buyers market? Obviously, you will have much more leverage if its a Buyers.

Always get a commitment and not just a "pre approval" from your insurance company and lender before waiving any conditions.

If the market is favorable to Buyers at the moment then ask for a huge amount off your already negotiated price to accommodate the financial burden of upgrading the whole system. Don't get stuck with the bill.

try not to get emotionally attached to this house until its yours. Keep a good business head and if the deal falls through remember an equally nice house is just around the corner
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:44 PM   #10
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Yeah the inspector explained to us that WE had to ask him for the quotes because it was a conflict of interest if he just mentioned it. My husband asked him about it.

It's a two story house, but the attic is accessible through one of the bedrooms and the wiring is pretty much sitting right there.

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Originally Posted by M3 Pete View Post
Way back in 1996, my insurance company refused to insure my first house, with its 1938 wiring. It was all run in flex conduit, so it was a major step up from K&T, and had a 4-fuse box.

I had to live with it for a year or so before I could afford to upgrade the wiring, move the service line, etc. During that period I was paying some other insurance company through the nose for coverage.

K&T will be more problematic, since you cannot simply pull new wires through conduit, like we did. But if it is a one story house with accessible attic and basement, it will be fairly easy to run new wires.

I updated my panel when I moved into my new place, and 200 amp seems to be the standard upgrade these days.

So I'd do what the others suggest, get some estimates, and not just from the inspector, and go to the seller to see if they will reduce the price or split the cost with you.

By the way, an inspector who also offers to repair what he finds seems like a conflict of interest. Maybe not, but it kind of seems that way.
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:46 PM   #11
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Forget the home inspector...get a qualified electrician in the home for a proper quote
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Old 05-08-2012, 02:49 PM   #12
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Thanks for the advice. It is hard not to get emotionally attached but I keep pulling myself back from what I want to do on the inside and outside and trying to focus on the heart of the house and what's behind the walls + the business aspect. We have gotten two insurance quotes but nothing set in stone. We are already paying outrageous insurance because my husband's credit is barely there. (Mine is fine but they won't even consider me because I just lost my job due to my business closing).

The market is definitely favorable to buyers right now. The seller is being kind of a pain in the a** though. He isn't leaving room for much negotiating. He agreed to pay closing costs and upgrade the box only after we upped the offer to asking price. The asking price for this house is pretty awesome though for everything that has been done to it already. I HIGHLY doubt he will go for negotiating with the wiring. The house hasn't been on the market long and I don't think he realizes yet that he is going to have to be flexible if he wants to sell this house. He was also present during inspection yesterday and was angered that my husband and I were there, when he was specifically told by his agent he wasn't allowed to be there. Anyway..I'm going off topic.

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Originally Posted by creeper View Post
What kind of market conditions exist in the property's area. Sellers or Buyers market? Obviously, you will have much more leverage if its a Buyers.

Always get a commitment and not just a "pre approval" from your insurance company and lender before waiving any conditions.

If the market is favorable to Buyers at the moment then ask for a huge amount off your already negotiated price to accommodate the financial burden of upgrading the whole system. Don't get stuck with the bill.

try not to get emotionally attached to this house until its yours. Keep a good business head and if the deal falls through remember an equally nice house is just around the corner
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Old 05-08-2012, 03:21 PM   #13
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Home Inspection Concerns - Old Wiring


Two story house makes it more difficult to rewire but not impossible. Hole will need to be cut to get tot he first floor ceilings. Get a real electrician not the inspector to quote you. Make sure they are going to replace ALL the K&T. Sometimes they only replace the part you can see or get to easily and leave the hard stuff like the first floor ceiling.
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Old 05-08-2012, 04:15 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karabearblu View Post
He was also present during inspection yesterday and was angered that my husband and I were there, when he was specifically told by his agent he wasn't allowed to be there. Anyway..I'm going off topic.
home inspections are typically done by the buyers and the inspector, in the absence of the homeowner.

You want to be able to talk frankly with the inspector, without the owner being around.
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Old 05-08-2012, 04:33 PM   #15
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The inspector is also a licensed electrician.

We did the inspection response today and put in that we want the knob and tube wiring removed and GFCI outlets installed. If they come back and say no, we are probably going to keep looking. We already have a big expense with A/C unit and I don't want to live in a money pit

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Originally Posted by joed View Post
Two story house makes it more difficult to rewire but not impossible. Hole will need to be cut to get tot he first floor ceilings. Get a real electrician not the inspector to quote you. Make sure they are going to replace ALL the K&T. Sometimes they only replace the part you can see or get to easily and leave the hard stuff like the first floor ceiling.

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