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Old 12-16-2009, 01:06 PM   #1
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


I need some advice on how to remove old metal cable anchors that go in the side of gangable boxes. The wiring in the house is the old cloth 2 cable wiring. I tie on new cable and pull the cable through the wall. The wiring in my house is old, really old. Some of the metal receptable outlet boxes in my house are the kind where the wire comes up from the bottom and a screw in clamp screws down on top of the cable and keeps it in place. Those are easy to deal with, but many of the gangable metal boxes in my house have very old metal anchors that hold the cable in place. I've showed the anchors to an electrician, who said he hadn't seen them for at least 30 years. The anchors are not like the modern ones, that are sort of screwed into the box. My first experience with them almost tore the plaster wall apart trying to get one to break loose. I've used channel lock pliers to try and pinch them and get them to fall into the wall, but that doesn't work. So far, I've used a dremel with a grinding piece to grind the anchor down so that it just falls into the wall and breaks apart. Then, the cable is loose, and I can tie the new cable on and fish it through the wall. So, I've tried using channel locks, but they don't work unless I grind about half of the anchor down, which takes about an hour. On the other hand, I've tried removing the entire gangable box from the wall, but the anchor sticks out about an inch into the wall, which keeps the entire box from coming out. The only solution at that point is to knock out the plaster to get it out, which is a mess. In addition, many of these boxes are nailed into the side of a stud, which makes them even more difficult to pull out. So, what I've been doing is just grinding down the anchor, and squeezing it with channel locks until it finally comes out. I talked to an electrician who told me that if he were doing this job, he would probably do what I am doing. I feel like there must be a better way of doing this. I'm including a drawing to sort of help demonstrate what I'm talking about.Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors-cableanchors.jpg I have a piece of the anchor somewhere, if I find it, I'll post a picture of it.

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Old 12-16-2009, 02:34 PM   #2
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


If your replacing the cable and boxes why not just cut the wire on the outside of the box before the clip instead of killing yourself trying to get the clip out of the box? You can always strip the wire back again to attach your new wire to pull it. Either that or get yourself a pair ow Wiss tin snips and just cut a channel in the front of the box directly in front of each clip and slide the cable out that way. All depends on the thickness of the box though. Most Wiss snips can cut up to about 1/8" think metal.

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Old 12-16-2009, 06:48 PM   #3
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


The problem is that if I cut the cable on the outside of the box I will have to tear out the plaster wall to get to it, which will be a mess.
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Old 12-16-2009, 06:58 PM   #4
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This is what I have access to when I'm running new cable: Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors-cableanchors2.jpg The gray color represents the plaster wall.
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Old 12-16-2009, 07:21 PM   #5
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


One picture would be way better than your entire post.


I don't recognize the drawing.
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Old 12-16-2009, 07:36 PM   #6
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O.k., here's a better way of asking it. Let's say that someone installed a gangable box and ran a cable into the box, securing it with a metal cable clamp like the one in the web link I'm including. The cable is secured using the clamp, which is screwed down. The dryboard, wallboard, or plaster is placed around the gangable box, blocking access to the outside of the gangable box. Now, let's say that for some reason you need to run new cable to the gangable box (wire fault, adding circuit, etc...), how would you do it with the clamp securing the cable in place?

Link to the connector I'm talking about: http://doitbest.com/Box+connectors+a...sku-509630.dib

This is not the exact same connector I'm dealing with in my situation, but the principle is the same.
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Old 12-16-2009, 08:11 PM   #7
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


The connector in the link is a regular romex squeeze connector. If thats the connector in your box all you have to do to get the cable out is unscew the locknut which faces down in the box... The cable and connector will come right out. If the wall is not open on the top of the box your not going to be able to get new connectors in to secure your new wires though. If your plan was to use the old connectors and pull the new wire directly threw them, You will not be able to free the old wire from the connector because the screws are behind the wall obviously! Even if you miraculously did somehow, You would not be able to properly tighten the new cables to the connectors again because of the wall... I'm an electrician and I am very suprised your even able to pull the wires out of the walls without problems...Usually they are stapled to the inside of the walls. My suggestion to you is to open a 2-3" section just above the box and the entire lenght of the box. Do what you need to do (the right way) and just patch the wall. If you have to mess with every connector like you said you did in your previous post. You will spend alot of time and not get the job done right. It doesnt take long to patch a small hole.

Just my opinion
Good Luck!
Bill
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Old 12-16-2009, 08:24 PM   #8
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Thanks, billygeg, I think you fully understand my problem. One of the problems is that I don't know how to patch plaster walls. The walls in my house are made out of a plaster material that looks like it had sand or something blended in with it. Directly behind the plaster is some sort of wood fiber material that the plaster seems to be stuck to. I've tried using patching plaster to patch big holes in the wall, however it doesn't stick nearly as good as the original material. Usually, once I grind down about 1/2 of the anchor, then it seems to fall apart. Usually half of it falls inside the box and the other half falls down into the wall, I can hear it hit the floor inside the wall. Then, the cable is loose, and I can tie on the new cable and pull the old out and fish it through the wall, which is easy because I have a basement and use cable grease. The hard part focuses around the cable connector. Where the cable enters the box, I've been breaking the electrical code by just letting the cable freely enter the box, no new connector. I don't think it's a major problem though because the sides of the knockout are dull, as the box has been there for probably 50-80 years with metal connectors pressing hard against it. However, I've seen some plastic connectors that I've thought about using from the inside out instead of the outside in. Of all the electrical books I've read, none of them address the problem of how to run new cable once the wall is already finished. If anyone has any more advice, please share it.
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Old 12-16-2009, 09:14 PM   #9
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


Something else that I didn't make very clear, I know there are different types of plaster walls, the plaster walls in my house are about 1 1/2 inches thick. As I mentioned earlier, there's some kind of wood fiberboard backing with the plaster laid on top of that. The plaster seems like it has sand or fine rocks mixed in. It's extremely hard yet easily crumbles when you drill a screw into it. My question is, to all of you electricians, what would you do in this situation if you were hired to come and replace this outlet and run new cable? I assume most of you would take the job and try to tackle it.
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Old 12-17-2009, 10:56 AM   #10
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The reason your not seeing anything in any electrical book (and you wont) Is because what you are trying to do is not common practice. If an electrician came to your home and did the job he would cut the wall open. Electrical books tell you proper installation but not how to's in situations like yours. My parents live in Brooklyn NY in a house that is about the same age as yours. Back then there was no such thing as sheetrock. They used shackle boards from floor to cieling that they ran horizonatlly attaching them with nails to the vertical 2x4's - 2x3's or whatever size they used to support the wall vertically. After the shackles were in place they literally smeared the plaster over the them then sanded it smooth. Thats why your wall is so thick. I still stand by opening the wall up. You can open a 2-3" tall section running horizontally across the top of the box but you must open it wide enough to reach the vertical beam on the right and left sides. Open it wide enough so you can see about 1" of the face of the vertical beam. You will need this face to support your sheetrock you will patch with. Once you are ready to patch, Get a piece of 1" by 3" board, cut it to alittle smaller in width then the width of your hole. In other words, If your hole is 16" wide cut it to 14"...Take the board and put it behind the wall and screw it to the wall but make sure there is atleast a 1" lip showing from the hole. You will need this to screw your sheetrock patch into. Its a support. Once you screw that in,Measure your hole, Take a piece of sheetrock cut it to size, and screw it into the vertical beam and then to the support I just mentioned. If your wall is that thick (you mentioned a 1-1/2") you may have to cut two pieces of 5/8" rock, stack them on top of each other to make it flush with the outside existing wall. Once your done with the patch all you need is alittle spackle, puddy knife, and some sand paper and your good to go. Its not as hard as it sounds! Once you do it you will probably say WOW! Not as hard as I thought! Anyway, I drew up two pics..Sorry I am not good with computer programs...The pics are below. The first pic shows the hole cut in the rock on top of the box and how the vertical beams should look. The second shows the mounting of the 1x3 support and how it should look threw the hole.

Hope Im not confusing you more!

Again, Good Luck!
Attached Thumbnails
Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors-img_8312.jpg   Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors-img_8313.jpg  

Last edited by billygeg; 12-17-2009 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 12-17-2009, 06:26 PM   #11
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


What the?

You are trying to grind them off?



You are over thinking this.





It's a simple 2 screw romex connector. You:

A) Unscrew the locknut and pull the cable and connector out.

B) Loosen the screws and pull the cable in/out.


Also, IMO if you can't do a little simple patching, you shouldn't be doing any electrical work.
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Old 12-17-2009, 08:27 PM   #12
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


Quote:
Originally Posted by billygeg View Post
If your replacing the cable and boxes why not just cut the wire on the outside of the box before the clip instead of killing yourself trying to get the clip out of the box? You can always strip the wire back again to attach your new wire to pull it. Either that or get yourself a pair ow Wiss tin snips and just cut a channel in the front of the box directly in front of each clip and slide the cable out that way. All depends on the thickness of the box though. Most Wiss snips can cut up to about 1/8" think metal.
If you'd seen the thickness and sturdiness of those OLD boxes the OP is talking about, you would know that a pair of snips wouldn't work. When I encounter those boxes in my work, I know there is nothing you can do except break the wall around it. But I managed to use a knockout (not easy work) on those boxes and snake another cable in.
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Old 12-17-2009, 08:46 PM   #13
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


As a general rule, and to enhance what Billygeg (poster #10) and 220/221 (Poster #11) said. That anyone doing residential electrical work should at least have an idea of how homes were/are built. And to not be afraid to break (and re patch) plaster or drywall. I haven't met anyone in the construction trades who is reluctant to break a section of wall when necessary. At the risk of sounding like a "Broken Record" or CD, I will repeat my advice to beginners to read a book (any book) about residential electrical wiring and how houses are constructed, before starting on any project. Eliminate confusion Through Education!!!

Last edited by spark plug; 12-17-2009 at 08:49 PM. Reason: Missing letter (a)
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Old 12-18-2009, 06:53 AM   #14
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Need Advice Old Metal NM Cable Anchors


The drawings are crystal clear.

Problem is, the clamp is not a screw on clamp or has the screw on ring on the outside. Furthermore the cable jacket might have become brittle with age and it might be incredibly difficult to squeeze the wings of the clamp in so the clamp will disengage from the box (and fall outside).

But when the new cable is strung, a proper clamp or bushing (that won't fall out by itself) is needed so the cable jacket does not scratch against the rough edges of the hole.

In order to decommission an old cable by cutting if off and leaving it in the wall, both ends must be found and so treated. A cable or wire still connected to the electrical system at one end must have the other end in a box that has an accessible cover (generally exposed on the wall or ceiling).
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Old 12-18-2009, 03:30 PM   #15
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It sounds like you are dealing with what is called a "tomic" connector:


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