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Old 12-15-2009, 12:19 PM   #1
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


Hey, first time poster. I have been lurking on the site for a while, reading up on projects and finding some solutions for myself.

We recently just purchased a 1929 spanish mission style home (flat roof). For the most part it's been updated, even has an addition on the back. While it does have a flat roof, there is some space between the ceiling and the roof. Currently the only access is a 1'x1' panel at the top of a closet...basically just enough room to poke your head through.

My plan is to remove the plaster ceiling in our hallway (maybe 6'x4') and reframe a lower ceiling (bout 1' lower) with an adequate access to be able to get up there and store some rubbermaids or actually get in the attic to run wire, deal with the squirrels living up there, or even insulate it.

Couple questions:
how big should the access be? I'm not looking to put in pull down stairs, just a opening to get up there with a ladder, I was thinking 24"x24". Our last house had one that size and it seemed to work.

I was able to poke my head up in the current access and take some pics, heres a pic from above where I plan to put in the access.


Besides the wire you see in the previous pic there is also, what looks like copper wire that runs from the ceiling joist to the roof rafters in various places...any ideas what this is and why it is there?


the attic access would be just to the left of what you see in the previous pic.

Thanks in advance for the guidence.

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Old 12-15-2009, 12:35 PM   #2
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


That looks exactly like some of the older homes down here in my area. Those are "tube and knob" wiring apparatus, and I hope they are not still in use. IF you decide to remove those old insulators, save them, they are valuable around here for sure. The larger copper wires I've seen in older homes around here that had---Lightning Rods on top of the homes years ago. IF by chance you still have the Lightning Rods still on the house, do save them, especially if they have the old glass balls. They are very expensive in antique shops around here, and everywhere I have seen. As far as your new access, you can make it any size you wish, as long as you do adequate framing. You stated "Our last house", so I figure there is the "lady of the house" involved with what is stored up there. Just don't let her get carried away as my wife did. There must be two tons of "important things", can you say-junk, up in our attic. Good Luck, David

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Old 12-15-2009, 12:54 PM   #3
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


Would it be safe to say the tube and knob system is not in use since I have a modern breaker box, fixtures, switches and outlets?

And yes, I married a pack-rat, however, i'm a bit of one my self...not a good combo when you live in a house without an attic.
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Old 12-15-2009, 01:19 PM   #4
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


Regardless if you have a new breaker box, outlets, switches, fixtures. K&T can still carry power if not disconnected if new wiring was not installed at the time.
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Old 12-15-2009, 02:03 PM   #5
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


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Regardless if you have a new breaker box, outlets, switches, fixtures. K&T can still carry power if not disconnected if new wiring was not installed at the time.
In homses where K&T was previously installed I frequently find energized sections of K&T on branch circuits running back to updated service equipment - around one property in three.
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Old 12-15-2009, 02:18 PM   #6
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


At Home Depot (or other stores) you can buy a little probe that will sense voltage without contact.

You just hold it near the wire, and if it's live it will flash and beep.

Easily worth the $18 I paid for it. They had cheaper ones, but the more expensive one has a dial you can use to adjust the sensitivity, and it works for voltage as low as 5 volts, while the others only work with line-voltage.
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Old 12-15-2009, 02:59 PM   #7
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


Wow, I had no idea. I will definately need to pick up one of those probes to make sure I don't electrocute myself in the attic.
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:27 PM   #8
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


We are in the process of purchasing a '20's house. The original section still has original K&T wiring, and it is all run to modern breaker panels. In FL, or at least in the Tampa area, you cannot get insurance with K&T, so we will have to update prior to closing.

Just got bids back.... fun.

I am going to make attic access where I have to pull out the old attic fan... more fun. They make ladder units that fit between the joists/trusses, so you may only need to only open as much as is needed for the unit purchased.
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:34 PM   #9
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


If you are going to be working around up there insulating and installing decking, you want to be careful around that old knob and tube. The theory behind it was OK, but the materials were not up to todays standards. You'll find the insulation to be very brittle. If you've had critters in the attic, make sure you check it out thoroughly. I've seen the insulation chewed off of this stuff. I even found a skeleton of a critter next to two chewed wires. Guess he got across the hot and neutral conductors after he had them bare. They could have been that way for 30-40 years. You don't want to become the critter across two bare wires while you insulate. Best bet is to eliminate the stuff before you insulate and floor the space for storage.
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:36 PM   #10
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


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If you are going to be working around up there insulating and installing decking, you want to be careful around that old knob and tube. The theory behind it was OK, but the materials were not up to todays standards. You'll find the insulation to be very brittle. If you've had critters in the attic, make sure you check it out thoroughly. I've seen the insulation chewed off of this stuff. I even found a skeleton of a critter next to two chewed wires. Guess he got across the hot and neutral conductors after he had them bare. They could have been that way for 30-40 years. You don't want to become the critter across two bare wires while you insulate. Best bet is to eliminate the stuff before you insulate and floor the space for storage.
Will do, I plan on double checking to make sure it's not live then removing it. Who knows maybe I can make a few $$ on the copper and ceramic pieces.
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Old 12-15-2009, 07:36 PM   #11
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


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Originally Posted by pyper View Post
At Home Depot (or other stores) you can buy a little probe that will sense voltage without contact.

You just hold it near the wire, and if it's live it will flash and beep.

Easily worth the $18 I paid for it. They had cheaper ones, but the more expensive one has a dial you can use to adjust the sensitivity, and it works for voltage as low as 5 volts, while the others only work with line-voltage.

I found it also tells if there is a hot wire in the wall as you cut to remove the siding outside. And, turn it down to trace and pinpoint the exact location or the wires behind the siding or behind drywall or plaster and lath. Or, in a gang box, it flashes faster for the hot lead and slower for the neutral with residual power. Nice for knob and/or tube (had to get one more or in there).
Be safe, Gary
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Old 12-15-2009, 09:26 PM   #12
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


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Originally Posted by GBR in WA View Post
I found it also tells if there is a hot wire in the wall as you cut to remove the siding outside. And, turn it down to trace and pinpoint the exact location or the wires behind the siding or behind drywall or plaster and lath. Or, in a gang box, it flashes faster for the hot lead and slower for the neutral with residual power. Nice for knob and/or tube (had to get one more or in there).
Be safe, Gary
They're really great. I used one to troubleshoot my ceiling fan wiring (turned out the fan motor won't turn without the light-kit. They're also useful for finding which breaker kills the power to a switch when you don't have someone to watch the light.
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Old 12-19-2009, 09:42 AM   #13
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


I'm thinking about undertaking this project today. I am worried about doing it if when I get the ceiling out then I realize that its a knob and tube system up there. Below is a picture of the wires feeding the light in the hallway. Its not a great pic but shows two wires coming into the box insulated with like a braided material...they are tied to the leeds for the light.


Is it possible to confirm or deny that this fixture is fed by the tube and knob system? I will try to get up in that access hole and use my tester on the K&T system
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Old 12-19-2009, 10:13 AM   #14
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


Well, I got up there (through the small hole in the closet) and all the K&T wires i could get to were hot. So....I can't really upgrade the system until I have access up there, but I can't open it up in the hall cause of the K&T wires running overhead. Does anyone have any resources on how to "patch" one of these systems so I can at least, temporarily rewire the hall light and remove that portion of the K&T in order to create an access to get to the rest.

Do I need to remove the K&T in the first place? I have read that the system works fine if it is in good condition...but being 80 years old...its hard to believe that is the case.
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Old 12-19-2009, 12:37 PM   #15
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Installing and attic access and a "What is this?"


I am pretty sure you cannot bury knob and tube in insulation if it is being used. I would shut down breakers until you lose power on the wire in the way. Maybe you can just do with out that circuit for a while. Then make it the first circuit you rewire. I would rewire first and then insulate.

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