DIY Home Improvement Forum banner

Help: All I wanted to do was replace a light switch

1770 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  MicahPDX
I bought a 105 year old house and it has it's share of electrical problems. My plan has been to bring things up to code one problem at a time. Last night I just wanted to knock out one of the quick problems... but I opened a can of worms.

I have 2 3-way switches/light fixture for the stairs (2 switches controlling 1 light). The light switch on the top level was "crackling" when being turned on so I figured there's a loose connection or bad switch. I took off the faceplate to find the there is no box at all--just that early NM cable pulled through a board in the wall and held in place by the face plate. That is, the board in which the NM cable passes through is not part of the wall, it's a loose board with holes for the early NM cable and the faceplate was screwed into that board with long wood screws (2 different types of screws at that). I've attached images.

Looking at that old cable and how little play it has, I'm thinking I probably have to drop a new line--which becomes a much larger project than I was anticipating. Second, I can't see any studs--though I've seen those retro-fit boxes but my lath and plaster walls are quick to crumble.

So, before I start hacking my house apart, I just wanted to see what y'all thought. Any tips and suggestions before I get started would be appreciated (Note: the other switch down stairs is in a contemporary box with modern NM cable).

See less See more
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
Arcing switch and lots of kindling....nice.

That is about as bad it gets as far as fire hazard.:jester:

You pretty much need a roto zip to cut wood lathe. It's no picnic. You could temp install a surface mounted box to make it safe and functional until you can have it done properly.

I'd look at all the wiring very carefully.

And....have smoke detectors and a family escape stratagy.
Depending upon the wire (brittle?) I'd do the temp fix as 220/221 said
Maybe cut a new "trim"board to cover the hole & mount the box in that
But Id' definitely get a new run in as soon as you can
If the wire insulation is brittle I'd stop using those wires until replaced
And yeah, check out the rest of the house ASAP
As a buddy pointed out it's nob 'n tube--not early NM. That makes sense... there are one or two knob 'n tube circuits in running in the attic and that is supposed to be my top priority on the electrical side. *Most* of the rest of the house is okay, however, I haven't finished checking it all. But yeah, I'll focus on getting a new run and won't use it until I have time to do that.

Thanks for your help guys.
Not using it does not mean power is not present. Find the breaker or fuse that feeds that circuit and shut it off. This is a fire waiting for the right moment. Like when you are asleep. Check all smokes.

I would consider upgrading everything that you possibly can. It's got to be addressed sooner or later. I opt for sooner. The problems are already making themselves apparent. Do not take any chances. You might want to check with a couple EC's and get some quotes.
Not using it does not mean power is not present. Find the breaker or fuse that feeds that circuit and shut it off.
Yes, I turned it off at the breaker and will be tackling this and any other older wiring I find (I'm evaluating and mapping all circuits this weekend) before other projects. I also have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and a fire extinguisher on each floor.
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.