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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

I've begun electrical work in a house I'm inheriting that was built in 1900. I'm running into a few issues.

Like most homes in our area, the entire second and third floors, and half of the ground floor is all on one breaker. This is what I'm assuming to be the original wiring of the house that was carried over from a fuse box to a circuit breaker panel. So the question is, how do I go about splitting this up? Before I move I am remodeling the master bedroom top to bottom, pulling out all the walls and flooring since it has as spongy issue. I figured it would be best to redo the electrical in this room while I'm there.

I do understand I will not know what I'm dealing with until it's pulled out, but what happens if this room is in the middle of run in this original circuit? (i.e. wiring enters from another second floor room, runs to all receptacles in master bedroom, then proceeds on to the attic) - How do I go about removing the old receptacles (there's 4) and keeping power flow to the rest of the house?


There is also an issue with two gang switch boxes. In both the ground and second floors (actually directly above one another) are two two gang switch boxes that only contain one switch each. One just has a two switch plate on it, with one switch missing. The other has a single switch plate on it with the other side plastered over- I kid you not. We also found papers shoved into the plastered side touching some wires, no clue what they were thinking. Anyway, in both these boxes are wires that are just taped off with old brown tape. The other sides go to three way setups for the stairwell and a separate three way setup for the dining area (one switch on each side of the house for two entrances). These wires make me extremely nervous since they are just taped off and not contained in any sort of electrical junction box. The ground floor box was literally cut down the middle to turn it into a single gang box.


Last issue, is that when originally testing the circuits flipping them off one by one, we labeled the house and the breaker box. So when we were inspecting these switches we switched off the appropriate breaker. When I checked for current with my tester it lit up. I also noticed some things were now turned off that weren't before when testing and labeling the panel. I also noticed some things that turned off before now remain on. What could possibly cause that or did we just make an error? Is something crossing somewhere?


Last question is more advice than anything- I am relatively new to the hands on experience with wiring, I've read up a lot and am fine with 'how' to do it, just haven't experienced it a lot first hand. When placing the devices back into their boxes (receptacles, switches, etc.) I can't seem to get them to fit. They either don't go in at all, or tighten up slanted or crooked. What am I doing wrong and is there an easier way?

Thanks for any and all help!
 

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What's the wiring method? You said 1900 so gas to ceiling fixtures or knob and tube? Don't touch any of the antiquated electrical. Run new circuits, use néw boxes, use new wire, get a panel with enough space and amperage for all the branch circuits or feeders...
There's a lot to do and plan. You're taking on a project that requires 8000 hours of training to be good at.
 

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Dont forget what you find now
Might not be best practice by
Todays standards, but might well
Have been acceptable when it was
Originally done,decades ago.

What did you use for testing your lines ?
Many testers will read phantom or ghost
Voltages.

As for the sequence of your replacement work
Perhaps start at the end of the line, and maybe
Run a new circuit for each room back to your
New panel.
 

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You'll probably find a lot of the old wiring will need to be replaced due to dry rot, damage, poor workmanship, inadequate gauge, etc. If there is any question whether to replace it or not, better safe than sorry and replace it. You may find aluminum wiring in your house, which you might want to replace.

Also wouldn't hurt to check local codes. You may be required to replace existing outlets with tamper-resistant ones.

And this would also be a good time to look into local codes for smoke and CO detectors. If you are required to install detectors that are interconnected from floor to floor, when you're redoing the wiring is the perfect time to install that as well.

All three of those are things I ran into last year while remodeling just one basement room. :wink2:

One more thing - they sell deeper gang boxes that mount into "existing construction". If you have room for those, that makes it easier to put everything back together without feeling like you're shoving 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5 pound sack. Also when you're putting the switch or outlet back in, try gently pushing at the top, then the bottom, top, bottom, and so on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Unfortunately, I am almost certain we are dealing with knob and tube wiring, at least on that original circuitry. A good 80-90% of the breakers are attached to newer NM wire. It's just that the one circuit accounts for most of the building. The issue I'm faced with is that I don't have the funds to replace 'all' of the wiring just yet. I would've liked to finish the master bedroom before moving in so that I won't have to disturb my sleeping quarters in the future. I believe it is code compliant to join the old knob and tube using two junction boxes and new NM cable between if removing a section correct? Then place access covers on the wall in front of those covers? I have tried aimlessly to map out the routes of this circuit but can't for the life of me figure it out.

I was using one of those non-contact detectors, I have a multimeter but didn't have it on me. I have lots of things planned (maybe too many things) but while the walls are out, it's all getting done!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Dont forget what you find now
Might not be best practice by
Todays standards, but might well
Have been acceptable when it was
Originally done,decades ago.

What did you use for testing your lines ?
Many testers will read phantom or ghost
Voltages.

As for the sequence of your replacement work
Perhaps start at the end of the line, and maybe
Run a new circuit for each room back to your
New panel.
What is the easiest way to find the end of the line? I'm assuming it's in the attic, but again one should never assume with these old houses.

I didn't want to rip my entire house to shreds all at once either. I wanted to tackle it room by room as I get time and money. Is there any way to do it that way?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
What's the wiring method? You said 1900 so gas to ceiling fixtures or knob and tube? Don't touch any of the antiquated electrical. Run new circuits, use néw boxes, use new wire, get a panel with enough space and amperage for all the branch circuits or feeders...
There's a lot to do and plan. You're taking on a project that requires 8000 hours of training to be good at.
I have planned to get a 200 amp panel installed from the mast down.

To what extent do you mean when not touching the old wiring? I'm going to have to touch it to even get the baseboard molding off in some rooms. I understand what you mean but do I just let it in the molding forever?
 

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I believe it is code compliant to join the old knob and tube using two junction boxes and new NM cable between if removing a section correct? Then place access covers on the wall in front of those covers? I have tried aimlessly to map out the routes of this circuit but can't for the life of me figure it out.
Definitely worth the time to read up on all your local electrical codes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Definitely worth the time to read up on all your local electrical codes.
Yes, on second thought, I think that is making things much more difficult and dangerous than need be. I am considering just running a new circuit up to the room I'm working on at the time, and then leaving the existing wiring until it's all gone. Is it safe to remove the old receptacles and connect the knob and tube together behind the wall? I'd hate to replace the baseboard and have to cut out a hole for the old receptacle setup.
 

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Yes, on second thought, I think that is making things much more difficult and dangerous than need be. I am considering just running a new circuit up to the room I'm working on at the time, and then leaving the existing wiring until it's all gone. Is it safe to remove the old receptacles and connect the knob and tube together behind the wall? I'd hate to replace the baseboard and have to cut out a hole for the old receptacle setup.
Wish I could help but I've never worked with knob and tube. :001_unsure:
 

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In most jurisdictions once you start renovations you are required to bring the plumbing, wiring, egress, fire protection etc up to current code. That off course only apply a to the renovated areas. The complication with K&T is that while many jurisdictions allow it to exist, you can't modify it. Once you modify it, you need to replace it. If you are inheriting the place, can you pull a home equity loan or line of credit to do the renovations?
 

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If you can't get a HELoC, you may also be able to leave all the old knob and tube in place until you have wired new Romex in all the rooms; I would ask your inspector if that's okay. It will leave you with extra lights and plugs until you are done with everything, though. Then you just disconnect the knob and tube and patch everything up.

In the alternative re-wire everything yourself. There will be a learning curve and it will take a while and be really annoying and at times frustrating, but a lot cheaper than hiring skilled labor for all of it.
 
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