Anyone who has been part of the real estate market over the past decade has surely heard the term “knob and tube” wiring. For many people, it has become a cause for concern and a deterrent when house hunting. Let’s try to clear up some of the questions surrounding K&T.
Knob and tube wiring (K&T) was an early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings, in common use in North America from about 1880 to the 1930s, which is now considered obsolete. (Source: Wikipedia)
What is the problem with knob and tube wiring?
It should be noted that knob and tube wiring is not inherently unsafe but there are certainly problems with it:
• There is no grounding conductor, meaning that sensitive electronics can be more easily damaged and making it more of a fire hazard.
• The insulation around the wiring is susceptible to deterioration and can be a fire hazard.
• The biggest problem is when amateurs attempt to make modifications to knob and tube systems, creating fire hazards in homes. If your home has K&T wiring, do not attempt to modify it yourself. Instead, hire an electrical contractor who can install modern home wiring.
What should you know?
If you own a home containing knob and tube wiring or are considering purchasing a house with this type of wiring you should:
• Have the system inspected by a certified electrician who can determine if the wiring was installed correctly or if any updates or modifications were done correctly.
• If any cracked or brittle wiring is found it should be replaced.
• You cannot use three-pronged plugs with K&T wiring, as it has no grounding conductor. That means that it should never be used in kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms or outdoors.
• Many insurance companies refuse to insure homes with knob and tube wiring. However, some companies will provide insurance for a premium if you provide proper documentation from a certified electrician deeming that it is safe. Make sure a home is insurable before you buy it!
If you have any questions about knob and tube wiring, talk to your local home improvement expert, certified electrician, real estate agent or home insurance broker.
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