Buying a Home with Knob and Tube Wiring?

Are you buying or selling a home with knob and tube wiring?

While you may sell a home with knob and tube wiring, the buyer may have issues with knob and tube, also known as k&t wiring.  Are the concerns valid? Yes, it could be very dangerous.  Can knob and tube wiring cause a fire? Yes, it can.  Can you get homeowners insurance? Most likely, no.  There are insurance companies that will give you 30-60 days to remove the k&t wiring, but they are getting harder to find. And if the buyer is getting a mortgage, they need homeowners insurance, and if no insurance, then no mortgage.

What is Knob and Tube wiring?

Most homes built before 1950, used porcelain knobs and tubes with electric wiring.  The wires were run separately mounted on the wooden joist with knobs, with the hot wire on one side of a joist and the neutral on the opposite site of the joist.  Other times the wires are run 10-12 inches apart in the same area.  When the wires had to change directions or go through a floor joist, the tubes were inserted into a hole in the joist to keep the wire safe from touching the wood.  The wire was coated with insulation which over time, is breaking down from the heat and stress from it hanging with the weight of the wire.  The wiring is meant to be cooled by regular air in the home.  

Problems with K & T Wiring:

First off, there is no ground wire with the wiring.  Secondly, homes built with the wiring, did not anticipate the amount of electricity that is used by today's common homes.  Third, homeowners have added insulation that may contact wires and not let them cool down which could create a fire.  The electrical outlets were not built with ground fault outlets which could create a safety hazard around wet areas like the kitchen and bathrooms.  Because of these issues when buying an older home, homeowner insurance companies may ask if you are aware of knob and tube wiring.  If there is an issue and you were aware of the wiring, the insurance company may not pay the claim. 

The Knob and Tube Solution:

The only solution for knob and tube wiring is to rewire the home.  Costs could be anywhere from $4,000 on up to $15,000.  Prices increase in many older homes because the homes were built with plaster walls that makes cutting a hole and repairing the walls harder to do increasing the price.  There are some homeowners who have taken the easier route and only removed the visible knob and tube wiring such as in the basement.  Therefore, it is critical to have a competent home inspector when buying an older home who can check the outlets to insure there is no active k & t wiring in the walls.  

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