19 February, 2011

Electrical Fire Hazard -- The Unexpected Discovery of Old Wire

The electrical breaker boxes for our house were updated in 1973, according to a receipt we found in the basement. Conduit to power extra outlets / light bulbs was strung along the basement ceiling at the same time. While the boxes were professionally installed, it looks like the previous owners added the conduit themselves. (It looks like a hack job and wasn't on the receipt.)

We're considering upgrading the service and having the basement rewired. So we peeked into some of the connecting boxes and were horrified at what we discovered. Our best guess is that the electrician left behind a pile of old cloth wire that was removed during the breaker boxes upgrade, and the previous owners decided to reuse it in new connector boxes. That's 1920s wire going through 1970s  boxes.

Old cloth-wrapped wire going through sharp-edged conduit.

Old, uncapped wire, held together only with old tape.

Oh, yeah, we're going to have to remediate this sooner rather than later.


Brigid Keely said...

I lived in a house that some friends of mine owned, and they asked my husband to take a look at the wiring. He did, and we were all scared, because it was cloth wiring insulated with paper, and there'd apparently been several problems that left the walls scorched. He felt that fixing the problem was beyond his scope and they got a licensed electrician to repair everything, which stopped the brown outs we'd occasionally had.

Jen H said...

We inherited cloth wiring and two electrical boxes (my guess is the basement was a separate unit). The whole first floor (kitchen) + 1/2 of second floor are on one breaker--eek. Keep us posted!