Knob-and-tube wiring, often referred to as just K&T, was a standard method used for electrical wiring for buildings. It was used often in North America starting in the 1880s and being eliminated for use with new building projects in the 1940s.
While the system is considered to be obsolete today, it can present a safety hazard. Even so, there is some undeserved fear associated with K&T wiring.
Important Facts about Knob-and-Tube Wiring
There are several important things you should understand about knob-and-tube wiring. These things include:
- It isn’t inherently dangerous. The actual dangers of this system come from the age, improper modifications, and if the insulation in the building envelops the wiring.
- There’s no safety ground wire, which means you can’t plug in, three-prong appliances and cords.
- Even though it’s an obsolete wiring method, there isn’t a code requiring it to be removed completely.
- It is treated uniquely in various jurisdictions. For some areas, it has to be removed where accessible, while other areas don’t do anything but inspect it for safety hazards.
- It is no longer permitted for use in new construction projects.
Common Issues with K&T Wiring
One of the biggest issues with knob-and-tube wiring today is that unsafe changes and modifications are made to it. In fact, this problem is more prevalent with this wiring than with Romex, as well as other wiring options used today. This is partly due to the fact that K&T wiring is so old that there’s been more opportunity for these improper modifications.
Over time, the wiring also has a tendency to sag and stretch, and if it comes in contact with ceiling and wall insulation, it’s a fire hazard. Also, because there’s no safety grounding conductor, there’s a much higher likelihood of an electrical fire, as well as damage to electronics and appliances.
Because of the potential hazards associated with knob-and-tube wiring, there are many insurance companies that refuse to insure homes where it is present. Some exceptions are made if an electrical contractor has deemed that the wiring is safe.
However, most experts still recommend replacing K&T wiring with a modern option for safety purposes.
What to Do if You Have Knob-and-Tube Wiring
If you have this type of wiring in your home, you should call to have an electrician evaluate it right away. Only an expert in the field can determine if the system was installed properly and if it has been modified correctly. Also, avoid running too many appliances in a home with knob and tube wiring, as this is a leading cause of fire.
If there is any wiring that is cracked or brittle, it needs to be replaced. Remember, proper maintenance is still important.
If you are unsure how to handle knob-and-tube wiring, contact Teague Electric. We can inspect the electrical system and help you determine the best course of action.