Author Topic: Old Wiring  (Read 901 times)

Montecarlo

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Old Wiring
« on: January 26, 2019, 11:30:04 AM »
I have an house built in 1949 with some gnarly things going on in the wiring.  I have pretty good handle of everything that runs off the main panel, but the subpanel I just thoroughly investigated.  One circuit is of primary concern right now. 

It has on it:
Laundry room outlets
Laundry room lights
Boiler room outlets
Hall light
coat closet light
spare bedroom light
spare bedroom closet light
spare bedroom outlets
Bathroom outlets
Bathroom light
Bathroom fan
Master bed outlets

I was able to trace boiler room and laundry room wiring, but then it gets over the finished basement bathroom (which they also tied into a circuit from the fuse subpanel with old wiring, instead of taking the extra hour and 40 feet of romex to go to the main panel through the unfinished portion of the basement!!).  So I lose it there.

Ideally I want to tear out everything except the first three items on the list (which are in the basement) and run romex to the main panel.  To do that, at a minimum I would need to remove some of the finished ceiling in the basement bathroom, and some of the drywall in the other finished part of the basement.  I'm skeptical that will be all the demo needed. 

Alternatively, I am thinking I just disconnect from the last junction box before it goes upstairs, and abandon the wiring in place.  It's relatively easy to run a line into the attic from the main panel, but I'm not sure how easy it will be to drop all the lines I need to from the attic to the outlets.  In fact, the demo sounds easier the more I think about it.

BudgetSlasher

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2019, 08:28:37 AM »
I have an house built in 1949 with some gnarly things going on in the wiring.  I have pretty good handle of everything that runs off the main panel, but the subpanel I just thoroughly investigated.  One circuit is of primary concern right now. 

It has on it:
Laundry room outlets
Laundry room lights
Boiler room outlets
Hall light
coat closet light
spare bedroom light
spare bedroom closet light
spare bedroom outlets
Bathroom outlets
Bathroom light
Bathroom fan
Master bed outlets

I was able to trace boiler room and laundry room wiring, but then it gets over the finished basement bathroom (which they also tied into a circuit from the fuse subpanel with old wiring, instead of taking the extra hour and 40 feet of romex to go to the main panel through the unfinished portion of the basement!!).  So I lose it there.

Ideally I want to tear out everything except the first three items on the list (which are in the basement) and run romex to the main panel.  To do that, at a minimum I would need to remove some of the finished ceiling in the basement bathroom, and some of the drywall in the other finished part of the basement.  I'm skeptical that will be all the demo needed. 

Alternatively, I am thinking I just disconnect from the last junction box before it goes upstairs, and abandon the wiring in place.  It's relatively easy to run a line into the attic from the main panel, but I'm not sure how easy it will be to drop all the lines I need to from the attic to the outlets.  In fact, the demo sounds easier the more I think about it.

What is your concern?

My first reaction is yes, it seem that there is too much stuff on the circuit. . . At least by what modern code would likely dictate.

That being said, technically overloaded is not inherently unsafe. If wired correctly, the wire is in good condition, and the breaker/fuse is correctly sized to the smallest gauge of wire in the circuit, the worst thing that will happen is you blow the breaker/fuse. This can be mitigated by switching the lights to LED (good idea anyways, especially if there is a state incentive/discount).

Personally if you are not routinely tripping the circuit breaker/fuse on that circuit and there is no indication that is otherwise dangerous I would be tempted to leave it alone for now. After all if everything else is done right it should be safe and it is currently causing you no inconvenience and presumably hasn't been a problem going back as far as it has been in its current configuration. Of course if you had another project that required most of the demo work (adding a new circuit for example) I would bring it up to modern standards (or at least closer to modern code as possible.)

Now if the wiring is undersized, over fused, knob and tube with romex questionably tied in, missing isolation, suspected of concealed junction boxes, it would move up my priority list.

Older houses often have wiring that has grown "organically" and by that I mean someone has add one or two things here or there and simply tapped into an existing circuit.




Papa bear

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2019, 08:55:34 AM »
That’s just about a perfect answer.

If you can figure out how to split off the bathroom from the rest, that would be a huge help.  Code requires a dedicated circuit to each bathroom for outlets.


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Montecarlo

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2019, 09:16:44 AM »

What is your concern?

My first reaction is yes, it seem that there is too much stuff on the circuit. . . At least by what modern code would likely dictate.

That being said, technically overloaded is not inherently unsafe. If wired correctly, the wire is in good condition, and the breaker/fuse is correctly sized to the smallest gauge of wire in the circuit, the worst thing that will happen is you blow the breaker/fuse. This can be mitigated by switching the lights to LED (good idea anyways, especially if there is a state incentive/discount).

Personally if you are not routinely tripping the circuit breaker/fuse on that circuit and there is no indication that is otherwise dangerous I would be tempted to leave it alone for now. After all if everything else is done right it should be safe and it is currently causing you no inconvenience and presumably hasn't been a problem going back as far as it has been in its current configuration. Of course if you had another project that required most of the demo work (adding a new circuit for example) I would bring it up to modern standards (or at least closer to modern code as possible.)

Now if the wiring is undersized, over fused, knob and tube with romex questionably tied in, missing isolation, suspected of concealed junction boxes, it would move up my priority list.

Older houses often have wiring that has grown "organically" and by that I mean someone has add one or two things here or there and simply tapped into an existing circuit.

When I first moved in they had a nice 20A fuse there that I promptly replaced with a 15A fuse.  Not a whole lot runs on these circuits.  Lights mostly.  I ran a new circuit to the living room where most of my load is.  I have familiarized myself enough with the wiring to keep the load minimal, so I'm probably good.  Still replacing the 3 prong outlets in the spare room with the proper ungrounded outlets to make it safer to Airbnb or rent out the room. 

I don't think this circuit has anything new tied in, but another circuit I have they tapped in the basement bathroom right into an old cloth wiring circuit. Which was lame, because it would have been literally 1 breaker, 40 feet of romex, and 2 hours fishing and drilling to run a new circuit.

I'd like to bring it up to code, possibly just because I'm a bit of a perfectionist, but also if I rent out the house I want it to be extra safe.  But right now I'll content myself with correcting the outlet issue and maybe in a year or two when I retire start the necessary demo for a modernization project.

BudgetSlasher

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2019, 05:06:10 AM »

What is your concern?

My first reaction is yes, it seem that there is too much stuff on the circuit. . . At least by what modern code would likely dictate.

That being said, technically overloaded is not inherently unsafe. If wired correctly, the wire is in good condition, and the breaker/fuse is correctly sized to the smallest gauge of wire in the circuit, the worst thing that will happen is you blow the breaker/fuse. This can be mitigated by switching the lights to LED (good idea anyways, especially if there is a state incentive/discount).

Personally if you are not routinely tripping the circuit breaker/fuse on that circuit and there is no indication that is otherwise dangerous I would be tempted to leave it alone for now. After all if everything else is done right it should be safe and it is currently causing you no inconvenience and presumably hasn't been a problem going back as far as it has been in its current configuration. Of course if you had another project that required most of the demo work (adding a new circuit for example) I would bring it up to modern standards (or at least closer to modern code as possible.)

Now if the wiring is undersized, over fused, knob and tube with romex questionably tied in, missing isolation, suspected of concealed junction boxes, it would move up my priority list.

Older houses often have wiring that has grown "organically" and by that I mean someone has add one or two things here or there and simply tapped into an existing circuit.

When I first moved in they had a nice 20A fuse there that I promptly replaced with a 15A fuse.  Not a whole lot runs on these circuits.  Lights mostly.  I ran a new circuit to the living room where most of my load is.  I have familiarized myself enough with the wiring to keep the load minimal, so I'm probably good.  Still replacing the 3 prong outlets in the spare room with the proper ungrounded outlets to make it safer to Airbnb or rent out the room.

I don't think this circuit has anything new tied in, but another circuit I have they tapped in the basement bathroom right into an old cloth wiring circuit. Which was lame, because it would have been literally 1 breaker, 40 feet of romex, and 2 hours fishing and drilling to run a new circuit.

I'd like to bring it up to code, possibly just because I'm a bit of a perfectionist, but also if I rent out the house I want it to be extra safe.  But right now I'll content myself with correcting the outlet issue and maybe in a year or two when I retire start the necessary demo for a modernization project.

If at all possible I would retain the 3 prong outlets. When I lived in Vermont it was acceptable to to have 3 prong outlets without a grounding wire as long as they were both GFCI protected (in my case my replacing the first outlet with a GFCI outlet, but I would assume a GFCI breaker would also be acceptable) and labeled as GFCI Protected / No Equipment [or Mechanical] Ground (pretty much every GFCI breaker I have purchased comes with a sheet of these sticker).

I understand the drive to bring things up to code, I often suffer from it as well. But, I have learned to settle for "closer to current code." The youngest house I have owned was built in the 90s and to meet all modern applicable codes to the letter would be impossible without almost an entire rebuild. Also, I have to remind myself there are aspects of code that are simply good practice/convenient (for example outlet spacing) and there are aspects that are safety (for example GFCI in bathrooms and kitchens).

Montecarlo

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2019, 11:15:18 AM »
I just diagrammed out the circuit (see below).  The first part of the circuit is in red, but in the parts that leave the basement and go upstairs, I changed colors as things branched off of outlets or junction boxes.

The light green would be easiest to bring up to snuff.  I would need to cut a hole in the ceiling of the basement shower to get access to the junction box.  But I could then disconnect those three outlets.  I have three outlets in the living room (not shown) that are grounded romex off an arc fault breaker in the main panel.  I can run a line off the last of those through the unfinished basement and wire the three light green ones in reverse order.  All have straight forward access through unfinished laundry room.

The orange is crazy.  It goes in and out of the basement several times.  I tried to clarify by labeling the basement outlets mc1 and mc2 and showing them in the main level drawing.  The basement ceiling is finished and I'd prefer to dismantle vs demo, but not sure if I can.  Picture is finished basement ceiling and outlet mc2.

Dark green is most of the lighting.  I did not fully trace out what was connected in what order.  It goes into one outlet that tests grounded (and may actually be grounded appropriately, need to investigate more) and then feeds a switched outlet with two switches, two closet lights, hall light, and bathroom light and fan.  I don't know what order after the first outlet.  I'm less concerned about this one.  The switched outlet is definitely not grounded  and should be labeled or replaced with two prong.

The sole bathroom outlet is straight off the junction box.  Access will not be easy.  I think it ought to be on it's own circuit, right?  It's got three prong outlet, but is definitely not grounded.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2019, 11:17:12 AM by Montecarlo »

BudgetSlasher

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2019, 06:25:30 PM »
I just diagrammed out the circuit (see below).  The first part of the circuit is in red, but in the parts that leave the basement and go upstairs, I changed colors as things branched off of outlets or junction boxes.

The light green would be easiest to bring up to snuff.  I would need to cut a hole in the ceiling of the basement shower to get access to the junction box.  But I could then disconnect those three outlets.  I have three outlets in the living room (not shown) that are grounded romex off an arc fault breaker in the main panel.  I can run a line off the last of those through the unfinished basement and wire the three light green ones in reverse order.  All have straight forward access through unfinished laundry room.

I would not cut a hole in the ceiling if it is the same wooden ceiling shown in your picture, that will be difficult to impossible to patch. What I would do is find the nails that hold the box to the ceiling joist (assuming it is a new work box) and either using a hacksaw blade or using a reciprocating saw cut the nails and then pull the old box (wires and all) out of the ceiling. I'd use the current box hole as an access point (and if I was real lucky there would be an open joist bay from the unfinished area I could run new wire in). Then I would replace the box using an old work box, enlarging the hole if needed to fit a larger box for additional wire capacity.

Quote
The orange is crazy.  It goes in and out of the basement several times.  I tried to clarify by labeling the basement outlets mc1 and mc2 and showing them in the main level drawing.  The basement ceiling is finished and I'd prefer to dismantle vs demo, but not sure if I can.  Picture is finished basement ceiling and outlet mc2.

Dark green is most of the lighting.  I did not fully trace out what was connected in what order.  It goes into one outlet that tests grounded (and may actually be grounded appropriately, need to investigate more) and then feeds a switched outlet with two switches, two closet lights, hall light, and bathroom light and fan.  I don't know what order after the first outlet.  I'm less concerned about this one.  The switched outlet is definitely not grounded  and should be labeled or replaced with two prong.

The sole bathroom outlet is straight off the junction box.  Access will not be easy.  I think it ought to be on it's own circuit, right?  It's got three prong outlet, but is definitely not grounded.

Honestly if a larger junction box can be installed over the shower and new wiring can be pulled that spot, I would be tempted to run several new lines into the box and have them pass through feeding the circuits you want to separate off.


dragoncar

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2019, 11:40:27 PM »
could you fish new lines and leave the old ones in place?  Just disconnected on the ends?  I have no idea if that's allowed, but it might be easier

Montecarlo

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2019, 09:34:44 AM »
The ceiling of the shower looks like plain old drywall to me.  However there is a recessed light fixture I think I can remove to gain access.

First step would just be to disconnect the light green part of the circuit and extend the living room circuit to those outlets.  Easy peasy.  Next step would be to tackle the orange, and that's where we'd be talking about getting into the wood ceiling.  I think I'll just abandon the basement orange outlets and perhaps the spare bedroom one too - or extend that off the light green.  That will simplify things, but I think I'll have to either open the basement drywall or ceiling to get up to the master bedroom outlets.

No idea what to do for the bathroom outlet.  Seems silly to run a dedicated circuit for one outlet.  I think maybe I can kill two birds with one stone and fix the basement bathroom circuit and run an additional line upstairs to the upstairs bathroom.  They are right over each other.

Montecarlo

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2019, 09:36:40 AM »

I would not cut a hole in the ceiling if it is the same wooden ceiling shown in your picture, that will be difficult to impossible to patch. What I would do is find the nails that hold the box to the ceiling joist (assuming it is a new work box) and either using a hacksaw blade or using a reciprocating saw cut the nails and then pull the old box (wires and all) out of the ceiling. I'd use the current box hole as an access point (and if I was real lucky there would be an open joist bay from the unfinished area I could run new wire in). Then I would replace the box using an old work box, enlarging the hole if needed to fit a larger box for additional wire capacity.


That just may work, but gut is telling my some demo is required.

Papa bear

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2019, 12:08:10 PM »
The ceiling of the shower looks like plain old drywall to me.  However there is a recessed light fixture I think I can remove to gain access.

First step would just be to disconnect the light green part of the circuit and extend the living room circuit to those outlets.  Easy peasy.  Next step would be to tackle the orange, and that's where we'd be talking about getting into the wood ceiling.  I think I'll just abandon the basement orange outlets and perhaps the spare bedroom one too - or extend that off the light green.  That will simplify things, but I think I'll have to either open the basement drywall or ceiling to get up to the master bedroom outlets.

No idea what to do for the bathroom outlet.  Seems silly to run a dedicated circuit for one outlet.  I think maybe I can kill two birds with one stone and fix the basement bathroom circuit and run an additional line upstairs to the upstairs bathroom.  They are right over each other.

Updated electric code requires a dedicated circuit to each bathroom.  Including 1/2 baths.  I made the same argument on expected loads on a 1/2 bath outlet to the inspector, but ultimately I lost and have a 20amp circuit for a 1/2 bath and 1 15 amp circuit for the 2 full baths.  Completely messed up. 

As you have a full bathroom with outlet, I understand the need for a dedicated circuit.  Hair driers, curling irons, flat irons, etc. take a LOT of watts, and running that with anything else on the circuit can flip the breaker.  So, I’m your case, it’s not “silly” to have a dedicated circuit.  It’s now required and makes sense for full bathrooms.


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Montecarlo

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2019, 01:12:04 PM »

Updated electric code requires a dedicated circuit to each bathroom.  Including 1/2 baths.  I made the same argument on expected loads on a 1/2 bath outlet to the inspector, but ultimately I lost and have a 20amp circuit for a 1/2 bath and 1 15 amp circuit for the 2 full baths.  Completely messed up. 

As you have a full bathroom with outlet, I understand the need for a dedicated circuit.  Hair driers, curling irons, flat irons, etc. take a LOT of watts, and running that with anything else on the circuit can flip the breaker.  So, Iím your case, itís not ďsillyĒ to have a dedicated circuit.  Itís now required and makes sense for full bathrooms.


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Aren't you allowed to run a 20A to the outlets, and then the lighting and up to a 10A exhaust fan on the same circuit?  I'm talking about having two outlets on the same circuit - just one is in different bathroom.  I might lose an argument to an inspector... but I may not get it inspected, either

Montecarlo

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2019, 01:17:37 PM »
I might be being a little silly, now that I think about it.  If I'm running new wiring from the panel to the new outlets, it won't take a whole lot of extra time to run 2 instead of one.


Or I could stick the original plan and make sure I don't date anyone who spends a whole lot of time on her hair...

Papa bear

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2019, 04:15:48 PM »
I mean, your house, your call.  Just letting you know it isn’t silly.

Here’s some info on it:
https://www.ecmweb.com/qampa/code-qa-120

Where I personally have issues is rentals.  You might have 2 bathrooms on 1 circuit and 4 people all getting ready at the same time.  Someone has an iron heating up, someone in the next bath is using beard trimmers, then the hair drier comes on.  Breakers pop constantly.

My house, I had 3 bathrooms on 1 15amp circuit.  I changed the 1/2 bath and had access to bring it up to code, permitted.  Had to do a single outlet, 20amp circuit there, leaving the other 2 baths on 1 15 amp.  I imagine I’ll have problems when my daughter starts her hair routine with my wife.

On all of my rentals with electrical renovations, I bring it up to code, 1 because permits, 2 because I want to avoid complaining tenants. 

For the lights/fan on the same circuit - bathrooms are a room that on a fairly regular basis do not have windows for exterior light. You don’t want to lose your light source when you pop the circuit drying your hair in a towel.  Or holding a flat iron.


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Montecarlo

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Re: Old Wiring
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2019, 06:00:26 PM »
Thanks for the info!  Much appreciated!