Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>Replacing Knob and Tube in 80 year old home
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Replacing Knob and Tube in 80 year old home

Daughter and son-in-law hope to close on this wonderful 80 year old home 2 stories plus open attic. It is complete with 9' ceilings, hardwood floors, lathe plaster walls ... and knob and tube wiring everywhere the electrician could not get to when they upgraded the electrical to circuitbreakers and 200 amp service some 10-15 years ago. Translation, basement and outlets on 1st floor are new, everything else is still old k&t. (1st floor ceiling fixtures, all of 2nd floor, and attic.)

Since many insurers experience cardiac failure at the thought of k&t, it would be best to complete the upgrade.

They have approached 1 electrician who did the initial upgrade work for the current owners to get a firm estimate as to remaining costs. His response was, can't really tell because won't know what he finds till he gets into the walls. Duh! It was suggested that he attempt an outlet or switch or two to see if there is blocking or other issues. He was asked what techniques would he use to conceal the new wiring. Came down to he wants to be totally non-committal until he starts the job.
Second electrician is on the way next week.

This cannot be rocket science; I suspect that it is an art. The question is, what techniques do the artists typically employ?

I would imagine that they run chases up from basement through closets or in otherwise concealable spaces.

Do they go all the way to the attic and come down from above drilling into the space between walls and attempt to guide or pull the wire down (or is the added cost of the extra wire needed to wire from above not beneficial).

I am betting that 80 year old baseboard molding does not remove easily, does routering a channel, drilling into the wall at a point below the outlet, and so on ... then covering with a second molding piece work? (May actually make things a little more decorative?)

What about ceiling fixtures that have wallswitches for activation? Second floor probably not the problem as much as 1st floor ceiling where there is a hardwood floor above.

Are there specialized conduit pieces that look better running across a wall than the typically conduit?

What works (short of making many cuts into plaster - or is that not really a bad thing)?

And if you know of an electrician in Richmond VA who likes this type of work, is knowledgeable and reasonable, would like their name. Thanks

Re: Replacing Knob and Tube in 80 year old home

Well, as an electrical contractor I well understand the electrical contractor’s reluctance to give you a price with out a lot of investigation. And investigation takes time and time is money. There can be many variables in old houses and you only find the “issues” as they arise.

I did a KT replacement in a Victorian that took me and a helper about three weeks to complete. I did another and it took me and a helper four solid months to completely upgrade the electrical.

I would suggest that rather than looking at surface/conduit wiring methods you allow the contractor to cut as many hand holes in the plaster as he needs to fish the wiring in the walls and ceilings. You will have the holes to repair but in the long run will end up with a much better looking job.

Rewiring old houses is an art form of its own and the people who are good at it have a bag of tricks and tools. I might suggest you get a few references and make some calls to either hear nightmare stories or tales of how wonderful everything went on someone else’s old house

Re: Replacing Knob and Tube in 80 year old home

Thanks for the response.

Need to pick your brain more, being that you are in the business. K&T is a problem that should not be ignored. They will own a home that cannot be insured, or at best, one that costs 50% more than necessary to insure - and there is always the safety issue of older wiring.

Given that electricians may be hesitant to price the job up front, how do buyers arrive at a reasonable cost figure to factor into their decision-making relative to closing on the deal? It would be different if this were already their home and this was their problem. It is someone else's now.

If it were you, would you live with a not to exceed range; would you be more amenable if they paid you to come up with a cost range, agreeing to subtract that amount if they buy?

How do they arrive at a number without an electrician being on the joh for 3 weeks, the bill is $20,000 and there still is work to do?

Re: Replacing Knob and Tube in 80 year old home


If it were you, would you live with a not to exceed range; would you be more amenable if they paid you to come up with a cost range, agreeing to subtract that amount if they buy?[QUOTE]

Ah, now that is something I could live with.

Tell you what. I am no longer in the residential or residential remodle business so I don't really know how that type of contractor is pricing work. I am in commecial contracting. However, I am a moderator on an electrical forum and many of the members do this type of work so I will post a question there and see what kind of response I get. If it develops into a worthwhile thread I will post a link.

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