Knob and Tube wiring was installed in homes up until about 1950. There are a few instances of homes built in the 1960’s and 1970’s with this wiring, but these are the exception. It is now nearly impossible to obtain homeowners insurance if a home has knob and tube wiring. The insurance companies understand the increased risk of fire and the potential for injury or death, based on the limitations of knob and tube wiring.
These limitations include:
- It is not a grounded system, making it more hazardous than modern wiring. A person may come in contact with water, such as in a kitchen, bathroom, basement, crawlspace or outdoors and electricity and water don’t mix.
- Two-prong receptacles as opposed to three-pronged. This eliminates the use of many appliances, even small kitchen appliances.
- Usually restricted to a maximum of 60-amp service. Over the years, homeowners put in higher-rated fuses to increase amps. Given the wire was not intended to carry this additional current, the insulation becomes brittle exposing more wiring or overheating to the point of causing a fire.
Insurers have been updating their guidelines over the years in regards to the type and age of electricity in a home. It used to be that “if” a home was on circuit breakers and not fuses that a preferred insurer would accept knob and tube wiring. More recently, preferred insurers changed their guidelines to say “we don’t care if you have circuit breakers, we don’t want a home with knob and tube wiring”.
This meant that homeowners (those obtaining a new policy either because they were non-renewed by their insurance company, had let a policy cancel, were buying insurance for the first time for a house purchase or whatever) were forced to buy insurance from a non-preferred company (these are called surplus lines) who charge a significantly higher premium (often 3x’s as much). Lenders accept these policies.
Knowing that you likely cannot insure a home with knob and tube wiring, you should consider hiring a licensed electrician, like Stack Electric, to update the electricity in your home. If you are purchasing a home with knob and tube wiring, it will be important that the update to the electricity in the home be completed PRIOR to close of escrow. An insurance company will not agree to insure the home and give you time, say 30 days, to do the updates. The seller’s lack of maintenance on the house of updating the wiring at some point in time over the years makes their problem (old home wiring is very dangerous problem) your problem.
You should not attempt to buy a home that is unsafe to live in and, not being able to buy insurance on it, tells you this really clearly. The insurance companies, even the ones that take almost every other big problem of really old roofs that will likely leak, old heating systems that will likely catch the home on fire or leak toxic fumes into the home and such, are saying no to knob and tube…so big red flag. Too many claims and too severe is a good assumption.
We hope this article has made you more comfortable with your home’s electrical system needs. If you are still worried and have any questions, call us! At Stack Electric, service is our business and we will make you feel more at home…in your home!