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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi all. My sons and I replaced an old ceiling fixture at my in-laws. The electrical wiring in the house is really old and the wire insulation is brittle [Edit: at this fixture; not sure of everywhere else].
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Ideally one would consider replacing all the wire, but it's a plaster ceiling and finished floor above. I have no idea what else I would run into trying to tackle such a project as that.

For now, we wrapped each wire in electrical tape as far up as we could safely manage without bending the wires which might cause the insulation to crack and fall off. On the cold wire, there was at least one break in the insulation we could see which we covered and sealed up with the electrical tape. Both wires seemed sound and not weak which was good.

Is there a better approach to addressing this without completely rewiring everything? My main concern with electrical tape is how long it will hold up. I've seen it hold really well and other times it "loosens" for lack of a better word.

Appreciate any information that might provide a better and more permanent solution. If we do other electrical work for them, I'm sure the same wire situation will exist.

Edit: thumbnail below which can be easily expanded. Also note that the wire with a single band of electrical tape in the picture is only marking the hot wire. We wrapped about the last 3-4 inches of each wire in electrical tape.
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Looks just like my house.

I can’t really help as I have done the same as you as I come across it.

My issue is is that my house has no cavities in the wall. As near as I can tell looking at the basement is they made something that looks like a worm hole to lead to the other floors. I don’t know if it would even be possible to pull new wires.
 

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My father;'s house had the knob and tube wiring which I helped him replace. We were able to access the interior walls through the basement and up in attic for the lights. I wore out a few jigsaw blades cutting outlet holes in baseboards for outlets. Another old house I am involved with has the armored steep wrap electrical wires (rubber with cloth braid which are cracking). I plan to replace the wires by pulling in new attached to the old I am pulling out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
My issue is is that my house has no cavities in the wall.
I'll have to look closer on my next trip to see if the same situation exists.

My father;'s house had the knob and tube wiring which I helped him replace. .... Another old house I am involved with has the armored steep wrap electrical wires (rubber with cloth braid which are cracking).
I'm glad this one doesn't have the knob and tube wiring. This seems to be cloth braided and coated with something. If it was rubber, it's completely dry rotted.

Looks like it got really hot at some point. That looks kinda like the wiring that comes with a fixture, any chance of something else stuffed in above the bracket?
I thought maybe it did too, but I think all the black is just old dust/dirt. And the picture is showing some shadows from flashlights we were using.
The fixture that was on there had braided wires and old wire nuts. Maybe it was replaced at one point. Maybe there is something above the bracket but I was trying to do the least disturbance as possible.

Heat shrink tubing can be mighty friendly in a case such as this.
That crossed my mind. At minimum, we could use it to label the white/black wires (and red in the future 3 way switches). Are there ratings on heat shrink tubing for voltage/amps to be concerned with or would the stuff from Harbor Freight be acceptable?
 
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Any possibility of using the old wire to pull new wire through from the wall switch to the fixture?

You do realize that you are now set up for the blame if there ever is a fire? To quote Mike Holmes from Holmes on Homes, "make it right."
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Any possibility of using the old wire to pull new wire through from the wall switch to the fixture?

You do realize that you are now set up for the blame if there ever is a fire? To quote Mike Holmes from Holmes on Homes, "make it right."
View attachment 788858
I'll have to look closer about pulling wire. And yes, I do realize your second point, thus a) trying to minimally disturb existing wires and b) make sure it's safe. What we did I know is safe for now, but I know there are a lot of electricians and/or those with electrical experience on GTT who may have knowledge and experience that will provide a better and safer yet solution.
 
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A word of caution on working with old wiring! Way back when, they sometimes "controlled/switched" the neutral/common/white. Meaning power came from the panel (or FUSE box!), into the fixture, out of the fixture to the switch. With the switch "Off" for the fixture, the fixture wiring was still hot...I've found that the hard way and truly a shocking experience! After opening fixture box, CHECK FOR VOLTAGE! Bob
 

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What about using this? Plant Liquid Fluid Camera accessory Service
 

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A word of caution on working with old wiring! Way back when, they sometimes "controlled/switched" the neutral/common/white. Meaning power came from the panel (or FUSE box!), into the fixture, out of the fixture to the switch. With the switch "Off" for the fixture, the fixture wiring was still hot...I've found that the hard way and truly a shocking experience! After opening fixture box, CHECK FOR VOLTAGE! Bob
i also found out about switching the neutral. Got 2 notches in my needle nose pliers to remind me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
A word of caution on working with old wiring! Way back when, they sometimes "controlled/switched" the neutral/common/white. Meaning power came from the panel (or FUSE box!), into the fixture, out of the fixture to the switch. With the switch "Off" for the fixture, the fixture wiring was still hot...I've found that the hard way and truly a shocking experience! After opening fixture box, CHECK FOR VOLTAGE! Bob
Great word of caution. Although I didn't know they sometimes switched the "white" wire, I was certain to use the fuse box to switch it off and I still tested each wire as they became exposed. Can't be too careful when working with electric.

I did not know this existed. Seems like this would be a good addition to the toolbox.
 

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ryegrass, Switching the white is no longer legal...or recommended! This may be a carry-over from Westinghouse in 1890 when AC was still a baby. Not sure when code disallowed this, but it's STILL a good idea to check for power after opening a box...the wrong breaker could have been turned of or the breaker may have failed, "stuff" happens! Bob
 

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Just a thought for someone with electrical training to comment on. What about installing an arc fault breaker on that circuit?
Found this on Wikipedia. Not sure if this answers your question. Seems like it could be beneficial, but I'm not an electrician, so I'm not sure.
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Operating principle
The electronics inside an AFCI breaker detect electrical current alternating at characteristic frequencies, usually around 100 kHz, known to be associated with wire arcing, which are sustained for more than a few milliseconds. A combination AFCI breaker provides protection against parallel arcing (line to neutral), series arcing (a loose, broken, or otherwise high resistance segment in a single line), ground arcing (from line or neutral to ground), overload protection and short circuit protection. The AFCI will open the circuit if dangerous arcing is detected.
 

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Just a thought for someone with electrical training to comment on. What about installing an arc fault breaker on that circuit?
Maybe. Maybe not. The issue with GFCIs and AFCIs in many of these situations is that they are designed to be wired into a circuit on very specific ways and in most cases, when you run into old wiring like this, the circuit doesn't meet any of those specifics.

Sometimes you can install a GFCI/AFCI and make the circuit work but you haven't actually added any safety to the system. That can be dangerous in it's own right because people use it thinking the circuit is "safe" but it isn't.
 

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Hi all. My sons and I replaced an old ceiling fixture at my in-laws. The electrical wiring in the house is really old and the wire insulation is brittle.
View attachment 788850

Ideally one would consider replacing all the wire, but it's a plaster ceiling and finished floor above. I have no idea what else I would run into trying to tackle such a project as that.

For now, we wrapped each wire in electrical tape as far up as we could safely manage without bending the wires which might cause the insulation to crack and fall off. On the cold wire, there was at least one break in the insulation we could see which we covered and sealed up with the electrical tape. Both wires seemed sound and not weak which was good.

Is there a better approach to addressing this without completely rewiring everything? My main concern with electrical tape is how long it will hold up. I've seen it hold really well and other times it "loosens" for lack of a better word.

Appreciate any information that might provide a better and more permanent solution. If we do other electrical work for them, I'm sure the same wire situation will exist.

Edit: thumbnail below which can be easily expanded. Also note that the wire with a single band of electrical tape in the picture is only marking the hot wire. We wrapped about the last 3-4 inches of each wire in electrical tape.
View attachment 788850
If you found brittle wire on your tractor, what would you do? , and remember no one is living in your tractor . Wiring can be replaced, lives cannot, but , they are the in-laws. ;)
 

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Folks frequently mention such-and-so are not "legal." I think that they are referring an electrical code in some way like it is a law. I have wondered for years what happens to me if I as a homeowner do something "illegal." Are licensed electricians required by this code to report me, and to who, and what's the penalty?

I have seen that codes are changed from time to time. Am I legally reponsible for keeping myself and my house current (no pun intended). :)
 

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Folks frequently mention such-and-so are not "legal." I think that they are referring an electrical code in some way like it is a law. I have wondered for years what happens to me if I as a homeowner do something "illegal." Are licensed electricians required by this code to report me, and to who, and what's the penalty?

I have seen that codes are changed from time to time. Am I legally reponsible for keeping myself and my house current (no pun intended). :)
My thought is that like most things, it's not a problem until there's a problem.

If something went sideways and there was a fire I think the insurance co. is going to look for the paperwork.
 

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Clyde, You are not required to keep you home to current code. You're only required to maintain the home to the current code at the time of construction, whether that be building code or fire code...which electric code is part of. Once construction or modifications are complete and signed off, you're legal.

But, if there is a problem, like a fire, there WILL be an inspection! If you've performed modifications without a signed approval, your insurance company may say, 'YOU screwed up, YOU pay the bill to build another house.' Bob
 
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