The knob and tube wiring system was commonly installed in homes built before 1950. This antiquated electrical system uses insulated wires run through open air, passing through ceramic knobs and tubes. While it was suitable for the time, knob and tube wiring is now considered obsolete and can pose serious fire and shock hazards if not properly maintained or updated. As a homeowner with this old wiring, I discovered its dangers the hard way.

The Hidden Dangers of Knob and Tube Wiring

Knob and tube wiring has many inherent flaws that make it unsafe by today's standards:

These factors make knob and tube wiring a serious fire hazard. Faulty connections and damaged insulation can overheat, ignite nearby combustible materials, and allow fire to spread through walls and ceilings unimpeded.

How I Learned About the Dangers Firsthand

When I purchased my 1926 craftsman bungalow, I knew it had the original knob and tube wiring. But it had passed inspection, so I assumed it was ok. Then one night, I awoke to a burning smell and the smoke detector blaring.

I raced to the basement to find the junction box for the upstairs knob and tube wiring smoking and hot to the touch. Thankfully I was able to shut off the power before a fire broke out, but it was too close for comfort.

This experience opened my eyes to the very real dangers of obsolete electrical systems. Even if it is still functional, knob and tube wiring is an antique that has no place in a modern home. I immediately had it replaced.

Why Knob and Tube Wiring Should Be Removed

There are several compelling reasons why knob and tube wiring cannot be left "as is" in a home:

Full Replacement is the Only Option

Some homeowners try to save money by just repairing sections of knob and tube wiring. However, this is a temporary band-aid fix. Because the wiring is all connected, any part left in place still poses a hazard. The only safe option is to completely remove all knob and tube wiring and replace it with modern electrical wiring that meets current code requirements.

Though full replacement is more expensive than targeted repairs, it is an essential investment in safety. I learned this lesson personally, and there was no question that every inch of knob and tube had to go.

Finding an Experienced Electrical Contractor

Replacing knob and tube wiring is not a DIY project. It requires opening walls and ceilings, re-running conductors, installing new boxes and switches, and tying it all into your home's electrical service panel. This complex job should only be done by a licensed, insured electrician experienced in old wiring replacement.

When hiring a contractor, be sure to ask:

I vetted several electricians thoroughly before choosing one. It is critical to find someone up to the task of removing this antiquated and sometimes tricky old wiring system.

The Peace of Mind After Replacement

After living with the anxiety of deteriorating knob and tube wiring, I cannot describe the peace of mind I have now. The new electrical wiring provides:

Replacing the antiquated knob and tube wiring was one of the best investments I've made as a homeowner. I only wish I had done it sooner! If you have old wiring, do not put it off any longer. The safety and peace of mind are well worth the cost.