How to Wire Your Home Like They Did in the Old Days

How to Wire Your Home Like They Did in the Old Days


Wiring a home can be a daunting task, but doing it the old-fashioned way can provide a sense of accomplishment and nostalgia. Before modern electrical codes and wiring methods, homes were wired in a more rudimentary yet clever way. Follow along as I walk through the basics of wiring a home using antiquated materials and techniques. We'll cover everything from selecting conductors to installing switches and outlets. While not up to modern safety codes, this can be an engaging DIY project for those wanting to get a taste of vintage home wiring.

Selecting Conductors

The first step is choosing the right conductors, or wires. Early electrical systems used a few different options:

I'd recommend using reproduction cloth-insulated wire if you want the true old-fashioned look. Rubber-insulated wire could also substitute for an easier installation. The wiring can range from 14 to 10 AWG in size depending on the circuit amperage. Keep safety in mind and use GFCI outlets with vintage wiring installations.

Running Conductors

During the knob and tube era, wiring was run through open joist and stud bays, following the simplest path from point A to B. To replicate this look:

Other than the knobs, the conductors can be run loose through the bays. Avoid kinking or putting tension on the cloth insulation.

Installing Devices

The key devices in a knob and tube system are the switches, outlets, and light fixtures. These are wired into the system through simple splicing:

No device boxes are used - the splices hang openly from the wires. Make sure all connections are tight and well-insulated.

Incorporating Fuses

Fuses are necessary to protect the wiring from excessive current. Some options for fuse boxes:

Aim for a fuse amperage about 25% higher than the circuit current. This gives some leeway before they blow.

Place fuses at the start of each circuit to protect all the downstream wiring. Knob and tube systems are often limited to 15 or 20 amp circuits due to the wire insulation.

Finishing Touches

To complete the vintage look:

The end result is a wiring system that looks straight out of the early 1900s! With some diligence and safety considerations, you can bring a vintage wired aesthetic to your home.