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Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 7
Donovon Offline OP
New Member
I seem to be having an issue. I came across several hazardous wiring situations on a house I'm helping my folks remodel. So far I have found an 18g lamp cord run connecting a 150w outside light, 2 20a duplex receptacles (both had burnt and partially melted), and a patio light to One 15 receptacle (I immediately ripped all that out). I have found the hall light where when I pulled the fixture down 1 1/2 inch chunks of wire insulation broke off leaving exposed copper, (no more hall light atm, thank you). Then, tucked behind a double switch plate in the bathroom I found a live wire with tape on it that just happens to heat up with cir 1 and cir 4. I have tried to explain that I think this is a bad thing. However, another electrician has informed my father that I am wrong and that this is acceptable. Am I stupid? Should I rewire this 50a panel, upgrade it to 200a and rewire with newer copper ground romex? Or am I just over reacting? serious question.

Also, because of some reason there are 1x6 boards all through the crawlspace preventing access except through cuts I make in the ceiling frown I cannot walk away from this place. Any other advice? Please?

Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
Cat Servant
It's not unusual for an older home to have many issues - time and use do take their toll. It's also common for improper things to be found.

What's more important is that one understand their limits, and separate what they 'know' from what they 'think.'

Your folks prefer another electrician? It's true: A prophet gets no respect in his home town.

Let's look at some of the things you mention:

Lamp cord powering lights and outlets? Small surprise. Older homes never have enough outlets, so it's very common to find all manner of clever methods used to 'improve' things. Ignorance - Expense - Laziness.

Damaged insulation at light sockets is the rule, rather than the exception. The cause is simple: the insulation gets cooked when folks use larger bulbs than they're supposed to. IMO, putting a '40 watt Type A bulbs only' sticker on a fixture that can accept a 150 watt bulb is simply bad design hiding behind a sticker. Shame on UL for allowing this.

A wire usually receives power from only one circuit; there's a cross-connection somewhere. Perhaps a neutral is switched. There's no way to tell without being there.

Rewire the panel? Put in a larger panel? What, exactly, will those actions do to correct the problems you've identified?

I'd ask the boss to stop by and look things over.

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,696
Likes: 11
Is everything on 1 and 4 seem common (you have to turn off both breakers to get it to go off)?
If not;
What kind of meter are you using?
This may just be a high impedance phantom voltage

If it also shows on a wiggy it is real.
Start where you know 1 & 4 go.
If I was looking for a true cross connect I would start with ceiling boxes that tend to become big catch all J boxes. Next I would look into those boxes with a lot of switches in them.
The fan/heater/light in the bathroom might also be a culprit if they had 2 circuits going to it.

Greg Fretwell
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,273
Modern practice is to isolate the twin buses as odds and evens.

So that 'A' phase/ 'A' leg is odd numbered and is Black wired.

And, 'B' phase/ 'B' leg is even numbered and is Red wired.

( That last only possible if pulling conductors or using 1x-3 Romex cable. ( x= 0,2,4 ))

So, it's quite strange that you're heating up across both #1 and #4 circuits.

Since the strangest things happen in very old panels/ fuse boxes -- and circuit numbering by amateurs can be bizarre; watch out back at the panel.

Be mindful that really old panels did NOT conform to modern schemes -- at all.

You should probe around with caution and determine which circuits are on which bus.

And you should re-verify the circuit numbering.

For projects this extensive, map it all and put the details into a spread sheet (Lotus 1-2-3, QuatroPro or Excel)

For, you will surely need up dated panel schedules before you can walk away.

I suspect that the whole house is a hairball.

My sister's home was built in 1962. It took me 40 man-hours to fully dope it out. It had a cross between commercial and residential practice -- plus Touch Plate low voltage controls. And everything was 'repaired' by a handyman -- who criss-crossed just about everything.

Systematically unsnarling a hairball can take much more time than it appears from a distance.

Last edited by Tesla; 12/30/12 07:36 PM.

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,696
Likes: 11
I am not sure you need a computer. When I mapped "this old house" I just made a sketch of each room and the outlets, then used a breaker finder to track down each one, verifying by turning them off one at a time. Two people make this go faster than one.
You start getting a feel for how things are wired so it gets easier as you go.
It is time consuming but once you get the map made, it is a great addition to your important papers.

Greg Fretwell
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 7
Donovon Offline OP
New Member
see, what I think happened is that somewhere the original homeowners made a jbox in the crawlspace and twisted 1 and 4 together. easy enough fix. however, the crawlspace is now inaccessible due to 1x6's everywhere(unknown reason). I cannot even enter the crawlspace to find anything. This home was built in the 50's with hot/neutral 2 wire romex. The reasons I want to upgrade the panel and rewire it has an underpowered 50a panel, and the fact I have to cut access patches in the ceiling to get to small portions of the crawlspace. I figured it would be easier, faster and an opportunity to include a device ground in the system. Another reason is with as many issues, including non-electrical issues, I have found I just don't trust this wiring. Am I wrong?

Last edited by Donovon; 12/30/12 10:54 PM.
Joined: Dec 2012
Posts: 7
Donovon Offline OP
New Member
yep, that was the first thing I did when I got to the place. That's also how I discovered the 18g run. I would run from this place if it were not my parents.

Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,419
Likes: 3
You really need to have a good look at this install from top to bottom, even if it does mean cutting out some sort of an access way to effect that.

It is the "unknown" part of the wiring that you can't immediately see that is the real worry.

My advice is do what you can and I also agree with Greg Fretwell above, attempt to at least map this install out, then you know what you have got.
Anything that happens from then on, will depend upon the results of any testing that you do.

I mean, it isn't that hard to test a house for dodgy wiring, all you really need is a decent megger, a multimeter and a length of conduit wire.

But you should really record the results of the tests as you go.

Need help?
Throw a reply in here.

Mike. cool

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,696
Likes: 11
I guess if you know 1 & 4 are now one circuit, you could just wire both to the same breaker and see if it trips. That is safer than parallel 15s protecting a 14 ga wire.

I think I would be cutting an access hole to do further inspection. It is nothing compared to the holes the firemen cut wink

Greg Fretwell
Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 2,495
Honestly, if this wiring is from the 1950s and every handyman on earth has emssed around with it ever since, convince your parents of a full rewire! Anything else is a band-aid approach, and now is th best time to do this!

I'm in a similar situation right now, I live in a small family-owned apartment builidng (early 20th century) with rather shady wiring in some areas. After a fire on the top floor about a week ago (probably not caused by faulty wiring but rather a faulty fan heater that set a wastepaper basket on fire across a remarkable distance) I'm on a mission to convince everyone of a thorough cvheck-up of the existing wiring. I definitely know that there is some original 1915 wiring still in use and I don't like that! The original sparks weren't easily scared - they only used conduit where wirepenetrated plaster & lath ceilings or in plastered masonry walls, inside the ceilings individual cloth-covered wires rest loosely on top of the wood lath! I disconnected one of these traps after the entire ceiling got drenched with a few hundred gallons of water, but I'm sure some remain. Unfortunately, my uncle seems to assume that anything that works is safe.

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