Inspection for insurance - k & t

Hello, I have an old home which has a 100 amp panel which was installed 25 years ago with new wiring to the furnace, fridge, stove, etc. The house has about 30% knob and tube wiring - most of which is hidden inside plaster walls which contain no insulation and feed plugins and lights in the living room and bedrooms.

I have recently had trouble insuring the house, although it I have tried to insure it with the same company it has always been insured with. They requested a certified electrician come out and inspect it but they didn’t give any sort of form or real direction as to what the wanted from him. I had the electrician here but he’d never done such a thing before and although he said the panel was all good and all the wires he could see look good and he feels the wiring is safe he wasn’t comfortable writing that up and submitting it to the company. This electrician is a new electrician and not experienced with k & t.

My brother worked as an electricians helper with the electrician who put in the panel years ago and said that he was careful not to overload the k & t when installing new panels and he is also confident in the wiring (although he didn’t work on this house with him).

Forgive me for my long post, but I am hoping someone has dealt with insurance companies on this before and has some sort of form or checklist they use. I will see another electrician about this and would like to be able to provide him with some sort of example to follow (should he think the wiring is safe). I do not wish to upgrade the wiring at this time as I have 113 year old plaster walls and they are a b!tch to fix and I don’t want to gut my house. My dad has cancer and there are just to many things going on to undertake that big of a project.

This is my childhood home, I love it.

Any help or advice is appreciated.

Maggie you said “This electrician is a new electrician and not experienced with k & t.”

When you “see another electrician about this” Make Sure they are Very knowledgeable and experienced with K&T wiring. Then he/she should be able to give you a professional assessment of the overall condition, especially regarding safety issues.

That is good advice Christopher. Very knowledgeable might be hard to find around here (I’m very rural) and the guy that installed the panel died 7 years ago. The guy he worked for is my uncle but he is retired. I figure my best bet is to find an older electrician. The one who was here told me to get a second opinion, he didn’t think it was unsafe he was just unsure what the insurance company wanted and uncomfortable with the liability and I can’t fault him that.

I’m just frustrated. Tons of houses around me have k & t but I’ve been flagged by the insurance company. My parents moved from this house to another k & t house - no problem getting insurance. I’ve never had homeowners insurance but I’ve had rental for 10 years and been claim free.

You may try another insurance company, too.

Sounds like the insurance company is looking for a scapegoat if there is ever a problem in the future so I agree with Larry, try shopping around for another company. Since one cannot see inside of the walls and such, as an electrician I would never stick my neck out and state that the K&T is safe. You may have a hard time finding someone who would want to put their name on such a statement.

Maggie, first of all, thank you for a very well-written and detailed post.
The compromise would be to put the K&T circuits on AFCI breakers (look up what those are if you haven’t heard of them).
I would first ask the ins. co if they would be satisfied with that, and if they are, that’s the way to go.
I second what my colleagues said here – the effort of inspecting every inch of k&t wire inside the walls (to the point of being able to vouch for it on one’s letterhead) will tantamount to re-running those circuits.
But, if they make AFCI breakers for your panel, and the insurance company would accept that, it may be the ticket. Yes, AFCI’s aren’t cheap, but keep in mind that they do work, and are well worth the peace of mind. And in any case, they will be cheaper than re-wiring.
What is your panel anyway (make and model?)

Yes, I agree. It hardly seems fair for a company whose business is to insure against unforeseen disaster to ask for a professional to opine that no disaster will take place. Is opine a word? It should be. But it does seem to be normal for k and t around here.

I was dealing with Wawanesa (in Canada). I’ve seen some internet murmers that The Co-operators will insure knob and tube so I may try them. Also may try replacing the knob and tube slowly doing the grunt work myself (fishing through the walls as much as possible) and getting an electrician to hook it up to the breaker panel and then get insurance and have faith till then. No insurance claim has ever been made on this house in 113 years, what are the chances things will go wrong now?

Like others said here: It’s a risky business – guaranteeing in writing the condition of a system that cannot be inspected completely and conclusively.
The effort of verifying every inch of K&T inside the walls, even if it is feasible by using some advanced scoping equipment, will tantamount to re-running those circuits.

I would suggest a compromise: ask your current insurance company, or any other one that has reservations about insuring a house with K&T, if they would accept it if those circuits were put on AFCI breakers (you may know what those are, and if you don’t, by all means do a web search).

Besides appeasing the ins. co., this gives you an additional peace of mind: AFCI breakers do prevent fires.

All of this is depends, of course, on whether AFCI’s are made for your particular panel.
Consult and ask around, get some prices;
Replacing breakers, or even the entire panel to one whose manufacturer makes AFCI’s for it, may still be cheaper than re-wiring the K&T circuits.

In the long run this may also save you on insurance premiums, or enable you to get a policy in the first place, not to mention the additional safety.