Knob and Tube question

Have a home that was found to have quite a bit of knob and tube wiring in the attic and going down into the walls. Panel has been replaced and upgraded but all outlets are ungrounded (3 slot).

Home is going to be used as a nursery school. I reported the wiring suspect and included all the usual issues with knob and tube and recommended that an electrician be consulted to check the wiring issue and likely to do a upgrade if he felt it would be needed.

The electrician says that it is perfectly safe with nothing to worry about.

My clients now think I misled them. Am I missing something? I see a lot of this wiring and always report it this way. I could really use some advice.

Tom Axelrad
LSBHI License #10518
New Orleans, LA

Tom it is not a problem if left alone , the problem is with modifications , such as insulation , adding circuits and so on . It is like going to the doctor get a second opinion Also contact who ever is Insuring the place . and i also would ask the local code enforcement if it is going to used as a day care center . Approach the fire dept too. BTW was it the Electrician who installed the update?

Is knob & tube wiring … by virtue of being knob & tube wiring … unsafe? Not if it is totally intact and has not been modified or added to in any way.

Does it present other hazards? Yes, since insulation cannot come in contact with it there will be additional utility expenses. Insulation that comes in contact with it can catch fire.

Is it sufficient for a day care center or nursery school? No, for the devices (computers, office equipment, etc) requiring three prong receptacles are NOT protected from spikes or other common electrical issues that can fry them.

It all depends upon how it’s presented. If you say a functioning, intact and unmodified K&T system is “unsafe”, you will probably be over ruled by a licensed professional. If you describe it as being less than optimum for your client’s particular needs, you can easily back that up.

You said is was bad in writing have electrician say what he did on his paperwork and move on. Wait until the insurance company finds out. Then they will have to change it out and the electrician will have to pay for it since he said it was ok. Send your client to the web for more info on K & T.


three slot outlets …2 wire system…unless they are gfci protected and labeled no equipment ground is wrong Tom…

Tom have you any pictures , Like if there was any new connections made.

Thanks fellas. I feel a lot better. Yes there were modifications. None of the visible connections to the newer wiring were in boxes, just taped. No grounding. No insulation in the attic, so it was easily seen that the old wires were brittle and some wiring insulation deteriorted.
Everything that you guys said is what I said in my report. I don’t know what electrician they used for the inspection, but I suggested, and he has agreed to state in writing that it is safe. He did then say, however, that he needed to put in some grounded outlets for their special equipment and kitchen area. Here are some photos:

Although I feel vindicated, I still worry about it being used for a nursey school. But as you said, I did what I could and now must move on. I was very clear in the report.

This was my first post here. Thank you all so much for the support. I was beginning to second guess myself.

The ungrounded circuits should not have been extended with the NM.

BTW K&T still has an Article in the 08 NEC, Article 394, although its limited to extension of existing installations and elsewhere by special permission.

I don’t know who their electrician is but changing 2 prong receptacles to 3 prong receptacles, without GFCI protection and stickers, is an NEC code violation. Saying that it’s safe is rather shocking.

Was that play-on-words intentional? :wink:

Actually no, it just came out that way. :smiley:

I wouldn’t let my kids stay in a building with wiring that Edison himself might have installed. Sorry.

One would think and hope that a nursery school or day care facility, were there are going to be children day in and day out, would have all grounded outlets and GFCI’s were required by today’s standards.

I have inspected a lot of homes and businesses with knob and tube, never found any of them to be halfway safe for the current needs of todays toys in the home. I always recommend an electrical upgrade if not a complete replacement of the system. This way you have zero liability on the issue. You can recomend this but it probably will not happen. Just by recomending this you “have the out”.

I would answer the client’s question about “misleading” them with…"Why would I do that. I was and am only looking out for you and the safety of the home, its occupants and future insurance concerns. I benefit in no way from reporting this discrepancy. I would also advise them to get their electrician’s assessment in writing on company letterhead with his license number, signed by him at the bottom. Then I would move on. You have done your job, brought your concerns about this to their attention. If necessary I would also remind them that a home inspection has limitations and can only go so far and when you reach that border you are obligated to refer them to a professional in that building discipline. In FL anyone is damn lucky if they can even find an insurance carrier that will insure a home with aluminum wiring anymore, let alone k and t.

No I think you worded it well .
You said suspect and recommended they Consult an electrician .
If they do not follow up then not you concern .
The only thing I say different ( Immediate consult with an electrian )

Show your client the aftermath of a fire in a home where knob and tube wiring had been previously “okayed” by the electricians and building code inspectors. The potential is real in spite of “expert opinion” to the contrary.

You are paid for your opinion and you provided it. It is their choice as to whose they wish to abide by, but there is enough proof on your side that modern day homes with modern day electrical load needs (and additions of romex to accommodate them) can burn a house down.


Do you have the news article you are referring to?