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  1. #1
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    Default Another "step crack" question

    I found a house I liked a lot but it had a large step crack from the back window up. The foundation around the house looks perfect. Is this so major I should completely forget about the house or is this something that could be cosmetic? It looks bad but I figured I would ask before giving up. Thanks!

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    It's not just cosmetic, that's for sure.
    I would get a structural engineer to look at it, or walk.

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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    The cracking indicates both settlement and horizontal displacement. The latter would indicate that the foundation footings don't have any reinforcing steel in them, and possibly minimal rebar in the walls them selves. Any signs of cracking/movement on the insides of the foundation (basement or crawlspace) walls?


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Thanks for the quick replies! I actually haven't been in the house, I just drove to it today and walked around. If this was a major issue I didn't want to waste time going back with the realtor (It's kinda far away). I think I'll pass on this one. Thanks again!


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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    I would not automatically assume that the cracking is the result of "structural failure" or "building movement".

    If that service drop is long and heavy enough, and is not properly attached through the brick veneer to the structure below, and its load is being applied "sideways" to the wall, the weight of the service drop may pulling the veneer sideways - I've seen this happen once before.

    The mason's suggested fix was to place solid blocking between the veneer and structure behind the attachment point, and to make sure that the lags were going through the blocking and into a stud, not just into the sheathing between studs.

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Bad lintel at the window or downspout dumping at that corner of the house for many years. Not cosmetic; lintel problem not to bad to fix; foundation washout issue, could be so-so to fix or a major ordeal

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    On top of the brick issue and possible foundation issue, there is the antique electrical issue to consider.

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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    On top of the brick issue and possible foundation issue, there is the antique electrical issue to consider.

    A major issue with the area I am looking is "knob and tube" wiring. I'd guess 90% of the houses within a 30 mile radius of my work were built before 1960 therefore they have this antique wiring


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    A major issue with the area I am looking is "knob and tube" wiring. I'd guess 90% of the houses within a 30 mile radius of my work were built before 1960 therefore they have this antique wiring
    Knob and tube? 60s? Not.

    Foundation movement, yes. Big repair? Maybe not. If this was the only thing to have concern with it may turn out to be not much at all. Homes moving that much to force a step crack that wide need, well, something. That something could be an easy fix or the seller may fix it anyway and the cost and headache not transfered to you at all.

    Obvioulsy this home did not have the curb appeal or neghborhood that you would have been interested in or you would have automatically taken the next step.

    I say move on and find the home and neighborhood you want to live in and then worry about the homes condition.

    Everything has a fix. Even Ugly.


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    .
    A major issue with the area I am looking is "knob and tube" wiring. I'd guess 90% of the houses within a 30 mile radius of my work were built before 1960 therefore they have this antique wiring
    .
    Knob & Tube was Predominate up until 1930's .

    Possible until 1950 later you need to be concerned about ungrounded receptacles.
    .

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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    A major issue with the area I am looking is "knob and tube" wiring. I'd guess 90% of the houses within a 30 mile radius of my work were built before 1960 therefore they have this antique wiring
    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Menelly View Post
    Knob and tube? 60s? Not.
    Well, *some* areas were still using knob and tube then, but not any real electricians.

    Typically, by the 1930s or 1940s they were changing to cloth covered, rubber insulated NM cable.

    By the late 1940s to 1950s they had changed to NM with thermoPLAStic insulation with a PVC outer sheath.

    Last edited by Jerry Peck; 03-12-2012 at 09:23 PM. Reason: Thank you Watson for point out a TYPO ... sheesh!
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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    I agree with Michael Thomas on this one. It looks like the power cable attachment put stress on the brick veneer wall and caused it to crack.

    Of course, Since I am not a licensed engineer and can't make that call, I would recommend that a licensed engineer evaluate both the failed brick veneer and the power cable attachment to the house.

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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Surprisingly enough almost all houses in this area (even built into the mid 50's have knob and tube). Since everyone has been so much help... does this crack seem like a major problem?

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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    Surprisingly enough almost all houses in this area (even built into the mid 50's have knob and tube).
    So, almost all houses in your area are not insulated?

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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    I'm not sure.. I've been in about 20 houses and every single one had knob and tube. The bungalow style of house is very popular in this area.


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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    So, almost all houses in your area are not insulated?
    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    I'm not sure.. I've been in about 20 houses and every single one had knob and tube. The bungalow style of house is very popular in this area.
    I would hope none of those houses are insulated:
    - 394.12 Uses Not Permitted.
    - - Concealed knob-and-tube wiring shall not be used in the following:
    - - - (5) Hollow spaces of walls, ceilings, and attics where such spaces are insulated by loose, rolled, or foamed-in-place insulating material that envelops the conductors

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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Well, *some* areas were still using knob and tube then, but not any real electricians.

    Typically, by the 1930s or 1940s they were changing to cloth covered, rubber insulated NM cable.

    By the late 1940s to 1950s they had changed to NM with thermostatic insulation with a PVC outer sheath.
    That's CRAP Peck! That last sentance highlighted in red is completely UNTRUE as is your assertion in the previous sentance. NM cable was not rubber insulated, period. The conductors within were, but not the cable itself. Thermostatic - Nope. ThermoPLASTICs (PVC) were mid 50s plus for conductor (wires within) insulation being introduced, Braiding still cotton, transitioning to synthetic Rayon braiding late 50s. Thermoplastic SHEATH of the CABLE replacing braiding not until the EARLY 1960s. NOT the 1940s!!!

    "Real Electricians" (of which you weren't ever one) Still correctly repair K&T, and only "REAL" electricians knew/know how to do so safely and correctly.

    Your "history" and dates relative to Nonmetallic Cable are WAY OFF BASE. Synthetic Rayon thread (braid) is NOT THERMOPLASTIC!

    Sam has stated he's in "ohio". Likely he's in the Cincinnati area home shopping.

    NM would NOT be found in that area residential through the mid-50s just as Sam Alex has found to be the case.

    NM won't be found in Cook County Illinois at ALL (legally).

    San Francisco too had an aversion to NM.

    REAL electricians performed those installations in accordance with the LAW of the jurisdiction, and for those time periods that EXCLUDED NM and in Cincinnati - K & T was the "rule", not the exception. (Ex- Laundry "outlets").

    K & T wiring for new installations has not been permitted ONLY since the mid 1970s by the NEC, although even today, generally only by special permission, K&T may be extended, according to the NEC. It may still be repaired and maintained.

    S.F., Chicago, and Cincinnati didn't "accept" early undersized neutral containing, and when provided undersized grounding conductor containing, NM (Romex) or AC (Bx) and cellulose (cotton braid/paper wrapped) or "synthetic" fiber (Rayon - natural rayon comes from bamboo) (!) stuffed cable assemblies. K & T or TW in conduit was the rule - and in parts of Ohio, K & T preferred as Big Steel (good old days when we produced it) conduit was expensive.

    Although nonmetallic-sheathed cable, or NM for short, was first listed and described in the NEC in 1926, it was actually invented a few years earlier by General Cable at their Rome Wire Divisiion in Rome, NY, and marketed under the trade name "Romex".

    Early NM cable had their individual conductors jacket wrapped in a cotton braid that was impregnated with either a varnish or tar-like substance for moisture protection. Around 1950, synthetic spun rayon was being permitted to replace the cotton thread in the jacket braid. Then in the early 1960s, thermoplastic began replacing the braided jacket altogether, and by about 1970, most all NM cable had a PVC outer jacket, even though a braid was still permitted until 1984. Also in 1984, NM-B cable was developed and required to have 90 degrees C rated individual conductors and a 75 degrees C outer jacket.

    Until the early 1960s, most NM cable for residential use did NOT have a grounding conductor. Changes in the 1962 Code that mandated equipment grounding for all branch circuits popularized the use of NM cable with ground. Earlier versions of NM cable with ground permitted the grounding conductor to be No. 16 AWG for 14- and 12-gauge copper NM, and No. 14 AWG ground for 10-gauge copper NM. In 1969, new requirements no longer permitted an undersized grounding conductor for 14-, 12- and 10-gauge NM cable.

    DURING THE 1950s the wire industry BEGAN TRANSITIONING RESIDENTIAL WIRE INSULATION FROM RUBBER to the NEWLY developed thermoplastics (PVC). PVC had its advantages in that it did not suffer from the brittleness and cracking with age that was typical of the older rubber insulation, and also did not have sulfur additives that could damage the conductor, so the copper did not have to be tin-coated. Another advantage of PVC was that there were more options with color pigmentations, and the color tended to hold its pigmentation better than rubber, which often had a painted wrap that discolored with time. In the mid 1980s 90 degrees C rated wire BEGAN replacing the 60 degrees C and 75 degrees C wire typical of the earlier installations.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Watson,

    You really do need to get back on your meds, either that or off whatever else you are injecting or smoking ...

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    NM cable was not rubber insulated, period. The conductors within were, but not the cable itself.
    Uhhh ... Watson ... THE CABLE IS NOT INSULATED ... PERIOD! THE CABLE has an outer covering, NOT an outer insulation.

    Therefore, my statement was correct: "Typically, by the 1930s or 1940s they were changing to cloth covered, rubber insulated NM cable."

    When one refers to NM cable and its insulation type ... THE ONLY INSULATION on NM cable one can refer to IS the insulation on the conductors ... so any reference to NM cable INSULATION is to the INSULATION ON THE CONDUCTORS.

    The outer covering is just that ... AN OUTER COVERING ... sheesh, Watson, you need to get back on your meds.

    To much other garbage to bother replying to it.

    Maybe Watson is simply saying that I missed a comma? "Typically, by the 1930s or 1940s they were changing to cloth covered, rubber insulated, NM cable." Nah, not the way he did his post.

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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    The cracks in the block are indicative of the clay pipe for the downspout being defective. I find those older vertical clay tile sections almost always broke or cracked to some extent. The worst cracks, splits tend to be at the 90 that the vertical pipe goes into. The 90 is usually crushed from years of settling.
    Is it a big problem? Re-route the downspout out from the house or fix the clay pipe and the answer is No. Leave it as is and let the foundation wall continue to be soaked by rain water and the answer is Yes.

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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Earthquake history, esp. recent. Specialized review.


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Watson,

    You really do need to get back on your meds, either that or off whatever else you are injecting or smoking ...



    Uhhh ... Watson ... THE CABLE IS NOT INSULATED ... PERIOD! THE CABLE has an outer covering, NOT an outer insulation.

    Therefore, my statement was correct: "Typically, by the 1930s or 1940s they were changing to cloth covered, rubber insulated NM cable."

    When one refers to NM cable and its insulation type ... THE ONLY INSULATION on NM cable one can refer to IS the insulation on the conductors ... so any reference to NM cable INSULATION is to the INSULATION ON THE CONDUCTORS.

    The outer covering is just that ... AN OUTER COVERING ... sheesh, Watson, you need to get back on your meds.

    To much other garbage to bother replying to it.

    Maybe Watson is simply saying that I missed a comma? "Typically, by the 1930s or 1940s they were changing to cloth covered, rubber insulated, NM cable." Nah, not the way he did his post.
    Inserting a comma after the fact still doesn't make what you said right.

    You're the one that claimed NM cable was rubber insulated.

    You are also STILL WRONG as to the DATES and HISTORY of the changes in Nonmetallic cable!

    You are also WRONG about what "REAL ELECTRICIANS" did and STILL DO. Pretender, but never an electrician were you.

    Your virtual filthy size 15 butt-kicking foot is still in your virtual mouth.

    You are utterly and completely wrong.


    Not going to bother explaining your theories on YOUR PONTIFICATIONS on the "thermoSTATIC" properties of NM Cable???

    Awwww, please do, go ahead...I insist!

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 03-11-2012 at 08:04 PM.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    Inserting a comma after the fact still doesn't make what you said right.

    You're the one that claimed NM cable was rubber insulated.
    Watson,

    My statement is completely correct, with or without the comma (remember, the rule is that if you are not sure that a comma goes there, it is better to not use the comma, like if you are not sure whether to use 'who' or 'whom' you should use 'who', just old fashioned English rules)

    "cloth covered, rubber insulated NM cable."

    334.100 Construction.
    - The outer cable sheath of nonmetallic-sheathed cable shall be a nonmetallic material.

    334.112 Insulation.
    - - The insulated power conductors shall be one of the types listed in Table 310.13(A) that are suitable for branch-circuit wiring or one that is identified for use in these cables. Conductor insulation shall be rated at 90C (194F).
    - - - FPN: Types NM, NMC, and NMS cable identified by the markings NM-B, NMC-B, and NMS-B meet this requirement.

    (Keep in mind that this is for the newer NM cable, not the cloth braid covered older stuff, but the only difference is the material the outer covering is made from, and the outer covering is the "sheath".)
    334.116 Sheath.
    - The outer sheath of nonmetallic-sheathed cable shall comply with 334.116(A), (B), and (C).
    - - (A) Type NM. The overall covering shall be flame retardant and moisture resistant.
    - - (B) Type NMC. The overall covering shall be flame retardant, moisture resistant, fungus resistant, and corrosion resistant.
    - - (C) Type NMS. The overall covering shall be flame retardant and moisture resistant. The sheath shall be applied so as to separate the power conductors from the communications conductors.

    "cloth covered, rubber insulated NM cable."

    That wiring is "NM cable" - check.
    The conductor insulation is "rubber" - check
    The outer covering, the sheath, is "cloth" - check

    Watson, you need to pack it up for the night and get some good rest, then you will be able to think fresh in the morning and you should be able to understand what just went on with my statement - explained above for you.

    Keep your posts up and you will be checking your email box - you are already treading on ice with your "Your virtual filthy size 15 butt-kicking foot is still in your virtual mouth." comment.

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  23. #23
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Peck,

    You're still avoiding the OBVIOUS STUPENDOUS STATEMENTS YOU MADE!

    When are you going to EXPLAIN your CLAIM:

    "thermoSTATIC" (!!!) properties of NM Cable???

    go ahead...

    EXPLAIN (this I gotta see!)

    ...enough of your deflections!

    You STILL have your dates and history WRONG. You're also still wrong in your justifications.


  24. #24
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Watson.. you are close. I am actually looking in the northeastern Ohio area. Today I went and checked out 3 more and they were all K&T. At this point I've stopped caring. One of the houses even had the dreaded "Federal Pacific Stab Lok" boxes I've heard horror stories about. I must say again I really appreciate everyones opinions and help with the pictures I've posted. I may have found a house I'm going to put an offer on but we'll see. I know I keep posting pictures of cracks but do any of these look concerning? BTW any offer I put in will be contingent on an inspection, its just nice to have some opinions before going and spending a bunch of money on one. The latest pictures are from a house I went today and am seriously considering putting in an offer. There was heavy rain today but despite that there was no water in the basement.

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  25. #25
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Sam,

    While your looking at houses and taking pictures, take a few shots of the knob and tube wiring you're seeing in 1950's houses and post them here.

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  26. #26
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Well, *some* areas were still using knob and tube then, but not any real electricians.
    My understanding is that the electrical unions were influential enough in San Francisco, that knob & tube was still being installed in homes into the early 1960s. Most of the rest of CA had changed to NM long before. This might be true of other areas as well.

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  27. #27
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Re: K&T wiring - It is easy to be off 10 years or so on the age of an older house. Could be late 40's, early 50's houses you're looking at.
    In my area, woven cloth sheathed NM was used for residential wiring from the 50's, maybe late 40's, until the late 60's, early 70's. Grounded cables appeared in the early 60's, possibly earlier. The earliest ground wires were a lighter gauge, like #16.

    That horizontal crack is more disconcerting than the steps cracks you've posted. That horizontal crack indicates inwards movement of the concrete block wall, probably from soil pressure. That movement can eventually lead to a very unstable wall. It also suggests a weakly built block wall, with minimal rebar or concrete fill. It is a small crack for a 60 year old basement, but it needs to be checked out carefully (with a straight edge).

    I may be wrong, but I bet Ohio has 'expansive clay' soil problems. Study up on that, do a Google search.

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  28. #28
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Rowe View Post
    Sam,

    While your looking at houses and taking pictures, take a few shots of the knob and tube wiring you're seeing in 1950's houses and post them here.
    This is the only pic I took yesterday of it. This house had an "updated" box and a "K&T" box.

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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    Watson.. you are close. I am actually looking in the northeastern Ohio area. Today I went and checked out 3 more and they were all K&T. At this point I've stopped caring.

    In my market, the big issue with K&T is insurability.

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  30. #30
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    Peck,

    You're still avoiding the OBVIOUS STUPENDOUS STATEMENTS YOU MADE!

    When are you going to EXPLAIN your CLAIM:

    "thermoSTATIC" (!!!) properties of NM Cable???
    I contemplated responding in like kind and go back and do the same silly highlighting for all of your typos ... I did seriously contemplate it ... then I realized that would make me as much of a jerk as you, so I didn't,

    Besides, if I were to do that, all it would do it irritate all the OTHER readers of this forum, and there is no need to subject them to more of what you are doing - I know I would not like it if I were them, so I am refraining from stooping to your childish level.

    By the way, though, if you noticed, I went back and corrected that typo you pointed out, and I credited you for pointing it out ... albeit you did so in a childish and immature way. No problem with that, you post that way all the time.

    But ... thank you for pointing out that typo.

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  31. #31
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    This is the only pic I took yesterday of it. This house had an "updated" box and a "K&T" box.
    That's not knob and tube. Looks like cloth sheaved wiring from this distance. (popular in my area from the late 20's to the early 50's). Still a two wire system though.

    Lots of photos of knob and tube here: Knob & tube wiring: how to Identify, inspect, evaluate, repair knob and tube electrical wiring

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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Rowe View Post
    That's not knob and tube. Looks like cloth sheaved wiring from this distance. (popular in my area from the late 20's to the early 50's). Still a two wire system though.

    Lots of photos of knob and tube here: Knob & tube wiring: how to Identify, inspect, evaluate, repair knob and tube electrical wiring

    Is the "cloth sheaved" wiring less of an insurance risk than K&T? I did end up putting an offer in on that house.

    BTW I may have been mistaken on that particular house but many in the area DO have K&T. Here is an example of one with "wiring gone wrong" Thought you might get a kick of this house's wiring setup.

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    Last edited by Sam Alex; 03-14-2012 at 09:41 PM.

  33. #33
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    Default Re: Another "step crack" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    Is the "cloth sheaved" wiring less of an insurance risk than K&T?

    I can't speak for the insurance industry, but my carrier asked me if my house had knob and tube wiring prior to writing the policy. They didn't ask me if it had cloth sheaved wiring.

    Personally, when I went house shopping a few years ago I walked away from anything with knob and tube and cloth sheaved. I ended up finding one with all conduit and armored cable. Much easier to ground the receptacles.

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