Older homes have electrical work that is commonly referred to as knob and tube wiring. While this will not automatically disqualify you from receiving homeowners insurance, it can cause some significant headaches when reviewing your options. So, can you get a homeowners insurance policy with knob and tube wiring?
Yes, most insurance companies will insure your home if you have knob and tube wiring. The caveat is you will likely need to pay a higher premium or commit to a requirement for a modern conversation to occur within a certain period of time or risk cancellation of insurance.
Although knob and tube wiring is not a deal breaker, it can cause additional stress. Keep reading to learn more about knob and tube wiring and how it can affect your homeowner insurance.
- Many insurance companies will not insure a home with knob and tube wiring
- If an insurance company does insure a home with knob and tube wiring, they often require you to upgrade it within a certain amount of time to keep your insurance
- Knob and tube wiring pose significant safety and fire hazards
Understanding knob and tube wiring
Homes that were built between 1880-1950 commonly have electrical wiring that is put together with copper conducted covered in rubber or cotton sleeves. This is what is also known as knob and tube wiring.
This wiring was often fished through the walls and joints in tubes made out of porcelain and ceramic. Then it was pulled tight around knobs that were secured to the infrastructure of the home. This is how the name knob and tube came about.
Insurance view on knob and tube wiring
Insurance companies are not fans of knob and tube wiring due to the underlying risk it poses. This type of electrical work does not include a grounding wire. It is also hard to access due to the way it is incorporated into the infrastructure of the home, often in ceilings and walls.
Buildings are now insulated to help keep houses regulated for temperature. This insulation goes all around the knob and tube wiring, which poses a fire hazard since it essentially smothers the wires.
Knob and tube wiring also have a low amp service. Most knob and tube-wired homes have a 60 amp service. Most modern electrical codes require at least a 100 amp service for a home to perform at its peak and prevent the electrical unit from being overloaded.
The insurance company is not trying to be a bully when it comes to this type of wiring. Knob and tube wiring is known for certain risks in the modern age. Some of the most notable problems that can arise when using electricity in a home with this type of wiring are:
- Overheating that sparks a fire
- Modern technology overloads the amp, causing a short circuit and possible fire
- Fragile wire insulation that can break down and spark
- Modifications to the system that are now considered out-of-date and dangerous
- Frayed wiring
- Normal wear and tear from age degrades the wiring, further causing risk
- Damage from cracks to the tubes and knobs
All these risks and damage types can cause a fire. While modern electrical units have risks, they are much lower than the stakes for this older modeled wiring. So, if you are looking at a house with knob and tube wiring, it is important to go into the purchase knowing it will need to be replaced.
Upgrade knob and tube wiring
The best possible solution for insuring a home with knob and tube wiring is to have it updated by a licensed electrician. The update will bring the entire electrical system of the home to code and provide a new level of safety for everyone in the house.
Upgrading your knob and tube wiring will not be an easy endeavor. The amp needs to be updated, and the wiring will likely need to be replaced. Additionally, the electrician will look at the circuit breaker and determine whether it needs to be replaced or if it is in good enough condition to keep and upgrade.
After this is determined, the work will commence, and the house will get its new updated service to provide you with the most current standards of electricity.
Benefits of an electrical upgrade
There are many benefits a homeowner will receive from a knob and tube electrical upgrade. The first and foremost benefit is insurability. Once a home has this update, the insurance company will not deny a policy due to outdated electrical components. For those who are insured with such wiring, it should lower the overall premium of the home.
On top of the insurance benefits, there are many safety and technical benefits as well. The house will have a higher amp service and be able to handle more electronics being used at one time. This will prevent breaker surges. Also, certain large appliances need enough amps to run. Many air conditioners need to be run on a 100 amp service in order to function appropriately. So this upgrade will give you the ability to use such an appliance as well as other key items.
Go for the upgrade
If you are hedging on buying a home with knob and tube wiring, don’t. While the wiring is not ideal, it can be replaced and upgraded. If the rest of the house is in good shape and has a solid foundation, the investment will be worth it in the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is knob and tube wiring legal?
Knob and tube wiring are not legal to install with current laws and ordinances, but it was once allowed years ago. This makes knob and tube wiring illegal if it is involved in a new installation but grandfathered in if it is already preexisting. Most professional building inspectors and insurance agencies will not pass this type of wiring and will require it to be updated upon the purchase of a home.
Is knob and tube wiring a fire hazard?
Knob and tube wiring can be a fire hazard. If the wiring is old, cracked, or damaged and is muffled and smothered by insulation, it poses a severe fire risk. This type of wiring also runs on a smaller amp, resulting in more surges and overloads. This also poses as a fire hazard.
Should you buy a house with knob and tube wiring?
If s home has knob and tube wiring, it should not be removed from your list of possible options when purchasing a home. If the rest of the house is up-to-date, safe, and has good structural integrity, then it may still be a great investment in the long run. The only thing you must consider is that the electrical system will require an upgrade. Acquiring quotes before closing on the home is a good indicator if this will be economically feasible or not.
What is knob and tube wiring replacement cost?
When it comes to home repairs and upgrades, nothing ever comes cheap. Replacing the knob and tube wiring is no different. While prices will vary based on location, supply, and licensed electrician, most people can expect to pay anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000 to replace knob and tube wiring with updated wiring and electrical service.
Although replacing your knob and tube wiring can be expensive, it will save you money overall. This is because an insurance policy for a home with knob and tube wiring is significantly more expensive than one with updated electrical components. So while the investment might feel significant, the savings over time will outweigh the cost.