Ever heard of knob and tube?
It’s the kind of wiring used in old houses. Like John Garside’s.
The gracious old house in lakeside Prince Edward County, Ontario, has beautiful features.
But behind those lovely features is knob and tube — on the second and third floors of the beautiful home. And that old knob and tube wiring can be dangerous.
“I knew the wiring was not quite fine,” John says. “The chief electrician, Dan, and I spoke about the house and the work. My comment: ‘ I want it to be beyond code’. He replied: ‘very good’. ”
It made sense to go above the basic requirements, or “beyond code”. John didn’t intend to replace the new wiring for a long time.
He knew the job would take a lot of time and involve “lots of new switches, plugs and all new wiring everywhere!”
Which meant punching holes in beautiful plaster walls.
“Yes. The holes are 4 inches in diameter and these allow them to fish the wires through the ceiling and around the joists. Very complicated and very time consuming. But it saves the plaster and the crown moldings!!”
The plaster and crown moldings in most of the rooms are remarkably beautiful. (I’ll show them to you in next week’s story.) They’d cost a ton of money – and time – to replace today.
But boring 4 inch holes isn’t enough access to remove and replace all of the wiring. John had to rip up the floors on the third floor.
“To get rid of all the knob & tube wiring on the second floor it was a better to remove the 3rd floor flooring so we would have access to the ceilings and walls of the 2nd floor”, John explains. ” That way the new wires could be sent up from the basement to the third floor, then dropped down into the appropriate room on the second floor. This saved a great deal of grief!”
I think I understand that…..
Electricians Bob and Brian did the wiring work. That left John to do the rest… the re-plastering on the second floor, the replacement of the flooring on the third.
“I am working on it right now!” John says.
He’s working hard. Time flies when you have a promise to keep.
John promised his wife Ann that they’d move in by the end of April. That’s three weeks away.
And there’s still a lot to do.
So, fingers crossed…..
And good luck to John.
Photos by John Garside.
14 thoughts on “The Dreaded Knob and Tube (John’s House, Pt. 3)”
I love how this project is coming along. And my heart goes out to John, as he repairs plaster. Yucky work!
Yucky work indeed. Luckily, it’s a labour of love, as John’s standards are very high! I can hardly wait to see the finished project and will be updating you each week.
Wow, two floors to take up as well, with all that overlaid wood, and all that plaster dust is no fun. Just wondering, the gap between the joists looks as if it’s stuffed with something. Is it wool for insulation or the like?
I’ll ask John. I’m pretty sure it’s insulation – could be wool. The top floors of our houses here are often packed with insulation.
Looks a bit gross, till I figured out that it was likely wool insulation. (smile)
I suspect it would be wool but I’ve heard of cases when they used sawdust and wood shavings too. Although only in window casements. I’m guessing wood would be too flammable between floors.
A tiny room in our house had small, perfectly shaped squares of wood in the ceiling. this was the insulation. it had been there for decades and was still in perfect shape. But I had never seen wood used as insulation before. It was actually beautiful.
That’s so cool.
MT: John says it’s actually a blown-in paper insulation that was promoted by the Ontario Government in the early 1980’s. Go figure! What I don’t know about the entrails of houses could fill a very large house……
Well there’s a thing… 🙂
Old houses are lovely, but a bit like elderly aunts! Hope the finishing get finished;)
Me too! I’ll keep you updated. John is a fine cabinet-maker, so you just know that the finished product is going to be amazingly beautiful.
The Dreaded Knob and Tube was something I learned about only in getting my 1775-1805 house ready to sell…..the whole concept still gives me the willies.