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Issues with knob and tube wiring

Since January 2003 the Electrical Safety Authority has received an increasing number of questions about the safety of knob and tube wiring. In particular, purchasers or owners of older homes are finding that many insurers will not provide or renew coverage on such properties. In some cases, the insurance companies are requiring a total replacement of this wiring prior to providing insurance coverage.

Knob and tube wiring, more recently referred to as open wiring, was a wiring method used in the early 1900s to 1940s in the residential sector. Over the years wiring installation practices have changed in the residential sector and knob and tube wiring is no longer installed; however, parts continue to be available for maintenance purposes.

Diagram F1- Typical knob and tube installation


Existing knob and tube conductors concealed in walls, floor spaces, etc; supplying general lighting and receptacle circuits are permitted to remain in place if:

  • They are protected by a 15 ampere fuse or circuit breaker; and
  • No additional outlets have been added to the original installation so as to overload the circuit; and
  • The conductors, where visible, appear to be in good condition.

If your home has knob and tube wiring, we recommend that you follow these guidelines:



• Have a Robert Redford Electrical Services check the “knob and tube” conductors in your existing installations for sign of deterioration and damage; or request a general inspection from ESA. The General Inspection report will identify visible electrical safety concerns in your electrical wiring.


  • “Knob & tube” conductors should be replaced where exposed conductors show evidence of mechanical abuse and or deterioration, poor connections, overheating, alterations that result in overloading, or if changes to wiring contravene any section of the Electrical Safety Code.

Homes with knob and tube wiring may not have the electrical capacity to meet today’s needs. As a result, homeowners have modified their electrical system with what the Electrical Safety Authority classifies as unsafe practices:

  • Improper use of extension cords – using improperly rates extension cords, or using extension cords as permanent wiring;
  • Improper fuse replacement – using 20 or 30 amp fuses to replace15 amp;
  • Improper connections - adding receptacles and outlets on existing circuits or improperly connecting to the knob and tube wiring (this work should be done by a licensed electrician);
  • Removing ground pins – ground pins on power bars or electrical equipment should not be removed to accommodate the two pin receptacles used in knob and tube wiring (2 pin to 3 pin are not permitted)
  • Improper replacement of two pin receptacles. If you require a three prong receptacle, only use a GFCI receptacle.

Homeowners who are planning to modify their knob and tube wiring, or any other electrical wiring, should have the work performed by a licensed electrical contractor or electrician

Receptacles in existing knob and tube installations

Where grounding type receptacles (three pin) are installed in existing knob and tube installations to replace the ungrounded type (two pin) receptacle, special caution must be exercised.

Diagram F2-Two and three pin receptacle configuration


Two Pin (ungrounded) Three Pin (Grounded)

Rule 26-700(7) requires the installation of a bond conductor to bond the receptacle to ground. This is permitted to be an external bonding conductor that is connected to either the system ground conductor or a metallic cold water pipe that is bonded to ground. This method may be difficult to accomplish.

As an alternative to bonding, Rule 26-700(8) of the Code also states "grounding type receptacles without a bonding conductor shall be permitted to be installed provided each receptacle is protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter of the Class A type that is an integral part of this receptacle; or supplied from a receptacle containing a ground fault circuit interrupter of the Class A type; or supplied from a circuit protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter of the Class A type (a GFCI breaker in the panel, or either a GFCI receptacle or a GFCI dead front mounted in an outlet box next to the panel). Where this option is used, no bonding conductor is permitted between outlets unless that bond conductor is in turn connected to ground. GFCI protection of the receptacles does not provide a ground reference to the U-ground slot of the receptacles. Some appliances require a bond be connected to the U-ground slot in order to function properly. For example, surge protective devices for computer or entertainment equipment will not function without a ground reference.


As new electrical equipment is introduced into the dwelling unit there might be a need for additional outlets to be installed. Extension cords are not to be used as a substitute for permanent wiring. The following shall be followed when installing new receptacles:

  • Outdoor receptacles shall be GFCI protected,
  • Bathroom and washroom receptacles shall be GFCI protected.
  • Kitchen receptacles within 1 meter of a sink shall be GFCI protected
    • New outlets shall follow the current Electrical Safety Code requirements for wiring, meaning a new branch circuit shall be grounded and receptacles that utilize the three pin grounded configuration listed in Diagram F2.

Benefits of new wiring

While knob and tube conductors in good condition and has not been inappropriately altered will not present undue hazards it is worth noting that modern electrical installations contain safety benefits not found in older electrical systems.

These include

  • Generally larger electrical capacity and more electrical circuits reducing the need to use extension cords
  • Splices and joints made in approved electrical boxes
  • Dedicated electrical circuits for certain types of electrical equipment or appliances
  • Grounded and bonded receptacles, switches and light fixtures
  • Tamper resistant receptacles in homes
  • Ground fault circuit interrupters in bathrooms and outdoor locations as per the latest edition of the Ontario Electrical Safety Code
  • Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters in bedroom receptacle circuits
  • And GFCIs near sinks.

Homeowners who are planning to modify their knob and tube wiring, or any other electrical wiring, should have the work performed by a licensed electrical contractor or electrician. Knob & Tube wiring is unsafe.

  • All knob and tube wiring must be disconnected and replaced.
    • The Electrical Safety Code no longer recognizes knob and tube wiring as an acceptable wiring method.

Facts: Knob & Tube wiring is safe, provided it is properly maintained by competent licensed people as outlined above.

  • The Electrical Safety Authority as well as the Electrical Safety Code recognize and accept knob and tube wiring methods.
  • The Electrical Safety Code 2002 edition contains rules that govern the installation of open type wiring methods (knob & tube). Rules 12-200 to 12-224 set out the minimum safety standards for the installation of open wiring, which may still be installed to this day.




  • Call Robert Redford Electrical Services for an appointment to inspect and offer solutions to your knob and tube concerns.


Robert Redford

Tuesday, 21 June 2011 08:53

Aluminum Wiring Facts and Solutions

Written by redfordelectric

ALUMINUM WIRE RISK: The Aluminum Electrical Wiring Risks & Hazards Explained

Aluminum wiring, used in some homes from the mid 1960's to the early 1970's, is a potential fire hazard. How safe is aluminum wiring?

According to the Canadian Consumer Product Safety Commission, fires and even deaths have been reported to have been caused by this hazard. Problems due to expansion, or more likely micro-fretting and arcing at the connectors, can cause overheating at connections between the wire and devices (switches and outlets) or at splices. The connections can become hot enough to start a fire without ever tripping a circuit breaker! Robert Redford Electric has the experience and know-how to safely handle your aluminum wiring needs.

The photos shown above are not the most dramatic catastrophes linked to fires caused by aluminum wiring. But these are conditions that are found in many homes with aluminum wiring, confirming that this is a real, common, and widespread hazard.

Research shows that "homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach "Fire Hazard Conditions" than are homes wired with copper. "Post 1972" aluminum wire is also a concern. Introduction of the aluminum wire "alloys" in 1972 time frame did not solve most of the connection failure problems.

Aluminum wiring is still permitted and used for certain applications, including residential service entrance wiring and single-purpose higher amperage circuits such as 240V air conditioning or electric range circuits. The fire risk from single purpose circuits is much less than for branch circuits.

But it's not necessarily because of a "new alloy" as some folks assert. It's because there are enormously fewer connections (four or six rather than 30 or 40 per circuit) and thus statistically a smaller chance of a connection failure. These connections do still burn up, as indicated by field reports.

Aluminum Wiring Solutions, ( SAVE MONEY ! ! ):

Our qualified electricians have come up with a solution, we will not rewire your home!!

Our technicians will come to your home and deal with every receptacle, switch and light box in your entire house. We will resplice each troublesome connection at those sources and repair them with approved wire connectors at each power point. In doing this we not only repair the faulty wiring but we bring the house to current electrical standards at the same time, guaranteeing the insurance company that the house is now in better electrical shape than when it was first built. The benefits to you are:

  • Piece of mind that your house is safe to occupy
  • Lower insurance rates
  • Remedy the problem at a fraction of the price.
  • Letter to Insurance company guaranteeing that the house is now safe to live in and will be for years to come!!

That is what Redford Electric will do for you!!
And with the money you save why not replace those old switches and receptacles with a newer style. Our electricians are there at every electrical box anyway the cost to upgrade is minimal, as well we would be glad to install new light fixtures as we are taking down the old style anyway to do our repairs. All this can be done for a fraction of what it would cost to rewire your home.

If you have aluminum wiring, call Robert Redford Electric at 604 536 5672

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