Homebuyers: Be Wary of Old Wiring

By: Liz Gray

You may not be an electrician, but you can flip a switch.

During your home tours, make sure all the switches and outlets function properly. Flickering lights, circuits that don't work, and warm or hot outlets or faceplates are all symptoms of wiring problems.

Ask if the home has aluminum or knob and tube wiring. During the 1970s, aluminum wiring became popular and was widely used. But, just like avocado-colored appliances, the wiring quickly went out of style after people complained that it was a fire hazard. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, homes wired with aluminum wiring before 1972 are 55 times more likely to have fire hazard conditions (hot cover plates, sparks or charring) than houses wired with copper wire.

Knob and tube wiring was used in many homes until about 1940. Even when it's functioning properly, many insurance companies will not insure homes with knob and tube wiring, citing it as a fire hazard. If you're planning any renovations, you'll have to remove the wiring before a contractor can legally start work on your home.

Both types of wiring can cost several thousand dollars to replace, so be prepared to shell out the dough for an electrician if you choose a house with one of these.

Be especially careful when buying older and historic homes. Case in point: My sister and her husband were ready to make an offer on a historic fixer-upper that seemed like it just needed some cosmetic help. They hired a home inspector, who, low and behold, discovered the home had the original 1920 knob and tube wiring -- not exactly the "historic charm" they were looking for. To do any renovations, they would need to replace all the wiring to meet the local building code. Needless to say, they passed on the house and left the seller to deal with the problem -- and foot the bill.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Real Estate Investing

Before you invest in real estate, it's important to look at carrying costs, closing costs, commissions and capital gains taxes. Here's why.

Real Estate Survival Guide: Seller's Checklist

Refer to this 10-step checklist to get you through the home-selling process.

Real Estate Survival Guide: Buyer's Checklist

Refer to this 10-step checklist to get you through the homebuying process.

Campus Cribs: Buying Real Estate Property for Your College Student

Buying a space for your student could turn out to be a great investment.

Fresh News for 'Fixer Upper' Fans: Chip and Joanna to Open 'Hillcrest Estate' in Waco

Chip and Joanna Gaines announce their latest project — a beautifully restored colonial style home that will open as a vacation rental property.

Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

The experts at HGTV.com share a classic recipe for an Old Fashioned cocktail.

Old Kitchen Cabinets

Learn about all of the different options for refinishing or recycling old cabinets to bring you a new look your kitchen.

Old Kitchen Cabinets

Get all the info you'll need on old kitchen cabinets, from tips on how to restore them to ways you can recycle your old cabinets.

On TV

Shop This Look

Found a living space you love in HGTV's Photo Library? Get the look in your own home with products from Wayfair.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.