Old wiring

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Having bought a 4 bed house last year it has now come to light that the wiring was botched by the last owner.

Had a sparky out to look. He says the board is pre 1960 (House was built in 59).

He says that none of the light fittings/switches are earthed. No bonding on gas or water (no idea what that means). But sockets seem to be earthed but not to current standards.

Now having had new laminate put in and a total decoration of walls, I am not keen to rewire, but he has said this is my only option as no electrician worth his salt will touch it.

Is this true?

Clearly, safety is the priority, but I don't have £6k for the rewire and the extra needed to repair the damaged floor etc.

1. Can a rewire be done without destroying the floor? (Walls I can live with but not the floor). Somebody mentioned using echo switches?

2. How can it be that the sockets have earth but the lights do not?

3. Is it possible to replace all metal fittings with either plastic or double insulated ones to make the system safe (obviously not to current regs, but safe as it would have been in previous decades)

I have no desire to have wired in smoke alarms in every room and have never lived in constant worry of electrocution in other old houses I have lived in.

I welcome your thoughts on what you would do.

Thanks
 
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I hate to be the bearer of bad news but your house will almost definitely need rewiring. Installations of that age will more than likely be rubber which is well past it's useful life.
Lighting circuits were originally wired using only two core cable as the need to earth was rare due to types of fittings used. Sockets circuits have more or less always required earths due to the varying types of appliances plugged in. Additional protection against electric shock is added to sockets in the form of 30mA RCDs.
Upgrading earthing and bonding will bring the installation up to modern requirements to make it safer.
It may be possible to rewire certain areas without lifting downstairs floors (if applicable) but almost certainly not with upstairs flooring.
 
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The big question is whether the wiring is rubber, if it's original then it's probablly rubber but sometimes properties were rewired without replacing the fusebox.

The problem with old rubber is it goes hard and brittle, as long as it's undistrbed it can maintain a high insulation resistance in this state but any movement of the wiring can cause it to crack and fail.

Due to the way our electrical accessories are designed opening them almost invariablly involves moving the wiring. What this means is that you can't reasonablly do gradual improvement works or even a through inspection on old rubber wiring, you have to rewire it in one hit.
 
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Thanks, how do I tell if they are rubber or not?

They don't look to be but not sure if the look/feel hugely different to newer (plastic?) ones?
 
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Having bought a 4 bed house last year it has now come to light that the wiring was botched by the last owner.
Nothing you then go on to state is bodging by the last owner - it's just the way that 50+ year old electrical installations are.


But sockets seem to be earthed but not to current standards.
No idea what that means.


Now having had new laminate put in and a total decoration of walls, I am not keen to rewire
:rolleyes: Nothing like planning ahead, is there.

You knew you had a 50+ year old house with an ancient consumer unit - why on earth did it not occur to you to get the wiring checked out before you made it all inaccessible?


How can it be that the sockets have earth but the lights do not?
Because that's how it was commonly done 50+ years ago.


Is it possible to replace all metal fittings with either plastic or double insulated ones to make the system safe (obviously not to current regs, but safe as it would have been in previous decades)
Yes - switches and lights. Did you add metal light switches and/or lighting to a circuit with no earth, or is that the previous owner botching you mentioned?


Thanks, how do I tell if they are rubber or not?

They don't look to be but not sure if the look/feel hugely different to newer (plastic?) ones?
How extensively did you inspect the cables before sealing them up?

Rubber wiring does look and feel very different to PVC. Particularly when it's gone brittle and starts to crack and crumble.
 
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The botching is the metal light fittings and loose wires in the loft. It is a bad DIY job that seems to have been hidden away. The loose wires and metal fittings are my major worry, but I know some electricains have said they wouldn't fix this problem without re-wiring the whole house to modern standards.

The flooring was already down when we moved in (apart from the bathroom which we just added).

I have not sealed any cables up. I have very little idea about electrics and would not attempt to do any of the work myself. I am asking people on here to give me an idea so that when the sparky baffles me with various abbreviations and regulations, I feel a little more confident to understand.

Clearly if a re-wire is essential then I will get it done (if I can find the money), but not having 6 grand, I am looking at ways it could be made safe if not quite to the over the top modern standards.

I know people can be electrocuted etc but there must be millions of houses with pre 1970's wiring and I don't see all of their residents dropping down dead or living in fear of being killed
 
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The wiring is from 1959. Rubber will definitely need replacing.

It may be PVC, in which case an electrician could patch it up reasonably well. As said, any metal light switches and light fittings will have to be replaced with plastic ones.

All connections accessible should be checked if you think they could be loose.

As said, it's a bit of a waste of time patching up something nearly 60 years old, but may be a reasonable thing to do if you're not ready to pull the floor up.

Earth bonding should be done at least, maybe this can be run on the outside of the house if there's no other way.

Can't tell you much more till we know if the wiring is rubber (faded black, dry, possibly crumbly sheath) or PVC/early PVC (white or grey plastic looking sheath).
 
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Have you got this laminated flooring upstairs and downstairs?

Early PVC came out circa 1953, though rubber was still also used for a bit.
 
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1. Can a rewire be done without destroying the floor? (Walls I can live with but not the floor). Somebody mentioned using echo switches?
They are wireless switches, other makes are available. They would avoid the need to cut into the walls. However the rest of the lighting wiring will be in the ceiling - so underneath the floors of the upstairs rooms.
Wireless switches also cost substantially more than normal types - realistically you can add at least £100 per switch.
The older cables may have been installed in conduit, in which case it would not be necessary to damage the walls anyway.

2. How can it be that the sockets have earth but the lights do not?
Older lighting systems did not require an earth. Modern ones do.

3. Is it possible to replace all metal fittings with either plastic or double insulated ones to make the system safe (obviously not to current regs, but safe as it would have been in previous decades)
Yes, and this should be done immediately, as using metal switches and light fittings with no earth is unsafe. Any fault could result in exposed metal being live causing serious injury or death.

I have no desire to have wired in smoke alarms in every room and have never lived in constant worry of electrocution in other old houses I have lived in.
Smoke alarms are not necessary in every room, however they should certainly be fitted in main areas at the very least.
Not having them at all means it's fairly likely you will die if a fire occurs in your house while you are sleeping in there.

The reality is that the electrical installation in your home is life expired and should have been replaced already.
There is no way that the existing lighting circuit could be extended or altered in any way without rewiring.
Additional socket outlets cannot be added without installing at least one RCD, which in reality means a new consumer unit.
Nothing can be done if there is no bonding to the gas or water.
Any 50 year old electrical installation will have plenty of other faults and problems.
 
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But FYI - £6K sounds an awful lot for a rewire in that part of the world, even for a 4-bed house.
 
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More confused now. Got a second sparky out. He said I have a rcd (whatever that is) and the water and gas are bonded. Sockets seem to be earthed but light circuit has no earth. He has recommended that i pay 60 quid to test every fitting and socket. He suspects the rest is ok and lights need rewire. So will no more after the report.

I am still puzzled about this idea of double insulated switches and fittings. Surely the use of these is easier than a rewire and pretty safe?
 
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More confused now. Got a second sparky out. He said I have a rcd (whatever that is) and the water and gas are bonded. Sockets seem to be earthed but light circuit has no earth. He has recommended that i pay 60 quid to test every fitting and socket. He suspects the rest is ok and lights need rewire. So will no more after the report.
Interesting. We look forward to hearing what he reports.
I am still puzzled about this idea of double insulated switches and fittings. Surely the use of these is easier than a rewire and pretty safe?
It would essentially be safe. How many metal switches/light fittings are we talking about? It obviously might not be a situation that a future purchaser of house would be very happy with - but I suspect that you're probably not thinking that far ahead at present.

Kind Regards, John
 
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Thanks John

We will be in this house for the next 20 years plus so not worried about resale issues.

At present we have a fair few metal fittings. (Spotlights in bathroom and bedroom (all are double insulated according to the fittings).

1 light in a bedroom, 2 lights in the kitchen (not checked these yet for double insulation but expect they all are).

If the report does say that the sockets are all fine, then we are talking about just the lights being an issue.

Option 1, ruin an expensive floor (unless we can access the downstairs lights via the living room/kitchen ceiling?)

Option 2, use all double insulated fittings and switches (many of which are already in place)

I really can't understand why any one would be recommending an expensive rewire at this stage.

Of course, in the next 20 years, I fully expect to have to rewire, but would do it when the floor needs replacing, not now unless it is dangerous.


Final bit of the question.

If we had an extension built at some point, would the rest of the house need rewiring then? This house was hugely extended in 1997 but even in this bit, the lights are without an earth
 
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If the report does say that the sockets are all fine, then we are talking about just the lights being an issue.
Option 1, ruin an expensive floor (unless we can access the downstairs lights via the living room/kitchen ceiling?)
Option 2, use all double insulated fittings and switches (many of which are already in place)
That's about it. It's certainly worth exploring whether the lighting circuits could be rewired without disturbing floors.
I really can't understand why any one would be recommending an expensive rewire at this stage.
If the sockets etc. circuits can all be shown to be satisfactory, then there's certainly no reason to rewire them - it's really just the lighting circuits. Given that such circuits without earths are best part of half a century behind current standards/regulations, I suppose one can understand some people feeling that they probably deserve to be replaced!
Final bit of the question. ... If we had an extension built at some point, would the rest of the house need rewiring then? This house was hugely extended in 1997 but even in this bit, the lights are without an earth
Are you sure? I find it hard to believe that that lighting circuits without earths were installed as late as 1997. It would probably actually have been quite difficult to find cables without earths as late as that! Whatever, unless rules change, future extension would not necessarily mean that any rewiring of the existing installation would be required - although the new wiring in the extension would obviously have to comply with whatever regulations were then in force. That would presumably mean that, for example, it would not be permitted to extend a lighting circuit which had no earth into a new extension (although the new extension could have its own, separate, lighting circuit which did have an earth).

Kind Regards, John
 
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Thanks again John, your answers are very clear to understand for someone with no technical knowledge of this area.

I feel far more informed now to make a decision about a rewire etc. On Tuesday I was thinking the 6 grand fee for a rewire was my only option or live in a semi dark house forever.

Going to get it all tested to make sure the sockets and bonding are ok, and then can discuss with the electrican if a rewire is doable without the floor being ripped up.

I would like to update it but can't afford to destroy the expensive floor at this stage.

Thanks
 

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