Older homes are filled with character and history — cut glass door knobs, wooden built-ins, and stunning carved woodwork are all beautiful. However, historic homes with original features aren’t always so picture-perfect, especially when the original features include the electrical system. Before you buy an older home, it’s important to have a full electrical inspection completed to ensure your home is safe and up to code. Our Durham electrical contractors are sharing some common red flags with older homes as well as what should be noted in an electrical inspection checklist.
Common Electrical Concerns in Old Homes
Before we go into what an electrical inspection checklist entails, let’s look at the common concerns and electrical issues found in older homes. Being able to spot these problems will help you navigate the home buying process - and could save you thousands of dollars on hiring home inspectors. However, if the house passes these high-level identifiers, you should still take the next step and hire an electrician to run a full home electrical inspection before making an offer.
Knob & Tube Wiring
Knob and tube wiring, or K&T wiring, was common in homes built before 1950, and may still be present in homes that haven’t been updated. This type of wiring is run through porcelain cylinders and insulated in cloth fabric. Heat can break down the coating, leading to live, exposed wiring that is a serious fire hazard. Also, there are no ground wires installed, creating additional concerns about fire and electric shock.
Inadequate Electrical Panels
If the home has old wiring, it most likely has an outdated electrical panel. Older homes are not wired for today’s 200 amp/240 volt standard. This means that dated circuit breakers are more likely to overload, and rather than simply flip off, they can overheat and cause a fire.
Outdated Electrical Outlets
Be wary of homes that only have two-prong outlets as this means they aren’t grounded. While outlet repair itself is not a difficult task for a licensed electrician, it’s often a red flag that the overall electrical system is outdated. Any two-prong outlets should be replaced with three-prong outlets and ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets need to be installed around kitchen sinks, in bathrooms, and outdoors.
What Is an Electrical Safety Inspection?
If you have purchased an older home and plan on doing extensive renovations and updates, you will need to have two electrical inspections performed.
A rough-in inspection will need to be performed after the demolition of an older home has been performed and is taken down to the studs. This allows the inspector to go through all the “behind the scenes” elements of the electrical system, including wiring, junction boxes, conduits, and electrical boxes are inspected before insulation and drywall are added. This inspection is intensive and designed to ensure that the entire system is updated properly and aligned with all state and local building codes, but once it passes, the home can then have insulation and drywall installed.
A final inspection occurs after all the work is completed, including drywall, flooring, and all lighting and outlets are installed. A building inspector will go through the home to inspect outlets, light fixtures, the electrical panel and other facets of the system to make sure that all work meets professional standards and is up to code.
Electrical Inspection Checklist
Ready to see our Durham electricians' high-level electrical inspection checklist? Let’s walk through some of the elements an electrical inspector looks for when analyzing an older home's electrical wiring.
The inspector will check to see if it’s logging wattage properly, and they will also look for rust, water damage, or other signs that water may seep in from the meter and enter the electrical panel.
Electrical inspectors will look at the electrical panel for any corrosion, damage, or mechanical concerns that could cause a fire. They will also check that there is a proper amount of circuits throughout the home to avoid overloading as well as look for multiple circuits in the kitchen so that appliances have their own dedicated one.
Electrical boxes encase wire connections to prevent short circuits. These will be checked to make sure they are flush with the wall, are at the proper height, and are securely fastened as well as having ample space for the number of wire conductors they will hold.
Cables and Wires
During the rough-in inspection, cables and wires will be checked for damage and fraying, how they are attached, and how much wire extends from the electrical box. Inspectors will also look for how wires are labeled to indicate the circuit number and amperage as well as how cables are anchored.
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets must be installed outdoors or near water, like bathrooms and kitchen sinks. The electrical inspector will check that these are installed properly and within the necessary locations in the home.
Schedule an Electrical Inspection in Durham, NC
Whether you’re considering purchasing an older home, or you want to update and renovate your current home, make sure the electrical systems are safe and updated. We hope that this electrical inspection checklist helps you navigate your home-buying process with more clarity.
If you're looking to buy an older home in the Triangle region, contact our electricians before you buy. While our office is headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, our licensed electricians are spread across the state and will travel to the surrounding areas including Raleigh, Greensboro, Pittsboro, Holly Springs, Cary, Garner, Research Triangle Park, and other NC areas!
Schedule a free estimate for any work needed or reach out to us to set up an electrical safety inspection. We have over 70 years of combined experience and an unlimited license so you can feel confident your home is in good hands. Call us today at (919) 382-0832 or fill out the form below to get started.