attic insulation and electric

blackcats13April 8, 2009

I just love how 1 project always turns into 3. We need to insulate our attic. If we insulate before the end of April we will get a 75% rebate up to $750. The insulation would be the blow in kind and, as our attic isn't very tall, once it's in, we won't be able to upgrade any electric that runs through there without taking out the insulation.

How DIY would this kind of project be? I don't even know where to begin educating myself on this one. DH has worked with electric before, but not permanent/residential.

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From what I've seen of diy electrical work, I'd strongly advise against it.

Take a course. That's how I learned the basics from a pro whose fulltime job was training electric streetcar technicians, and who even authored a standard text on wiring. I've personally wired whole houses to Code and passed. No more. It's too tedious.

I shudder when I read some of the questions on the electrical forum here, where there clearly are some very qualified electricians trying to guide the diy's straight.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 6:04PM
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Is your attic space finished and usable? Not sure because you mention the ceiling isn't high. Are you considering insulating the ceiling or the floor of the attic? If it's an unfinished attic and you aren't going to use it in the near term, just lay insulation on the floor of the attic. Why are you considering the blown in kind?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 8:10PM
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Yes, I pretty much assumed electric wouldn't be DIY, but I was hoping ;) I would actually love to take a course, and may do so at some point.

I'm not sure if I should say it's finished or not finished, honestly. If our house were a Chicago bungalow it'd be easy to say, yes, finished attic. I guess it is? I'm adding the link to our house. The ceilings of the second floor are almost all normal height. The ceilings/attic floor start about 1.5 feet above the upstairs window top. We are insulting the floor of the attic because the roof will be replaced in the next few months (another story). I think the insulation guys say blown in because the space is so small and difficult to get into? You essentially climb up a 8 - 10 ft ladder and pull yourself into a square hole cut in the side of the wall (used to be house exterior). From there you can only crawl, not stand and maybe not crouch (I haven't been up). Once the roof, insulation, and electric in that area are done we hope to never see it again ;)

Here is a link that might be useful: our house

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 8:44PM
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If your wiring is not knob and tube, I can't see much need to upgrade. Any extra lines will come up from the panel, not down from the attic.

Knob and tube wiring. In many jurisdictions, insurance companies demand it be removed before they will grant you coverage.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 10:22PM
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Addenda: some electricians do prefer running a sub-panel up to the attic.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2009 at 10:25PM
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No knob and tube that we are currently aware of. We have some cloth covered (not everywhere), the attic has BX, and the panel is two 60Amp fuse panels. I'm not really sure what BX is, but we were told by someone who works for the fire dept that it should be replaced.

I was kind of thinking that new wiring would/could come up instead of down, glad you mentioned that! The stuff currently in the attic is only for 4 ceiling fixtures on the 2nd floor, as far as we know.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 12:12AM
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There are some concerns with older BX wiring. If that's what you have you might want to check it out before burying it in insulation. Any vintage BX I've seen has looked ok. But, then, I haven't seen yours!

Same with knob and tube, which I always used to leave intact. Now, as I mentioned above, you can't get home insurance in the Province without a big penalty if k&t is in use.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 10:41AM
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Taking a look at the pic I posted above, the connector (round thing at lower left of pic) is also verboten. It was used to combine the two separate k&t conductors to join with a cable. Still no separate ground on either though. Perhaps the mint connectors I still have are now collectors pieces.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 10:45AM
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In my house I found the old BX cable to be far more dangerous than the knob & tube wiring. The insulation on the BX had crumbled and fallen off where it was exposed to air like in the wiring boxes. The insulation on the K&T wiring was much heavier and very difficult to remove with a knife. The advantage of the BX is that you can often pull it out of the walls and even use it to pull a new wire into place.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 1:38PM
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I recently was faced with a similar situation. I was replacing some ancient ceiling boxes and found the BX insulation was crumbling. As a general rule, due to the age and condition of the BX in my house, I replace the BX whenever I have to work on it.

I did take a night class a few years back at the local vocational school. Getting a good book on home wiring also helps. Honestly the class didnÂt teach me anything I hadnÂt already learned from reading but it was a great confidence builder.

If you are only replacing and not changing things around I donÂt think you will have much trouble at all.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 7:11PM
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Thanks for that link Worthy, good info there! This house has already taught me to expect the worst, but maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. The PO were quite elderly, and their kids had moved out long ago, so I don't think much has been done to the house in awhile.

I think we will crawl up there ourselves tomorrow or on Saturday. If it's bad 1 option is to just get the crawlspace under the addition insulated instead of the attic. It won't be as good of a use of the rebate, but it's better then completely missing it. Now I'm wondering if a second option could be to use the old BX to pull through new/good BX, and have an electrician come by to do the hook ups to the fixtures, if they would even do such a thing. We have 'handyman' companies here that have licensed electricians and are well rated.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 7:52PM
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What is BX? I have old knob and tube in attic that I thought
was not active and when a neighbor came in attic to look at
leak from roof he pointed out I needed to get rid of it . It goes to
all my 2nd floor lights but I also have one new cable to my home office, and one new outlet in my bedroom. Ceiling fans
are on the old and bathroom lights are on old, but simultaneously is confusing will the new electrician when he upgrades know what is new and what to keep and what to get rid of and/or replace.
The stuff is wires running criss cross across the top of the floor
joists and some under ceiling, didn't see much that looked like it was under the old original insulation. Do I need my insulation
removed, I am getting estimates for discontinuing old Knob & Tube and fishing through new wiring.Can they physically remove it or do they de-activate and leave it. I'd like it out or
at least what's outside the walls. The problem is finding
straight shooting electricians that will do it that I feel know what they are doing. One old guy said over the phone he wouldn't touch it unless I had my attic insulation removed it's old original and recessed in floors and I don't understand what that has to do with it, I don't think the knob and tube wires are
touching the insulation, they seem to be attached to the joists.
I'm trying to get this done soon. I live in Roanoke, VA, any help would be appreciated, particularly in finding a reliable contractor to do the job.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 8:58AM
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BX is the popular name for armoured cable.

However, much of the older BX is problematic. First, the insulation on the conductors--the wires inside the cable--may be crumbling apart. Secondly, older BX doesn't carry a ground wire, which has been required now for decades.

when a neighbor came in attic to look at
leak from roof he pointed out I needed to get rid of it .

Only if the insulation around the wire is deteriorated or it renders your house unsalable or uninsurable. For the last house I renoed and sold that had some k&t (in 2002) the buyers had to promise their insurer that they would have it removed after purchase.

If the K&T is deactivated at the panel (and any subpanels) there's no need to remove the actual wiring. The difficulty --and this is why the electrician wanted you to remove all your insulation--is that there may be bits of K&T active between lengths of new ROMEX wiring. A century of diy'ersand incompetent handymen and contractors create a rabbits' warren of any wiring/plumbing systems they happen on.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 12:55PM
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